Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Six YA Characters Who Cracked the Glass Ceiling

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Today, people across the United States are casting their votes for both national and local offices, and the results will possibly hopefully provide us with our very first female president—Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Whether or not you like her or agree with her policies, tonight could very well mark an objectively historic moment in American history. So, in honor of a milestone that should have been hit ages ago, here are six YA women who left trailblazing marks on history, who fought for their goals, and who paved the way for other ambitious ladies following in their footsteps.

As the biracial daughter of a black man and a white woman in 1923 Oregon, Hanalee Denney faces more than her fair share of prejudice throughout this novel and throughout her life. But that doesn’t stop her from aspiring to be a lawyer—and from solving a suspenseful ghost-story-slash-mystery while she’s at it. Between her detective skills and her persistence, I’m certain she’ll succeed in law school.

Jo Montfort’s high-class, Gilded Age life has been laid out for her since birth: she’ll attend finishing school and marry a wealthy and eligible bachelor at the soonest possible opportunity. She, however, has other plans—plans that involve becoming an investigative reporter like the famous Nellie Bly. When her father dies under suspicious circumstances, she finally gets the opportunity to put her talents to the test, creating an absorbing, twisted mystery.

This feminist anthology contains 15 short stories (which means the title of this post should technically advertise several more than six characters), and each one features a smart and strong woman living at some point throughout American history. Their various tales of determination and debauchery come in a variety of different genres, offering something for every reader—and there’s a sequel on the way in 2017.

When Sam McKenna’s brother dies, he leaves her with a dare of continuing her family’s military legacy. So Sam enrolls in the Denmark Military Academy, joining the fractional minority of girls in the school’s first-ever co-ed class. She’s prepared for the push-ups and the obstacle courses—but she’s less ready to deal with the dangerous hazing, the secret society determined to drive her out, and the potentially-deadly drama that results. Sam’s story is intense, angering, inspiring, and utterly addictive, and it left me amazed not only by the protagonist, but by the many other modern military women fighting sexism in the ranks.

Living in 1959 Virginia, Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend a previously all-white high school, where she is determined to make a mark despite being forced into remedial classes and facing daily aggressions. To complicate matters even further, she and the white daughter of a passionate integration opponent slowly find themselves falling in love with each other. This intersectional, deeply-researched novel sparks a range of emotions—not all of which are pleasant, but all of which are important.

Wildthorn is a backlist title that deserves so much more attention than it gets. Set in Victorian England and featuring a protagonist who aims to be a scientist and as a result is sent to an asylum (an all-too-common historical practice for dealing with deviant women), this book left me terrified and truly livid. I absolutely believe Louisa Cosgrove goes on to become one of England’s trailblazing female scientists, and I can’t recommend her story enough, especially to fans of A Madness So Discreet.

What are your favorite YA books with characters who make a mark on the world? And how are you feeling about today's election? Let me know in the comments!

Also, be sure to check out Alexandra's brilliant post on YA characters who could be the next female president over on Twirling Pages!

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