Coming of Age

I have discovered that my literary heroes aren't strong, self-controlled or mature. They aren't even adults, but confused, impulsive teenagers. One of them likes to steal books and the other prays to trees. The books "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak and "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech present two teenage girls coming of age in the most tragic of circumstances.

Zusak's character, Liesel Meminger becomes the book thief in a small village in Nazi Germany. In order to cope with the hunger, cruelty, and sadness of her existence, Liesel steals books and hides a Jew in her basement. Neither action leads to the conclusion I would have expected. I agree with the narrator, Death, when he stands before Liesel at the end of her life and marvels over the horror and beauty of humans. Creech's character Salamanca Tree Hiddle comes of age in present-day, rural America. Her story flashes back to bittersweet memories while she travels across the U.S. in search of her mother. Sal is shy, stubborn, and feels more comfortable praying to trees than God. 

It makes me so sad that the triumph of these two girls comes from the bitterness and heartache they have to face. They become women despite being broken and battle-scarred along the way. So you can keep your noble and wise heroes that have everything work out for them in the end. Sherlock Holmes, Gandalf the Gray and Lizzie Bennett all have it so easy. My girl heroes make a mess of things and face challenges they can't overcome, but still turn out alright. In that case, perhaps you and I are more heroic than we thought. 

--Ellen B., Weber Road

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