As a child I outlined plots for sequels to movies I liked, you know, as totally normal children do. Star Wars was no exception to that habit. I watched the VHS tapes of the original trilogy over and over but I didn’t want the stories to end with Return of the Jedi.
Soon it wasn’t enough to come up with ideas of where the story could go from there. I found ways to add characters that could represent me too. In one version, Han Solo’s long-lost little sister (me) who didn’t realize she was Force-sensitive would cross paths with our heroes as Luke worked to build a new Jedi Order. And here’s the kicker – she would have no interest in being a Jedi. Hello, conflict.
Then one day a relative was looking for a present for me and used the following logic: She likes to read books. She likes Star Wars. I know absolutely nothing about this book including if it’s even appropriate for her. Let’s buy it.
And thus I discovered Star Wars books were a thing that existed. It was an exciting time, even if that first book I read was the second book in a trilogy some of you may remember – The Jedi Academy.
It was only going to get more exciting from there.
When Jaina Solo and I first met, she was three. I was definitely older than three and did not identify with a toddler. If you’ve read my bio here though, you know my first viewing of A New Hope left me wanting to be both Leia and Han, so imagine my joy when I first read a story where those two had a daughter. What better way to combine both of them than their daughter?
After that, Jaina and I pretty much grew up together. She became my avatar in the Star Wars universe. Here’s the thing though – deep down I never wanted to be her. She went through a lot of crap I wouldn’t wish on anyone – kidnappings, wars, losing so many people she cared about. But I knew in many ways I was just like her. We were both aggressive, sarcastic teenagers trying to live up to expectations set upon us by others while trying to assert who we were to the universe. We were both stubborn too, although she was probably more willing to admit it than I was. And we both tended to be our own worst enemy. I didn’t have a lightsaber, but I did go through a fencing period where the guys I faced in bouts quickly nicknamed me “The Beast”.
In some ways reading where life took Jaina Solo in a galaxy far, far away was an escape. But it was also an inspiration. Jaina Solo always kept going – no matter what. Jaina Solo would fight to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. Jaina Solo stood for doing what was right. Jaina Solo stood for good.
The stories she appeared in though were not always good. In some of them the Jaina I knew was barely recognizable. And it wasn’t because of character growth or my own growth – some authors just didn’t seem able to capture what made Jaina who she was. But I kept reading.
Mercy Kill was one of my favorite books and Jaina isn’t even mentioned in it. I actually was very interested in many of the other characters the Expanded Universe introduced, but Jaina was my soul sister.
Then in April of 2014 came the announcement that those stories would become Legends. My feelings on the subject matter were very mixed at that time. I wanted to see my favorite characters’ stories keep going, but with the way things were going I wasn’t confident any future books with them would be ones I’d enjoy. There were also new movies in the pipeline and they were bringing with them a galaxy of new story possibilities. Now I had no idea if they’d be ones I liked, but as we approach the release of the first one, I am hopeful.
For many women, Jaina (or Mara Jade or Leia) was their Star Wars heroine. Rey Whatever-the-Heck-Her-Last-Name-Turns-Out-to-Be already seems primed to pick up that mantle and run with it. Before her story is even told I have already seen the joy and hope Rey has inspired in people of all ages – including in me.
Regardless of whether or not Jaina’s stories ever pick up again and continue, I’m glad I knew her. She was there for me when other fictional characters were not. (And I’m only half joking about that.) Jaina was a deeper connection to a bigger story that had already captured my imagination, a story that had been part of my life longer than it was not.
So now before we embark on a new chapter in Star Wars adventures, I wanted to stop to say:
Thank you, Jaina Solo. That was one heck of a ride.
Kay reviews Star Wars books for FANgirl in addition to movies of several genres with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. She also writes about fandom reflections and fashion as well as co-hosts the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She has been known to make appearances on other podcasts including Fangirl Chat, Nerd Lunch, Disney Vault Talk's Rebel Yell, and Assembly of Geeks.
Currently a voice actor, photographer, and artist who also consults in communications and marketing, Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, writing, learning and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.