Being a teenager who loved to read was difficult during the pre-Harry Potter era. My teen years were spent reading books that were above my reading level (still love The Babysitter’s Club), but I wasn’t quite ready for the first time I read Forever by Judy Blue or any of the V.C. Andrews books my friends loaned me. When I hit the library world as a professional librarian in 2005, I was amazed with the books being published for teens and it hasn’t stopped. Young Adult Literature is an amazing genre. What is even cooler are the female role models that have emerged from YA books over the past two decades. These characters are an example to readers (young and old) on being strong, loyal, and fierce. Since March is Women’s History Month, it seems appropriate to share some amazing heroines in YA literature.
The cleverest and fiercest witch of her age and my literary hero – Hermione Granger. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling kick-started the world of young adult literature, but Harry wouldn’t be the hero without Hermione (and Ron!) by his side. Hermione stood up to bullies, fought for equal rights, and was the most loyal friend. Smart, gutsy, and not afraid to throw a punch, Hermione will always be my number one heroine in any book. She continues to inspire new generations of young girls to recognize that friendship and bravery are very important things.
Verity is a captured spy during World War II and faces the choice of freedom for revealing her secrets. In Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, a plane crashes behind enemy lines with two best friends – the pilot and the passenger – on board. While one woman gets away, Verity is captured and slowly begins to write her confessions in exchange for more time. The heart of this story is the strong, female friendship of two women who make the choice to fight against evil in dangerous roles. Their stories show all of us that being a strong woman doesn’t mean that you don’t cry, have empathy, or have a big heart; you are strong because of those characteristics.
In a land once divided by the maji and the nobles, Zelie is a diviner who must hide her powers as nobles have killed or imprisoned the maji to stop their power. Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone became one the biggest debuts of 2018 with her story of Zelie, her brother, and Amar, the evil King Saran’s daughter, on a journey to take a scroll to a temple and bring power back to the magi. Zelie and Amari are quite opposite throughout the book especially because Zelie views Amari as weak. As the journey and struggle play out, however, both women learn that being strong appears in different ways.
Sixteen-year-old Starr has quietly lived in two different worlds while attending a prestigious prep school while living in a poor neighborhood. After Starr witnesses her best friend’s murder by a white police officer in Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, she learns she can’t keep silent any longer. In a time of national attention, violence in her neighborhood, and the pressure of being the only person to know what happened that night, Starr finds her voice.
Katniss Everdeen can’t be left off of this list. She popped onto the pages of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins with her bow and arrow and inspired a generation of teen girls. Set in what was once the United States, the world of Katniss is split into districts. Two teens are selected from each district to fight to the death on the public stage. When Katniss’s little sister is selected to represent their district, Katniss volunteers as tribute and sets off a series of books that has good fighting against evil. In a game in which she doesn’t know who to trust, Katniss learns about friendship, loyalty, and being fierce.
These are just a few of the great role models that can be found in the pages of young adult books. Visit any EVPL location for additional recommendations from our talented library staff. Happy Reading!