Brave New Girls is a new YA anthology with a purpose. Every story has been commissioned with one goal in mind: to highlight young women with technical skills, saving the world (or at least themselves) with maths and science and computing. And without sacrificing any of the excitement and adventure you’d expect from the genre, naturally.
As a scientist myself, I know how hostile the field can be to women, and I also understand the importance of good role models. This book is taking on the stereotype that “girls can’t do science” and providing chapters full of counter examples. Readers will be deliberately exposed to women doing a wide range of technical roles — and that can only be good, for girls and boys alike.
Not all the stories in the collection are by female authors, but more than half the authors are women, several of whom are (like me) pursuing technical careers in parallel with their writing. Here, I’ll focus on just a couple of my personal favourite stories.
Courage Is… by Evangeine Jennings
Gracie lives aboard the Bagdasarian, a long-haul space transport where she was born and expects to die beneath the watchful eye of Ramora, the ship’s AI. At almost fifteen, she’s too young to legally join the hive mind community where most adults spend their days, but Gracie is a skilled hacker with her own back-doors into every system. Her best friend Georgie is in a permanent coma, able to communicate only via her avatar, but that doesn’t stop them having adventures and investigating mysteries. When Gracie spots a strange reflection glinting from an uninhabited apartment, it’s Georgie she turns to for help, but it’s not long before curiosity gets them both into trouble. And only Gracie’s skills can get them out.
I loved Gracie from the first page. She’s a rare independent thinker in a community that has largely abdicated the task of cognition to AI minds. She rebels against her ship but she’s also well aware that, if the ship is as omniscient as is usually assumed, even her rebellion might be known and permitted only within certain parameters. She’s also a devoted friend to Georgie, thinking nothing of the fact that they’ve never met outside of virtual reality, and willing to risk her own life for the sake of others.
A Little Bit Truer by Valerie Hunter
Born premature and blind, Zaylie has grown up on Amal, a rainy planet best known for its wildlife sanctuary and scientific bases. Her mother is a galactic TV star, the face of adventure broadcasting, with a regular series exploring the flora and fauna of new planets; having been raised by her aunt, Zaylie knows the broadcast persona better than the woman herself, so it’s a shock when her mother turns up and announces that she’s going to take Zaylie with her on her next recording trip, now that Zaylie’s recent eye surgery has finally given her vision.
But Zaylie had her own plans: she’s applied for a prestigious apprenticeship on Amal, hoping to work with Dr. Kavindra, who fixed her eyes and who she’s been assisting almost all her life. Her mother’s lifestyle is intriguing, but she’s not sure she wants to give up on her scientific career before it’s even begun. As she waits for the apprenticeship results to come in, Zaylie must weigh her lifelong dream against the chance to explore the galaxy and spend more time with her mother.