Kristin Cashore’s ‘Fire’ and Barry Lyga’s ‘Goth Girl Rising’ tackle the difficult subjects of young women’s budding sexuality and the power of gender from engaging perspectives.
Is there anything more provocative than a teenage girl’s sexuality? Who has not looked at a 14-year-old girl and wondered: Does she know how much invitation is in that look? Or, from the teenage girl’s point of view: I’m like a snake charmer to this guy. If I shift, his eyes follow. How can I resist the temptation to test that power?
In “Fire” (Dial: $17.99, ages 14 and up), Kristin Cashore has dreamed up a breathtaking metaphor for that power.
Cashore is that rare gifted writer who can give a fantasy novel real depth. In her previous novel, “Graceling” (to which “Fire” is a prequel), certain children are born with extreme talents, called “graces.” Katsa, the heroine of “Graceling,” has an uncanny ability to fight and kill, which from an early age gains her an uncomfortable job as the king’s enforcer and assassin. In developing her power, she discovers that her talent is more subtle than sheer brutality. As Katsa deepens her knowledge of herself, she learns to use her power in accord with her own conscience rather than in the service of the king’s schemes. It’s a powerful metaphor for a young person’s discovery of strength and independence — and above all, responsibility.