TEEN READS: These YA books celebrate women’s abilities – Park Rapids Enterprise

March is a month on the verge of a new life. It’s a month that feels like the previous year has fallen away and we are truly facing a new existence.

So it’s fitting that March is the month we celebrate women’s history—a month to look back and remember those who have gone before, who took chances so today’s women have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

The protagonists of both our books are young women whose dreams are bigger than what their families and society acknowledge. One lives in New York City in the 1890s, while the other is taken from Washington DC to an enchanted kingdom. Both are tough, determined and creating new futures for themselves.

“A curse so dark and lonely”

Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2019

This book by Brigid Kemmerer is a young adult (YA) retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale. Prince Rhen is doomed to repeat the fall in his 18th year, until a girl falls in love with him. Whenever this fails, he becomes a vicious beast bent on destruction. He has destroyed his castle, his family and his hope.

Harper lives in Washington, DC with her brother and her mother, who is suffering from cancer. Harper has cerebral palsy and her brother only sees her limitations and refuses to see all of Harper’s abilities.

When Rhen fails to find love, he sends his servant, Grey, out into the world to find another girl. When Harper sees a damsel in distress, she comes to her aid. Gray takes Harper’s place and she is drawn into a magical place.

In Rhen’s realm, Harper doesn’t know what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen, she begins to understand what is at stake. Rhen begins to see Harper’s true abilities and realizes that she could save Ember Falls and him.

“A Curse So Dark and Lonely” is a refreshing and brave retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” that focuses on the characters’ abilities rather than their limitations.

“These Shallow Graves”


This book by Jennifer Donnelly is YA historical fiction, with a protagonist who refuses to be defined by the limitations placed on her.

Jo knows what her future holds. After she finishes school, she wants to marry a wealthy man, whether she loves him or not. Her dreams extend beyond this superficial life.

Jo wants to be a newspaper reporter. Her father owns a newspaper and she is familiar with that world.

Her life is almost perfect until the day her beloved father is found dead. When it is determined that he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun, Jo knows there is more to the story. Her father would never clean a loaded gun.

Jo decides that she must investigate his death, and she becomes convinced that she is right. As she searches for the truth, she discovers so many secrets.

Mary Schwartz

Mary Schwartz works in the Park Rapids Area Library’s young adult section, ordering books and doing programming. On the Literary Mary YouTube channel, her videos explore books, STEM, creativity and genealogy. She also enjoys hiking and exploring the woods with her camera and her husband, Kevin.

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