The Millions

Why Don’t Female Spies Grow Up? Women in Contemporary Spy Literature

“A normal teenage girl…who is also a spy” was my favorite type of young adult fiction. The girl had to balance crushes and homework alongside solving international crimes and defeating bad guys. In this genre, authors emphasize the protagonist’s very normal teenage girl behavior juxtaposed with her super-sleuth espionage skills. For example: A few pages into the first book in Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, I’d Tell You I Love You but Then I’d Have to Kill You, 15-year-old Cammie explains, “even though the Gallagher academy is a school for girl geniuses, sometimes the emphasis should be kept on girl.” Like, obviously! The protagonists were always super smart, highly trained in combat, and of course, also had to deal with their crush not liking them back. They were everything.

Nostalgic for these YA spy’s seemed promising enough: Maggie, the protagonist, is “just the kind of person MI5 needs to infiltrate the establishment and thwart an international plot that puts all of Britain at risk.” But as I started reading, about a quarter of the way through, it turned into a spy story but an abusive-man-keeps-woman-hostage-and-gaslights-her-to-keep-her-prisoner-in-his-basement story. All I wanted was a strong female being sneaky, kicking ass, and thwarting the bad guys. Not another story of a victimized woman. Is that too much to ask? Not as a teenager.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Millions

The Millions10 min read
Looking For Myself In The Stories Of Sib Lit
Recently I did something I’ve been avoiding for a long time: I read literature by people like me, about people like us. The post Looking for Myself in the Stories of Sib Lit appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions16 min read
Can a Myth Grow Up?: The Poet Frank Stanford at Second Sight
The real question about the cult-hero of American poetry has now become: “What are we gonna do with this motherfucker?” The post Can a Myth Grow Up?: The Poet Frank Stanford at Second Sight appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions6 min read
The Slow Bloom of ‘Suite for Barbara Loden’
This 2018 publication of the novel brings closure to a 50-year saga, coinciding with the height of the #MeToo movement, which has given women everywhere renewed strength through common vulnerabilities. The post The Slow Bloom of ‘Suite for Barbara Lo