HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY! Whether you identify as a woman or not, this is a day to celebrate and uplift the females in our lives we should all support and admire. And what better way to do that than by sharing some of my favourite YA novels featuring kickass women, by kickass women?
So I’ve compiled a list of 18 of my favourite empowering YA novels written by some of the most awesome female writers in our community. We’re so lucky to have such epic stories featuring strong women of colour, STEM girls, fearless feminist females, and just young women who we all should aspire to be like.
So gather ’round guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, because this post will provide you with all the feminist YA must-reads you should add to your TBR immediately!
OF COURSE I had to start with The Hate U Give by our YA queen, Angie Thomas! YOU ALL SAW THIS COMING. But there’s a reason why The Hate U Give has been at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list ever since it was released – and that’s because it’s INCREDIBLE.
This is a powerful, heart-wrenching novel about the #BlackLivesMatter movement featuring a strong young woman who learns to not be afraid to stand up for what’s right after she witnesses her unarmed friend shot and killed by a white police officer. Simply a MUST-READ.
You got that right – Angie Thomas is claiming both #1 and #2 on my list! On the Come Up is her most recent release, and you better believe it’s just as phenomenal as her debut.
This story follows Bri – an aspiring rapper who releases her debut song and is suddenly thrown into the spotlight when reporters start accusing her of creating music that inspires violence and attempt to silence her. But Bri refuses to stay quiet about the police brutality and racism that are so prevalent in society. This book is just BRILLIANT.
I read this book a little while ago, and I STILL haven’t got it out of my head. THAT’S HOW GOOD IT WAS. This was the second book I’ve read by Jennifer Mathieu and it did not disappoint.
Devoted follows the life of a teen girl who’s grown up in an ultra-religious community (often labelled as a cult in the novel), where her freedom is restricted and her movements monitored. When she starts to realise her life has more meaning than being the perfect daughter and wife, she must break free from the society that has made her their prisoner and fight for her autonomy.
YES FOR STEM GIRLS IN YA! I’m a massive fan of Lauren James’ work, and The Quiet at the End of the World has quickly become one of my favourite books of 2019 so far.
This novel follows the life of a girl and her best friend in the distant future who are the last teenagers on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Told through Lowrie’s story, as well as news articles from after the virus, this book is about artificial intelligence, family, and what it means to be human. Plus, Lowrie is a pretty badass engineer!
IS THAT NOT JUST THE CUTEST COVER YOU’VE EVER SEEN?! And I’m 100% pleased to report that the book is just as adorable and fun inside. If you’re looking for a cute summer romance that also talks about some important topics, look no further than this new #LoveOzYA novel!
What I Like About Me is a Dirty Dancing-inspired book about body positivity, a beauty pageant that doesn’t quite go according to plan, the awkwardness of crushes, and learning to love yourself and your body. Maisie’s voice is so genuine and funny, and this book will have you laughing out loud, cringing, and crying (sometimes all at the same time).
I’m sure you’ve all seen the hype surrounding Sadie, and this stunning novel is deserving of every bit of it. It’s powerful, gut-wrenching, and will have you hooked from the very first page.
Told in a podcast format, Sadie follows the life of a missing girl on a journey of revenge after finding out her sister is dead. This isn’t an easy read – it’s confronting and chilling, but it’s one that you’ll want to devour in one sitting anyway. If you’re a fan of murder mystery podcasts or are just looking for another book with a strong female protagonist, this one is PERFECT for you.
SO MUCH LOVE FOR MY ARO / ACE PIRATE! Felicity stole my heart in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and my love for this badass feminist only increased in The Lady’s Guide. Everyone needs more books with girls who are doctors and pirates and don’t hesitate to slap their brothers when they’re being annoying.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is honestly everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. We follow Felicity, a queer aspiring doctor who’s constantly fighting against the patriarchy for gender equality, especially in the medical field. But that’s not all – this book also includes pirates, maps, and a diverse cast of characters that you won’t hesitate in taking a bullet for.
THIS IS THE QUEER, WITCHY ANTHOLOGY WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR. Seriously, this book has given me so much joy. It’s basically just a lump of epic stories about queer witches and badass women and it’s amazing.
All the stories are so different and unique in their own ways, but they all have such powerful, strong women at the core of each of the stories. WHICH WAS AMAZING TO SEE. I was already low-key obsessed with witches after watching Buffy, but this book increased my love for them even more. LIVING FOR THE WITCH AESTHETICS.
I LOVE MY BEAUTIFUL PLUS-SIZED BISEXUAL GIRLFRIEND. We’re officially together. It’s totally cannon. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Leah in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this book quickly became one of my favourite f/f reads of all time. It’s just TOO CUTE.
Leah is such an assertive, strong woman who knows what she wants in life and will do everything in her power to make that happen. She’s a drummer, fashion icon (in my eyes, at least), and one of the fiercest girls in YA. I absolutely LOVED seeing more of her in this Creekwood spin-off!
This book has been out for, like, two years? And I haven’t stopped gushing about it yet? WELL, DEAL WITH IT. When Dimple Met Rishi is such a cute, fun book about going off to a summer web development program when all that’s on her parents’ mind is her finding the ‘Ideal Indian Husband’.
So when Rishi is going to be at the same web development program, he knows he wants to woo who might be his future wife. But Dimple is NOT here for it. When Dimple Met Rishi is one of the most adorable, funny novels I’ve ever read, and I’ll seriously never stop recommending it! READ IT.
YAAAAS. This book is absolutely INCREDIBLE. There have been quite a number of books set in the high school environment about fighting the patriarchy and the prevalent sexism, but Moxie might just be my favourite out of all of them? IT’S A HARD CALL, BUT I STAND BY MY DECISION.
So Moxie is about a girl who’s fed up with her small town and her high school, and decides to make a zine about all the injustices that her and her fellow females are expected to just ‘deal with’. TAKE THAT, PATRIARCHY. This book raises so many important questions, and it’s absolutely perfect for everyone fed up with the same old crap and who are ready to start the revolution.
A trio of awesome Aussie authors writing about smashing the patriarchy? DON’T MIND IF I DO. Holy heck, Take Three Girls is such an important, empowering novel that you absolutely NEED IN YOUR LIFE. Seriously. Don’t sleep on this gold.
Take Three Girls is about – you guessed it, three girls – who decide to unite forces after a cyberbullying website targeting students at their school (themselves included) creates an even more toxic, sexist environment. So they decide to fight back! I’m so here for books that show girls standing up for other girls… MORE, PLEASE.
Stone Girl is by far one of the hardest books I’ve ever read, but it 100% deserves to be on this list. This is a novel that follows Sophie, who grows up as a ward of the state and in a volatile, always-changing world without stability. It was gritty, it was raw, and it was real.
Stone Girl isn’t a book you’ll read a chapter before bed, and then put it down. It’s a book that demands your attention and will show you the reality of the lives of some of the children who grow up as wards of the state. But at the core is a young girl who’s learning to be strong and make a life for herself when no one else seems to care. It’s difficult, but it’s a necessary read.
I know books written in free-verse poetry isn’t everyone’s jam, but TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THIS IS A BOOK YOU NEED TO READ. Or listen to, because that format is also excellent. The author herself is a slam poet, and wow, this novel is just one you don’t want to miss.
This book follows the life of Xiomara who discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. It’s a book about refusing to be silent, about demanding your voice be heard, and about making a life for yourself that you’re proud of. Xiomara is such an inspiring character, and her poems are so incredibly moving.
OF COURSE I had to include my favourite book of all time in this list. Alice Oseman is one of my absolute favourite authors, and Radio Silence is a book that’s been so important and influential in my life so far. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without it.
Radio Silence follows the life of Frances, who’s in her last year of high school and is trying to figure out what she wants to do after that. She’s always thought that she’ll get into a good uni and get a good degree and then get a good job and then she’ll be happy. But when she starts realising that university might not be the right path for her and she cares more about her art than anything, she’s forced to rethink everything society’s taught her about ‘success’ and happiness. I LOVE FRANCES WITH ALL OF MY HEART, and this book is just such a beautifully-written, heart-wrenching read.
This book was honestly SO GREAT. I adored Erin Gough’s previous novel, The Flywheel, and I was so excited to hear that she was releasing another one! And one that would be about smashing the patriarchy and hoaxes and unlikely friendships! SO MUCH TO LOVE IN THIS ONE.
Will and Harriet want justice. They want to expose the sexism and racism that’s prevalent in their high school, so they decide to make a fake social media profile to expose the predatory behaviour of one of their teachers. This is a book that will have you screaming YAS at the pages and compel you to stand up for against the sexism around you that so often goes unchallenged. JUST BRILLIANT.
THIS SERIES IS ALMOST *TOO* GREAT. Like I’d happily just reread it over and over again until my eventual death. Can I? Please? But in all seriousness, this is such a great crime-y, murder-y book that also includes a fierce protagonist and some casual rebelling against gender stereotypes.
Audrey isn’t meant to spend her time cutting up cadavers and investigating crime – that’s a ‘man’s job’. But when her work on a series of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, she knows she can’t just look the other way. SHE HAS TO PUT A STOP TO JACK THE RIPPER. Ahh, this book is just PERFECT IN EVERY WAY.
This book is THE feminist high school book of 2019. And it was SPECTACULAR. Watch Us Rise dealt with so many important themes and issues in only 400 pages, and it was just superbly written.
Watch Us Rise follows the story of Jasmine and Chelsea, two students who are fed up with sexism and racism at their high school, so they start their own club. They post about the microaggressions they’ve faced and have witnessed on their blog, but when their posts start going viral and their principal shuts down the site after it’s being targeted by trolls, they choose to risk everything to make sure their voices – and the voices of their peers – are not silenced. IT’S JUST SOOOOO GOOD.
How many of my favourite feminist novels have you read? What are some of your other top recommendations for YA novels written by badass women? Who are some of your female literary heroes? I’d love to hear your thoughts!