This past Monday night, we members of Kearsten's Book Club discussed A.C. Gauguin's Scarlet, a Robin Hood story with a twist. (SPOILERS IN THIS POST!)
Will Scarlet shadows Robin Hood, with an unerring eye for finding treasures to steal and throwing daggers with deadly accuracy, but when Gisbourne, a ruthless bounty hunter, is hired by the sheriff to capture Robin and his band of thieves, Robin must become Will's protector risking his own life in the process.
The reader soon discovers that Will Scarlet is, in fact, a teen-aged girl, hiding out from ugliness in past back in London. Our discussion ranged widely from characterization (weapon choices? Dialect choices?) to whether or not one needed to have a understanding of the Robin Hood legend before reading this one ("Nope.").
However, the biggest discussion around this story was the idea of feminine strength. Does a woman need to "act like a man," as Scarlet does in her male masquerade, in order to be perceived as a "strong female character," as the author's note seems to suggest? Or can a female character be strong even if she doesn't wield knives and display seeming ninja skills? We, of course, rejected the idea that only women who discard dresses and practice knife-throwing can be strong, but what do you think?
If you've already read Scarlet, try out some of these teen-recommended books!
For women disguising themselves as men, try one of these:
Eon by Alison Goodman. Sixteen-year-old Eon hopes to become an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune and learn to be its main interpreter, but to do so will require much, including keeping secret that she is a girl.
Alanna: the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. Eleven-year-old Alanna, who aspires to be a knight even though she is a girl, disguises herself as a boy to become a royal page, learning many hard lessons along her path to high adventure.
Hood by Stephen Lawhead. Hunted like an animal by Norman invaders, Bran ap Brychan, heir to the throne of Elfael, has abandoned his father's kingdom and fled to the greenwood. There, in a primeval forest of the Welsh borders, danger surrounds him--for this woodland is a living, breathing entity with mysterious powers and secrets, and Bran must find a way to make it his own if he is to survive.
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. After a Fenris, or werewolf, kills their grandmother and almost kills them, sisters Scarlett and Rosie March devote themselves to hunting and killing the beasts that prey on teenaged girls.
For two very different, but equally strong young women, try one of these:
Blood Red Road by Moira Young. In a distant future, eighteen-year-old Lugh is kidnapped, and while his twin sister Saba and nine-year-old Emmi are trailing him across bleak Sandsea they are captured, too, and taken to brutal Hopetown, where Saba is forced to be a cage fighter until new friends help plan an escape.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.