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Take 5: YA Lit for Rose Tyler fans (Doctor Who), a guest post by Amy Diegelman

“The first nineteen years of my life, nothing happened.
Nothing at all.”  

Image property of Megan Lara at Megan Lara Tumblr


Rose Tyler.

Companion, friend, comforter, badass.

Resourceful, empathetic, brave, determined.

I could go on for days and days about all Rose Tyler’s amazing qualities (and trust me, I’ll get back to that in a second) but there is one aspect I don’t think we talk about enough. Before she was the Bad Wolf, Rose Tyler was just a shop girl with minimal education living in an estate with her mother. Her life is chugging forward in the mundane, slightly below average way everyone expects it to.. Jackie indicates that a butcher shop would be more suitable work for Rose because the department store was too fancy. Rose has no A-levels, the requirements for college. Estates like the one the Tylers inhabit are not just apartment buildings but large housing projects (often owned by the government or non-profit organizations) for the lower end of the economic scale. She’s a chav – a British stereotype and derogatory term similar to calling someone ‘white trash’ or ‘ghetto.’ The implication is always there in Rose’s history and fashion, and in the episode “New Earth”, when the ever-fabulous Cassandra inhabits Rose’s body, she openly despairs, “I’m a chav!”

I love a character like Rose. A girl who leads a disadvantage life, who is simply following the path set out for her when a door to something better opens up. Once given the chance, Rose proves that she is more than up to snuff. Through the new life of adventuring she is able to show everyone, including herself, that she is brave and smart and compassionate. She saves herself, strangers, friends, and the Doctor more than once. She becomes the Bad Wolf and puts her mark on time itself. So I’ve made up a small list of characters who are pulled from low circumstances to extraordinary ones, and prove that they themselves are extraordinary.


Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella in the future. I tend to think any characterization of Rose Tyler as Cinderella to somewhat miss the mark. But Cinder isn’t the classic Cinderella either. Cinder is a cyborg, and that makes her, like Rose, a second class citizen to most people. And though her family lives in a certain level of luxury, Cinder herself earns most of the wages as a mechanic and sees few of the benefits. Regardless of all that, when trouble turns up, Cinder rises to the occasion. She throws herself into danger when she doesn’t have to, because it is the right thing to do. What is perhaps most Rose Tyler-esque, is the fact that Cinder doesn’t question it. She doesn’t stand around and agonize over things. She sees what needs to be done – often who needs to be helped – and she finds a way to do it. Neither she nor Rose have fairy godmothers. They prove themselves all on their own.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – Raised by a man who never wanted her, sold off to an abusive husband. These are the only things we really know about Ismae’s life before she is taken in by the nuns of St. Mortain- better known as Death himself – to be trained as an assassin. Its not often you can say a girl raised by assassin nuns is similar to, well, anyone – but Ismae came to mind right away when I started this list. She is taken from a life of being beaten and neglected, to one where she is shown how truly amazing she can be. Its Ismae’s faith and fidelity (along with a fair amount of badassery, of course) that really connect her with Rose. Ismae is firmly dedicated to what she feels is right, and to Death, who she has sworn to serve, even though she has every reason to believe only in the terrible things and people in the world.. It makes me think of the scene in the Satan Pit episodes when everyone believes the doctor is dead but Rose stands firm, “You don’t know him. Cause he’s not. I’m telling you he’s not. And even if he was, how could I leave him?”


Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – In this alternate, steampunk, bioengineered version of World War I Deryn is a commoner girl disguised as a boy so she can serve in the British Air Service. And boy is she good at it. Oh man, how much do I love Deryn Sharp? So much. Smart, funny, brave – Deryn goes after what she wants and takes it. The best part? What she wants isn’t power or wealth or fame, she just wants to do what she loves – flying. Deryn doesn’t hesitate, and she doesn’t give up. She’d do anything for her friends, she doesn’t blink before tossing herself into danger to save another. She and Rose would be fast friends, I have no doubt.


Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Alina is an orphan serving in the military with her best friend Mal. Her life is truly average. But when a unique ability manifests in her, she is swept up into the elite, majestic world of the Grisha and their leader, the Darkling. I agonized a bit over this one, but in the end I decided that Alina deserved a spot on this list. Don’t get me wrong, I love Alina and adore this book (Epic fantasy with a Russian twist? Yes, please!) but I wasn’t sure she was Rose Tyler material. Alina is a bit of a Rose in training. She struggles with a woe-is-me attitude for quite some time, but to be fair the Darkling, while powerful and mysterious, isn’t quite the inspirational figure the Doctor usually is. But at the end of the day she is much like the Bad Wolf – an immense power just waiting to find her way.

Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy – Rain’s story is much darker than Rose’s. She and her little brother are the only surviving members of their family, living in an abandoned pool and scrounging for a life in the crime and grime of Earth City. When Rain’s brother’s life is at risk she gives up everything to save him. She trades herself to a man named Johnny in exchange for passage on his ship to The Edge, where there may be a cure for her brother, whole will have to make the trip cryogenically frozen. But Johnny’s ship, a city all its own, proves to be almost as dangerous as Johnny himself. Rain is one of my favorite YA heroines of the last couple of years. Her life is ugly and often awful, but she never gives up. NEVER. There were so many moments when I couldn’t imagine even having the will to continue, but Rain finds a way. And she does her best not to trample anyone in the process. Rain shares with Rose the ability I love most in them both – a refusal to be beaten, without a loss of compassion.

    BIO
Amy Diegelman is a Young Adult Librarian in Massachusetts, with an MLS and Specialization in Youth Services from Indiana University. She lives on an island, and Batman is her one true love.


Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

“And maybe she’d been right to do it.  Maybe it was Cinder’s duty as a cyborg to sacrifice herself so all the normal humans could be cured.  Maybe it did make sense to use the ones who had already been tampered with.  But Cinder knew she would never forgive Adri for it.  The woman was supposed to be the one to protect her, to help her.  If Adri and Pearl were her only family left, she would be better off alone.

She had to get away.  And she knew just how she was going to do it.” – Cinder, Macmillan January 2012

Cinder, the first of four books in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, spins the familiar Cinderella story into the far off future.  Cyborg, not remembering her past, Cinder is the adopted daughter who is a mechanic to provide for her adoptive family, made poor after the death of her “father” and her guardian blows through the savings.  A plague is devastating the world, infecting first the outerlands and now the city at an alarming rate, and cyborgs are being drafted in order to be experiment subjects for a cure- after all, you can’t experiment on pure humans, and cyborgs aren’t real humans.  The Emperor has contracted the plague, and his heir, Prince Kai, must somehow deal with the Lunar Queen and her threats of war against earth- the only answer seems to come at too dear of a price to pay. 
Cinder holds all the of the traditional elements of Cinderella (outcast daughter, handsome prince, wedding ball, must find suitor, will she go to the ball, will they get together, etc.), but puts some wonderful spins on it as well. 
Being set in a futuristic Eastern Commonwealth, Cinder’s world seems to hold to a largely throwback Asian mindset:  pureblood first, then adoptive, and finally outcast, so Cinder would be the bottom of the bottom being not Asian (found in a different country), then adoptive, then cyborg.  The marketplace and stalls where she works, and the quarantine where the plague victims are kept are also similar to historical times more than futuristic endeavours, with rickety stalls and fold up cots- only the technological intrusion of robot medics and police change the scenery.
Also, Cinder turns gender roles on their ear.  Prince Kai is the one who’s having to consider marriage to Queen Levana, who’s people has mind magic, but it’s clear in the one scene that if he will not marry her that there is another prince that might be able to take on the deal and save the Earthens.  A refreshing change- instead of marrying off the daughters, we’re having to marry off the sons- and Prince Kai does not seem able to make command decisions anywhere within the book. 
Cinder the cyborg isn’t a scullery maid- she’s a mechanic fixing androids, scouring the junkyard for parts, and eventually fixing up an orange VW bug for her very own escape vehicle (yes, it’s her pumpkin).  And Cinder the girl isn’t waiting to be rescued- she’s the one doing the rescuing.  She’s trying to assist in finding a cure for her sister Peony, she’s trying to rescue her android, and near the end, she’s trying to rescue Prince Kai.
I really enjoyed Cinder, the only drawback I can see to giving it to any reader would be that the cover could turn off guy readers.  I understand why (hello, it is Cinderella, so we need the shoe, and you can see the cyborg workings underneath the skin), but it can skew more female than male.  I would definitely recommend Cinder to readers who enjoyed Starters by Lissa Price, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, or the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield.