15 YA Books With Kickass Female Characters Your Daughter Should Meet

esperanza rising

Katniss Everdeen is definitely a fictional force of nature, but the Hunger Games heroine isn't the only fierce and fabulous female from recent young adult literature to inspire the next generation of empowered women! These days, there are plenty of brave and beautiful characters in popular novels for girls to look up to -- in fact, even grown-ups can learn a thing or two from their stories.

From family drama to prejudice to poverty and sometimes even dark magical forces, the young women in these books overcome incredible odds to become their very best selves. In short, they're just the kind of ladies you'd want your daughter -- and your son! -- to be friends with, if only for a couple of hundred pages!

 

Image via Amazon

  • Nhamo from "A Girl Named Disaster" by Nancy Farmer

    1

    When 11-year-old Nhamo is forced to leave her father's home in Mozambique and head to her extended family in Zimbabwe, she ends up lost in the wilderness for a year. A survival story you won't soon forget!

  • Frankie from "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" by E. Lockhart

    2

    When 15-year-old Frankie Landau-Banks transforms overnight from geek to glam, she lands the hottest boy at her elite prep school. But when she finds out the object of her affection is a member of her schools misogynistic secret society, she goes undercover to take the whole operation down. Go, girl!

  • Mim from "Mosquitoland" by David Arnold

    3

    Things are tough when Mim Malone's parents get divorced and she's dragged away from her home in Ohio to live in Mississippi with her dad and new stepmom -- but they get even tougher when her real mom gets sick and Mim makes the brave decision to hop a Greyhound and make her way back home. On the way, she discovers she's stronger than she ever imagined.

  • Darlene from "Dairy Queen" by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

    4

    A star athlete until her father's injury, 15-year-old Darlene Joyce Schwenk puts her dreams on hold to help run her family's dairy farm. Until, that is, she decides to try out for the school football team ... much to the shock of pretty much everybody!

    More from The Stir: 10 Books Featuring Same-Sex Parents That Every Kid Should Read 

  • Esperanza from "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros

    5

    Esperanza Cordero is desperate to leave Chicago's inner city and make a better life for herself, but first the teen is forced to confront heavy issues like sexual assault and abuse. Beautifully told, using a combination of stories and poetry. 

  • Sophie from "Endangered" by Eliot Schrefer

    6

    Visiting her mom's sanctuary for bonobo monkeys in the Congo is the last thing Sophie wants to do, until she bonds with a baby bonobo named Otto. Things get interesting -- and scary -- when the sanctuary is attacked and Sophie and Otto escape into the jungle filled with violent soldiers. 

  • Esperanza from "Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan

    7

    As a wealthy girl in Mexico, Esperanza Ortega never thought she'd have to fight to stay alive -- but that's what happens when her father dies and his stepbrother takes everything from Esperanza and her mother. An emotional story of immigration and struggle during the Great Depression. 

    More from The Stir: 8 Most Memorable Quotes From Children's Books

  • Susan from "Stargirl" by Jerry Spinelli

    8

    Not everybody at her school "gets" Susan Caraway (otherwise known as Stargirl), but that doesn't stop her from wearing a kimono to class, playing her ukulele on the lawn, and cheering for both sides at sporting events. An inspiring reminder to always be true to yourself!

  • Kaede and Taisin from "Huntress" by Malinda Lo

    9

    Set in a fantasy world where two 17-year-old girls, Kaede and Taisin, are called upon to go on a perilous journey filled with dark magic to save their people, this action-packed LGBT romance deals with loyalty, bravery, and self-discovery in fantastic form. 

    More from The Stir: 10 Best Vampire & Supernatural Books to Replace Your 'Twilight' Obsession

  • Samantha from "Under a Painted Sky" by Stacey Lee

    10

    Becoming a professional musician isn't easy when you're a young Chinese girl in Missouri in 1849, but Samantha is determined to make it happen -- even if it means disguising herself as a boy headed for the California gold rush.

  • Katsa from "Graceling" by Kristin Cashore

    11

    The king's niece, Katsa has a talent for killing, which she's forced to use as the monarch's thug -- until she decides to find a way to use her gift for good. Voted a 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.

  • Avery from "The Conspiracy of Us" by Maggie Hall

    12

    Avery West's family is part of a dangerous secret society and believe she's the key to an ancient prophecy. To save her life, Avery must follow a series of mysterious clues and ultimately choose between her family and her freedom. 

    More from The Stir: 14 Books Every Girl Should Read Before Age 10

  • Romy from "All the Rage" by Courtney Summers

    13

    Romy Grey is from the "wrong side of town," so no one wants to believe her when she tries to expose the sheriff's "golden boy" son for his history of assault. When he strikes again, though, Romy knows that if she doesn't keep fighting, even more girls will get hurt. A must-read!

  • Alanna from "Song of the Lioness Quartet" by Tamora Pierce

    14

    As a girl, Alanna of Trebond is supposed to be headed to the convent to learn sorcery -- but she really wants to be a knight. So she and her twin brother Thom switch places, kicking off a magical adventure that lasts an entire series. 

  • Aerin from "The Hero and the Crown" by Robin McKinley

    15

    Aerin has never been accepted as royalty even though her father is a king because her mother is a witch. But that doesn't mean the power of the Blue Sword isn't rightfully hers! This feminist fantasy tale won the Newbery Medal with good reason.

    More from The Stir: 5 Judy Blume Books That Helped You Survive Puberty & People Want Banned

books & media

More