Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Ashley Herring Blake

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-nine authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!


About Ashley Herring Blake

Ashley Herring Blake is a poet, teacher, and YA novelist. Her debut novel, Suffer Love, follows two teens as they attempt to wade through an intense relationship complicated by their parents’ infidelities. Ashley lives in Nashville, TN.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramTumblrGoodreads

I kissed another girl’s boyfriend once. Actually, I kissed him several times, the summer before my freshman year in high school. A few years later, I kissed a different girl’s boyfriend. I hadn’t consciously made a habit of this. I didn’t mean to form feelings for these guys who were very much off-limits. But it happened, as I’ve already confessed, and they are moments in my history of which I’m not particularly proud.

Before the term “unlikeable heroine” was a known thing, a term we passed around the book word to describe girls just like me — girls who were a little bitchy, a little messy, a little unapologetic for loud opinions, a little vulnerable when the world wanted us to be strong, a little invincible when the world said we should crumble — I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I was.

What I’ve probably always been.

I recognized myself immediately in Tabitha from Corey Ann Haydu’s Life By Committee. And it wasn’t because she kissed another girl’s boyfriend. It was because she was a vibrant, ever-changing, mistake-making girl. A girl trying to figure shit out. A girl fumbling through life and doing her best, screwing up and feeling it down to her bone marrow, a girl who misunderstood and was misunderstood.

For me, Tabitha was in no way unlikeable.

She was simply me. A girl, flawed and real and breathing.

I don’t think it comes as a shock to anyone reading this to hear that girls are held to a different standard in life. This is also true in books. They’re judged harsher. They’re criticized with more vehemence and frequency and any mistakes they make are mistakes — land mines that the lightest footstep will set off to destroy the world.
Or at least her world.

And Tabitha has been judged. She’s been dissected and unfolded. She’s also a beautiful example of careful, realistic character writing. She is me, she is you, because she is authentic. In the story, she lied, she messed up, she was selfish, she grew, and I love it when I come across readers who let her. Unlikeable is just a term we slap on girls who reflect the real world, real women, real issues and mess ups and hardships.

At the time of reading Life By Committee, over a year ago, I needed this. I needed to see myself on the page, all tangled and drawn outside the lines and to see what comes from that, when an author lets that girl move and breathe and sift through her mistakes and triumphs and choices.

Tabitha will always be one of my favorite characters. She reminds me that being me is okay. That being “unlikeable” doesn’t mean I’m an inherently terrible person, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to my mistakes, and it doesn’t mean that I’m forever defined by my mistakes, that I can’t work through them and try to make them as right as possible.

It simply means that I am a fully-formed person, blood beneath in my veins, air in my lungs.

I am a girl, beautiful and flawed and real.

Title Suffer Love
Author Ashley Herring Blake
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Published May 3rd, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

“Just let it go.”

That’s what everyone keeps telling Hadley St. Clair after she learns that her father cheated on her mother. But Hadley doesn’t want to let it go. She wants to be angry and she wants everyone in her life — her dad most of all — to leave her alone.

Sam Bennett and his family have had their share of drama too. Still reeling from a move to a new town and his parents’ recent divorce, Sam is hoping that he can coast through senior year and then move on to hassle-free, parent-free life in college. He isn’t looking for a relationship…that is, until he sees Hadley for the first time.

Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret that could ruin everything. Should he follow his heart or tell the truth?

One response to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Ashley Herring Blake”

  1. Alexa S. says:

    I think this post is SO wonderful. It is always really great, at least to me, to read about female characters who are real and flawed and who make mistakes and learn from them – and Tabitha was certainly that!
    Alexa S. recently posted…{Bookish} Style Files: The Travis Family SeriesMy Profile

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