Sally Slick & The Steel Syndicate by Carrie Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a pulp young adult book. What it means to be an example of pulp fiction is that the principle characters are competent in their world. And in this case the main character is Sally Slick, a teenage midwestern farm girl who is a tinkerer at heart. What you have is a character who has limitations when dealing with a world of the big city and adults who are just as capable with the resources that adults have, but overcomes the challenges along with her friends and family, and some help along the way.
Pulp has two qualities that makes it move. First is that the protagonists are capable, even when the situations are exotic and beyond their experience. And that makes for a different type of book than most books where the principle character is a teenage girl. Second, it is optimistic. Even though the opposition is more capable and has more resources than her, Sally is always looking for the opening and thinking of how to create opportunities. Even when help comes in the form of other adults, Sally does not have the attitude of being a girl in need of rescue, rather she is always depicted as being an integral part of correcting the situation. And she is in control of her future. Events and people come into her life well beyond her capabilities and she does not either passively accept events or even opportunities, but she is a capable moral agent, able to make choices that have consequences as opposed to a helpless character who is pushed around by the events around her.
I have gotten to enjoy the pulp genre through the efforts of this publisher (Evil Hat). The idea that the characters, even teenage girls, are capable and competent is a refreshing change from a society that expects us to wait on help and actively discourages us from taking on risks and being able to do things in the physical world. And it even worse with girls. I've been criticized for treating women in their 20s as competent outside of intellectual and artistic areas. This book is an example of young characters whose are not out of this world, not a world where they passively receive what they get, but a world that they take on and take advantage of opportunities to shape their futures, and welcome the fact that their choices have consequences. And that is a good world to be in. I want more of it from both Carrie Harris and from Evil Hat.
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