In Animal, Nikkie Rae creates an unconventional hero for a demographic that is largely ignored: girls who are weak.
The main character, Ava, has a panic disorder that is at times debilitating. For most of the book, she’s trapped by a foe stronger than her in almost every way. She is, for all intents and purposes, weak. And yet Ava doesn’t let that stop her from being a hero in her own right.
What is a hero, really? Type it into Google and you get a bunch of images of superman followed by various other men clad in spandex. Type in ‘women heroes’ and up comes superman’s counterpart, superwoman.
Both are associated with a pretty conventional sense of strength: muscles, force, and the ability to kick your puny human ass up and down the globe. If you scroll down far enough, you’ll get images of Real Life Women™ such as Oprah Winfrey or other famous women in power. In the end, they all fit in the ‘strong role model’ mold neatly with their super powers, super amounts of money, or super ability to exist in positions that are traditionally held by men because of their strength.
But here’s the thing: there are many girls who can’t ever hope to aspire to the positions these women have. Being able-bodied is a privilege. Forget super strength, some have difficulty leaving their houses. Many girls can’t stomach confrontation in any form. Chronic illness is more common than many think and poses real life consequences.
Rae takes a girl who would normally be considered weak, drops her into a world where vampires exist and has one of these creatures with a serious megalomaniac issues kidnap her. Though panic attacks wrack her body multiple times while captive and she suffers brutally at the hands of her captor, she does not let that end her.
She can’t fight off her vampire keepers with force, so she gains their trust and manipulates them psychologically. No one knows where she is, so she makes an ally. She does the bravest thing that one can do at times, she survives. In the end, Rae proves that weakness does not equate to uselessness and provides one hell of a good read simultaneously.