If Sailor Moon has taught me anything, it has taught me that you can defend the weak and save the world even while wearing a tiara and mini skirt. Prior to this, I always thought saving the world requires a knowledge of martial arts (all the better to clobber the denizens of darkness), armor and a sword. LOL
But in any case, what I’m trying to say is that you don’t always have to fit the mould to achieve your goals in life. You don’t always have to cross-dress as a man to show that you can be just as tough and strong as a man. And you don’t always have to be ruthless and cruel to take down an enemy.
Sure, you have an idea of how to get to your goals. But it isn’t set in stone. And one spoiled opportunity should never mean the end of your dreams.
The following selections feature main characters with their lives ahead of them. Some of them have it mapped out for them. While others map it out for themselves. And then there are others who aren’t even sure yet what they want to do with their lives but they do know that they want something that could bring them happiness and a sense of a well-lived life
However, some event (as they normally do in real life) threatens the stability of the life they once knew. And they can make a choice to cling to doing what they know or to try a new path. To follow what people told them to do. Or to try to do things their own way.
Whatever the case may be, tradition or prejudice or even magic stands in their way, wanting them to conform to one path. There’s always the thought that this path is the one that leads to happiness or at least stability and safety. But the main characters don’t think that’s necessarily true and choose a riskier path that they think could serve them and others better
This is not to say that the traditional or the usual way of doing things is wrong. However, the extraordinary circumstances in the following books usually make going the traditional route unfeasible (to say the least).
Southern Belle Harper is pretty much at the pinnacle of high school social hierarchy. She’s pretty, smart and has an equally good-looking and popular boyfriend. But prom night changes everything. Taking a quick detour to the ladies’ (for a quick application of lip gloss) proves monumental when the school janitor comes in and gets attacked martial arts style.
Unfortunately, the janitor dies…And passes on his martial prowess to Harper. She soon learns that she is now a paladin tasked to protect the Oracle, who happens to be David (her childhood and current nemesis).
As many of my readers already know, I have a thing for “childhood frenemies turned lovers” stories. But I also like how Harper can literally kick ass and not fit the stereotypical “Amazon” mould. Harper loves make-up and dresses. And she won’t let anyone think little of her for loving what she loves!
Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
Evangeline is pretty and popular cheerleader at her school in Louisiana. And she has a nice quarterback boyfriend. Unfortunately, she’s been hearing voices for the past year, which resulted in her mom having her committed to an “institution” for the summer (something she keeps secret at the start of the new semester).
Not helping is her mutual attraction to the new Cajun student Jackson (who’s pretty much considered from the wrong side of the tracks with his previous history of violence). Jackson wants to learn everything about her. Which complicates her life seeing as she really wants to keep the voices, the visions and her brief stint in the mental ward a secret.
Their near-romance is cut short by an apocalypse that wipes out the majority of the population and makes Evangeline realize that the voices (and the visions) are real. And that she has a destiny involving her growing power over plants and other kids of a similar age with developing powers.
My main draw to this book is the romance. Yeah, I also like the star-crossed romance vibe this book has. Not just due to the vast difference in Evie and Jackson’s backgrounds, but also the secrets that Evie has been keeping. Jackson is a normal guy with no special powers, just his smarts and an indomitable will to survive. While Evie is clearly not and is (however unwillingly) involved in a secret battle between humans with powers.
As much as Evie wants to be normal, she knows that survival in the new post-apocalyptic world would require her to hone her powers. Added to that complication is the blood-lust inside her that seems to want to get out. As well as a bunch of people that want her gone despite not having done anything to them…
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
As a citizen (and part of the nobility) of the Valorian Empire, Kestrel has two choices. She can either enlist in the army or get married and spawn kids to eventually populate said army. Despite being very intelligent and capable, neither choice appeals to Kestrel. Her father, the General, wants her to enlist and continue the family legacy. But while Kestrel has the mind of a great military strategist and tactician, she has neither the skill nor the bloodlust to pursue the life of a soldier.
Her life takes a turn when she decides to purchase a slave from auction. The slave Arin is a Herrani, the group of people that her father played a key role in enslaving. Unbeknownst to Kestrel, a slave revolt is in the works and Arin is at the center of it. But at the same time, her time with Arin changes her and makes her realize the inherent wrongs that her people perpetrate through their conquest.
This complicates matters as both Kestrel and Arin fall in love. And they realize it right before the revolt comes underway…
One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. While technically still teenagers, Kestrel and Arin really grew up too fast. Arin due to being enslaved early in life. Kestrel due to her father’s high standards. The military battles and political intrigue in this book are amazing (IMO) and pretty much shows that the book is not merely a story of star-crossed romance.
Kestrel is at a quandary. She has friends who are Valorian and will be clearly affected should the slaves rise up against them. Her father is a General loyal to the empire. But at the same time, Kestrel grew up in the country of Herran, she speaks Herrani fluently and has even come to treat her Herrani nanny like a mother. Furthermore, she’s fallen in love with a Herrani.
Her loyalties are clearly divided. And while she would really benefit from peace between these two groups of people, she knows that it is impossible. She knows that slavery is wrong. But she also knows that her Valorian father and friends will not allow for slaves to be set free.
This book is great for being pretty realistic. You could actually see it as historical fiction (except that the author created a different world where these groups could exist). This is one of my TOP TEN MUST-READ Books. Please take a look at it.
Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Zoe Ardelay is a daughter of two major noble houses. However, her mother’s death and her father’s disgrace has put her and her father in a village far away from court.
But with her father’s death, she is called back to the capital. Initially numbed by her loss, she eventually realizes and feels the full meaning of her “homecoming.” She’s basically being called back to court to become the King’s fifth wife.
She could have just let it happen. It was definitely easier to let others plan out her life for her. But Zoe doesn’t want that. So she runs away and decides to make a life for herself
While there’s romance in this book, I’m actually more interested in the world Sharon Shinn created. Zoe’s country has a custom in which the father has to get three strangers to pick out some “Runes” for his newborn child. Each rune is basically a sort of blessing.
Zoe for example was given the “blessings” of love, beauty and power (if memory serves me right). I was just fascinated with the concept.
Other than that, her world also has a couple of sisters who buy and sell secrets. If there’s a secret you want to know, you might want to try asking the sisters (for a price). And if there’s a juicy secret you think might fetch a good sum, you can earn it through selling it to the sisters.
Anyway, the world-building is awesome in my opinion. And for those who like palace intrigue, then this book is for you as well
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Lucy Scarborough (unbeknownst to her) is the latest in the line of teen mothers who went crazy soon after giving birth to their daughters. Yes, her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and so forth were all teen mothers who eventually lost their minds. And this is all due to a curse by a spurned “demonic elf” (Lucy’s exact words).
Unfortunately, Lucy learned of this history too late. By the time she realizes that she’s treading the same path as her mother before her, she’s already pregnant. And the only way to break this cycle is to complete a set of seemingly Herculean tasks.
Too much for a lone pregnant, teenage girl. But unlike her forbearers before her, Lucy has her loving foster parents and her childhood friend Zach. And they bolstered the strength she already has to ensure that her baby never suffers from the same fate
A book that needs more love (IMO). While not graphic, there is a trigger warning for rape.
I love this book though for how Lucy (with the help of her parents and Zach) is able to fight back. They certainly did not take “destiny” lying down. I particularly like how Lucy’s friends and family supported her throughout this whole ordeal. And for anyone who wants to see an actual story of “Love Overcoming All Odds,” I think this is the book for you