ALAN 2013: Celebrating Strong Female Characters


witch girlchild

loud gorgeous

On Tuesday, November 26th, during the ALAN Workshop, I was lucky enough to be able to moderate a panel of the authors of the books above: Mariah Fredericks, Tupelo Hassman, Adele Griffin, and Paul Rudnick. The panel title was: “Celebrating Strong Female Characters Young Woman Take Center Stage: The Fight to Be Heard in a Testosterone World.”

panel panel2

If you do not know these authors, let me introduce you: 

  • Mariah Fredericks grew up in New York City and uses her experiences in New York and an alternative school there in her books. She has had a lot of jobs and most of them involved books: she’s reviewed books, shelved books, and sold books. She now focuses her time on writing books and says it is the best job she’s had so far. Mariah is the author of 8 young adult novels including the In the Cards series, Crunch Time, and her newest, Season of the Witch.
  • Adele Griffin is a two-time National Book Award finalist and the highly acclaimed author of numerous books for young adult and middle grade readers. Her works include Where I Want to Be, the Vampire Island series, and her most recent thriller Loud Awake and Lost.
  • Tupelo Hassman’s work has appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, and newspapers such as The Boston Globe, Harper’s Bazaar, The Paris Review Daily, and The Portland Review Literary Journal. Tupelo is the first American ever to win London’s Literary Death Match. Her first novel, girl child, is a 2013 Alex Award winner.
  • Paul Rudnick. Paul is a frequent contributor to the NewYorker, Vanity Fair, and Entertainment Weekly. He is an Obie award winning-playwright and also was the screenwriter for such movies like Sister Act and Stepford Wives. Gorgeous is his first young adult novel.

Like their authors, the books the panel were discussing are equally as impressive (Goodreads summaries):

  • Season of the Witch (published October 8th, 2013 by Schwartz & Wade): Like Fredericks’s The Girl in the Park, here is a page-turner that perfectly captures the world of New York City private schools, as it explores the notion of power among teenage girls. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, raves, “Fredericks again proves her gift for conveying the intensity of adolescence, while exploring the ways girls’ sexuality is used against them and asking why ‘we all have to be predators and prey.'”Queen Bee Chloe is going to make Toni suffer for whatever transpired between Toni and Chloe’s boyfriend, Oliver, over the summer. From day one of eleventh grade, she has Toni branded as a super slut, and it isn’t long before things get so ugly that Toni fears for her safety. What’s a scared, powerless, and fed-up teenager to do? Guided by Cassandra—a girl with some serious problems of her own—Toni decides to stop playing the victim and take control. Cassandra has been experimenting with witchcraft, and together they cast a spell on Chloe that may actually cause her death. Could Toni have really made such an awful thing happen?
  • girlchild (Published February 14th, 2012 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux): Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own.  But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Disposal of Outgrown Uniforms; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle:  that is, Calle de los Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.Rory’s been told she is “third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the County and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social worker’s reports, half-recalled memories, story problems, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world while she searches for the way out of it. Girlchildis a heart-stopping and original debut.
  • Loud Awake and Lost (Published November 12th, 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers): LOUD. There was an accident. Ember knows at least that much. She was driving. The car was totaled. She suffered back injuries and brain trauma. But she is alive. That’s the only thing left she can cling to.AWAKE. Eight months later, Ember feels broken. The pieces of her former self no longer fit together. She can’t even remember the six weeks of her life leading up to the accident. Where was she going? Who was she with? And what happened during those six weeks that her friends and family won’t talk about?LOST. One by one, Ember discovers the answers to these questions, like a twisted game of dominos. And little by little, the person she used to be slips further and further away.

    In the wake of her critically praised young adult psychological thrillers,Tighter and All You Never Wanted, National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin has created another triumph. Loud Awake & Lost is an unflinching story of loss and recovery.

  • Gorgeous (Published April 30th, 2013 by Scholastic Press): Inner beauty wants out…When eighteen-year-old Becky Randle’s mother dies, she’s summoned from her Missouri trailer park to meet Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer. He makes her an impossible offer: He’ll create three dresses to transform Becky from a nothing special girl into the most beautiful woman who ever lived.Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself – an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, they see pure five-alarm hotness.Soon Rebecca is on the cover of Vogue, the new Hollywood darling, and dating celebrities. Then Becky meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and everything starts to crumble. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But to love her back, Gregory would have to look past the blinding Rebecca to see the real girl inside. And Becky knows there’s not enough magic in the world.

    A screamingly defiant, hugely naughty, and impossibly fun free fall past the cat walks, the red carpets, and even the halls of Buckingham Palace,Gorgeous does the impossible: It makes you see yourself clearly for the first time.

I am so lucky to have been able to moderate these amazing authors and talk about such an important topic as strong female protagonists. Each of these books will find a home in classroom and school libraries where readers will be inspired by their protagonists.


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