220px-True_GritCharles Portis and his novel True Grit have been heaped with praise, and the book has been adapted into two movie versions, in 1969 (with John Wayne) and 2010 (by the Coen Brothers). I have little to add to the praise, which is entirely deserved. This is a short, tight Western, hard-eyed but funny, centering on the gunslinging adventures of two very tough characters. The fact that one of the toughs is a 14 year old girl, and believably so, is what makes the book unusually compelling. Reviewers have compared the writing and themes to Cormac McCarthy and the humor to Mark Twain, which, yes, I agree.

Katiniss Everdeen in Hunger Games

Katniss

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Mattie

I’ll only add that until now I had the vague idea that the story about a teenage girl who embarks on a series of violent adventures is a phenomenon of the last decade or so (for example, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Merida in the movie Brave, various others not springing to mind at the moment, help me in comments?). I was happy to have my vague idea gut-shot by True Grit, published in 1968, and featuring Mattie Ross, the grittiest 14 year old I’ve seen in the pages of a book. In a cagefight of grit, I’d put money on Mattie Ross against Katniss Everdeen any day. And if you’re looking for a book to hand to your high schooler, I’d suggest True Grit over The Hunger Games any day, too.

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