Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Melanie Conklin

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 Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and all-around lover of words and those who create them. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, Counting Thyme, will be published by Putnam & Sons in 2016. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads

When I think of Ladies in Literature, one name comes to mind immediately: Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair by William Thackeray. The first time I read this novel I was somewhere between ten and twelve years old, and Becky Sharp blew my mind. She was a whip-smart orphan who outsmarted all of the fancy-pantsers around her. She was a bold thief, a cunning liar, and above all, a girl who owned every bit of her intelligence even when her peers dismissed her because of her lowly social status. When I read how Becky made fools of those people, I was smitten.

First, a little background on the story: Vanity Fair is a satirical novel set in the socially brutal world of early 19th-century Britain. It follows the lives of two girls and best friends, Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley. Over the course of the novel, Becky strives to escape her low social standing, while Amelia is a good-natured, simple girl who just wants a husband and security. We see how they both overcome multiple financial and social struggles, as well as the fallout of the Napoleonic Wars, and how they grow in light of their often-changing fortunes. While Amelia becomes a loving mother in spite of terrible losses, Becky grows increasingly desperate, making choices that are difficult to swallow at times.

While Becky Sharp is an anti-hero in many ways, I admired her confidence and her shameless pursuit of a better life. Never once did she doubt that she should act on her own behalf, whereas I constantly encountered situations where I hesitated to speak up — from the daily question of whether I should raise my hand to answer yet another question in class, to the more frought challenge of learning how to talk to boys without correcting their grammar. I was a grade A nerd, and a lot of times that meant apologizing for my smarts. Other kids didn’t like it when I wrecked the curve. They blamed me for being who I was.

One time, I even had a girl cheat off of my paper and then thank me afterward by writing me a note with a piece of bubble gum wrapped inside. I was so mad, I marched straight to the principal’s office. I wanted justice! Justice for all of the studying I’d done, and for the dirty feeling that rushed over me when I saw that piece of gum. Instead, I got a zero on the test. The teacher was convinced that I must have cheated, otherwise why would this particular girl have thanked me for the answers?

Of course I hadn’t cheated, but it sure said something that the adults assumed I would. This girl was popular, and I was not. I think they imagined that I did something to get in her good graces and then regretted it. And the truth was, I wanted other girls to like me. I wanted friends, just like everyone else. But I wasn’t a cheater. I knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The next test I took, I marked all of the wrong answers and leaned back, letting the girl see them. She copied my paper with a smile. Then at the last minute, I changed my answers. That girl got another zero. I got a 100.

I think Becky Sharp would have been proud.

Title Counting Thyme
Author Melanie Conklin
Pages N/A
Genre Middle Grade, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publisher Putnam
To Be Published 2016
Find It On Goodreads

When eleven-year-old Thyme Owen’s little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life — she’d give anything for him to be well — but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours and the days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

One response to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Melanie Conklin”

  1. Karen says:

    I cannot wait to read this! <3
    Karen recently posted…A Tiger In The Jungle.My Profile

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