Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Yesterday, as part of the #SVYALit Project, we talked with Sharon Biggs Waller about A Mad, Wicked Folly. Yesterday’s chat was one of the few #SVYALit Project chats where I hadn’t already read the books before putting the project outline together. So I read AMWF this week. Here are my thoughts.

Victoria Darling wants nothing more than to be an artist. The problem is, she lives in London in the early 1900s and the only role that society has planned for her is wife and mother. And she doesn’t even get to choose who she will marry, that is dictated by things like station, class, and her parents.

When we first meet Vicky, she is sneaking away to take art classes. One fateful day, she agrees to pose nude for her class. When news gets back to her family, she is sent home in disgrace. Back at home, her family is trying to redeem their name and arrange for Vicky to marry a man, claiming she is lucky anyone will have her now. If Vicky doesn’t want to see her family fall from grace, she must play the role of dutiful daughter and wife successfully, but that also means that she must deny who she truly is and what she wants for herself.

At the same time, the Suffragette movement is starting to build and Vicky finds herself drawn to their cause. Why shouldn’t women get to vote, to go to college, to choose who they want to marry for themselves? She is also drawn to a man, a man who is not her fiancee’, but does turn out to be her artistic muse.


What we see in A Mad Wicked Folly is just what was at stake when women fought for their rights. For it’s not just Vicky who may lose, but she could cost her family everything: status, business contracts that allow them to support themselves. For Vicky, it means trying not only to get into an art school that will only let in a very small number of women, but trying to find a way to pay for it since she knows that her father who doesn’t believe in women’s education would never support it. In a way, some of the issues of this day very much mirror our current day: he who holds the purse strings has the greatest amount of power and influence.

As Waller mentioned in yesterday’s discussion, although Folly is specifically about the Suffragette movement, it is also a story about anyone who has ever come of age and had to make brave choices to sacrifice security and comfort to be faithful to their passion, to who they truly are inside. Throughout the story we see Vicky’s passion to art, he burning desire to study and grow and be considered among the great of her time, and you want for her to succeed. Anyone who has ever wrestled with acceptance can relate to Vicky’s struggle.

It was fascinating for me to be reading this right as the Women Against Feminism memes broke out on the Internet. Folly is a reminder of where Feminism came from, what it is, and why it mattered. And why it matters still today because although women have made tremendous strides, we know from stats like the percentage of women in Congress (around 20%) and from looking at women in the workforce (where they still make less on average then men doing the same job, where few boards have even a single female on them, and where women in the boardroom are still often assumed to be secretaries) that we still have a long ways to go in discussing equality. For a great take on Women Against Feminism, do be sure and check out what The Bloggess has to say. Sharks are mentioned. It is brilliant.

As a mother, I realized the importance of discussing these issues with my daughters when The Tween brought home a school assignment on pink paper asking her to choose a famous female Texan to study and report on. The boys were given a blue paper with a list of famous male Texans. And because our history books still favor men, there was a notable disparity in the types of people each group had to choose from. I am excited to be able to give this book to her to read and discuss to help her better understand just what those women fighting before her were fighting for, what they were fighting against, and how we must practice due diligence to make sure that those before us haven’t fought in vain – we can not let those rights slip away, and we must continue to fight for all rights to help create a just world that focuses on human rights. All human rights, because all people matter.

So, obviously, I highly recommend this book. I thought that it really took me not only into the time and helped me understand what was happening, but it did so through the eyes of a character who had a fiery passion and wrestled with her conscience to make difficult decisions that were not without cost, not only for her but for the people that she loved.

Published in January from Viking Juvenile.

The #SVYALit Project Historical Fiction Google Hangout is Happening TODAY

Here’s a look at today’s discussion in the #SVYALit Project. Today’s topic is historical fiction and we’ll be discussing MAID OF SECRETS and MAID OF DECEPTION by Jennifer McGowan, A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller and GILT by Katherine Longshore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfMQtsqndt0]

Here’s a link to the Cuddlebuggery post on Sex Positive YA that is mentioned.

Here’s a link to the School Library Journal article I wrote on Slut Shaming with an example of a new sex positive YA title

Here are our lists of sex positive YA mentioned: Karen’s List  Christa’s List  Carrie’s List

Also, want to know more what we mean when we say Edwardian or Victorian or Tudor historical fiction? Jennifer McGowan and I wrote an article on YA Historical Fiction which will appear in your August 2014 issue of VOYA Magazine. We break down the various time periods and give you examples in our YA historical fiction reading timeline.

Sexual Violence in YA Lit, the project

It began with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson many years ago. This book really touched me, as it has readers around the world.  And it made me start thinking a lot about how we can use literature to talk with teens about really tough topics; about things like recognizing the signs so that you can ask for help, about the need for empathy, about the ways in which our society tends to blame victims instead of rapists . . . Books can open eyes, bring healing, and start conversations.

Throughout my years working with teens, I have met many tweens and teens that have been the victims of sexual violence.  In fact, current statistics indicate that by the time they are 18 years old 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be the victim of some type of sexual violence.

So I knew I wanted to do more.  For the last 3 years I have been working behind the scenes trying to find a way to get this project off of the ground.  Then I had a brainstorm and invited authors Christa Desir, Carrie Mesrobian and Trish Doller to have a virtual panel on the topic and they graciously agreed.  We had an awesome conversation and got such a positive response that we decided to continue the project. Here are the details. Keep this page bookmarked.

Goals: To discuss sexual violence in the lives of teens and in ya literature on a bimonthly basis; raise awareness of the issues and titles that can be used to discuss the topics with teens; give librarians, educators and parents the tools to evaluate and discuss these topics in the lives of teens; promote teen reading and literature

Schedule:

All virtual panels will be Google Hangouts on Air at Noon Eastern time.  We will post URLs to watch as we get closer to each date.  Afterwards we will post the video recordings and write recaps.  Everything will be linked back to here for your convenience.  We recommend that you read the books each month if you can, but we will be discussing the issues and additional titles as well.  Here’s a more detailed look at the titles.

Contemporary Debuts, dealing with sexual violence

Date: March 26th
Moderator: Carrie Mesrobian
Confirmed Guests: Stephanie Kuehn (CHARM AND STRANGE), Rachele Alpine (CANARY), and Brendan Kiely (THE GOSPEL OF WINTER)
Recap and Video of the second panel discussing Charm & Strange, Canary, and The Gospel of Winter

Consent Positive YA Lit: Looking at positive depictions of healthy relationships and consent in YA literature
Date: May 21st
Moderator(s): Christa Desir, Carrie Mesrobian, Karen Jensen
Confirmed: Courtney Stevens (FAKING NORMAL), Brandy Colbert (POINTE)
Recap and Video of the third panel discussing Pointe and Faking Normal  

When Past Meets Present, a look at the issues in terms of historical fiction and what we can learn from the past

Date: July 30th
Moderator: Christa Desir
Confirmed: Jenn McGowan (MAID OF SECRETS/MAID OF DECEPTION, Katherine Longshore (GILT), Sharon Biggs Waller (A MAD, WICKED FOLLY)

 
It’s the End of the World as We Know It, what we can learn about current issues surrounding sexual violence through dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction

Date:September 24th
Confirmed: Mindy McGinnis (NOT A DROP TO DRINK), Ilsa J. Bick (ASHES), and Elizabeth Fama (PLUS ONE)

Bringing it Back to Contemporary Fiction: An overview of 2014 titles and a look ahead at 2015
Date: November 19th

Confirmed Guests: A. S. King (forthcoming 2014 and 2015 title), Christa Desir, Carrie Mesrobian

Hashtag: #SVYALit

SVYALit Tumblr

More on Sexual Violence and YA Lit at TLT:

What It’s Like for a Girl: How Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama made me think about the politics of sexuality in the life of girls

Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talking to teens about consent and rape part 1 and part 2

Should there be sex in YA books? 

Plan B: What Youth Advocates Need to Know 

Because No Always Mean No, a list of books dealing with sexual assault

Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in YA Lit.  A look at consent and respecting boundaries in relationships outside of just sex. 

Incest, the last taboo 

This is What Consent Looks Like

Street Harassment

That Time Matt Smith Perpetuated Street Harassment Culture at Comic Con

An Anonymous Letter to Those Who Would Ban Eleanor and Park

Take 5: Difficult books on an important topic (sexual violence) 
  
The Curios Case of the Kissing Doctor and Consent 

Book Review: The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

Take 5: Sexual Violence in the Life of Boys

A BIG list of titles on the TLT Tumblr