There's never really been a name for the type of young adult books I love most. The books with female characters you're dying to be besties with. The ones that make you want to stand up tall because just reading them makes you feel proud to be a woman.
In my head, I've always called these books "girly YA," but I'm usually afraid to say that out loud, let alone tweet it. I'm scared of the backlash. You know, the "Calling a book girly makes it seem different - less than - other books! Labels like that alienate male readers! They should all be called contemporary! Pink covers are the devil!" backlash.
And those are excellent points (well, except maybe that bit about the pink covers - I do love a good pink cover), BUT. The books I'm talking about ARE different from a lot of contemporary YA. And they don't even have to be contemporary (A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray is one of my favorites). So what is it about these books that makes them so special?
1) Female relationships take the forefront. Girls are shown navigating relationships with their friends, sisters, mothers.
2) Issues of particular importance to girls feature prominently (beauty, rape, eating disorders, female sexuality and double standards). I'm not saying these issues can't be important to boys too, but they affect girls more forcefully.
3) There's some element of girls against the establishment, women challenging the status quo.
4) The main character, at some point during her character arc, has an “I am woman. Hear me roar.” moment. A young woman finding her voice for the first time is incredibly powerful, and it's something I love reading about.
5) Shenanigans, including but not limited to: sleepovers, séances, singing into hairbrushes, shopping, dancing, makeover montages, pranks, games of never have I ever, pacts (bonus points if said pact is made over a Cosmo a la SHUT OUT by Kody Keplinger), and just, in general, fun. Because I firmly believe that you can change the world and have fun at the same time.
This is what I think, and these are the types of books I'm looking for. But I've mostly just fretted over the fact that "girly YA" maybe wasn't the best label, and searched harder for them on Goodreads. And that's precisely the problem with NOT having a label for these books. If you don't acknowledge that they're different - beautifully, wonderfully, life-changingly different, it makes it harder for the people who want and need them to find the books that are going to expand their hearts and change their world views.
So, to whoever thought of #yafeministchat, THANK YOU. Thank you for giving a name to the books I love. Thank you for providing a forum where I can discuss them with my friends. Because the book recs alone are making my year.