The answer is yes and no. It's actually pretty complicated. One could make so many arguments about whether or not The Hunger Games is truly feminist, along with the rest of the dystopian YA novels, since they are starting to create a certain stereotype for an ideal girl. But that's just the dystopian YA genre. There are some books that do indeed have underlying feminist ideals, like acceptance of all kinds of women, the destruction of stereotypes, and that women are more than just characters that are to be paired up with the perfect boy.
ASH BY MALINDA LO
"The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love." (x)
Let Ash be one of the gems in the YA literature world. It is a retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella with a few different key elements added to the story. One, Cinderella, or Ash, is not the usual heterosexual female protagonist. Two, Ash isn't going to wait for neither a prince or a huntress to save her. She's going to save herself.
ALL THE RAGE BY COURTNEY SUMMERS
"Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear." (x)
The book's conflict is something that is quite familiar with us, which is rape culture in society. Romy is truly torn between exposing the truth and doing something that is right or keeping silent and having society still accept you. Surely we have seen on the news of high-achieving male students get away with rape. The story makes you hope that at least in fiction these types of men are served justice.
BEAUTY QUEENS BY LIBBA BRAY
"When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition." (x)
The plot is definitely interesting enough. Although it takes quite a while to get used to the narration (it's irritating at first), the key messages of the story would inspire young women in finding their identity, accepting that identity, and accepting other's identities as well. If I were to rephrase the blurb: what would happen when 13 female teenagers who were taught on who to be as women were finally freed of those limitations as they were stranded on a desert island, where there is no one to tell them what to do?
NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED BY HANNAH MOSKOWITZ
"Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?" (x)
First of all, this novel acknowledges bisexual women. That doesn't happen that often in media in general. Second of all, how often do we have an African-American protagonist in YA? Although some novels prefer not to mention any skin color to leave it up to the readers, they are usually perceived as white. But those are not the only reasons why this novel should make it to your shelves. Etta has insecurities but Etta has dreams. We can relate to her, we sympathize with her, and eventually we root for her, just as how we should root for ourselves.
ANGEL DE LA LUNA AND THE 5TH GLORIOUS MYSTERY BY M. EVELINA GALANG
"Angel has just lost her father, and her mother's grief means she might as well be gone too. She's got a sister and a grandmother to look out for, and a burgeoning consciousness of the unfairness in the world—in her family, her community, and her country." (x)
Feminist YA novel in the Philippines? Why not? This novel is so different because we have a female protagonist who is not only trying to develop herself but the country with her. The story is inspiring for those who are told they could not be politically active because they are women. It also touches on the horror of comfort women during WWII and we can draw strength from those characters who have experienced that tragedy.
NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL BY SIOBHAN VIVIAN
"Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between." (x)
Ah, slut shaming. One of my favorite topics to discuss. Although this book may be flawed in writing feminist principles into the story, one of the key messages is clear: it's okay to have sex. You're not a slut when you do sleep with someone.
BONE GAP BY LAURA RUBY
"Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go." (x)
It's refreshing to see a male protagonist emulate feminist ideals. The book has some magic realism and fantasy to it. But one of the key factors is that it does touch on the darkness of sexual violence while keeping this fairy-tale tone in the mood. It's different and it's definitely something to put on your shelves.
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