Teen Novels Feature Strong Female Protagonists
Lifting the Sky
By Mackie d'Arge
Bloomsbury, 2009, $16.99
By Jenny Moss
Walker, 2009, $16.99
By Julie Bertagna
Walker, 2009, $16.99
These three books for young adults have female protagonists whose courage and strength enable them to endure emotional and interpersonal hardships.
"Lifting the Sky" is an intriguing title for Mackie d'Arge's teen-targeted novel. The main character, Blue, mirrors the hearts of many preteen girls: she loves and nurtures any animal she finds, wants passionately to have the genuine affection of her father, and seeks to understand her own vacillating emotions.
Blue lives a nomadic life with her mother, Mam. Mam works short stints as a ranch hand at farms in the Midwest, easily becoming restless. As Blue and Mam shuffle from one location to the next, Blue searches for her dad, who deserted them when she was four.
Yearning to have a stable place to call home, Blue is delighted when her mother takes a job at a farm that also provides a ramshackle but livable farmhouse. Still dreaming of the day her father will come back into her life, Blue thrills to afternoons of exploring the Indian lands around the ranch and rescuing hurt animals. As she nurses two young calves back to health, she realizes she has a special gift of healing. She sees colored lights around animals and people, and can feel and see herself sending healing "auras."
When Blue's father suddenly appears, Blue faces the dichotomy of her idealization of him versus the reality of his immaturity and instability. Blue is more mature than her parents in many ways.
Jenny Moss creates another tale in which the teen is more mentally stable than the parent in "Winnie's War." Winnie is emotionally estranged from her mother, who barely seems able to show affection for her family.
Set during the waning years of the Great War, the story revolves around Winnie's terror of losing her loved ones to the Spanish influenza. Since her father is the town's coffin maker and the family lives by the cemetery, death haunts Winnie's thoughts. As her friends and family become sick, Winnie fights to keep her struggling family together.
In "Zenith," Julie Bertagna's second installment on life after global warming, Mara is a teenage leader with no family except the bedraggled group of emigrants she leads across the ocean in hopes of finding land.
The first book in the series, "Exodus," is fascinating. People create clothes from plastic trash bags and other non-decomposing materials, and fight for survival at the foot of a technologically advanced, highly guarded man-made island.
Without reading the first novel, readers will be confused by the strangely named characters and terminology in "Zenith." The second book is also much darker, with vivid deaths and Mara realizing she is pregnant (the conception is subtly alluded to in the first book).
Fortunately, we're into the Sandhills' premier weather, so young readers can get out in the sunshine after delving into the angst of these teen novels.
See more of Southern Pines writer Charlene Vermeulen's reviews at www.prudereviews.blogspot.com.
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