Yes, I know, I've already written about this. Sorry, but it is kind of my thing, if you will. Well, that and mythology but let's not go there.
This time, instead of imploring you to give me titles, I wanted to discuss the rise of the genre and what I think it means for young readers. I apologise in advance if I sound rather pompous, this is my dissertation topic and I like to show off when I know something! Who wouldn't?
Now, the genre hasn't technically been rising in popular fiction, or rather it is not the current 'big thing' but it has noticeably been becoming more well-known and acknowledged by literary critics as something worthy. At least when it is done right. Authors I've loved for years are becoming more well-known for their historical knowledge and ability to transport us back to a time previously forgotten or one we should try harder to remember.
History is often used to teach about the present, as any history teacher will tell you. This is also the case in historical fiction. For example, Rose Tremain's Restoration can be called a criticism on Thatcher's policies. But what I want to call attention to is the rise of strong young women in the genre. One that immediately springs to mind is Miss Cat Royal, of Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Written by Julia Golding, this has been my favourite children's series for years, loved by both myself and my mother! This strong little girl, orphaned at the theatre, grows into an incredible young woman, writing her stories, living an amazing life with friends in Grosvenor Square and the Rookeries, France and Jamaica. I cannot tell you how much Cat inspired me as a teenager, bullied as I was, to try harder and be better than this.
I think this is what is important in young adult fiction: role models. Obviously it's not confined to historical fiction, and definitely not to girls. But the fascination that historical fiction has with strong women, not being subjected to the isolation of the household as we have been led to believe, is I think a good one. Hopefully without my inner Feminist coming out, I love that women’s history is beginning to be explored through fiction, to show that girls and women were not confined to the domestic but were strong and loving and, even though not equal to men, tried their damnedest to succeed in whatever they wanted. I have to urge to mention Queen Genevieve, who – at least according to the BBC version – was a servant girl before she became the Queen of Camelot.
I believe that the large selection of great heroes and heroines from the past can influence young readers into doing something good, whether it be change the world like their hero did, or learn from history like the author wants us to.