There are many things I am thankful for in my life. One of them is the calming bliss that comes from the fact that, ahh, I'm not a teenager anymore. Clichés aside, that is one awkward time, and for a media junkie like myself, it's made all the more awful by the fact that any book/movie/music that claims to "address your generation" inevitably reveals itself to be a clunky, pandering disaster riddled with misused slang and ham-fisted anti-drug messages.
Double that disappointment if something claims to speak specifically to teenage girls -- I know I much preferred the comfort of open patronization from magazine-cum-catalogs like Seventeen over the veiled insults of getting it, like, so totally wrong. But this barren desert of good representation does leave teen girls with little options but to swallow their stereotype or step outside the offered pink, shiny bubble and go for male-dominated media like computer games, action movies, and comics. (A tip here for young readers: the latter option gives you bonus access to guys. Oh yes.)
But now, people are starting to catch on to a gap in the current offerings for teen girls. Big time comics publisher DC is hoping to lure young readers towards Minx, a new imprint expressly devoted to "reaching the teenage girl." Despite the bizarrely sexist kitsch of its name, Minx looks to be pretty promising.
The premier title of the list is The Plain Janes, a breezy graphic novel written by YA novelist Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Jim Rugg. The Plain Janes is a sweet little rebellion fantasy about a troubled girl who shakes up suburbia by engaging in public acts of poetic vandalism with her friends -- soaping the town fountain, leaving cryptic messages to point out their bland consumerist ways, etc. -- until the stuffy town sheriff cracks down to end the hi-jinx. Except these performance art pieces have already expanded the baying, sheep-like minds of her fellow suburbanites, who take up the cause, proving that "art saves" and individual voices matter.
Yes, the whole affair is a little Frank Capra, but young teens, maybe even tweens, just starting to eke out an interest in counterculture could find the story exhilarating. Certainly, it's a positive reminder that teen angst can be funneled into constructive, creative expression, and that girls can push the envelope as well as boys. Also, the impetus of the art pranks start as a plot to connect to a cute guy, but happily evolves into a way to bond with fellow girls in friendship. The art is stylish and full of realistic details that young teens will likely relate to.
The next title, just released this month, is The Re-Gifters. Though there's an all-male team behind it, this book offers a more complex and empowering female character. Dixie is a young girl balancing her Korean heritage, hapkido martial arts lessons, a dangerous urban environment, and one massive crush. The whirlwind plot revolves around Dixie's foolish decision to sacrifice everything for her dream boy, only to discover that he's not worth even a second thought. But, Dixie's hapkido skills save the day and her self respect, as she quite literally finds herself facing her ex-crush in the ring, and, well... kicking his a**.
This plot twist inspired me to have a whole new expectation in frothy chick-lit: forget swooning and happily ever after, it's SO much more satisfying to watch a character throw her ex-crush down in a complex kick/hold, then jump up to receive a tournament trophy, plus maybe even a kiss from her new, appreciative boyfriend. The Re-Gifters's energetic pace and realistic dialogue was engaging and fresh. The message of individuality and the importance (and possibility) of finding someone who truly appreciates you is subtle, yet inspiring. I'd recommend this title also to younger teens, but the story has enough tooth to appeal to older girls, as well.
Minx has two more titles slated to launch this summer, Clubbing and Good as Lily. With the fine example set by the line's first two books, Minx looks to be a welcome bright spot in the dismal world of teen media.