Young Adult Fiction: Spotlight on Strong, Female Characters

As the end of the year approaches, I have been looking back on all of the young adult books I have read this year and noticed a prominent theme amongst them: strong female characters. Young adult literature is dominated by books featuring female protagonists, and a majority of young adult fiction is written by women. So what makes this year different when so many stories contain a female lead?

Although the plot and setting of each novel may be vastly different, each features a young woman seeking her true identity, defying societal norms, and challenging stereotypes. These leading ladies are not just feisty go-getters; they speak about and represent larger social issues young women face today.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Historical Fiction)
Faith, a teenager living in nineteenth century England, is fascinated with science and the natural world—a subject which women are not encouraged to pursue. When Faith discovers in her father’s journals a tale of a tree that can reveal the truth, she is determined to discover this tree. The plot is full of twists and turns, but the most surprising twist comes at the end and will leave readers blown away.

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Historical Fiction)
Set in Queens during the summer of 1977, Burn Baby Burn follows the story of seventeen-year-old Nora. Within the chaos that is happening around her in the city, and the struggles that she faces at home, Nora is trying to become independent and discover the life she truly wants to live.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (Historical Fiction)
Stacey Lee is quickly becoming one of my favorite young adult authors. Last year she published Under a Painted Sky, which was a fabulous story featuring two determined and resilient female leads. In Outrun the Moon, Lee sticks with this same theme, but sets her story in early twentieth century San Francisco, during the time of the infamous San Francisco Earthquake. Lee is a master at crafting her characters and creating strong female friendships.

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood (Realistic Fiction)
Ivy comes from a family whose history is filled with extraordinary women. With such high expectations, Ivy does not know if she can live up to her family’s legacy. Having been abandoned by her mother at a young age, Ivy also struggles with being accepted. But, when her mother suddenly comes back into her life, Ivy must confront her issues head-on.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard (Realistic Fiction)
All Pen wants to do is be herself, but everyone around her thinks she is trying to be a boy. All her family wants is for her to have a boyfriend and wear dresses. But that is not who Pen is. She wants to be a girl, have a girlfriend and dress how she wants. Pen knows who she is, and stays true to herself despite the world around her that may not fully understand or accept her identity.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (Realistic Fiction)
Johnston faces a difficult topic in a brave and truthful way in Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Hermione leads the typical suburban high school life as captain of the cheerleader team with lots of friends. While at camp, Hermione is sexually assaulted and becomes pregnant. Most of the novel focuses on the aftermath of Hermione’s assault, the decisions she has to make, and how she remains strong throughout.

—Melissa Nemitz, Youth Services Librarian, West Windsor Branch


Popular posts from this blog

Ocean-in-a-Bottle Craft for Kids

Neil Gaiman Ruined My Life

The Discipline of Gratitude