Friday, May 6, 2011

Why do I love girls pretending to be boys in YA?

At the moment I'm reading both Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld and Mississippi Jack by LA Meyer. That alone has probably led to this reflection. But I've noticed a disturbing trend in my read habits.

I love girls who dress as boys. Maybe its my inner tomboy. I spent most of my childhood playing in the woods, riding my bicycle and not understanding why some parents let their sons do more than their daughters. (This is not an issue I'm trying to preach about but something I really did notice as a child).

My favorite girls in boy clothing

Alanna from the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.
She's the classic example. An ambitious girl who wants to be a knight but nobody lets her. Thanks to having a twin she pulls the old swicheroo, cuts off her hair and plays with swords. She has grand adventures, saves the kingdom and becomes a hero. I love Alanna, I do. Her story is one of my regular re-reads. However, she is a little serious for my taste. Which leads me to my favorite cross-dressing girl of all time....

Bloody Jack (aka Jacky Faber, Mary Faber, Lily of the West, aka more and more nicknames.)
Honestly I cannot express my love for this series enough. I wish I could say that Jacky is a girl after my own heart. But honestly Jacky is more the girl I'm jealous of and wish I could be. Never has a cross-dressing girl enjoyed herself more than Jacky (especially in later books where she is known as a girl but still has a tendency to wear men's attire. She sings, she dances, she flirts up a storm. If I could hang out with any of these girls it would be Jacky. She has spent more than her fair share of time in the brig and jail cells, but I think the fun would be worth the inconvenience.

Bloody Jack follows her adventures from street child, to midshipmen in the Kings Navy, and onward after that. This is best enjoyed in audiobook format.

Deryn Sharp, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Thus far I've only read Leviathan so no Behemoth spoilers my friends. Deryn is a nice middle ground between Jacky and Alanna. She's in His Majesties Navy, only on a Darwinist airship rather than an actual sailing ship. She's much more serious about being a soldier than Jacky (who is an excellent soldier, but much more fun when she's galavanting on her own). She's not the flirt that Jacky is but she's got a sense of humor. She's prone to heroics (aren't they all) but she doesn't take herself too seriously (I'm looking at you Alanna). She's a nice addition to the girls-dressed-as-boys collection.

Cross-dressing girls on my to read list:

I guarantee I'm missing some people from this list AND I'm always open to suggestions for more books like these! Please let me know who your favorite girl-dressed-as-a-boy character is!


Wendy Darling said...

Love this post--thank you! Contrary to my Mary Quinn woe, I actually do love a girl dressed as a boy in certain settings. Everyone keeps telling me to read Alanna, too!

veela-valoom said...

Alanna is kind of the classic example. I love those books. They're a regular re-read whenever I have the bad-book-blues.