Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Top 5 Badasses and Lessons from their Badass-ness

Let’s face it; we all love a good badass. They make us smile, make us cringe, and make our jaws drop. The perfect badass may appear to be simplistic, but the truth is they’re more complex than they show. You just have to peel away the layers from their snarky exterior.

The stereotypical badass will generally make their appearance as either the main hero of the story or one of the supporting heroes. Granted, this is a stereotype. And in this post, I’m throwing every stereotypical badass description out the window. You may think a “badass” is the dude in the leather jacket that hangs out in all the coolest bars, gets in fist fights, rides a Harley, and always has stories about his sexual escapades from the night before. That’s not how I see it. I have a different idea of a badass. I’m going to share with you the people that I think are true badasses and what we can learn from them.

5. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins)
Katniss Everdeen, a seventeen-year-old hunter, is randomly chosen to compete in the annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a mandatory tournament that calls twenty four teens to fight for the death in front of the entire world. When Katniss makes a mockery of the Capitol, the tyrannical government that rules the Districts, she becomes the symbol for rebellion. My favorite thing about Katniss is her lack of arrogance. In the world of modern heroes, many world-savers have enormous egos and blinding power trips. Katniss feels so much more real. It even takes her two books for her just to acknowledge that she is a powerful figure. Although things don’t always go her way, she handles herself with the perfect combination of humility and prowess. Her sharp, silent skill is shown in both her fight ability and her composure. This “deadly humility” makes Katniss one of the most interesting badasses ever written.

4. Han Solo (Star Wars Trilogy Episodes 4-6)
                Han solo, the captain of the Millennium Falcon and a general of the Rebellion against the Empire, aids Luke Skywalker in destroying the Death Star and defeating the Sith. He’s a bounty hunter that acts as if he only cares about money, but, through intense character development, he becomes attached to his employers. Traveling the galaxy with Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and everyone’s favorite droids, Solo takes out his fare share of Empire scum. However, his handy pistol and quick thinking are not what classifies him as a badass. What we have to learn from Han is that we must not fight fate. We must not run from our destiny. If we are naturally drawn in a direction, we must listen to our instinct. Han Solo came back for Luke; came back to destroy the Death Star. Han Solo gave everything he had to help his friends and, ultimately, do what he knew was right. Whether he was exploding tie fighters or getting frozen in carbonite, Han Solo gives himself completely to his task. Through the journey he takes in the movie, he greatly matured. Of course, we can’t pass up Han Solo’s hilarious one-liners and sarcastic personality.

3. Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy/the Hobbit by J.R Tolkien)
                Even if you haven’t read the series or seen the movies, surely you’ve heard about the wizard dressed in white that looks like Dumbledore. He’s a mentor to Frodo Baggins and a force to be reckoned with.. And I believe Gandalf embodies one of the most interesting, not commonly seen features of the badass. He is willing to sacrifice everything. He is the essence of dedicated. Along with mystery and sheer power, Gandalf will do whatever he needs to do in order accomplish the task at hand. Of course, this task is destroying the ring of power. This, in turn, means protecting Frodo at all costs. One defining moment comes to mind when I think of Gandalf. I recall an iconic scene from The Fellowship of the Ring. With Orcs in pursuit, the Fellowship is attempting to flee a cave in which they’ve passed through. A Balrog, or fire-wielding demonic creature, emerges from lava below and puts the fellowship in jeopardy. Gandalf knows the power of the creature and knows he must stop it. “You shall not pass!” Gandalf screams at the creature as he ushers off the Fellowship. He conquers the beast, but falls into the shadows with it. This sacrifice is incredible, and, to me, makes Gandalf one of the most incredible badasses ever. It is undeniable that Gandalf has incredible style.

2. Fire (Fire by Kristin Cashore)
                Fire, a teenage girl that has the unique ability to influence the minds of those around her, is summoned to help the royal family defeat rebel lords that threaten the lands. Her unique ability is due to the fact that she is half human, half monster. Her father, a manipulating advisor to the previous king, has taught her everything she knows about mind control. Apart from her gift, she is also a talented archer. She can easily take care of herself. What I love about Fire is the raw emotion she exhibits throughout the novel. She’s being pulled in so many different directions that it’s hard for her to think straight. She’s such a strong character with so much internal struggle. That’s what makes her such a badass. She fights (physically and emotionally) with emotion constantly pouring out. It’s as if she is fighting a war within herself. Her physical strengths and emotional weaknesses make her a well rounded character that fascinates you at every turn.

1. Toph Bei Fong (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
 Earlier in this post, I mentioned that I was destroying every stereotypical description of a badass. If you haven’t found that true yet, I imagine you will now. Toph is a 12-year old blind girl that has the ability to control rocks, ground, and metal. She’s known as an earth bender. Her mission is to help the avatar, a messianic figure that has the ability to control water, earth, air, and fire, and defeat the ruthless fire nation. As a child, Toph’s parents greatly underestimated her. They were overprotective and never let her leave the house. This damaged personal life lead Toph to grow up always wanting more. Her parents saw her blindness as a disadvantage. However, it allowed her to become one of the most powerful earth benders of all time. Beating ten badies at once, this inconspicuous little girl packs a punch. There’s much to learn from Toph. Although she’s a hilarious, snarky powerhouse, Toph often deals with the guilt of leaving her parents and the pressure of having to help save the world. She isn’t what you’d normally call a badass. She can save the world, make you crack up, and keep your attention, so why shouldn’t we call her a badass? With such expertise and prowess, Toph, weaknesses and all, is one of the greatest badasses of all time. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Teen Enigma

As a high schooler, I've read many things that I truly had no desire to read. From textbooks to newspaper articles to ancient non-fictions, assigned readings have always been a bore to me. Everyone seems to believe it's such a mystery as to why the majority of teens don't read. Although more and more teen readers are sprouting up everyday, mostly girls to my understanding, the vast majority of teens are not avid readers. I happen to go to an all-boys high school, so I'm taking this perfect opportunity to share a little of my insight. A lot of teens, especially boys, don't grow up reading. They simply aren't hooked when they're young. As they grow up, they're assigned horrendous books full of boring grown-ups and unrelatable scenarios. It feels like we grow up predestined to hate reading. I did. I loathed it. A year ago, I could hardly stand to look at a book. Let me tell you my little story.

About a year ago I was having a hard time with my personal life. I guess one could mark it off as "teenage angst" but I was really unhappy with myself (for a ton of reasons that were just SO important that I've forgotten them a year later). My mother and I were in Barnes and Noble to get a book for her book club. If I remember correctly, I was forced to tag along. I was wandering around the store when I found myself in the YA section. Scanning the vast array of book covers, I stumbled upon a book called Thirteen Reasons Why. If you haven't heard of the book, Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, is a gripping YA Novel telling the story of a girl who killed herself. My wanna-be-emo self bought the book out of mere curiosity. I ended up reading the amazing book in one sitting. My captivation of reading and passion for Young Adult Literature took off from there. If I told my year-ago self that I would be writing a novel at this point, I simply wouldn't believe it. 

I consider myself lucky that I discovered my love for reading. Yet there are still many teens that hate the idea of opening a book for joy. Teens associate reading with mind-numbing tests, boring characters, and bad history lessons. My school has assigned summer reading books. Assigned books for us students to read over the summer and then be tested on when we return. They're supposed to relate to lessons we'll be learning in class once school resumes. Reading over precious summer vacation is one of the reasons some teens hate reading. This is especially true if the books are not what the student wants to read. I've personally been assigned two historical novels that I have very little desire to read. I'd much rather crack open something like Linger by Maggie Stiefvater or the highly anticipated Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. These historical novels may be riveting to one reader, yet dreadfully boring to another. In a perfect world, teens should be able to choose what they get to read. More realistically, teens should receive a variety of book choices in the education system. Our minds have infinite potential, we just need a little push in the right direction. We're powerful beings, us teenagers. We have a whole section of literature geared toward us for crying out loud! Yet still, a vast amount of young adults disregard books as a whole. It irks me to see it everyday. Hopefully, in the future things may change and the next generation will be full of book lovers!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Updates and Contest (Not Mine, but Still Awesome)

I'm not dead...yet (and don't take that as a challenge). I just have been very busy with life, as many of us are. I am planning many new posts in the near future. Believe me, my gears have been turning. In fact, I'm going to New York in a few days and am confident I will find a ton of inspiration!

Until then, I leave you with news about a contest. An awesome one at that. It's hosted by one of my favorite people, Courtney Allison Moulton. She's giving away an ARC of her debut YA novel Angelfire. I expect it to be an amazing, epic book and I can't wait to read it. So check it out!