“YOU CAN’T JUST GO AROUND KISSING SLEEPING GIRLS!”
That’s what Evie screamed out during a Legoland ride featuring Sleeping Beauty last week. That’s right: She’s just as much of a buzzkill as her mom.
I was thinking about this during our Chairman Mom Preach event last night, featuring Rebecca Hanover, the author of young adult The Similars. Rebecca was in conversation with our own Catherine Connors, who was once on the “Disney Princess Task Force” and was a former academic studying storytelling and fairy tales.
It was a pretty stunning conversation about the surge in Young Adult fiction and how it melds together so many other genres, including sci-fi, post-apocalyptic worlds, romance, and mystery. And yet is so ignored and pooh-poohed and underestimated, because it’s “just” written for young girls. That is, until one of these books becomes a massive movie franchise.
We talked about how these books are basically modern fairy tales. They rely on familiar tropes like love triangles, because they have such an impact. We also talked about why grown women love Young Adult fiction so much…That vivid memory of what it felt like at that age to feel so much about everything so intensely for the first time.
Rebecca’s book centers around a group of human clones that have been sequestered on an island and come to a boarding school in their junior year, interacting with all of the children they were cloned from for the first time. It’s a brilliant exploration of the particular angst of high school. It is such a crucial time of grappling with identity, with what makes you stand out while at the same time frequently just wanting to fit in. The fear that maybe you aren’t special is such a core anxiety of those years.
We also talked about the importance of the category since it’s what young girls are looking to as aspiration and relatability. There is so much hand wringing about princesses and how a fixation with them may or may not be damaging for young girls. But what about the novels they devour on a weekly basis in these uncertain teenage years, and the young girls depicted in those?
How helpless should they be? How important is them to be smart and self-sufficient? Should they be beautiful? Should they know they are beautiful? What is the fine line between the relatability of the mess most teenage girls feel like and not going around negging themselves? If you really captured the inner monologue of a lot of teenage girls—their true Insta-worthy fantasies—would you be perpetuating the same body image woes that we already worry about in society?
The event went longer than two hours and we barely scratched the surface of these questions. We’ll definitely have to put Catherine and Rebecca in the same room again and record the conversation.
We also talked about the hard work and diligence involved in following your dreams. Rebecca shared how she worked on this book for five years, with binders of character backstories and details about the world. Check out The Similars if you are headed on vacation this summer. (Although if you have a teenager you might have to fight her for it!)
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- How to coach people to proactively nip potential harassment in the bud?
- Recently diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease? Suggestions for non (or low) toxic makeup?