Nursery Rhyme Redux

Three years ago, before Fairy Tale Comics, there appeared in the folklore-themed-comicsphere…


What I love about this collection is that the illustrators treat the rhymes like little stories, following the original words but interpreting them in different ways.  It’s “not a parody or deconstruction,” says editor Chris Duffy, but they do imagine context and backstory — who’s actually the speaker in “Little Boy Blue,” and what’s his/her/their real motivation for letting him sleep on the job?  What if the Knave of Hearts had a good reason for stealing those tarts?  Why does the Old Woman (the one with the shoe house) have so many children* — and she doesn’t really whip them literally, does she?

Just like in Fairy Tale Comics, we get multiple art styles — from Dave Roman‘s cute little Weasleys** (two of whom also appeared in Flight: Vol. 7, debating personal philosophies in “I’ve Decided To Become a Skeptic“)…

Buckle My Shoe

To Lilli Carré‘s song of strange pie recipes…

Song of Sixpence

To Craig Thompson‘s “noir-ishly operatic”*** tale of feline-avian romance…

Owl and Pussycat1

(Yeah, I can’t read this part with a straight face either…)

To Kate Beaton‘s Hark! A Vagrant!-worthy “Grand Old Duke of York”…

Duke of York

Oh! And Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell is in here, too!


Intrigued?  What are some of your favorite nursery rhyme adaptations?  I’ve actually just gotten into Bill Willingham’s FABLES comics — a quite adult (i.e. I’d give it an R rating) rendering of many Western fairy-tale and nursery rhyme characters, imagining how they’d cope if they were forced to live in our world (i.e. New York City…y’know, does it always-ish have to be New York City?  I get that it’s the epitome of the modern American concrete jungle, but it’s really getting beyond cliché as a setting with which to bewilder storybook characters, don’t you think?)

P.S.  New York residents, plz don’t hate on me — your city is truly awesomesauce.  Sincerely!  I’m just getting tired of seeing it as the seemingly default “modern city” setting, that’s all.  



*  Just for fun, this is Beatrix Potter’s answer from her own collection of nursery rhymes:

BPotter OldWomanShoe

**  That’s just my interpretation — Roman’s adorable ginger-haired clones are not officially inspired by the equally ginger-haired (and adorable) Weasleys of Harry Potter fame.  As far as I know.

*** So says Leonard S. Marcus in his Introduction to Nursery Rhyme Comics.

I recently joined Half-Price Books’ mailing list, and just found this in my inbox:


You can click on the image for more info, and read the official rules here.

This round of Guess the _____ Via the 90s Song Title is brought to you by:

FairyTaleComics cover

You can see the answers here.


1.  “Stop!” by Jane’s Addiction

2.  “I Wanna Dance All Night,” by DJ Play feat. Ladivia

3.  “Lollipop (Candyman),” by Aqua

4.  “You Owe It All To Me,” by Texas

5.  “Basket Case,” by Green Day

6.  “Turtle Power,” by Partners in Kryme

7.  “Poison,” by Bell Biv Devoe

8.  “Cats in the Cradle,” by Ugly Kid Joe

9.  “Say My Name,” by Destiny’s Child

10.  “Don’t Drink the Water,” by Dave Matthews Band

11.  “She’s So High,” by Tal Bachman

12.  “A Dog Is a Dog,” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

13.  “Nobody Home,” by Amy Grant

14.  “You Get What You Give,” by New Radicals*

15.  “The Animal Song,” by Savage Garden

16.  “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” by EnVogue

17.  “Here’s Where the Story Ends,” by The Sundays


Ack!  How could I not have put this in my Songs I Associate With Graduation mini playlist?  Lemme just fix that

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Let’s play a game!  Inspired by Book Riot‘s “We Didn’t Start the Pale Fire: Books Summarized By 80s Song Titles,” I thought I’d make my own list of book-summing song titles – drawn from the 90s, since that’s the decade that represents my childhood.  And the books will be those previously reviewed here at Postcards, specifically the ones on the Favorites page.*

Ready?  Go!  (you can click on each song title for the answer)

Cranberries cdSeal cd coverSheryl Crow cdWeird Al cd2

1.  “I Can’t Watch This,” by Weird Al Yankovic

2.  “Down By the Water” PJ Harvey

3.  “Zombie,” by the Cranberries

4.  “When Worlds Collide,” by Powerman 5000

5.  “Every Day Is a Winding Road,” by Sheryl Crow

6.  “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone,” by Paula Cole

7.  “Stellar,” by Incubus

8.  “A Thousand Years,” by Sting

9.  “Badfish,” by Sublime

10.  “True To Your Heart,” by Stevie Wonder and 98°

11.  “Semi-Charmed Life,” by Third Eye Blind

12.  “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” by Shania Twain

13.  “Fly Like an Eagle,” by Seal

14.  “Snow Day,” by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories

15.  “Enjoy the Silence,” by Depeche Mode

16.  “Return to Innocence,” by Enigma

17.  “I’m Afraid Of Americans,” by David Bowie

18.  “Epic,” by Faith No More

19.  “Wind of Change,” by Scorpion

20.  “I Will Buy You a New Life,” by Everclear

Are you craving some 90s pop goodness now?  Check out Susie Rodarme’s epic nostalgic playlist, “Pop Rocks and Flannel Shirts“!  Ahhh…smell that teen spirit!

Source:  giphy


*  As of this post, anyway.  I’m counting The Hunger Games series as one book, as well as The Last Unicorn book + graphic novel, respectively.  And excluding Castle Waiting Vol. 2, since I didn’t actually talk much about that one.

*bridge-of-nose pinch*

So, there’s apparently some new Defender of Mature Adult Literature out there, telling us over-18-year-olds that we “should be embarassed” about our enjoyment of books written (or at least marketed) for children and teens.  I’m not going to give this person any fame by naming names…and yes, I did consider the perhaps more effective option of just ignoring and forgetting.  Because no, I’m not likely to change this person’s worldview, and nothing they say has any actual power over me [insert Labyrinth joke].

Because, as they so graciously concede (I’m sure I’m just imagining the implied eye-rolls), it’s “Live and let read” in the end, right?  Who cares what some At-The-Risk-Of-Sounding-Like-a-Snob thinks?  They might even just be trolling for outraged gasps and “STFUs” — with such a sweeping, judgmental premise, what else could they really expect?

But here I am, feeling like I want to say something to all the Railers Against Grown-ups Reading Non-Grown-up Stories.  Because what the heck, it’s my blog and I have just as much right to the soapbox as the anti-YA person does.

So here’s my very sophisticated response:  Lighten up.  Seriously, what’s the big deal if a lot of your peers like something you don’t?  Why do we have to confine ourselves to these age-based pens — Kids over here, Teens over here, Adults over there and never the three shall meet?  I prefer the model of life as described by the narrator of “Eleven,” by Sandra Cisneros:  we do not move rigidly from one year to the next, leaving behind who we were at all the previous ages.  Instead, we are the sum of all those years, and we can still access those previous stages.

And that’s not a bad thing.  Adults are not “better than” children and young adults.  More experienced, yes.  More developed in intellectual and emotional ability, sure.  But that doesn’t make us “better” in the sense of value, and “Adult” books are not inherently superior to books written for younger audiences.

Are you resentful of the Adults Reading YA phenomenon because you’re having trouble finding people with whom to discuss your favorite books?  Or because you’re an author whose books aren’t getting as much love as you feel they deserve?  Well, you’re certainly not going to reel in much sympathy by insulting what others enjoy (and newsflash – people can enjoy multiple literary styles/genres.  We don’t have to give up one to appreciate another).

Remember:  flies + vinegar = :-(  …  flies + honey = :-)

So.  Can haz World Peace now?

Edit 07/25/14:  I added two more songs, so this is now a Top Five list (in no particular order; the songs aren’t actually ranked…except maybe the last one.  Anyhoo, Graduation!  I’m sure this is still relevant to some people…end of the first half of summer semester?  Done with summer camp, or the first half thereof?  Graduating to no-arm-floaties status at the swimming pool? )

. . . . .

Let’s do something different today.  I do occasionally like to talk about non-book-related things here, so…

As a tribute to the Class of 2014 — whether you’re graduating from high school, middle school, undergrad, grad school, or whatever — I present the following five songs that I associate with graduation (four from high school and one from 8th grade).

*cue wavy-dissolve transition w/ harp strings*

Senior year, I was part of the yearbook committee, which met every morning in the computer lab.  In the month or so before graduation, some of my classmates, who were also on the Senior powerpoint-presentation committee – a slideshow with photos of the graduating class from freshman-senior year — were allowed to work on that as well.  So while I arranged photos from the spring musical or junior prom or whatnot, I’d hear them going through various candidates for background music.

“Drive,” by Incubus, was one of them:

Amazon mp3

~ ~ ~

“Glory Days,” by Bruce Springsteen, was another:

Amazon mp3

I love that guy with the bandana :-D  Anyone else think he kind of looks like Andrew Scott (i.e. Moriarty), from Sherlock?

~ ~ ~

As well as “You Get What You Give,” by New Radicals (which I used to think was called “Dreamer’s Disease” because that was the line I remembered most clearly).

Amazon mp3

~ ~ ~

And what’s a tribute to the passage of time without Enya’s then-new hit, “Only Time”?

Amazon mp3

~ ~ ~

Aaaand finally, perhaps the most obvious graduation-ey song besides “Pachelbel’s Canon” is…

Amazon mp3

I could also include that last one in my Nostalgic School Bus Playlist 1999-2003; some of the drivers used to turn the radio to one of the local pop stations for us.  Other (not graduation-related) titles in that list would include Eiffel 65′s “Blue (if I were green I would die)”…which I may or may not still sing along to in the car ^_^;; …and “Say My Name,” by Destiny’s Child.

Anyhoo — Congratulations, graduates!

. . . . . . . .

P.S.  For those whose graduation is still upcoming, or if you just feel like reliving that day, here’s a summary-in-gifs from (er…not a kid-friendly site, and probably NSFW.  I see some NC-17 topics linked in the sidebar).

Black UnicornI’m trying to recall where, exactly, I first heard of this book…I know I very quickly added it to my Goodreads To-Read list last October, but the GR summary doesn’t include the one element that’d especially grabbed my attention.  Maybe it was one of the reviews that first mentioned the strange, sparkling bones found by the protagonist — bones that, when pieced together, form an almost-perfect unicorn skeleton (some wires and other metal bits stand in for the missing pieces).  A unicorn skeleton that somehow comes to life and lures Tanaquil far into the desert on some quest she doesn’t yet understand.

You guys.  A unicorn skeleton.  I.e. a dead unicorn.  That comes to life.  I.e. an undead unicorn.


Or as close to one as I’ve seen in literature.  You can bet I told sj immediately so she, too, could add the book to her TBR pile.  She’d been lamenting the lack of stories that feature both the mystical equines and the living dead since November 2011, when she was betrayed by an anthology that seemed to promise zombie vs. unicorn battles (it’s called Zombies vs. Unicorns, after all).  Said anthology did not follow through on said seemingly implied promise (although…there was, apparently, a story about vampire unicorns).  Even worse bait-and-switchery was committed by a book that was actually titled Zombicorns.  And had a zombie-fied unicorn on the cover.  Just above the small-print disclaimer that said, “Disclaimer: this book is not about unicorns.”

Yeah, that definitely deserves a Merida-glare reprise.

Yeah, that definitely deserves a Merida-glare reprise.

Of course, a bit of silver lining — the lack of published zombicorns did prompt the creation of a most unique short story contest.  I’m not usually into horror, but the first-place story was quite awesome.

And it seems the concept has maybe possibly started to catch on in other areas:

I saw this at HotTopic first -- in a kids' size.  I can't find it on the website, though, so it's prob. discontinued.  Amazon lists it, but it's unavailable and only in XS.

I saw this at a Hot Topic a few months ago – in a kids’ size, go figure.  I can’t find it on the website, though, so it’s prob. discontinued. Amazon lists it, but only in XS, and it’s “currently unavailable.”

Anyhoo… Tanith Lee’s Black Unicorn is not a horror story.  It’s more of a mystical steampunk hero’s journey.  The setting makes me think of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess; mostly the Gerudo Desert, physically speaking (or the Haunted Wasteland from Ocarina of Time/Lanayru Desert from Skyward Sword…minus the robot mines), but the society and technology are Hyrule-ish in general.

Tanaquil lives with her mother, the self-important and somewhat-flaky sorceress Jaive, in a very isolated desert fortress.  Once or twice, Jaive or some of the other fortress inhabitants have mentioned a city to the far west, but Jaive — though most of the time she couldn’t care less about her disappointingly non-magical daughter – refuses to hear the girl’s thoughts of going away.  And no, she’s not concerned about Tanaquil just running off anyway, because did I mention the giant scorching desert?  That turns ice-cold every night?  The farthest Tanaquil’s ever gone — nearly every day, just for something to do — is a rock formation maybe a mile away.

It’s under this arch that she finds the bones that glow like stars and sound like chimes if you tap them.  And of course she knows she should put them back together.  It’s what Tanaquil does best, after all, fixing broken things; it’s like she was meant to find the bones.

Things I loved:

  • The unicorn, of course.

It was black as night, black as every night of the world together, and it shone as the night shines with a comet.  On this burning blackness, the mane and the flaunting tail of it were like an acid, golden-silver fire off the sea, and it was bearded in this sea-fire-acid, and spikes of it were on the slender fetlocks.  Its eyes were red as metal in a forge. *

This is an epic, badass unicorn.  It’s beautiful, but also scary, and overall “cosmic.”   It’s part steampunk, part “fey” — with those star-shiny bones and prism-like skull — and part monster.

  • The setting, the bits of history and mythos we learn about it…I won’t go into much detail, since that’d be too spoilery.  As world-building goes, it’s not as awesome as Seanan McGuire’s Faerie, or Bruce Coville’s Luster, but it’s interesting enough that I might want to learn more about it (there are two sequels, Gold Unicorn and Red Unicorn).
  • No unnecessary romance!  Like Katya, Tanaquil doesn’t need a love interest to make her story interesting.
  • You know how I pay attention to well-written endings — not just plot-wise, but the prose, tone, etc. – and this one was both satisfying and a touch spooky.

Things I didn’t love:

  • Towards the end, some of the events and revelations felt too rushed/glossed-over.  A friendship developed too suddenly to feel convincing.
  • Some of the characters’ names just bugged me — Lizra (sounds like “lizard”…nothing against lizards, but I just don’t like the name), Prune, Pillow, and Sausage.  The latter three are maids or “scullery girls” at Jaive’s fortress, and I have to wonder, is it because of their lower social status that they were given such…non-names?  I’m sure they’re nicknames, but still.  Though, it does say something about the social atmosphere in the fortress.  Maybe when these people came to work for the sorceress, either she or their more immediate supervisors didn’t consider them important enough to be called by their real names, so they just got simple utilitarian titles (Pillow embroiders things, Prune and Sausage prepare food…).  And that laziness also reflects just how mind-crushingly boring life has gotten in the fortress, not just for Tanaquil.  Everyone just sort of goes through the motions.  Still…Sausage?


I liked it enough to 1-click myself a Kindle copy, and I’d be interested in reading more of Tanith Lee’s fantasy — especially her twisted fairy-tales.  It was her creepy, inverted re-telling of Cinderella (“When the Clock Strikes“**), in fact, that first introduced me to her, back in college.


*  Tanith Lee.  Black Unicorn.  New York: Atheneum, 1991.  Pg. 34

** This copy of the story has a few typos that were not part of Lee’s original text.  There’s also a missing sentence — after “‘The woman has bewitched her,’ her father said,” the text should read, “He desired very much that to this be so.  And when the girl clung to his hand and wept, he was certain of it.  They showed her the body with the knife in it.  The girl screamed and seemed to lose her senses totally” [italics = my corrections].

Annie on My Mind

AnnieOnMyMind2This is one of those books I’d heard about for years.  I knew it was a groundbreaking work, but I never really thought about checking it out until last month.  I was looking for a different book in the YA section of one of my local libraries (Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt; I considered using it for the “Not every YA heroine needs a boyfriend” post, but it just didn’t compel me beyond the first two chapters), and this bright pink cover caught my eye (gee, I wonder if it’s pink because the book is about girls?  *eyeroll* ).

Now, I’ll admit, I had some preconceived notions about the book because of its “groundbreaking” reputation.  It had this something-you’d-read-in-school aura in my mind, so I didn’t expect it to be as compelling as it was.  I didn’t expect it to be like In Sea-Salt Tears (except for the bittersweet tone — that is, I thought it would be bittersweet, but Annie surprised me there, too).

I’ve split this review into two pages, one without spoilers and one with.  If you haven’t read the book, you can safely read on.  If you have read it, and want to see my thoughts re: specific plot points and such, just follow the link to page 2.

The Non-Spoilery Review

Plot:  Most of the story is told as a first-person retrospective — Liza Winthrop, now a freshman at MIT, is telling us what happened a year ago, when she was a senior at Foster Academy in Brooklyn Heights, NY.  The short, present-time interludes, told in the third person, hint that something traumatic happened at Foster, something that’s kept Liza from answering the letters she receives from California — the letters from Annie.  The first scene opens as she finally tries to write a response:

“What I have to do, I think, before I can mail you a letter, is sort out what happened.  I have to work through it all again–everything–the bad parts, but the good ones too–us and the house and Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer, and Sally and Walt, and Ms. Baxter and Mrs. Poindexter and the trustees, and my parents and poor, bewildered Chad.” *

I like how that passage gives a vague summary of the major plot points (or, rather, the people involved in each of those events) without actually saying what happened.  The other interludes give us further clues, building just the right amount of suspense as we get closer to the climax.

I also like how Liza begins the actual story, with this meta statement:

Ms. Widmer, who taught English at Foster Academy, always said that the best way to begin a story is to start with the first important or exciting incident and then fill in the background. **

Because the story is mainly about Liza and Annie’s relationship, that first important event is, of course, their first meeting.  But here’s another thing that surprised me about the book — it’s not just about the romance.  That’s the core, but it’s connected to a substantial sub-plot involving Liza’s school and its overbearing principal.  Desperate to keep Foster from closing as more and more parents send their kids to public schools, Mrs. Poindexter (yes, really) has been increasingly overstepping her bounds – taking over student council meetings instead of letting the students handle things as they usually do, threatening to remove Liza as president for failing to report a trivial incident…  she reminds me of Ms. Bee, from Not That Kind Of Girl, though more authoritarian and with clearer motivations.

Characterization:  All of the characters are developed very well, so even the antagonists — even though they’re filtered through their victim’s point of view — aren’t painted as pure villains.  Because even Liza feels some pity for them, though of course she’s hurt and outraged at their behavior.

The character who felt most relatable to me was Annie, with her sentimental nature (how simple happy things could make her cry) and love of make-believe.  Especially her love of make-believe –

Annie smiled, out of character for a second, as if thanking me for responding.  Then she went back into her role and said, “Shall we walk in the garden, sir knight, among the herbs and away from these rude throngs, till my duties force me to return?” 

Liza and Annie:  Like the individual characters, the romance at the center of the story is beautifully and very believably developed.  A love that forms so quickly and deeply between two high-school students — and that doesn’t feel like just a high-school romance — might seem unrealistic, at least in my experience.  When I was 13-17, there were several times I thought I’d never feel the same way about anyone else as I did about whoever I was crushing on at the moment.  But Liza and Annie’s relationship feels much stronger than that.  And hey, the author stayed with her high-school sweetheart for over thirty years, marrying her in 2004.

One random thing…   There’s one scene that feels very weird and problematic, the way it explores the idea of what’s good and what’s evil.  Present-day Liza thinks about the snow outside her dorm, which to her is “so white, so pure,” and directly contrasts that with a picture she remembers from childhood, “of a terrible black and twisted shape, a little like an old-fashioned steam radiator, but with a head on it and stubby feet with claws.”  Later, she builds a snow-model of that creature and thinks how “pure and white and guiltless” it looks now, and how it “can never turn black and ugly like the monster of [her] childhood”. ‡  

Um…yeah…see… I mean, I don’t know what the magazine in which Liza remembers seeing the image meant by it, but…   At the very least, it’s incredibly cliché to describe good and evil as white vs. black.

Overall:   There are books I borrow from the library and enjoy while I have them.  And then there are books I enjoy so much that, after I have to return them, I promptly Amazon or eBay myself a copy.  Annie On My Mind is in that second group.  If there’d been a Kindle version (and I’m astounded that there isn’t one yet — this is a classic, for goodness’ sake!), I’d have “1-click”-ed it the moment I first finished the library copy.  Ah well, I do love the cover art for the 2007 paperback, and it includes a great interview with the author at the end.

P.S.  Juv/YA librarian Sarah Alexander, a.k.a. Lezbrarian, discusses more awesome works by awesome lesbian authors here (be aware, it’s a very NC-17 article w/ sexually explicit language and some swearing.  Just so’s you know), including some YAs — Annie is even listed first!  But warning, vague spoilers re: the nature of the ending.


* Nancy Garden.  Annie On My Mind.  New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2007 (originally 1982).  Pg. 5

** Pg. 7

† Pg. 52

‡ Pgs 225, 228-29


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So, I’ve been spending more time these past few months over at IB, but I promise I haven’t forgotten La-La Land.  New Postcards are on the way, including reviews of the 80s classic Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden, and the more recent Lost Voices trilogy, by Sarah Porter.

In the meantime, I present the following video discussion between myself and two of IB’s other awesome contributors, Laura Confer and Jericha Senyak.  Our topic:  “How Young Adult Literature Made Me A Feminist.”  We argue that, despite the current trend of tacked-on romances, young adult literature — as well as fantasy, both YA and adult — still seems better at presenting strong female characters than books aimed at adults.   We talk fairy tales, sexual awakening stories, and we use the phrase “straight white male” a lot.  I also extol the awesomeness of Disney’s Frozen.

Note: some swearing, and a few SPOILERS for Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, and the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell.

Cross-posted from IB.


I like a good literary romance well enough.  Aw, who am I kidding, I’m the shippiest shipper in all of shipdom.*  I was on Team Ron/Hermione right from Sorcerer’s Stone (I swear I started this post before J. K.’s recent comments ^_^;; ).  Want to know just how Johnlocked I am (of course you do)?  See the “Sherlock” tag in my Livejournal.  And “As Long as You’re Mine” was my favorite song from Wicked – next to “Defying Gravity,” of course.

But even I have my limits.  Because for the love of Pete’s sake, if I read another summary that includes some variation of girl-finds-herself-irresistibly-drawn-to-some-“devastatingly handsome charmer” (yoinked that one from Amazon, re: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer), I will throw a mental fit.

I’m not talking about books in which the romance is the story, or an otherwise integral and organic plot point.  For instance, I consider the “star-crossed lovers” angle in The Hunger Games an important part of the larger goal, which is to stop the Games once and for all. I’m talking about those books in which the romance feels tacked on.  Books in which the primary plot is interesting enough without adding a love triangle or ill-fated coupling.  How many times do I have to get all intrigued by a potential TBR pile addition, only for the jacket flap to add:  Oh, and the heroine also has to choose between the loyal best friend and the exciting but possibly dangerous bad boy…?

Now, I’m focusing on male love interests because that seems to be the most common trope.  I’d actually be interested in seeing more stories with gay or bisexual women.  The following isn’t technically YA, but Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series (post An Artificial Night) is a great example — particularly her e-novella, In Sea-Salt Tears.  McGuire writes relationships like Jazz and May’s, and Liz and Annie’s, like there’s nothing unusual about both partners being female.  Well, ok, Toby is surprised at first when she meets Jazz, not having considered that her…let’s say surprise twin sister…might be a different orientation than Toby herself.  But after that it’s treated like no big deal.

Just to be clear, this isn’t an anti-men rant.  It’s an anti-cliché rant.  It’s an anti-“token romances”** rant.  What’s a token romance?  One of the best examples is actually in a movie adaptation; the book itself didn’t have the romance element in question.  In Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the movie-makers decided to make Susan and Caspian an item–I mean, if a few flirty lines and one kiss count as an “item.”  But hey, at least that’s more interesting than just a teenage girl using her mad archery skillz to help save a kingdom, while struggling with her faith in magic vs. the desire to be more grown-up, right?

Oh, that’s right — Susan’s growing up.  Of course she’d have a crush on the first human guy she meets upon returning to Narnia.

At least that’s what director Andrew Adamson thinks:  “The kids are growing up. If you look at Ben [Barnes, who played Caspian] and you look at Anna [Popplewell, who played Susan], it seems really implausible that they wouldn’t have some feelings for each other.”  Right?  I mean, you have a teenage girl and a teenage boy, and they’re both pretty attractive by Hollywood standards, so how could they not have the hots for each other?


Yeah, so full disclosure – 2008!Nerija did have a mini-crush on Barnes as Prince Caspian.  And I did think his romance with Susan was sweet.  But was it really as inevitable as Adamson believes?  Would it really seem that unnatural for the two teens to just see each other as friends (as they do in the book)?

I’m all for believable characterization – even fantasy needs some tie to reality, to help the reader/viewer connect to the story.  It’s hard to feel really immersed if the author keeps inadvertently reminding you that this is just fiction.

But.  Is a YA female with a boy toy really more relatable than one without?

There are, I’m sure, plenty of readers/viewers who fall into the latter category, and who’d appreciate their own experiences being represented.  In fact, despite what we’re told by TV, movies, ads, and all those books with teen-and-older characters, there are even adults who feel little to no desire at all for a sexual or romantic relationship.  And they’re not simply choosing to be celibate, any more than sexual people choose who they feel attracted to.  Check out if you’re interested in learning more.

The point (are you listening, Mr. Adamson?) is that of course it’s plausible for two characters – regardless of age or appearance or anything else – to not be attracted to each another.  “Growing up” doesn’t have to mean suddenly wanting to boink.  And as for relatability, if a character is written well enough – fully fleshed out, with clear motives and consistent behavior (but not stagnant, unless the point is to show the character’s inability to change) – any reader should be able to find something to relate to.  Remember that song from Sesame Street, about the things we all have in common despite our differences?

Now, I’m not saying characters without love interests have to be asexual.  I’d just like to see more stories that don’t rely on the romance trope to make their kick-ass females more relatable.  I’d like to see more stories that show how women can be awesome without boyfriends.  Stories in which the challenges don’t involve choosing between two guys, or falling for the forbidden guy, or hoping the super-popular guy will notice you over all those prettier/more popular girls.

Happily, there has been some progress.  The fact that Disney, the royal entity of romantic happily-ever-afters, created a princess who…

[SPOILER ahead for the end of Brave]


…remains joyfully single at the end is a huge step.  Merida – the first Disney princess without a supporting prince, or even a male traveling companion (if you don’t count her horse, Angus).  And there are some contemporary YA’s that focus on non-romantic conflicts.  Like Katya’s World, by Jonathan L. Howard.  Sj first introduced me to that one, pointing out in particular its lack of romance.  The fifteen-year-old protagonist, Katya Kuriakova, does interact with at least one guy close-ish to her age, but even when he stops being an obnoxious idiot, the most she feels for him is some sympathy.  The story is full enough of twists and thrills and drama without adding romance to the mix.

More of that, please!

What about you guys? Are you as tired of seeing young heroines’ stories centered around relationships as I am? Do you have any good recommendations for YA stories that don’t follow the same ol’ girl-meets-boy patterns? Leave ‘em in the comments below!


*  The accuracy of this statement has not been confirmed.

**  The phrase “token romances” and its application to Prince Caspian were inspired by episode 125 of Rebecca Morse’s web-comic series, “Girls Next Door.”  Heh, no, not that Girls Next Door…


Specifically, see the two speech bubbles at the very bottom of the comic.