14 March 2011

Equal but Opposite

There's a sort of stereotype when it comes to who-reads-what, especially in kidlit - namely, girls will read pretty much anything, but boys won't read about girls. While it's true more often than not, there is definitely a strong tendency among many readers to want to identify with one or more characters (especially the main ones), so when you're populating your novel, it's not a bad idea to have a decent mix of genders and races and traits if you can manage it.

The easiest way, however, to end up with something that will (theoretically) appeal equally to both male and female readers? Make your main characters twins - one of each.

Twelfth Night - Shakespeare

Let's start with a classic, shall we? Viola and Sebastian are identical twins (we're ignoring the fact that that's impossible, as Shakespeare couldn't possibly have had the required knowledge of genetics {despite having a set of boy/girl twins among his own children}), separated after a shipwreck. Massive amounts of hilarity ensue, caused by everything from cross-dressing to cross-gartering (in yellow!). One of my favourite plays; I've even got a viola joke about Sebastian in one of my WiPs (though I borrowed it from a high school buddy).

Children of the Lamp - P. B. Kerr

John and Philippa Gaunt are not just twins... they're djinn twins! Y'know, genies (but they don't like being called that). Their powers come into play once they've had their wisdom teeth removed and their estranged Uncle Nimrod enters their lives. There are currently 6 books in this series, which covers all the standard djinn stuff like lamps, bottles and flying carpets, as well as Chinese terra cotta warriors, Indian fakirs, South American - yeah, I'm going to let you find out for yourselves, more fun that way. Notable highlights include an Indian djinn with an Irish accent, guard dogs who are MUCH more than they appear, and more wish-granting and ridiculously long words than you can pronounce in a hurry (including "sesquipedalian" itself!).

The Ever Breath - Julianna Baggott

Truman and Camille are about as un-identical as twins can possibly be. However, their grandmother is an identical twin - and when they go to stay with her after their father's disappearance, they discover the existence of the Breath World, which is as magical as our world is not. It's also in trouble. Unlike many of the other books on this list, the twin-ness itself is key to this particular tale, which seems to set up a sequel but I can't find any news of it in my usual search strings.

- Laura Bingham

Wanna be an elf? Erin and her twin brother Bain had never really thought about it, but one day they stumble upon an enchanted cottage (no, seriously!) and when they enter it, all sorts of strange events are set into motion. They learn combat skills, journey to places you certainly couldn't get to on the local subway, and meet people of varying races and creatures they'd always thought were mythical (like, say, pegasi). There's a sequel due out in April; I'm interested to see where she takes this story.

- Will Peterson

New Yorkers Rachel and Adam are shipped off to stay with their English grandmother in the aftermath of their parents' divorce. When they arrive, they feel a bit like they've traveled in time as well as space, as the whole town seems mired in a previous era - which turns out to be pretty darn close to the truth. Chalk circles, weird bees, and Green Man mythology are all over the place; watch out for the Morris dancers too (which always makes me think of the first series of Blackadder, but oh well). This is a completed trilogy; the second and third send the twins to much more far-flung places...

The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel - Michael Scott

Sophie and Josh Newman have picked up summer jobs - he's in a bookshop, she's across the street at a café. But when your employers turn out to be 600+-years-old, and they're Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel - well, let's just say that it's not all pages and tea leaves. Historical and mythological figures pop in and out with the needs of the story - note that the Flamels are in fact not simply an invention of J. K. Rowling (which is where most people know the names from), but were (are?) actual people who really were rumoured to possess a Philosopher's Stone (she didn't make that up either); also keep an eye out for Jeanne d'Arc, le Comte de St.-Germain, Gilgamesh and John Dee and Machiavelli and Hecate, to name a few. Also be prepared for a whirlwind (sometimes literally) tour of some of the world's great places - Notre Dame and Stonehenge, among others. There are currently four available; I believe the fifth is due in May.

Mortail Coils - Eric Nylund

Oooh. This one. I'm totally addicted to this series, which is a bit of a problem because there are only 2 volumes out so far. One of the guys at work was going on and on and on about it (hi Max!), so I finally gave in and bought the first one. Now we have cryptic conversations about exactly which characters equate to which mythical deities and - ugh, forgot to give you a summary. Okay, Eliot and Fiona Post live with their grandmother and great-grandmother, are homeschooled and have to follow a long list of restrictive rules (106 of them, posted on their doors), and only escape their apartment to go to work at the local pizza joint. Things take a turn for the seriously weird when they hit 15, though - it transpires that they're the offspring of, to oversimplify things, a goddess and a devil, and the elderly ladies they live with aren't who they thought either. Hooboy. Heroic quests and foul temptations, supersonic limos and dangerous musical instruments, you just can't put these down. Go buy a copy, then buy one for all your friends, so he can hurry up with #3 already!


Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Hmmm...the twin thing is an interesting hypothesis.

Hart Johnson said...

Man--I am so envious of your reading speed. I love the sound of these. I am trying to figure out if I can angle any of them at Thing 2, though at the moment, he seems to be responding the Neil Gaiman, so that's something. Love this idea of twins. (as you may recall...)

Amber T. Smith said...

Ah yes, the Twin Thing. My Purple Project was initially about twins, then it wasn't, and now it's 'maybe'. Can't make my mind up. *snort*

Anyway, as usual you have given me more books to add to my 'to read' list. *sighs happily*

ViolaNut said...

Michael - I don't know if these authors were thinking about it that way, but it definitely works... and makes these good ones to assign to a whole class, too.

Tami - The speed thing strikes me at odd times... like yesterday when I pointed out a funny quote to a coworker and she read it word-for-word out loud before laughing, where I just take the whole thing in at a glance. Handy, that. I'd say any of these for Sam, though Ever Breath might be a bit young for him... try Nicholas Flamel first, I think.

Tara - Well, if you want one you can't get over there, lemme know and we can do a swap for something I can't get over here! ;-) PS - PURPLE!