Top Ten Girl Power Books: YA/Teen by Jen Vincent, Kellee Moye and Maria Selke
Long gone are the days when girls had to look far and wide for powerful young women in popular literature. Long gone, too, are the days when there was only one model of strength. Today, our favorite ladies are even hitting the big screen in blockbuster films. Hermione from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, was a bookish young lady who taught us about courage and loyalty. Her devotion to important causes never falters, no matter what challenges lie ahead. Katniss, the protagonist from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, captured the hearts of boys and girls alike with her strength and dedication to what she thinks is right. That amazing archery skill didn’t hurt either. Did anyone else long to take up a bow after that book and movie? Tris, from Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, is another example of how strength, determination, and focus are more apparent in female characters in current, young adult literature. Here are ten of our favorite teen books with strong female leads. Some which you may have heard of, others you may not, but all that you should visit:
Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In a world of racism and inequality, Scout has different ideas about the people in her town. Color of skin doesn’t matter to her. Now, Scout herself is not a teen, but the message that To Kill a Mockingbird shares with its reader is so important for teens to read. Scout is a young lady before her times and should be a model for all.
Katsa, Fire and Bitterblue from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series
Kristin Cashore has created an amazing world and told us stories about three strong female characters who show readers what it means to be strong physically and mentally. These three main characters exude confidence but also can be honest and vulnerable with the people they trust. Within each novel, Kashore’s female protagonists have a role of power and are well respected, showing not only strong characters, but a strong regard for women in general. In all three books, the characters fight against their roles and will not anyone else decide their future for them.
Cat from Shine by Lauren Myracle
Cat is a wonderfully loyal to her 17-year-old friend Patrick who was found beaten and left for dead outside the convenience store where he works. While Patrick cannot articulate who attacked him and the local small-town police aren’t getting very far in their investigation, Cat takes it upon herself to bring justice to her friend. Cat’s strength is so recognized, Shine was awarded the 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award, given by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN), as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.
Kate from the Matt Cruse series by Kenneth Oppel
In Kenneth Oppel’s steampunk series, the woman’s place is entertaining guests, taking care of the home, and raising children, but Kate de Vries will not let her fate be in anyone’s hands but her own. When she meets Matt Cruse in the first book of the series, she takes control and goes against all norms within her society. Kate has a definite sense of adventure and is a go-getter. She isn’t afraid of failure and seems to trust her gut.
Piper from Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Piper finds herself in a mess at the beginning of Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John: she has one month to get a paying gig for the hottest rock band at her school but because Piper is deaf, she doesn’t even know what they sound like. Despite being deaf, she doesn’t give up on her determination to prove to others and to herself that she has what it’s takes.
Barbara Gordon from (most recently) the Batgirl comic series written by Gail Simone
Babs is the original Batgirl, standing beside Batman throughout the ages. While her background story has changed over the years, her sharp mind, agile fighting style, and drive to clean up Gotham make her a role model for girls around the world. Even being crippled by the Joker and put into a wheelchair couldn’t stop her. Instead, she reinvented herself as Oracle and became the leader of her own all woman team – the Birds of Prey.
Mia and Lily from The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
Meg Cabot has written several books for tweens and teens but The Princess Diaries series stands out amongst the others. The Princess Diaries are written from Mia Thermopolis’ perspective. Her best friend, Lily, plays a large role in supporting Mia throughout her high school career. Mia herself grows into a confident and independent young woman, but Lily’s support and constant drive to push Mia towards self-actualization shows the importance of having someone in your life who you can trust and who believes in you.
Deuce from Enclave and Outpost by Ann Aguirre
In her small enclave underground, Deuce dedicated herself to battle training. After years of honing her skills, she could finally call herself “Huntress” and take on the protection of her community. When her world collapsed around her and she was forced to leave, Deuce continued to insist on the right to use her talents to fight for her friends and new home. More than just a fighter, though, Deuce is a young woman who does whatever she can to support the people around her who have become her family.
Seraphina from Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
Music is in her blood, yet Seraphina must stand up to her father for the right to play a single note. Even as she struggles to understand and accept her unique nature, she still looks out for the less fortunate around her. Calling attention to herself through her musical talents could cause her death, and that’s far from the only obstacle in her way. Seraphina faces each challenge with courage and strength. She’ll face off with her father, a princess, and even dragons to make her own path.
Tally Youngblood from the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
Tally is a flawed character. She begins wanting nothing more than to be just like everyone else, but throughout Uglies, Tally starts to feel her priorities change and begins to think for herself for the first time in her entire life. And though she doesn’t always make the best choices, she always attempts to make up for her mistakes. Tally is also extremely intelligent, always using her wit to control the situation. Tally may not be a perfect person, but she is real and she is strong.
Don’t forget to check out our first two posts to read about Picture Books, Early Readers and Middle Grade lit filled with girl power!
Kellee Moye teaches middle school reading in Orlando, FL, Jennifer Vincent is a National Board certified teacher in Illinois, and Maria Selke is an elementary gifted resource teacher in Pennsylvania. Both Jen and Kellee blog at Teach Mentor Texts and Maria blogs at Maria’s Melange. They can all be found on Twitter as well: @kelleemoye, @mentortexts, @mselke01.
Great list! Some new ones for me – Thank you!
If you are interested in Babs – the Birds of Prey run that was also written by Gail Simone kicked butt. There was actually a huge controversy in the comics world when the current run of Batgirl brought Barbara Gordon back. Batgirl has been several different ladies, and many people wanted Barbara to keep her post as Oracle. Oracle is an amazing character that shone out as a beacon of light in the comic world – very few disabled characters out there. When Barbara came back as Batgirl – Oracle vanished from the comics scene.
This still kind of depresses me because Oracle was so awesome. I kind of wish DC went with one of the other girls who was Batgirl even though Barbara Gordon is the most famous. Oh well, I am still super enjoying the series!
Yep, that’s exactly the problem people have. And there is a LOT of love for some of the other Batgirls too (Steph, Cass, etc.)
Thanks for the great ideas!
How about Princess Academy by Hale? I have not read the sequel yet.
Awesome list! I have a “not your damsel in distress” booklist @ my library, and now I have some new books to add to it! Didn’t even consider putting Batgirl on the list but she’s a perfect fit!
How I love that Kate from the Oppel trilogy made this list! She is some powerful girl! Fabulous list
Love this post — and especially love that Scout is topping it!
Thanks for all the lists, Maria, Jen & Kellee! I have read most, but am especially interested in Seraphina. Sounds great. And what about Viola in the Chaos Trilogy by Ness?
We had SO many possibilities – it was really hard to narrow it down!