Top 14 YA Books with Strong Heroines


Hi all! In light of the books that we’re all reading for Thursday, as well as with books like Seraphina and Ella Enchanted, I was intrigued by the idea of which YA books demonstrate the strongest female roles. I will (somewhat shamefacedly) admit that, though I did really enjoy reading the Twilight series, Bella’s a total wimp! Sadly, though, she’s not the only one surfacing in YA lit. There are a number of young adult series out right now that tend to present the same idea: teenage female damsel in need of the guidance/strength/wisdom/powers/etc of a powerful supernatural dude. (Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of the Hush, Hush series, the Fallen series and even The Mortal Instruments, to some extent). Of course, we’ve spent some time discussing the importance of independent, free-thinking females presented in lead roles in YA novels. However, I think this is a topic that deserves revisiting periodically, as I don’t think it’s just young women who need to see females presented in these positions of power–young men need also to see that their female counterparts are every bit as capable, and should be treated with respect accordingly. 

I do think there’s an interesting potential conversation here, in light of the Dragonsayer v. Dragonslayer article we read for class. Of course, while that article focused on books with dragons and how the lead females in the books responded to them, it is no leap to see the argument taken one step further (as the article suggests) by applying the nurture v. fighter dichotomy outside of the dragon-y, fantasy context. I believe we spent time in class talking about this briefly, and may be something worth revisiting as we continue on with the reading. 

Admittedly, I will say that I don’t love Huffington’s list (this is a selfish admission based at least partially on my own reading preferences). However, that dislike is also based on my limited experience teaching young adults. My experience was that I really needed to engage them quickly (and that anything that’s particularly outdated they balk at), but also I just don’t feel that this list provides the best sampling of books that demonstrate strong heroines (especially not for a list from late 2013). There is a lack of balance between classic and modern reads, first of all, but beyond that, there is very little by way of racial or cultural diversity, which I do think is important for today’s young adults. Another problem I have is this strange blending of lines between young adult literature and children’s literature. I feel that for a long time, literature intended for readers below the age of 18 was lumped into the same category. As a result, with some of the older literature, I think there’s a confusion as to whether it’s children’s or young adult. (For example, Ella Enchanted, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchett, I, Juan de Pareja–to name just a few–were all located in the Children’s section of my local library/bookstore. Frankie Landau-Banks and Year of Secrets were both in the YA lit section.Though clearly all these books have viable messages for older readers, it does beg the question: what is children’s and what is young adult today?)

That said, these are all still fantastic books that would make for good reads. 

What do you guys think? Especially for those of you actively teaching right now? 


Here’s the link:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s