Book List

13 YA Books Featuring Strong Female Characters

February 4, 2019
Janine Perez
Riveted Editorial Board

Some of my favorite female role models are fictional (though I’m not discounting the real ones!). These ladies are strong, independent, and inspirational. Oh, and they’re basically all badasses. Whether they’re physically, mentally, or emotionally strong (or all three), they’re characters that make me want to be the best that I can be. They’re interesting, complex, and make me proud to be a woman. I hope they’ll do the same for you! 

13 YA Books Featuring Strong Female Characters

1. Broken Lands by Jonathan Maberry

Ever since her mother’s death, Gabriella “Gutsy” Gomez has spent her days flying under the radar. But when her mother’s undead body is returned to her doorstep from the grave and Gutsy witnesses a pack of ravagers digging up Los Muertos—her mother’s name for the undead—she realizes that life finds you no matter how hard you try to hide from it.


2. Poppy – Night World by L.J. Smith


Poppy starts off the book in a very delicate state-she’s dying. But even as her body is weak, her mind is not. When she and her soulmate, James, go on a whirlwind of adventure in the secret universe of the Night World, she quickly becomes a very strong leading lady. She’s quick, sharp, and confident.


3. Anne – Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman


Blackhearts reimagines the origin story of one of the world’s most infamous pirate–Blackbeard. However, Edward “Teach” Drummond isn’t the star of this book, rather Anne Barrett, his newly penniless maid, is. Anne is incredibly smart and impassioned, destined for a life much more grandiose than cleaning up after a rich merchant, and she definitely knows how to hold her own against Teach. If you love pirates and women who know how to knock their love interest down a peg when they’re acting (just a teensy bit) entitled…Blackhearts is for you.


4. Clary- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare


The Shadowhunters world is a large one, full of multiple series by Cassandra Clare that will keep you reading for a long time. Clary Fray is the character that started it all, and her journey is a long and difficult one. Though she begins her Shadowhunter journey at a disadvantage because she’s new and untrained, you get to journey with her throughout the series as she learns how to become a Shadowhunter, what it means to be brave, and how to fight for the people she loves.


5. Eden– The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

The Way I Used to Be

Eden experiences something more traumatic than most of us will hopefully ever go through. She is completely wrecked, and yet somehow she still finds the strength to keep going and, eventually, to ask for the help she desperately needs.


6. Nemesis – The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid


Often when we talk about strong female characters we’re referring to emotional strength, but in this case, Nemesis is literally stronger than anyone else. She’s a Diabolic, created for one purpose only—to protect her person, Sidonia. But when Nemesis takes Sidonia’s place as a hostage to the empire, Nemesis meets new people and learns what it means to care, to sacrifice, and to fall in love. Her physical strength is joined by an emotional strength that makes her a truly powerful and memorable character.


7. Isobel – An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson


Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk-immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. Though she’s up against some scary creatures, Isobel never allows herself to be put down. She knows her worth, and knows enough to remain alert and competent regardless of the situation she finds herself in. She somehow manages to come out on top, even when someone manages to trip her up. *On Sale 9/26*


8. Citra – Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe Cover

When Citra is tapped to an a Scythe’s appretntice, she isn’t particularly happy about it. After all, not many people would choose to be a professional killer. Still, it’s a duty that must be performed in her perfect world with no disease and no war, and so when she accepts, she’s determined to do it with as much dignity and respect as possible. She dedicates herself to training and studying, and even outsmarting her competitor, Rowan. Citra is clever, respectable, and all around incredible. She’s definitely not someone to mess with.


9. Sophia – Maid of Wonder by Jennifer McGowan

Maid of Wonder

Sophia is generally considered the most mysterious of the Maids of Honor, a secret society of young women make up Elizabeth I’s most trusted royal guard. She’s smart, resourceful, strong, and *possible spoiler* she miiiight be gifted with psychic abilities.


10. Emma – Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight

Emma Carstairs is an amazing Shadowhunter. When she was just a child, she fought in the Great War and came out on top. Since then, she’s dedicated herself to training and becoming the greatest Shadowhunter she can be. She has amazing combat skills, great instincts, and a solid head on her shoulders. She also has a big heart.


11. Tessa – Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clar


Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother and quickly discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters. Tessa may not arrive a s a Shadowhunter, but she quickly shows her prowess. Tessa is intelligent, brave, and strong-willed.

12. Citra – Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman


In the second book of Shusterman’s Arc of the Scythe series, Citra sees the corruption of the Scythedom and wants to change it  from the inside , but runs into problems at every turn. Citra is willing to do the unthinkable in order to take down the system, and that makes her pretty incredible in our book!


13. Veronyka – Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

Veronyka is determined to be a Phoenix Rider, so much so that she disguises herself as a boy to join their ranks. While Veronyka is hiding secrets of her own, she discovers the mysteries of her past that just might be the key to saving the Empire.