One of the best coming-of-age tales for women that is also cloaked in vampiric mystery. A woman with a growing daughter looks back on her own life via a journal she kept for a year while attending an all-female boarding school. It's a powerful tale of friendship, growing up, jealousy, the supernatural, and the psyche of young women.
See the full review, "Mystery and Coming-Of-Age".
I had already read The Mirador by Sarah Monette, but this book is really different. It's not set in a fantasy land, but it is fantastical. Monette showcases her elevated linguistic abilities and develops an interesting (though extremely troubled) male protagonist.
I am absolutely in love with Berg's works. This book transcends religion and delves into spirituality, loyalty, magic, and the pervasive concept in our own culture of the coming of the end of time due to man's own follies. Valen, the narrator, is an amazing character who has to overcome his own personal conflicts in order to save what and who he cares about.
Why not Pride and Prejudice? As one of my professors says, "It's the Greatest Novel Written in English." Austen is subtly witty and thought-provoking. I first read this novel as a young teenager, having only read one other Austen novel (Sense and Sensibility). This one dealt the greatest impact because it made - and continues to make - me think about romance, personal growth, class division, and how the world has changed and stayed the same since Austen's time. Mr. Darcy represents the ideal male - not overly-romanticized because he has flaws, but a man who changes his ways for the one he loves.
Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar is another coming-of-age story that I think young women should read. I think what the narrator goes through is similar to what women continue to go through - having to go to school, fraternize with other girls, find one's way in the world with work, and discovering one's niche; all are very taxing things that often lead nowhere or somewhere unexpected. Plath made me not only feel but think about my own experience as a college student trying to cut a way through a troublesome world while dealing with my own inner self.
Zora Neale Hurston is, quite frankly, amazing. I first read this novel in high school and was initially impressed with how Janie develops from a timid, naive girl into a strong-willed, devil-may-care experienced woman. Janie's self-discovery is beautifully described in poetic narrative, and the dialogue is evocative of a specific time, place, and people. I absolutely love this novel.
One of the most interesting novels I think that has ever been written about American culture. The intertwining of the South post-slavery and the African community is extremely thought-provocative. Also, the dabbling in lesbianism between two African-American women breaks a certain mold and ventures into new territory that might make some people uncomfortable and others delighted and intrigued.
First of all, the novel is set in my native state of Michigan, so I cannot help but love it. Secondly, Joyce Carol Oates masterfully describes the interior workings of a serial killer with such precision that one wonders if she, too, is a bit mad. A truly talented writer, to me, is one who gets me to suspend disbelief and accept the fictional world through the narrator's perspective. Oates excels at this, and Zombie is proof of that.
When I read this for Women Writers, I was shocked (in a good way). Atwood issues a warning to all people through this novel about what might become of us if we continue to behave in a certain way. She calls upon the divisions existing in feminism and shows readers a world that they will not want to live in. Atwood forces readers to feel uncomfortable and uncertain, which is what makes this novel so excellent.