I tried out a number of ideas for this essay that would tie into my new YA book, Seriously Wicked. Some of the discarded titles:
- Five Books Where Evil Witches with Ridiculous Plans Try to Totally Ruin Everything, OMG
- Five Books with Cute Boy-Band Boys Who Accidentally Get Taken Over by Demons With a Fondness for Elvis Presley
- Five Books With Dragons in Garages (Real or Metaphorical? Explore.)
But then I decided that one of my favorite parts of Seriously Wicked is the fact that my heroine, Cam, has to save Devon, the cute new boy in school. Devon’s not a wilting lily—it’s just that he’s a normal boy with no magic. And now that Cam’s guardian, the wicked witch Sarmine, has accidentally loosed a demon into him, he’s in a big mess. Cam may not have magic either, but she’s been around magic her whole life, and she’s the one with access to the Witch Internet to look up demons on Witchipedia. So naturally, she’s the one who has to try to do the saving.
Here are some other girl rescuing boy books I love.
Katniss and Peeta in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games
The big recent example, of course! I never understood the Gale love triangle when I was reading the trilogy—I was team Peeta all the way. Peeta used every bit of his smarts and skills that he had—he just had a different skillset from Katniss’s bow and survival tactics. He’s got tact and brains that he uses more than once—not to mention the camouflaging escape during the games. I thought Collins did a lovely job delineating the relationship between the two of them and showing what each bring to the table.
Hermione and her two plucky sidekicks in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
Hermione’s usually saving the boys through her brains, not through her muscles—but in the Harry Potter world, of course, your brains direct your magic, which is far more powerful than any punch to the face. When I was writing this essay up I was informed that Hermione might not count because she’s a big know-it-all, to which, in defense of other know-it-alls, I explained that one can be a big know-it-all and still save the boys-who-have-yet-again-failed-to-study from their own idiocy. In fact, being a big know-it-all is generally Hermione’s biggest asset, so there.
Aerin and Tor in Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown
Tor is the male heir to the throne, and does plenty of swordfighting and country-ruling and so on. But Aerin goes off to slay dragons (a nigh-impossible task in this world), and becomes “not-quite-mortal,” and brings back the Hero’s Crown to win the war that Tor and her father would otherwise lose. There’s quite a power imbalance by the end, especially in the implication that she will marry the mortal Tor (whom she loves) for now, but that later she might gallivant off with the other man she loves, who happens to be immortal.
Senneth and Tayse in Sharon Shinn’s Mystic and Rider series
So Tayse is a dauntingly awesome soldier. But Senneth is a mystic who can control fire. She has a bunch of other related powers, is also good with a sword, and is basically unstoppable. Which is a little challenging for the guy sent along to be her bodyguard. Shinn has a good time with this (first of all, it can be challenging to make someone as universally powerful as Senneth interesting, but she certainly is), and the power imbalance leads to amusing moments between Senneth and Tayse. Early on they get attacked, and Senneth dispatches her foe simply by heating the hilt of his sword. But she doesn’t do the same to Tayse’s foe, instead kindly letting Tayse prove his skill against his attacker.
Katsa and Po in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series
Like Senneth and Tayse, this relationship eases into the power issue by having the boy be strong too, it’s just that the girl is, like, super-duper strong. Katsa is magically “graced” with extra fighting ability—and she is thrilled to finally spar with Po, who is the first person to be even close to her level. The power balance shifts between them in interesting ways which I won’t spoiler for you because the whole trilogy is amazing and why haven’t you read it yet? At any rate, it’s Katsa’s extra skill that lets her rescue him at one point when things look grim.
There are a lot more of these books than there used to be—what are some of your favorites?
Tina Connolly is a Nebula-nominated novelist whose next book, Seriously Wicked, comes out May 5th from Tor Teen. She also collaborated with Spencer Ellsworth to bring an original song from the novel, “Lion Tamer,” to life. Her stories have appeared in Women Destroy SF, Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and more. Her narrations have appeared in audiobooks and podcasts including Podcastle, Pseudopod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and more. She runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. She wants to read about metaphorical dragon-garages now.