The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
When I was eight, I remember standing in front of the fan in my room wrapped in a long scarf, pretending to be Storm from the X-Men. It seems silly in retrospect, but this memory of me acting like a superhero evokes the feelings of strength and power that filled me as a child at that moment. I really did think I was Storm. In my mind, I really could save the world.
As I'm growing up, I'm starting to realize that moments like that are getting harder to come by. Watching old reruns of the X-Men cartoons don't make me feel that way anymore, but Stieg Larsson's The Millenium Trilogy definitely does. Lisbeth Salander, a doll-like creature, barely five-foot tall, covered in tattoos and piercings, with a crooked smile and the ability to hack anything under the sun, makes me feel strong and powerful in a way I had almost forgotten.
Larsson uses the unlikely protagonist of Lisbeth to make a wide range of social commentary. He holds back nothing, and to be honest, there are scenes in the books that are difficult to digest. He questions society's treatment of the mentally ill and brings to the foreground a young woman who has been abused and abandoned. Even more so, he hones in on the brutalities committed against women and gives inspiration as to how they can fight back. What Lisbeth lacks in stature, she more than makes up for with her intellect and inventiveness. Her unwavering resilience in times when I would have gone down in a great Victorian decline draws the difference between being a survivor and a victim. No matter what wrongs are done to her, she comes out kicking and punching, quite literally in many cases.
As one of the characters jokingly says, Lisbeth is no shrinking violet, she will happily return violence with violence. Her heroic actions might seem questionable to some, but for me, she did the things we only wish we could do. Lisbeth becomes a means of releasing the anger, hurt, and passion we all experience but try to keep tamed. She abides by her own moral code and has no qualms meting out justice where she feels it is deserved; her fire and spirit seem to leak out of the pages and pour freely into the reader's veins. Unlike the traditional superhero, Lisbeth does not always take the high road and she does not always strive for the betterment of others, but in her own unique way she made me feel like that girl in front of that fan more than a decade ago.
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