Young Adult

Girl Power Day 2: Powerful Girls in Books

It seems lately there has been an uprising trend in “kick-ass” female characters: Katsa from Graceling; Katniss from Hunger Games; Ismae from Grave Mercy; anyone from Tamora Pierce’s books. These girls aren’t simply strong, they know how to kick ass and take names.

AND THIS IS NOT A BAD THING! I love love love that finally female characters are being the leads, not for finding a boy to love but because they are fierce, fierce heroes who defeat the bad guy.

But as my good friend Tee from YA Crush said (and I totally want to put this on a t-shirt!) “not every girl can skin a squirrel.”

Last Tuesday I listed my Top Ten Favorite “Girl Power” Heroines. In case you missed it, check it out here. In case you’re to lazy to click on the link, here they are:

Frankie Landau-Banks
Mia Thermopolis
Laira Belaqua/Silver-tongue
Prim Everdeen
Susan Pevensie
Bella Swan
Hermione Granger

As you can see, most of them can’t skin a squirrel, but they all have a certain power that is all their own.

I asked several of my blog friends about what female book characters they think exemplify girl power traits. Their answers were all so varied; I loved the diversity of them, the types of girl power traits each character showed.

Brittany: My favorite girl power literary characters are probably Lola and Anna from Stephanie Perkins’ books. I literally just read those books (back to back) and I love how they’re not afraid to be themselves – and we see this a lot more with Lola – how being confident and thinking independently ultimately attracts her perfect soulmate to her! That’s the way to go. She’s happy and proud of who she is, she’s not afraid to hide it, and she wants everyone to be as unique as they can be and she loves them for it.

Tee: My favorite girl power character is Frankie Landau Banks.  I know there are so many “tougher” characters out there, but I love that she outsmarts everyone not because she can shoot arrows or outrun people, but because she uses her incredible brains.  We need more heroines like this. And I love that she isn’t perfect and doesn’t have all the answers. She’s flawed and she cares too much what her dumb boyfriend thinks.  It makes her all the more real and it makes what she can do feel so much more within reach than the things a girl like Katniss can accomplish. I mean, not every girl can skin a squirrel, but every girl can outsmart a guy. And they should!

Meghan: All of the female characters in Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, especially by the end of the book. Also, Katsa (Graceling) and Fire (Fire) from Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series (again, by the end of the story, not so much in the beginning). Elisa from Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (by the end of the book).

In my researching for this post, I came across this fantastic article about how to create a kick-ass YA heroine. It’s a little old, a year in fact, but I think still holds true to today’s characters that we all love: Your Formula for a Kick-Ass Young Adult Heroine

I think Tamora Pierce’s comment sums up my thoughts completely on what makes a girl power powerful character: “I like to show strong female characters who are also proud to be female… [Another aspect is] not rejecting other women or women’s roles.”

One of the most powerful examples we can set for not only future generations but for ourselves as well is to embrace being female and all sides that come with it. As Wonder Woman (one of my favorites) shows you can be sexy, strong, heroic, feminine ALL AT THE SAME TIME! To me, that’s what makes a good girl power character, one who embraces being female while not letting it hinder her – because why should it? Being kick-ass doesn’t mean knowing how to fight or defend or kill someone with a piece of string; it means so much more and SHOULD mean so much more!

Who are some book characters you think have major girl power?

4 thoughts on “Girl Power Day 2: Powerful Girls in Books”

  1. Fantastic post. I totally agree with Tamora Pierce, that a girl power powerful character is not about rejecting being female. Being female is great, and women can totally be kick-butt, but still be feminine. One example of this is Evie from Paranormalcy. I loved that she loved wearing dresses, and she loved pink, but she could totally kick some serious butt. It isn’t one or the other.

    I read The Dispreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks a few months ago. I have sort of mixed feeling about this book, moreso now than when I first read it. Of course, Frankie is so smart, and she obviously outsmarted all the boys. And I loved that. But basically, Frankie wanted to be part of the boy’s club. Is she special just because she outsmarted those guys? It felt like the book was about how she (Frankie) was the only girl at that school that had that kind of intelligence, and that she was separate from the other girls. And that was why she was special. Because she was different from the rest of the girls at school. I am not sure how I feel about that. I wish she would have started her own girl’s secret society or something. Not to be segregated from the boys, but because a group of intelligent women can be a powerful force. Or maybe she could have started her own secret society that was for both girls and boys. I don’t know. But I do see Frankie as being a character with lots of girl power.

    Okay, I’m going to stop now 🙂 Loving these posts!


    1. I really need to read Paranormalcy! I have it sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to read it. And yes, Frankie is a tricky character. I think she raises a lot of interesting questions by what she does and how she does it. Either way, love her girl power!

      Glad you’re enjoying these posts; I’m enjoying writing them!


      1. I think what I love about Frankie. Obviously she has some insecurities ( I mean, in the end, she was still totally sad about Matthew, who totally did not deserve her. I was really hoping she’d give him back his t-shirt and do something inyourface to him). I loved not only her intelligence, but that she was able to fool the guys and basically get them to do her bidding. It was so kick-ass to see a girl penetrate their all boys club and follow her commands like little puppies. And then to see Alpha play along. Anyway, I guess I liked that she was flawed and “regular”. It’s as if her shortcomings (like her need to be included and approved of by the men in her life) led her to find her inner superpower, but at the end of the day, she was still Frankie–boyfriendless, banished from the guys and feeling a little left out. At that point, a girls club would have been great, but I think she needed to infiltrate the boys first. You know, show them who’s boss. 🙂
        Also, Candice, we should totally make a t-shirt.


  2. Oh I love this post! It’s funny because now I sometimes characterize normal lead girls as “refreshing”!

    I felt Anna was a bit of a wet rag. Always pining for guys and going to sit In a dark theater to listen to English language movies while in PARIS. But Lola? Lola FTW!


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