I was going to find ten books with strong female lead characters in them, but happily there were so many it was very difficult to choose, so I thought I’d settle for ten examples, and subcategorise (which is perhaps even more satisfying than listing). There will be ten books in here (basically).
A) The Kats:
Katsa, Graceling, Kristin Cashore.
Katniss, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins.
These are both fantasy titles, Graceling going the traditional route of a medieval alternate world, while The Hunger Games opts for the (also traditional) futuristic dystopia. Katsa and Katniss both know how to keep themselves alive and that killing and surviving often go together. Both do-ers rather than ponder-ers, they’re a bit out of touch when it comes to romance and boys and that. “I push the whole thing out of my mind because for some reason Gale and Peeta do not coexist well together in my thoughts,” thinks Katniss. Well, der. I quite like how similar these books are (in other words, if you liked The Hunger Games you might like Graceling too).
B) Daughters of disappeared fathers:
Laura Hame, Dreamhunter, Elizabeth Knox.
If you haven’t read Dreamhunter (and Dreamquake directly after) then I suggest you do (particularly good for say year 11 and up). It’s a slow starter, but when it winds itself up it’s quite spectacular and an incredibly unique fantasy world. Laura Hame is determined to find out why her father Tziga disappeared, doesn’t believe he’s dead like the authorities declare, and is willing to tell the truth, however nightmarish it may be.
Lyra, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman.
Lyra is roguish and feisty, a well-written tomboy who, although she is briefly dazzled by the feminine wiles of Mrs Coulter, has the presence of mind and gumption to reach her own, accurate, conclusions.
Sabriel, The Old Kingdom Trilogy: Sabriel, Garth Nix.
Sabriel’s life has been quite sheltered until the disappearance of her father forces her to expand her horizons. She’s more than up to the challenge though I’m sure.
C) A classic (in a classic book):
Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
Elizabeth Bennett is actually a tough cookie in the Regency context. Even though she doesn’t have the greatest of prospects, she still turns down a single man in possession of a good fortune who ardently loves and admires her, because as it stands he’s, well, just too proud and his behaviour is a little odious at times. She’s in sharp contrast to her collection of sisters, all of whom are more easily swayed by the desires of parents, society, and men.
D) Two female antiheroes of high calibre chicklit (as in, female interest fiction):
Yay, I found a couple of female antiheroes (in reference to my antihero post).
Jessica Darling, Sloppy Firsts, Megan McCafferty.
She’s called Jessica Notso Darling by her father, who thinks it’s hilarious; she thinks it’s notso. Fuelled by sarcastic wit and Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal, Jessica’s brain scythes through her class at school and you wonder will anyone stand up under her scrutiny? Well…
Frankie Landau Banks, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E Lockhart.
Frankie wants to be taken seriously by her boyfriend and his friends, but they’re just not going to (she’s a girl), so she shows them… the results are satisfying in many ways, but also carry some serious implications; victory might be bitter sweet.
Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
Scout’s another feisty tomboy (except of course she came before Lyra): one of the most memorable characters in 20th century literature.
Matilda, Matilda, Roald Dahl.
Another memorable literary child. Don’t mess with Matilda.
Coraline, Coraline, Neil Gaiman.
It’s Cora-line, like Caroline, but with the first two vowels switched. Coraline’s got enough gumption to correct adults when they mis-say her name, so that’s a good start. In a war of wits between Coraline and the mother with the button eyes ultimately there can be only one winner, but who?
And we could go on. Let me know if you’ve got a favourite strong female character.