I grew up with a father who was all about some home DIY. To the point that honestly, I didn’t realize that most people didn’t install their own light fixtures, re-tile their own kitchens, or plumb in their own basement bathrooms. His philosophy was not “can it be done?” but “how can I do it?”, and I adopted that at a pretty early age. None of his hand tools were off limits, so I frequently stole scraps of wood from our new neighborhood’s many construction sites and turned them into miniature playgrounds for animals (who, much to my shock and dismay, never came by to frolic on them). I built tree houses and forts in the woods, I took apart simple machines and put them back together. My father got a water damaged laptop from his company, and we spent a whole weekend taking it apart, hoping to get it back into working condition (we didn’t, but I learned boatloads about circuitry and a computer’s inner workings).
And then, as an adult, I remember hearing my college roommate say that in order to get her computer plugged up and working, she needed to “find a boy”. Literally, those were her exact words. She was (and is) a smart, confident, self-assured person, and yet when tasked with putting something together, her default was to find a boy to do it—as if being male meant having some preternatural ability to understand machines. I have heard this sentiment repeated over and over and over—sometimes with a shrug (“What? Boys know how to do that stuff.”) and sometimes with defeat (“No one ever taught me how to do it.”)
While I think my primary “goal” with Ellie was to show readers how there is no such thing as “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”, my secondary goal, if you could call it that, is to show readers that there are no superpowers. That sounds depressing, I know, but hang with me: No one has some extra, magical, nineteenth sense that means they knew the basics of lawnmower engines in utero. No one has ever looked at the ceiling, been basked in a heavenly glow, and suddenly known exactly how to wire in those new recessed fixtures. No one has ever closed their eyes and, as if in the swamps of Dagobah, used the force to construct a new deck. Not knowing how to do something is not a result; it’s an observation.
Given my examples, it may sound like the point of this book is to turn everyone into a really fantastic DIY blogger, but that’s not really what I’m going for here: My point is that more kids—more girls, in particular—need to see the world as something they have the power to repair, manipulate, change, and create rather than something that they are merely accessories in. We are not meant to be dolls in someone else’s dollhouse—we’re meant to build the damn dollhouse.
About the author: Jackson Pearce lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of a series of teen retold fairy-tales, including Sisters Red, Sweetly, Fathomless, and Cold Spell, as well as two stand-alones, As You Wish and Purity. As J. Nelle Patrick, she is the author of Tsarina. In addition to The Doublecross and The Inside Job, her middle grade novels include Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, co-written with Maggie Stiefvater. Visit her at www.jacksonpearce.com and @JacksonPearce (Twitter and Instagram).