Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Mackenzi Lee

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 twenty-four 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 Mackenzi Lee

Mackenzi Lee is a reader, writer, bookseller, unapologetic fangirl, and fast talker. She holds an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults, and her short fiction for children and teens has appeared in Inaccurate Realities, The Friend, and The Newport Review. Her young adult historical fantasy novel, This Monstrous Thing, which won the PEN-New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, as well as an Emerging Artist Grant from the St. Botolph Club Foundation, will be published on September 22, 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently calls Boston home.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookPinterestGoodreads


When I was young, I had one qualification for what made a Strong Female Character: She had to fight.

As a kid who spent most of her time between the ages of four and ten with a plastic lightsaber clipped to her belt (though I rarely had to use it), I thought a Strong Female Character was a woman who was armed. Didn’t matter that she seemed to disappear once things got tough. Or hold her own against the male characters who were fighting alongside her. Didn’t matter that she was usually a side character or a love interest in a man’s story. Didn’t matter that she usually had to be saved at some point.

The Strong Female Character had to fight. She had to have a weapon. She never cried. She was never vulnerable. She never flirted. She had no complex emotions. She didn’t like girl things. Usually she wore men’s clothes, for maximum fighting abilities.

So it’s a good thing young me didn’t meet Jacky Faber. We wouldn’t have gotten along.

The Jacky Faber books are tailor-made for me. They have everything I love — a spunky young sailor having zany adventures around the world in the 1800s, running into historical figures and strolling through events like the battle of Waterloo as she goes. There’s even sailing, and I have a weird thing for that.

But what makes them extraordinary is the young woman at the center of it all.

Jacky would not have fit the definition of a Strong Female Character that I had when I was a kid. She doesn’t carry a sword. She isn’t always brave. She cries. She panics. She doesn’t know when to shut up. She’s vulnerable and afraid and pleads and snivels. She likes dresses and fancy things. She’s a shameless flirt. She screws up and makes stupid mistakes and fails and hurts the people around her.

But she never stops fighting. She fights for the things that are important to her. For the people she loves. Fights to make right the damage she’s done. To be herself in a world that sometimes rejects that.

Someday, I hope we don’t have to define what makes a Strong Female Character. I hope that’s just the way we’re writing women. Complicated, human women who are allowed to make mistakes and have flaws and still be lauded and aspired to. Girls who fight like girls.    

Young Mackenzi, know this: you can’t spot Strong Female Characters by the weapons they carry. But you can spot them by the way they fight with everything in them. Body and soul. They fight to survive. They fight for the things that are theirs. They fight for the people they love. They fight to atone for the things they do wrong. They fight to be better, and fight for what matters, and to be exactly who they are.  

They fight like Jacky Faber.

Title This Monstrous Thing
Author Mackenzi Lee
Pages 384 Pages
Genre Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Re-Telling
Publisher Katherine Tegen Books
To Be Published September 22nd, 2015
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver — Dead.

His sweetheart, Mary — Gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva — Lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…


2 responses to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Mackenzi Lee”

  1. Billy Zildjian says:

    I am not sure how pack such impact into 500 words or less. Well said…very well said. I long for the day when none of us have to fight for the right to be who or what we are.

  2. “…the way they fight with everything in them.” *Slow claps.* Brava, Mackenzi! Brava!

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