Tris, Katniss, Hermione—we know there are some truly badass teens in YA fiction. But the ones who make it to the big screen are just the tip of the dauntless iceberg. And as these awesomely fierce females demonstrate, you don’t have to be able to move mountains to rock the world. (Though it can’t hurt!)
Huntress, by Malinda Lo
In this prequel to Ash, the world has been shattered by the loss of the sun, and is succumbing to a slow death in an endless winter. Sage Taisin and warrior Kaede are tasked with an arduous journey to Taninli, the land of the Fairy Queen—only to discover her lands are just as devastated. Filled with adventure and emotion, Huntress shows there are so many ways to be a badass.
Under A Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee
Forget Thelma and Louise, Sam and Andy are the real deal. It’s 1849, and Samantha is in deep trouble. She’s just killed a man in a courageous act of self-defense, and goes on the run with escaped slave Annamae by her side. The pair disguise themselves as men and head across the country to California gold country, fighting for their lives—and each other—along the way. Adventure, survival, romance, and, above all, friendship are at the heart of this gorgeous work of YA historical fiction.
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
Little orphan Anne changed the lives of many a preteen when she smashed that slate over charming Gilbert Blythe’s head after he dared to call her Carrots. With gumption, smarts and plenty of sass, Anne showed girls everywhere they didn’t have to be quiet, mousy creatures who accepted circumstance. They could dream big and change things.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
Arm candy? I don’t think so. Brainy and beautiful, Frankie wants in on the antics when her Big Man On Campus boyfriend Matt joins an all-male secret society at their posh boarding school, so she decides to beat the boys at their own game. A feisty, feminist heroine, Frankie’s out to show readers everywhere that smart girls rule.
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
Great power can be used for good. But it can also be used for evil. That’s the dilemma at the heart of Graceling, because in all of the seven kingdoms, there is one warrior who might change the world: Katsa. She’s graced with the power to kill, and being used as an assassin pawn of her uncle, the evil king. But she’s also secretly fighting for justice under the tutelage of a secret council, all while trying to figure out her feelings for the dapper but deadly Prince Po.
The Conspiracy of Us, by Maggie Hall
A teenaged Jason Bourne? You’ll find her in Avery West, the pawn-turned-player at the center of Maggie Hall’s debut, The Conspiracy of Us. Raised by a single mom as your average American teen, West starts out naïve, but she finds herself learning quickly as she joins the powerful Circle of 12, which may just lead her to her presumed dead father. In the meantime, she and her newfound friends sure know how to rock the Prada while taking down the Order.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
She may not know how to work the nunchucks or take down a network in three keystrokes, but let’s face it, for her time, Josephine March was a pretty kickass teen. Smart and ambitious, she bristled against corsets both literal and figurative and made her dream of being a writer a reality despite the limitations most women faced in her time. Plus, she said no to the boy next door, knowing she had to chase her dreams and whomever could learn to support them.
All the Rage, by Courtney Summers
Branded a liar by her fellow teens, Romy’s not your typical heroine—crooked teeth, two bras to her a name, and numb after a drunken night turned disastrous in an encounter with the Sheriff’s son. So she keeps her head down and her mouth shut. But when her former BFF Penny disappears after another terrible night, Romy can’t let things go. Over the course of Summers brilliant Rage, she learns to trust herself—and, in the process, finds her voice. Which most of us know isn’t an easy task.