Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Janet McNally

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-three 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 Janet McNally

Janet McNally’s first novel is Girls In The Moon, but she’s also the author of a prizewinning collection of poems, Some Girls (if you like myths and fairy tales, look it up!). Janet has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and her stories and poems have been published widely in magazines. She has twice been a fiction fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts. Janet lives in Buffalo with her husband and three little girls, in a house full of records and books, and teaches creative writing at Canisius College.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramGoodreads

The first story about Trixie you need to know is the one about the copperhead bite. I read Trixie Belden and The Secret Of The Mansion a dozen times when I was a kid, and this is the part I remember best. Her much younger brother Bobby is bitten by a snake in the woods and Trixie stays calm enough to cut the bite open and suck out the blood and venom herself. With her mouth. (Just in case you didn’t understand how that works). I should mention, too, that she’s thirteen when this happens. She stays cool and mostly calm, or at least she keeps the fact that she’s freaking out to herself. She does what she has to do.

Many of the books I read when I was young were vintage, bought at library book sales and given to me by my mom. The Secret Of The Mansion was one of those, and for that reason it felt like it gave some insight into who my own mother had been when she was a girl. She was a bit of a tomboy like Trixie, while in some ways I had more in common with Trixie’s best friend Honey Wheeler. Even so, I looked at Trixie as a role model. I still do. Trixie is fierce, but she’s also insecure. She’s smart, but not everything comes easily to her. She has a hard time with math, and also patience. She’s a little dramatic. She calls her mother “Moms” and cries indignant tears (this is a near-quote). And although she screws up from time to time, she’s incredibly resourceful and unfailingly brave.

That’s what I wanted to be. It’s what I still want. I’m coming off of the hardest year of my life, a year full of loss and change, when it felt sometimes like the rules of the whole universe were being rewritten. When I picked up The Secret Of The Mansion again recently, I was reminded of the way that Trixie often feels like she doesn’t know what she’s doing, like she can’t do what she needs to do. But then she remembers, like I’ve remembered, that she can do hard things. I’m paraphrasing (using the words of a friend of mine, actually), but that’s exactly how Trixie reacts when it comes down to it. Prepare to be thrown off a runaway horse’s back? Face down a near-wild dog? Pull a heavy old ladder off a friend who’s fallen from it? (Side note: Sweet baby Elvis, it’s pretty obvious to me now that someone should have been keeping a better eye on these kids). And if there’s a mystery to be solved, Trixie will solve it in the end. She won’t give up. That’s what I like best about the heroines of all those mystery novels I read as a girl. They stick with it — whatever it is — until they figure it out. That’s all I can hope to do, lately or ever.

In so many ways, we book-lovers are raised by the characters we read when we’re kids. This is why I’m keeping my mom’s old copy of The Secret Of The Mansion for my own girls to read when they’re old enough. I want them to be strong and brave and smart and resourceful and utterly imperfect, just like Trixie.

Title Girls In The Moon
Author Janet McNally
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published November 29th, 2016 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex–rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story — the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister, Luna, indie-rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the cofounder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.

But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and to maybe even continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. Told in alternating chapters, Phoebe’s first adventure flows as the story of Meg and Kieran’s romance ebbs, leaving behind only a time-worn, precious pearl of truth about her family’s past — and leaving Phoebe to take a leap into her own unknown future.

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