At this point, celebrating International Women’s Day with a list of ten kickass YA heroines is basically tradition for me. (You can find 2018’s list here and 2017’s list here.) Let’s get right to it, shall we? Here’s this year’s picks for the strong, the righteous, the brave, and the spirited.
Zélie Adebola from Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi). This was a rough read for me because I don’t handle gore all that well, but I felt it was really important that I read it and gain a little more perspective on a pretty serious topic. Children of Blood and Bone was a powerful book with amazing worldbuilding and a really important message. And Zélie? In that arena? I was h y p e r v e n t i l a t i n g.
Willowdean Dixon from Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy). I confess that I liked the Netflix adaptation of this book more than I liked the book, but part of the reason I preferred the film was because I could see Willowdean. I could see this amazing, spirited fat girl going for her life on screen and it was everything.
Bess from My Lady Jane (Hand, Meadows, & Ashton). Elizabeth I has always been one of my favourite historical figures because 1) ginger, 2) Shakespeare, 3) unmarried lady ruling England all by herself at a time when women typically weren’t allowed to do anything, and 4) ginger. And when Edward realised that his sister, despite being female, was the most fit to rule England? ~priceless~
Lydia Bennet from Lydia (Natasha Farrant). Lydia was 2018’s dark horse read for me, and one that I freakin’ loved. It reinterpreted Lydia Bennet as a self-aware girl who was determined to make something out of nothing. She knew nobody respected her or took her seriously, but did that stop her from trying? No. No, it did not.
Lara Jean Covey from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Jenny Han). Another instance where I preferred the Netflix adaptation to the book, but who can resist that little candyfloss movie?? It’s physically impossible. And you know what else nobody can resist? How freaking devoted Lara Jean is to her family. She is the purest cinnamon roll.
Camellia Beauregard from The Belles (Dhonielle Clayton). Camellia is pretty and a smidge petty – two things I love in heroines. It was an absolute treat to watch her weigh her desire for glory within a flawed society against the burden of that society’s ills.
Alice Johnston from Let’s Talk about Love (Claire Kann). Okay, I didn’t like this book. But Alice gets a shoutout anyways for being the first asexual MC in my life. Even if it’s not what you were hoping for, the sense of being seen is invaluable.
Samirah al-Abbas from the Magnus Chase series (Rick Riordan). I technically named all of Rick Riordan’s heroines back in 2017, but since I actually got around to reading The Sword of Summer last year, I feel like Sam deserves another special mention. Of course she does. She’s a hijabi Valkyrie who can shapeshift and whack people’s heads off with an axe.
Reagan from Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell). I can only dream of being as chill and blasé as Reagan is. Nothing gets into her head for too long. Sure, she can be a bit, um, blunt, but as we all find out, blunt is exactly what Cath needs to stop being such an utter sadsack.
Ada Lovelace from The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (Sydney Padua). This one’s a bit of an oddball entry as TTAoLaB is a nonfiction book about non-fictional people. The comics are kind of fictional; the footnotes are super-accurate. But how could I not leave this AU-ish version of Ada Lovelace, human calculating machine and steampunky inventor, off this list?
Who’s on your list of kickass YA heroines this year? Who inspires you in real life? Who do you think should be on this list?