We’re introducing a feature we plan to come back to a lot over our time writing here at Slatebreakers. The Slatebreaker All Star is granted to characters who exemplify everything we get amped up about at this site. They question the world around them, challenge expectations and they do it with style. There are dozens of ways to be a Slatebreaker, and we find our All Stars across the canon, from Sarah Dessen’s pastel covers to Katniss’s raw toughness. These are heroines who live up to the standard set by the original Slatebreaker, Anne Shirley.
To get us started, here are some of our personal favorite Slatebreaker All Stars
Sarah’s All Stars:
Frankie Landau Banks, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
Frankie Landau Banks is a straight up feminist hero, as well as being a totally identifiable realistic teenage character. She struggles with what she wants. She’s insanely smart. She basically brings her stodgy, sexist boarding school to its knees. Her fascination with neglected positives (gruntled, ept, petuous, etc.) only makes me love her more.
Alice McKinley, The Agony of Alice, and many others by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Throughout this series of books we see Alice grow up from an awkward, embarrassed pre-teen into her teenage years. The books are still being published (I have the most recent one in my current to-read stack), and the current incarnation of Alice is about to graduate from high school. Even though they’ve gotten a little Very Special Issues-y, I still like them, but the Alice I really love is the Alice of the early books, who puts the tags from her first bra up on her bulletin board and puts pomegranates on the grocery list after reading about them compared to breasts in Arabian Nights. Alice’s mother died when she was five (before the series starts) and the real crux of the series is her figuring out how to be a woman, stranded in this house with only her father and older brother as resources. She looks to all kinds of examples, from her straightlaced Aunt Sally to her brother’s various girlfriends, but ultimately she has to figure out for herself what kind of a person she is and what kind of a woman she’s going to grow up to be.
But Alice is a Slatebreaker All Star, not just for her successes but for her failures and flaws. Rarely do we see a character so comfortable asking questions, figuring things out and searching for answers even when they aren’t immediately evident. These books have been banned all over the place, and it’s largely because Alice is curious about sex and asks about it.
Katsa, Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Spunky is great, but sometimes you want your heroine to kick some ass, Buffy-style. Katsa, the protagonist of Graceling is a true warrior. Superhumanly gifted (“graced”) with an ability to kill and trapped in the service of her manipulative uncle, Katsa has cut herself off emotionally to deal with the things she has done. Things change when she joins up with Prince Po and the two of them set off to rescue his young cousin from a seriously scary villain. Her strength, determination, protectiveness and general badassery leave the slate not just broken, but shattered.
Katsa and Po find redemption in each other, but their relationship isn’t perfect. And somehow, within those imperfections this becomes one of the strongest, sexiest, most feminist relationships I’ve seen emerge in a fantasy series.
Brianna’s All Stars
Delphine, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Delphine is a fiercely protective, no-nonsense type of girl. She watches out for her little sisters Vonetta and Fern and she doesn’t let anyone badmouth her family. Delphine takes on a lot of responsibility for her young age and handles it deftly. Plus she gets involved in the Black Panther movement and challenges social norms of girlhood. That’s pretty amazing for an eleven-year-old. I wish I had a slatebreaking big sister like Delphine to pave the way for me while I was growing up.
Jessica Darling, Sloppy Firsts and others by Megan McCafferty
Throughout the five books in the Jessica Darling series, we get to watch her grow into a smart, cynical woman. Jessica is a Slatebreaker because she lives on her own terms and refuses to make decisions based on what other people think. Her constant pessimism is actually kind of charming and proves that girl characters don’t have to be happy-go-lucky princesses to be likeable.
Lucky Trimble, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
What I love most about Lucky is that she’s decisive. Sometimes she’s too quick to make decisions, and those decisions may be ill-informed, but she always commits to her choices 100%. Lucky is also a philosophical girl. Although she knows little about the world beyond Hard Pan (her tiny hometown), she ponders what it might mean to have a higher power and connect with other humans. She’s one of my Slatebreaker All Stars because she relies on her brainpower to solve problems.
There are way more of course, and we’ll be talking about them in detail. How about you? Who are your personal All Stars?
Kay Wyatt in Carrie Vaughn’s “Voices of Dragons.” I will admit my bias up-front, Carrie is my sister-in-law, and kind of the queen of female-centered sci-fi fantasy. But that bias aside, Kay is a determined, independent young woman who defies the norms of her world to follow her gut instincts and uncover the truth. She’s physically strong, but not without her self-doubts.
Voices of Dragons has been in my to-read pile for awhile, so I need to get to that. I keep saying I don’t like sci-fi, but then I find all these exceptions. So I probably ought to adjust that perspective.
I will have to check this out – I’m not a big sci-fi reader because I find many selections from that genre lack those awesome female characters, so this sounds really promising. I’m adding “Voices of Dragons” to my to-read list!
My sister-in-law will be proud! When people tell her they don’t like sci-fi, she will quickly give them examples of great sci-fi books they love. How about A Wrinkle in Time? Meg should perhaps be on the slatebreakers list? Though I’d have to go back and re-read to see how hardcore she really was.
Cimorene from Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons!
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