Stuff for the Teen Age, Biblio File
Feminist YA Fiction
Young Adult literature is filled with smart, strong, brave, butt-kicking female characters. So when I say "feminist" I don’t just mean fiction with strong, female characters—that’s a given. What I mean are novels that feature strong, female characters who either confront sexism, defy the patriarchal order, subvert gender expectations or celebrate female solidarity, or all of the above. These characters are often flawed and don’t always come out the other end unscathed but they are warriors and heroes all the same.
“Feminism isn't about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” —G. D. Anderson, poet and writer
This is by no means a complete list—I struggled with what to include and it's still too long. However, for even more great feminist books check out the Amelia Bloomer Project—they review books and put out an annual list of feminist literature for children and teens.
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
A year after she was raped at a party, Romy is still dealing with the aftermath and being called "liar" and "slut". When a girl in town goes missing Romy has good reason to suspect her rapist.
Asking for It by Louise O’Neil
Set in Ireland, this is a searing and brutal account of a girl who is sexually assaulted at a party and humiliated on social media by four boys she considered her friends. She's then re-victimized by the townspeople and media who question her honesty and debate her motives. Based on true stories.
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Football-loving, farm girl D.J does a lot of the heavy work at her family's dairy farm—her father has broken his hip and her brothers are off to college. When she gets the chance to fitness train a rival team's star quarterback she jumps at it. Tired of always doing what's expected, she decides to try out for her high school football and surprises everyone by winning a place as a linebacker.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
When Frankie's boyfriend refuses to tell her about the all-male secret society that he and his friends belong to at their boarding school, she calls their bluff and ups the ante. She infiltrates the society and proves that girls are the equals to boys when it comes to pranks—if not better.
Endangered by Elliot Schrefer
Not long after Sophie arrives in the Congo for her yearly visit with her mother at an animal sanctuary, war breaks out and rebel soldiers overtake the sanctuary. When government troops arrive, Sophie refuses rescue without Otto, a baby bonobo she has bonded to. Instead, she jumps out of the armored van, grabs Otto and takes off into the jungle.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Gabi, a high school senior, finds solace and empowerment through her journal writing and poetry as she deals with personal problems, her family and friends and forging her own identity.
Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (middle grade)
Set in India, 13 year old Koly discovers that she has been traded for her dowry to the highest bidder in an ill-fated arranged marriage. Soon a widow, homeless—abandoned by her mother-in-law, Koly finds sanctuary at a widows' home and begins a new life where she more than a wife and widow.
If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan
Best friends Sahar and Nasrin have been in love with each other for years, but in modern day Iran being homosexual could get them arrested or killed. When Nasrin's parents arrange a marriage for her, Sahar decides to take desperate action so they can be together. She will get gender reassignment surgery and become a man so that she can marry her friend, but will she lose herself in the process?
Kissing in America by Margo Rabb
Eva and her best friend Annie set off on a cross country road trip from New York to L.A. so that romance obsessed Eva can see her boyfriend Will and Annie can be on a T.V. game show. Along the way, they meet meddling family and insightful strangers and learn that the most important loves of their lives won't necessarily be the romantic ones. (You might need a box of tissue handy for this one.)
Ash by Malinda Lo
In this retelling of Cinderella, Ash is a servant to her wicked stepmother and stepsisters but escapes as often as she can to the fairy wood behind her old house. When she gets the chance to attend a ball, the Prince finds her irresistible but it is the King's huntress Kaisa who has captured her heart.
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Set in a post-apocalyptic America, when Saba's twin brother Lugh is kidnapped, she and her younger sister Emmi set off across a wasteland to rescue him. When they get captured themselves Emmi is forced into servitude and Saba must become a cage fighter and kill to survive. To continue with their rescue efforts, they'll have to trust strangers including an all-female group of bandits.
Glory O’Brien's History of the Future by A. S. King
On the brink of high school graduation, Glory is afraid that she is destined to spiral into depression and commit suicide just like her mother. One night, she and her best friend, drink a warm beer infused with desiccated bat remains which give them terrible visions of the future—for Glory this means a misogynistic world filled with laws making women nothing but chattel.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In the Seven Kingdoms, some people are born with “graces” or special talents, Katsa’s specialty is killing. Used and abused by her corrupt, royal uncle to be his “enforcer,” she balances this out by doing secret rescue missions where she dispenses her own form of justice.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neil
In Frieda and Isabel's world, all girls (called "eves") are raised in schools with their only goal becoming wives of rich, powerful men. All they have to do is be listed in the top ten most beautiful girls and they will be chosen by the sons of the wealthiest, most prestigious families. The pressure to be perfect is intense and those that don't make it are destined to become either common concubines, chastitys (teachers) or simply erased all together.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
In 2025 California the world is in utter chaos. When the gated community where she lives is overrun, Lauren, who can literally feel someone else's pain, ventures into the savage unknown in search of safety. As people start traveling with her she begins to find a new family and even more importantly, forge a new destiny for herself and the people around her.
Shadows of Sherwood : A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure by Kekla Magoon (middle grade)
In this alt-universe Robin Hood retelling, Robyn Loxley flees Nott City after her parents disappear and heads for the more criminal friendly Sherwood City. Once there, she bands together with other orphans fighting the laws of the oppressive crown and its tyrannical government
Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
Starting with Alanna: The First Adventure, 11 year old Alanna lives in a world where young women are treated more like chattel, so she trades places with her twin brother and disguises herself as a boy so she can train as a knight. Follow her adventures as she grows up and struggles to be true to herself and true to the country she has vowed to protect.
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Odilia, 16, and her four younger sisters must work together to return the body of a drowned man, they found while swimming in the Rio Grande, to his home across the border in Mexico. Their real mission, however, is to find their father who abandoned the family a year before. Along their journey, they are guided by heroes and monsters of Mexican mythology, including the evil sorceress La Llorona who may not be as evil as they previously thought.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Set in 1906 upstate New York, 16 year old Mattie is torn between her dreams of attending college and studying writing and being a good daughter and sister. Her father needs her to stay to help with the farm and care for her younger siblings. There's also a handsome, young neighbor who wants to marry her. Things change when she begins waitressing at a nearby hotel and strikes up a friendship with young, female guest who ends up murdered.
Agency series by Y.S. Lee
Starting with A Spy in the House, we meet Mary Quinn, a young thief and orphan who is rescued from the gallows in 1850s London to be educated at an unusual school for girls. Eventually, she's trained to be an investigator for an all female detective/spy agency. Her first assignment: to act as a companion to a young lady and gather intel on the father's business dealings but she soon finds out she's not the only spy in the house.
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Raised as brother and sister, Emilia's and Teo's mothers, Rhoda and Delia were an all female, black and white stunt pilot team. When Delia is killed, Rhoda takes the children to live in Ethiopia to escape the prejudices of 1930s America and so Teo can to get to know his Ethiopian heritage. As WW2 breaks out, Teo and Em's own talent for flying comes into play and with her brother soon missing in action, Emilia must navigate the politics of war all on her own.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
In 1943, a British war plane crash lands in Nazi-occupied France. One of its passengers, a female, is captured by the Nazis, taken prisoner and interrogated by the Gestapo. What follows is a game of cat and mouse as the prisoner spins a tale of war, friendship and espionage. Hopefully, just enough of a confession to keep her torturers satisfied but that still keeps her secrets and her friends safe.
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton (middle grade)
It's 1969 and 12 year old Mimi has just moved from Berkeley, California to an all-white small town in Vermont. Being half black and half Japanese, she's already an odd girl out but her love of science and goal of being an astronaut makes her even more of an outsider. She soon finds allies in a teacher who encourages her to enter the science fair and new friends who help her protest the school rule that only girls can take home ec and boys can take shop.
Jackaby by William Ritter
In 1892, young Englishwoman Abigail Rook is fleeing the societal expectations of her family and seeking adventure when she lands in New England. She soon crosses paths with an observant, young detective named R.F. Jackaby. He's no Sherlock Holmes wannabe but an investigator of the paranormal and he soon hires the unflappable Abigail to be his assistant. Before she can learn the difference between a ghost and a banshee they are off—hot on the heels of a serial murderer.
Mad Wicked Folly Sharon Biggs Waller
In 1909 London, Victoria Darling has just been sent home in scandal from her French finishing school for getting caught posing nude during a life drawing class. Her parents are eager to marry her off to someone rich and boring but what Victoria really wants is to attend the Royal College of Art and become an artist. As she secretly applies to the school, she gets involved with the suffragettes and meets a handsome, young constable who is sympathetic to their cause.
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
In 19th century New York City, Jo Montfort is a rose of high society—a girl who is destined for nothing more than attending balls and tea parties, all in the hope of marrying well. However, what Jo really wants is to become a newspaper reporter just like her hero Nellie Bly. When her father mysteriously dies, Jo knows it can't have been an accident and that he must've been murdered. When Jo sets out to prove her theory she will risk everything to get at the truth.
Giant Days by John Allison Susan, Esther and Daisy become fast friends during their first days at a British university. Follow their adventures as they deal with academia, chauvinistic college boys, staying up all night, the flu and failing the "Bechdel test".
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
The cynical and ironic Enid and Rebecca are life-long best friends but now that they have graduated from high school they are feeling the strains on their relationship. As they weather dead-end jobs, going off to college and boys, they wonder if their friendship will survive long distance, growing up and possibly growing apart.
Lumberjanes series by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Join Jo, Molly, Mal, April, and Ripley for an awesome, butt-kicking summer at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for
Girls Hardcore Lady Types. You'll help them earn their "Friendship to the Max" badge as they have late night investigations of mysterious light houses, trap-laden secret caves and suspicious goings on at the boys camp and more.
Ms. Marvel series by G. Willow Wilson
Kamala Khan is an ordinary Pakistani girl from Jersey City with pretty strict Muslim parents who is tired of being caught between their world and her world of school and parties. When she sneaks out the house one night, she's given special powers and transformed into Ms. Marvel. But does she need to be blonde and wear skimpy clothing to be a superhero or can she just be herself? Either way she's ready to kick some evil-villain ass!
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelluci
New to suburbia, after being injured in an explosion in the city, Jane forms a disparate group of outsider girls into a team of "art terrorists" called "People Loving Art in Neighborhoods" (P.L.A.I.N.). Defiant and unified, together they shake-up their conservative town and confound the authorities by performing art attacks such as putting bubbles in water fountains and wrapping objects on the street like Christmas presents.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Rose and Windy have spent every summer with each other and their families at Awago Beach. Together they spend their days, swimming, reading magazines, sipping lemonade on the porch, watching scary movies and walking down to the corner store but this summer is different. Rose's parents are fighting and they're starting to see the world around them a lot more clearly. Luckily, they have each other to get through it all.
Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
Superhero girl is living a mundane life trying to balance her abilities to fight villains with her daily struggles to just get through the day. What's a superhero girl with a weakness for kittens to do when her Mom keeps calling her, the laundry shrinks her cape, she accidently wears her mask to work and her male arch-nemesis keeps telling her that she's "doing it wrong"?