What would possess a girl to dress up and pose as a boy? As the following books will tell you, there’s plenty!
Some choose to do so to hide from people who wish them dead. Posing as a boy would be able to confuse the enemy who wants to track her down. And in cases where she is left alone in an environment that preys on the weak, being a boy would lessen (at least in some small part) the perceived vulnerability.
For others, it’s not as much hiding as it is a way to gain an opportunity closed to her if she “remains” a girl. This is very popular especially in fiction that shows culture wherein the females are simply relegated to the home and care of children. Some girls dress up as boys in order to avail themselves of education and/or the chance for adventure in the outside world.
What I see in common in books that make use of this trope is how being female is seen as a weakness. At least at the start of the book. In order for the main female character to be treated seriously, she has to deceive others into thinking she’s a boy despite the fact that her achievements have little to do with gender but more to do with her hard work and will to succeed.
But what I like is that these books is that the main characters do not totally eschew their gender. They don’t hate themselves for being born a girl. They do not think being a girl is inferior to being a man. Yes, they are female. But they have accomplished great things equal to those accomplished by a man.
Eventually, their masquerade does get found out. And I like that these ladies can take away from this the knowledge that they are capable and strong. And that their gender is not a hindrance to doing great things.
The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling
The main character was born a girl into a kingdom where prophecy states that the land will prosper as long as a queen rules. But due to her uncle the King wanting to make sure that no woman succeeds the throne, she is enchanted with a boy’s body. Unfortunately, this requires sacrificing her twin brother.
Hence Prince Tobin grows up never knowing he was born a girl (with a father who does not want him playing with dolls and a mother who seems to have gone mad with grief). And with a ghost who seems to hate him and everyone else who had to do with that fateful day of the twin’s birth
Princess Ben by Catherine GIlbert Murdock
Princess Benevolence became heir to the throne with her uncle (the King) and her parents’ simultaneous demise. It isn’t easy being the next ruler when your aunt (and regent) wants you to lose weight and behave more like a princess. Her only solace is in the chamber and book of magic she finds inside the castle.
A series of magical mishaps has her ending up in the midst of the enemy’s army (the one suspected of assassinating her family). And let’s just say pretending to be a boy is one of the reasons she’s relatively safe in that army.
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
In this Sleeping Beauty retelling, Sleeping Beauty’s daughter Aurora poses as a boy to hide from the evil Queen who wants her and her twin brother dead. Unfortunately, her brother is captured. And with Aurora posing as her brother, she has a Prince’s help to free him (when all the while said-Prince has been looking for her as the Princess Aurora to help him break from his own curse)
I think the title speaks for itself. It’s eighteenth century England. And options are limited for a young orphaned girl. Life on the streets, as Mary finds out, is very difficult to say the least. Opportunity arises in the form of a ship. And the only way to get a job there is to pose as a young boy.
Hence Mary (now called Jack) has to keep up her deception in order to stay on the ship, even if she has to lie to her friends and keep her attraction to one of them a secret