Someone mentioned A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle the other day. I still own a copy of that book and read it again when I’d heard that Madeleine L’Engle passed away. Of all the books from my childhood, that one really stands out. Maybe it’s because the heroine, Meg, wasn’t a princess, or popular or especially pretty or endowed with magical powers. Being a kid who hadn’t quite grown into herself, she was awkward. Her hair never did what she wanted. She wore glasses (considered cool now but not then!). She often didn’t like herself and she never could quite control her temper, especially when the other kids at school poked fun at her family situation (father missing) or her “dumb baby brother.” Meg was a regular girl, a girl like me, who struggled with life and fitting in and worrying if she would ever just be “good enough” in the eyes of others.
In a sci-fi adventure story driven by the values of honor, courage, loyalty, personal freedom, the importance of family, etc., we watch Meg overcome one insecurity after another, until she comes to see her own worth. In learning to believe in herself, Meg learns she has the power to save the people she loves even when all seems lost.
For a shy ten-year-old who didn’t think she was particularly remarkable either, that was a powerful message
Another book I loved was THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare. It was what you could call my first historical romance and the beginning of a lifelong obsession. OK, the romance was kind of secondary to Kit’s trials and tribulations as she tries to fit in with her Puritan relatives in cold, damp, gray Connecticut (coming from Barbados, poor thing!), but Nat is there for her when she most needs him and makes her dreams come true at the end, albeit they were dreams she never knew she had.
WITCH is a fish out of water story, and I love experiencing the journey of someone who is struggling to adapt to new situations without losing their own sense of who they are. Kit is a fighter and a courageous girl, which is especially evident when she befriends a woman reputed to be a witch. Not cool in a Puritan environment! I’ll admit that in the beginning she is a bit of a spoiled rich girl, but little by little she gets over her silver spoon expectations, comes to terms with the drastic changes in her life, learns to value her often dour relatives and emerges a strong, positive, independent-minded young woman.
I think it’s so important for young girls to read stories that feature strong, intelligent young heroines with the power to take their world by the reins. My friend Traci Hall’s YA Wiccan series, about a spirited, psychic teenage girl named Rhiannon, certainly fits that category. Can anyone suggest others that are being written today?