I was first inspired to do this discussion post a few months ago when I read Love, Lies and Spies, which is marketed as a 19th century romance with a young female scientist who just wants to publish and disseminate her research rather than get married. Now, if you’ve read my review you’ll know that what I was most disappointed with was the fact that there was hardly any science in the book. And this led me to wonder where are all the fictional ladies in STEM (aka the most badass of all fictional ladies)?
Here’s a little bit about me (in case you didn’t already know): I graduated after four years of study with a Bachelor of Psychology, taking mainly psychology and statistics courses. I spent my summer and winter breaks of my undergraduate life doing research assistant work in different psychology research labs. Upon graduating, I jumped straight into doing a PhD in psychology and now my life revolves around designing and programming experiments, collecting data, statistical analyses and writing everything up for publication. In other words, my life is science. So where are the ladies in fiction whose lives are science too?
I can think of a handful of books where the female protagonist is interested in STEM disciplines (I’ll include a list at the end of this post) but a lot more books where the characters are interested in literature and the arts. Which is fine, I mean Cath from Fangirl and Allyson from Just One Day are two of my favourite female characters but I’d like to see a little bit more science represented in YA. I’d like to be able to fall in love with characters who love science as much as I do and people who live and breathe science.
At the same time, I can kind of see why authors are hesitant to write about science. I mean, we’ve always been told to write about what we know right? And there’s honestly nothing worse than reading a novel about science and not understanding anything because it’s too technical. I’m looking at you, The Square Root of Summer. It’s also not so great when authors just get their facts wrong *ahem The Love That Split the World* and people who are knowledgable in the area are thinking “What the heck are you talking about?”. I can honestly say that most of the YA novels with STEM-related themes that I’ve read haven’t been that successful.
But I don’t think that we need novels with super technical science or mathematical terms and characters who only speak in science. I think we just need characters who are interested in and passionate about science so that young readers or even older readers like myself can relate to those characters and what they want to do in life. In the current world right now where we’re trying to celebrate women in STEM, I think the world needs more YA novels about different characters who want to do different things, including science.
Okay enough chatter. Here are some books that I’ve read that have female characters who are interested in science and related disciplines (reviews are linked).
- My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (physics)
- Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (psychology)
- The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood (physics)
- Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey (biology)
- The Colours of Madeleine trilogy by Jaclyn Moriarty (physics)
- Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (software/programming) – Jeann’s review
- Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel (astronomy)
- Imperfect Chemistry by Mary Frame (psychological research)
- The Next Together by Lauren James (chemistry? biology? biochemistry? I can’t actually remember…)
Those are all of the books that I’ve read that have female STEM characters. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments because I would love to check them out too! Also, what are your thoughts on more badass STEM ladies in YA fiction?
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