This post originally appeared in zerothreetwo.com. Changes have been made to accommodate my feelings. 😀
If you’ve been hanging out here with me at TWBN, you probably know by now that I’m a big fan of young adult novels. But if there’s something that I like more, it’s young adult novels with smart, unique and bold heroines written with real heart.
Here are a few YA novels with standout ladies that you should definitely check out:
Kestrel from The Winner’s Curse Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
Ignore the fancy dress on the cover. The series’ heroine, Kestrel, is so much more than that. Headstrong, stubborn, and with a cunning mind, she’s a kind musician torn between love for her father and for a slave who isn’t what he seems. I love how her character grows as the books progress. She is definitely not a Mary Sue. The Winner’s Curse is the first book in a gripping trilogy about war, choices, and love. It’s one of those action-packed books that you just can’t stop reading. It’s got one of the best war scenes I’ve ever read, too.
Inej Ghafa from Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo
Inej Ghafa, otherwise known as The Wraith, is a spy for Ketterdam’s dreaded gang leader, Kaz Brekker. Her wicked knives make her the deadliest spider in The Barrel. She’s also my sweet little baby. I love how human she is. Sure, she’s a killer and spy, but she also named her knives after her saints and believes in redemption. She keeps everyone’s secrets, but all she wants is freedom and perhaps some waffles with her friends. She’s a complex character who knows who she is and who believes in the good in people, especially Kaz. And she’s a very skilled acrobat to boot. And she and Kaz are perfect for each other. Sigh. I love her.
Manon Blackbeak from Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas
Ah, Manon. My little evil witchling. Manon Blackbeak is a ruthless, centuries-old witch. As the heir of the Blackbeak coven, she was raised to kill, hunt and believe that she was born without a heart. But is this really what Manon is supposed to be? What does she do when she reluctantly feels kindness? As an antihero, Manon is flawless. I love how evil and purely badass she is. I love her ruthlessness and inability to feel any kindness because when her evil heart thaws, it’s soooo worth it. She’s just one of the many supporting characters in Throne of Glass, but she stands out because of her sheer cunning and her many contradictions.
Elliot North from For Darkness Shows The Stars by Diana Peterfreund
I love this dystopian retelling of— wait for it— Jane Austen’s Persuasion. For Darkness Shows The Stars is old-school-meets-the-future and it is exquisite. Elliot North doesn’t disappoint as an incarnation of the original’s Anne Elliot. If I’m being honest, I think she’s even better. In this book, we see a hardworking young woman who traded love for duty. She’s fiercely loyal to the people under her care and would do anything to keep them safe, even if it meant letting the love of her life walk away. Don’t worry, he eventually comes back— but with a vengeance. You’ll have to read the rest of the book to know what happens next!
Lady Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Lady Katsa has been graced with killing. Her uncle, the king, uses her as a thug and bully who does all his dirty work. But does Katsa let him win? Is she truly just a girl with an exceptional talent to kill? Graceling is high-octane adventure complete with spies, tyrant kings, warrior girls and princes with mismatched eyes who you’ll fall head over heels for. But of course, my favorite part is Katsa. She’s an inspiration to everyone.
Well, that’s it for my list! I know there are many other badass female YA characters out there, like Blue Sargent from The Raven Cycle or Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. Any other girls that you think should be on the list? Let me know in the comments below!