Who knew? Who knew I would be this deliciously into cyborgs and hover crafts? The girl doesn’t even have a glass slipper, but instead a robotic foot, six years too small and yet, she’s just as Cinderella as the next gal waving from the Disney Castle. I was literally number 179 on the request list for this book at the library. Cinder is the story of Cinderella, in the future, when girls can have grease stained foreheads and lay under the hot bed of a truck mixing wires and nug luts in their tool boxes (that’s right, I know what a lug nut is).
It makes me laugh whenever a girlfriend brags about her boyfriend, or husband, being able to change her tie, or her oil. How the grease stains on the boy’s hands stay all day and don’t wash off even after scrubbing with that expensive brand name soap that smells like Cucumber Melon. How manly those grease stains seem to be. How to spot a husband: look for the dirt under his fingernails, the dregs in his palm’s love line.
Anyway this isn’t about husband hunting, it’s about machinery, and women of power. I loved this book as a young adult selection for many reasons. The first is that it can be read and enjoyed by both young adult males and young adult females. You’d think a refigured fairytale would turn boys off. On the contrary, the machinary takes on the element of another character in this book. It’s just as important as the over all story telling as the characters are. While the adventure, technology, and machinery is there for the typical boy this also gives teenage girls the ability to fantasize. Today we clap-on girls who get stuck on the side of a highway and can change their own tire without having to flag down a conspicuous male or call their daddy, and Cinder is a mechanic. She makes it acceptable for girls to lie under a truck on one of those sliding boards and pluck at the wires, configure the engine, change the oil.
Disney should take a lesson. Not all girls have to get crowns, and floating dresses. Not all girls have to get glass slippers in the end to make it worth it, or live happily ever after. Some girls are perfectly happy being at the top of fantasy leagues, having happy ever after be a coffee and a good book, or the 53rd Superbowl Game between the Patriots and the Panthers rather than a man and a soft bed.
I love books that make these things okay, makes girls guts speak. As in, sometimes we all get stuck into the crowd, afraid to be unique, afraid to like sports, or wake up and go to school with last nights mascara under our eyes, or no mascara because we’re naked badasses. We’ll it is okay, we can be badass, naked, never own nail polish, or “healthy glow” blush.
I think all this is honky dory for young adult book clubs. The only problem I had with this as a young adult read was that it was entirely predictable, and there were too many foreshadows to not grasp what was coming. This may come as a rant to you, but I hate predictable or easy young adult fiction. Young adults are apt, insightful, and they’re all miniature spies. If I can tell from page twenty what the plot twist is, every teen in the teen center can tell on page twenty what the plot twist is. I hate when authors think that young adults are less savvy than their adult counterparts or that they won’t figure it out. Just because you’ll be published under the “young adult” umbrella doesn’t mean that your book shouldn’t have the equivalent intelligent level of an “adult” read.
You find this with teachers sometimes, that their expectations are lower than what young adults can actually produce and due to that students are less likely to offer their high quality imaginations or insights. We need to enter the world where we realize what young adults are capable of, and that our expectations for them as readers have turned into sick love triangles, and make-out sessions. Young adults don’t need that in a book (as you’ll find with Cinder which is impeccable without one awkward tongue make-out scene). What they need is books that light up the world around them.
While I am disappointed by the Hunger Games love triangle because it’s so predictable, it did tell young adults about politics, about American freedom, or their own countries power, their own governments power. I was lucky enough to be born in America, but just this morning on BBC News Hour I heard that Pussy Riot (a band) was arrested and has been in jail for six weeks because they wrote a song to Mary asking to take Putin away. They sang it in a famous religious space, yes, but in the US you could write a song about nearly anything and be safe in your home that very night.
In Hunger Games, teens are brought into a world where no one is safe, no life is one of freedom whether you’re in a rich district or a poor district. It serves the same purpose as Animal Farm, showing young adults the world of politics, and current events.
Honky Dory isn’t the word I want to use for young adult fiction, I want to use words we use to describe adult fiction: gripping, captivating, enlightening, riveting, intelligent, emotional, “it changed my life.” All of these words should be the same words we use for all sorts of fiction, every genre. We don’t want to raise girls who only go from Sweet Valley High to the pink chick-lit section of a bookstore. Nothing against chick-lit, I love the stuff when I’m sitting in a beach chair and letting the wind whiff my hair. However, girls need to experience more than romance and dating as young adults and adults. Boys need to experience more than war novels, adventure novels, and mystery novels. It would do them some good to read Virginia Woolf, and Jane Austen. It would do girls some good to read Cormac McCarthy, and Mark Twain.
We need to raise a new generation that crosses stigmas, boundaries, and barriers. We can only do this by promoting books that do this. Bertolt Brecht says, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” Literature has a duty to not only match the minds of young adults, but go beyond their high school lives, their lockers. It’s duty is to take them to a new culture, experience, a new government, less freedom, less electricity, more life outside of the confines of their own existence.
Sherman Alexie said it best, “The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don’t know.” Regardless if you’re a kid from a broken home, if you lived under a Seattle railway system because your mother was hooked on crank, if you were brought up with your car insurance paid and your college money in a savings. Whether you have white picket fences, or chain linked fences, literature should shape your view of the world as something greater than these things. It should empower you, change you, expand you as a human being.
Cinder does this in ways, and fails in others. By fail, I mean fail my high expectations of what SOLID young adult books should do. It’s a sweet read. Read it if you need a break from the literary, or the mystery. Read it if you need to go back to sixteen and breathe in the heat of hair straighteners, or the smell of soggy cafeteria hotdogs. Let your young adults read it because it has less love story, and gives power to the unique. Don’t expect it to tell you about the world, just expect it to be. Read Sonya Hartnett, Markus Zusak, and Sherman Alexie to chisel your world.