Samantha Francine, YA Fantasy, Oppressed & Oppressor

As I write this, I wonder how I–a YA fantasy reader and writer who is white–can possibly have anything worth saying at a time when my country’s streets are filled with Black Lives Matter protesters being fired upon with teargas and flash bombs, thrown down, choked, clubbed. Well, you’ve seen the news. You know.

But today I will share three things with you: two of my favorite YA fantasy books and an image from the Black Lives Matter movement that I can’t get out of my head.

Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and Marie Lu’s Legend are (in my humble opinion) perfect YA fantasy books with noble characters and tight, compelling plots. Like so many YA fantasy books, protagonists fight against a powerful oppressor. Both books also feature main characters from opposing forces: one is from the oppressed class, the other from the oppressor.

Laia from An Ember in the Ashes works with the Resistance and will do anything to save her brother, even work as a slave for an evil commander. Elias is a member of the elite. As a “Mask” for the Martial Empire, Elias is an assassin trained at the highest level. Despite Laia’s misgivings, she and Elias form a relationship, and we learn that Elias never wanted to be a Mask. He is a good person who uses his privileged status to help Laia—though even he must be careful to avoid severe punishment.

In Marie Lu’s Legend, June is the brilliant, logical military cadet from an elite family. While seeking her brother’s murderer–whom she is told is a member of the oppressed class–June encounters Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal. Cocky and compassionate Day is about as different from June as can be. The two characters begin the story at cross purposes but, like Elias in Ember, June has compassion. She is not inherently a bad person, just indoctrinated by the oppressor.

As the pairs of opposing characters in each novel build a personal connection, characters from the privileged class (Elias and June) open their eyes to who the oppressed really are as people. June learns that Day is not the person the Republic portrayed him to be. Elias learns that his training as a Mask can make him a great help to the Resistance.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”Maya Angelou

This brings us to the powerful image I mentioned earlier. During this time of Black Lives Matter protests there are many moving and disturbing images, but today I will write about this one.

On the right is Samantha Francine, an African American woman faced with an angry white man in Whitefish, Montana. Samantha Francine stood with her sign near town hall with sixty other protesters when this burly white man, well over six feet tall, stormed the group, yelling epithets and knocking signs from protesters’ hands. He got into the protesters’ faces, one after another, clearly looking for a fight. When he got to Samantha Francine, she planted her feet, pulled her glasses up, and looked the man square in the eye.

Samantha Francine said she was not afraid. Her single white dad had taught her and her siblings that life would be different for them because of the color of their skin. She said he constantly reminded them that “No matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.”

Samantha Francine remembered.

Judging by the man’s threatening posture and actions, he was full of anger and hate. When he looked into Samantha Francine’s wide open eyes, did he really see her? Might there come a day when the man feels remorse for evoking such fear in peaceful people?

In fictional worlds, members of the oppressive class are able to find redemption to the point where they decide to work to end oppression.

I pray this is possible in the real world too.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”James Baldwin

XOXO

eve messenger

What Makes a Character Noble?

Noble Characters in YA Fiction

Few things are as gratifying as reading about a truly noble character. So who are some of the most noble characters in modern YA fiction? Before we take a look at the list, let’s define “noble.”

A noble character is someone who:

  1. Sacrifices desires and emotional or physical safety for the greater good.
  2. Doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than who she is. (Probably my favorite quality of a noble character.)
  3. Doesn’t (necessarily) seek recognition for doing the right thing, in fact, prefers anonymity.
  4. May, in fact, lead a generally ignoble life, but when the time comes to stand up for what’s right, she does.
  5. Has a strong moral compass and sticks to it, even when ridiculed, pressured to conform, or ostracized.
  6. Can take the easy way out but doesn’t.
  7. Never abandons her friends.

Top 9 Noble Characters in YA

Inej Ghafa, the Wraith – Six of Crows
An expert assassin, Inej can kill a person in seconds with her bare hands, but she never veers from her personal code of ethics. She would die before letting down her friends.
23437156Todd Hewitt – The Knife of Never Letting Go 
Sure, Todd could have kept running when all hell broke loose in Prentisstown, but he had to stop and help Viola because that is how a noble character rolls.
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Celia Bowen – The Night Circus 
Celia Bowen could well be the most powerful magician in the world, but because of her strong moral compass she treats people with dignity and does what she thinks is right.
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Brimstone- Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Without giving away spoilers, let’s just say Brimstone meets the qualifications of being a noble character. Fellow readers of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, would you agree?
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Queenie – Code Name Verity
I finished reading Code Name Verity several days ago and am still in a daze over what a noble character Queenie is.

Thea – The Diviners
Thea is one of those enticing characters who never pretends to be anyone other than who she is. She follows her passions and is kind toward those who deserve it.

Kell – Shades of Magic series Kell could practically run the world with all the powers he has as a Traveler and, though he is treated as a second-rate son by the Maresh family, he remains loyal to crown, especially to his brother, Prince Rhy.
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Katniss Everdeen – Hunger Games
It would have been so easy for Katniss to leave District 12 behind and live the good life at the Capitol but, no, she has to fight for what is right.
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Day – Legend  Day’s defining characteristic is his unwavering loyalty toward family, close friends, and his oppressed community.
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What do you think? Are there other characters who deserve to be on this list?

–Eve Messenger

 

 

Book Tag Inspired by “The Gilmore Girls” #amreading

GG Tag

I didn’t see The Gilmore Girls when it first aired, but I had a blast binge-watching Lorelei and Rory on Netflix and now have kindred book-loving spirit Beth @ Betwixt the Pages to thank for this fun Gilmore Girls Book Tag. If you’d like to do it too, please consider yourself tagged!

1. I JUST GOT HIT BY A DEER –
character having the worst day ever

“Day” from the book Legend has all the soldiers of a dystopian society against him. And they are not kind.

He is a legend... She is a prodigy... Who will be champion?:

2. STARS HOLLOW –
wildly eccentric cast

The Night Circus  features such a unique assortment of characters.

3. COFFEE –
a book you’re addicted to/a character with an addiction

I think Miles (AKA “Pudge”) was pretty addicted to Alaska and her wild ways.

4. SOMEONE DEVIL EGGED MY CAR?! –
great act of revenge

Victor from Vicious  owns this category.

5. MR. MEDINA –
an illicit affair

Nathanial Hawthorne penned the ultimate illicit affair story in The Scarlet Letter. I was recently impressed by the Manga Classics version of The Scarlet Letter, which did a great job capturing key plot details and most memorable lines–all in manga style.

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6. KIM’S ANTIQUES –
a world you’d be afraid to enter

The strange world and undercurrent of evil in The Knife of Never Letting Go was genuinely unsettling.

7. HARVARD VS. YALE –
character who needs to make a life-changing decision

Alexandra in Consider by Kristy Acevedo had to decide whether or not to take the ultimate leap of faith.

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8. LUKE’S DINER –
a comfort read

Captain Marvel Further, Faster (vol. 1-6) by DeConnick & Lopez. Talk about a comfort read. This graphic novel was pure Friday night joy.

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More

9. AM I CRYING OR LAUGHING? –
a book that messed with your emotions

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter devastated me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I read #8 to decompress from this beautifully written but heartbreaking book.

10. EMILY –
the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge)

Predatory, coldly beautiful Dr. Cable from Uglies.

11. LORELAI AND RORY –
favorite family dynamic

I choose the Shadowhunters family from Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices. They may not be related to one another, but they live together and have each other’s backs.

12. I PUSHED HIM IN THE LAKE! –
a book you’d throw in a lake

While reading Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle there were times I wanted to throw it into a lake because the derogatory Asian references were so offensive.

13. 1000 YELLOW DAISIES –
favorite romance

In Magonia, Jason literally travels to the far corners of the world to find Aza.

14. JESS –
an unpopular opinion

Cinder. Sorry!!

15. FIRST SNOW –
snowy or holiday read

Pretty much any book by Jane Austen feels like a snowy or holiday read. Something about reading stories set in Regency era England makes me want to curl up by a crackling fire.

16. HEP ALIEN –
book centered around music

In addition to being clever and funny, The Haters had so many musical references which, as a musician and music teacher, I enjoyed immensely–Jesse Andrews authentically captures what it’s like to jam with bandmates. But be warned: this YA book is undeniably an R-rated read.

17. HE’D BETTER HAVE A MOTORCYCLE! –
your book crush

Day from Legend.

18. IT’S REPETITIVE AND REDUNDANT –
a book that could have been shorter

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (Should I also put this in category #14??)

19. KIRK –
the weirdest book you’ve ever read

Hahaha, Kirk is weird. Okay, so I’m gonna have to go with Magonia again on this one.

20. IT’S A LIFESTYLE. IT’S A RELIGION –
that one book that means more to you than any other

Impossible to answer.

I Tag:

Michelle, Books & Movies Addict
Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories
Jess @ Blogging Everything Beautiful
Stefanie @ YourDaughter’sBookshelf
The Orang-utan Librarian
Franciska @ Life is Sweet in Books
Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets
Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels

“My Intimidating TBR” Tag & A New YA Release I’m Dying to Read

My new friend, Sean @ KingdomBookBlog, gave me a fabulous reason to think about books by tapping me for this “My Intimidating TBR” book tag. If you would like to join in the fun, please consider yourself tagged!

1.) What book have you been unable to finish?

I’m sorry to say my only DNF of the past year was a book many people adore, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

2.) What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?

So many books fall into this category! I’ll go with Legend by Marie Lu because I really want to read it! In fact, it’s been sitting in a TBR stack right here on my desk beside where I’m typing at this very moment, but poor Legend hasn’t made it to the top yet.

Legend (Legend, #1)

3.) What book have you yet to read because it’s a sequel?

I don’t think my blog would be my blog if I didn’t mention V.E. Schwab in at least every other post so, yes, the book I read because it was a sequel was A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. 🙂

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4.) What book have you yet to read because it’s a new release?

If I positively can’t wait to read a new release, I do this silly thing called BUY THE BOOK. However, there is a new book I’m dying to read but can’t since it’s not scheduled for release until September 2016–The Reader by Traci Chee. Protagonist Sefia vows to save her kidnapped relative, but rescue means learning to read in a world where literacy is forbidden.  A sample chapter is available here–you’ll need to scroll past several other sample chapters to get to it.

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5.) What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t like it?

I can’t remember a specific book I went out of my way to avoid because it was written by an author whose writing I didn’t care for.

6.) What book have you yet to read because you aren’t in the mood?

Hmm, good question. Probably The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks. It’s the kind of whimsical, fantastical, well-written story I would enjoy, but something about the dense typeface gives me pause.

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7.) What book have you yet to read because it’s humongous?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. At 579 pages it isn’t ridiculously long, but I’m a little on the fence about reading it–if it were shorter I would fall off the fence on the side of reading it. 🙂

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8.) What book have you yet to read because it was a cover buy with bad reviews?

I adore pretty book covers but don’t buy books purely based on them.

9.) Which book on your TBR is the most intimidating to you?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

–Eve Messenger