We’re usually all about the serious adult things here on IWtSLtY.
It’s true. Let’s review some of the serious adult topics we’ve covered so far.
Ketiraka the Warrior Queen, Destroyer of Krill, is a grown-up thing.
Hitler and sex? Definitely a mature topic.
So today, to break up this blog’s usual gravitas, we’re going to talk about models and brain-swapping and OMG I am surrounded by hot guys and they all love me OMG OMG OMG what do I do they’re sooooo hot.
Yes, I am talking about YA fiction, where literally anything is possible. I love that, by the way. I love that YA fiction centers on these people who are teetering on the rift between childhood dreams and adult resources, childhood helplessness and adult responsibilities. They’re at an age where they can shape their futures in any way they deem best — and yet they’re fighting against an increasing number of forces that are trying to do the shaping themselves. They’re struggling to be true to their ideals while fighting poverty, addiction, peer pressure, parents’ expectations, cultural expectations, broken systems, abuse, and a world that doesn’t take them seriously.
And sometimes zombies and werewolves. Okay.
In Meg Cabot’s Airhead, the premise seems straightforward enough: There’s a normal girl, Emerson Watts, who likes her best guy friend, who doesn’t seem to notice her. Her little sister, Frida, is obsessed with a teenage pop star and model, Nikki Howard. When Frida insists on going to see Nikki perform live one afternoon, Emerson gets roped into chaperone duty. In a shocking twist (or perhaps not so shocking to those of us who read the book jacket), a freak incident kills Nikki and crushes Emerson. Nikki’s corporate sponsors, not wanting to lose Nikki’s multi-million–dollar body, convince Emerson’s parents to sign over Emerson’s functional brain, which is then transplanted into Nikki’s body.
With me so far? We’ve got a normal girl’s brain in a supermodel’s body, which is controlled by a company doing all sorts of dodgy things, including slapping a strict secrecy clause on all parties involved, so nobody can know that the real Nikki is dead and the real Emerson is still alive.
Or is she? Is someone’s life centered in their brain, or in their body? Were Emerson’s parents right to make that decision? Is Emerson less of a feminist now that she spends her days promoting fashion and following someone else’s plan for her life? Only a few chapters in, I had to set the book down and drink a slow cup of tea while processing it all. “Dear Ms. Cabot,” I imagined myself writing, “this was supposed to be a feel-good easy read about a teenage girl discovering herself amidst luxury surroundings. I didn’t mean to get entangled in all sorts of ethical debates about personhood and autonomy and identity and the true nature of feminism. Seriously, ma’am, cut out the critical thinking requirement.”
If you are perhaps more open than me to the idea of having your world expanded, then Airhead and its sequels, Being Nikki and Runaway, will assist you in just that. If you have a teenage girl in your house who hasn’t spent so much time pondering these questions, consider giving her these books. In any case, Meg Cabot will take your worst expectations for YA fiction and turn them on their heads, dealing out a surprisingly meaty tale. Well done, Ms. Cabot. With Airhead, you’ve held up a mirror and forced us to examine our ideas about airheadedness, and heaven only knows we all need knocking down a little sometimes.
Postscript: I couldn’t resist posting this image result for “vampire”. What the heck, Pixabay?