Great Young Adult Books With Strong Female Lead Characters
In 2017, there was lots of excitement around the movie Wonder Woman because it was the first female-led superhero film in more than a decade. The movie went on to become one of the three most successful movies at the box office for the whole year. The other movies in the top 3 were Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast, which also had heroic female leads. While the movie industry shies away from stories with female action and superhero leads, there are plenty of books aimed at children, teens, and young adults (YA). These are some adventure, fantasy, and sci-fi titles that are worth looking into.
Edelaine's Folly by Morigan Shaw - Cali is thrust into a destiny she doesn’t want, a family legacy she never knew, and forced to trust in an unknown strength she doesn’t understand. Now she must accept this life she's charged with, learn her own strength, and forge a path forward. That's made more difficult with the 15 years winter approaching and dealing with terrible tragedy.
The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente - This is a fantasy novel based on the literary Brontë family. Charlotte and Emily must enter a fantasy world they invented in order to rescue their siblings.
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman - Lyra is an orphan who lives in a parallel universe that looks like our own world. In Lyra's world poor, orphan children are disappearing at the hands of a group called the Gobblers. When Lyra discovers that the woman who's hosting Lyra at her house is running the Gobblers, she escapes. Lyra joins the Gyptians on a trip to the far North, the land of the armored polar bears, to search for the missing children.
The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons: Lucy at Sea by Barbara Mariconda - After Lucy's parents drowned at sea, she was protected by special magic. The magic saved Lucy from her greedy uncle by turning her house into a ship. She travels the ocean with her family as her crew. They head for Australia to find Lucy's last living relative, Aunt Pru. But a family curse still haunts Lucy. If she doesn't unlock her family's secrets before her enemies do, they may drag her into the stormy sea.
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce - In a time when girls are forbidden to be warriors, Alanna wants nothing more than to be a knight of the realm of Tortall. She switches places with her twin brother, Thom. Disguised as a boy, she begins her training as a page at the palace of King Roald. But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. Alanna must master weapons, combat, and magic, as well as polite behavior, her temper, and even her own heart.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - Cursed from birth to be obedient, she struggles to overcome enforced subservience, and in the process must be rebellious, self-assured, and willing to break all the rules to find her own way in life.
The Girl at the Well by J.C. Ahmed - Liralexa Abbingdon, heir to the throne of the Kingdom of the Nine Regions, lives a charmed but confined life. One fateful day, she discovers a portal next to a well on palace grounds. Unable to control her curiosity, she travels to the Step Region where she meets five teenagers. They tell her the king and queen are tyrants who levy excessive taxes. When the regions can't pay, their children are taken away to fight to the death at an event called the Strages. Believing her parents are kind and honorable rulers, she haughtily refuses to believe them. On her 17th birthday, she attends the Strages for the first time and is disgusted as she watches young people her age suffer and die as excited crowds cheer them on. The remorseful princess returns to the Step Region and falls for the Governor's son Malthus. The two meet almost every day. When he is taken away to fight in the Strages, she is forced to make a terrible choice.
The life of a young princess is turned upside down when she discovers her parents are evil despots. How far will she go to end their reign of terror?
Science Fiction / Dystopian
The Scavengers by Michael Perry - When the world started to fall apart, everyone was given the choices to either move into the Bubble Cities or take their chances outside. Maggie's family chose to live outside and scavenge to survive.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Set in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, where a wealthy Capitol city is surrounded by twelve poor districts. The Capitol is wealthy and technologically advanced. Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 where people often die of starvation. As punishment for a past rebellion one boy and one girl from each districts is selected by lottery to compete in an annual event called the Hunger Games. The participants are forced to fight to the death in a dangerous public arena. The winner and their home district are rewarded with food, supplies, and riches. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer: DC Icons Series by Leigh Bardugo - She will become one of the world's greatest heroes. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning.
Divergent by Veronica Roth - Beatrice Prior's society is divided into five factions. Beatrice must make the choice between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she's determined to keep hidden, because what makes you different makes you dangerous.
Action and Adventure
Island of the Blue Dolphins - by Scott O'Dell - In the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent 18 years alone. Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a food supply.
The Apothecary (The Apothecary Series) by Maile Meloy - When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover secrets from a sacred book in order to find him, while keeping it out of the hands of Russian spies who possess nuclear weapons.
The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce - Young Alanna of Trebond craved adventure and daring allowed only to boys. So, she switched places with her twin brother, Thom. He went to the convent to become a sorcerer, while Alanna headed to the castle to begin her journey to knighthood.
Air and Ash by Alex Lidell - Faced with a forced marriage, Niles runs away to work on a ship with a cowardly captain, an incompetent crew, and a cruel, first officer intent on making her life a living hell.