Strong Females in YA. Yo, do they even exist anymore?

Posted December 13, 2016 by Keionda Lei Lewis in Discussion / 27 Comments

We’ve all been through it. 

You remember those awesome-tastical female heroines in books and/or movies that just…stick with you for ever and EVA? Where have they gone?? Or am I just reading the wrong books? It seems like every book I’ve read lately has had this ‘paper-cut’ female lead that is just so cliche and so… boring. It’s always the same unconfident girl, the same drama and problems. It just gets old after a while. I just… I just have so many sads and I you guys, you guys, I just can’t take it anymore. I need to know there are still some good heroines out there. 

Here is my awesome list of “must-have’s” for a female heroine. (For the sake of brevity, I shall not name them all because I’m sure there are a Mammoth’s butt-load of them. You are so very welcome.)

She has to be someone I can look up to.  

I want to be able to look back on what she went through so I can then apply it to my own life and my own situations. Whenever I’m going through something and need to be strong, I think about one of my favorite female characters in one of my favorite books. And usually, it helps me. Of course, our problems may not be exactly the same, like, of course I’m not going to be all kick- butt and beating up bad people, nor do I live in the era of da caveman… (although that, would pretty cool. Just sayin’.”

 She HAS to have confidence.

I repeat. She HAS to have confidence. I don’t mean she has to be, like, totally mean girl-ish and stuff, because EW. I’m jus saying I’ld like for her to have a backbone and to actually knows she’s worth a sexy guy’s attention. 


This kind of ties in with the confidence portion, but Idk, you guys let me know. Am I the only one that does not get along with a character when she seems so dang passive? Like, she doesn’t feel like she has a voice to speak up for herself? It’s like she’s afraid to have a say in what she truly wants and lets others make her decisions for her?? Or, she may feel that she can’t have a voice because people or her ‘love interest’ won’t like her for it. 

Girl. puh-lease. Go sit down. Right now. 

4. *Rolls eyes* And if I read about another character that instantly falls madly, deeply, hopelessly in love with this one character in like two point nine seconds of meeting…. For some reason this is all the rage now in all the books that I’ve been reading latelywhich is probably why they’ve mostly been all 3 stars… Just. No.

Stahp. It. 

She HAS to be a memorable character.

This is the most important for me as a reader. I want to be able to connect with her so much that I feel like she is some long lost friend that I may possibly meet some day. I want to think about her and her problems she’s faced and apply them to my own life. I just want a strong female lead. A home-girl. A cool chica. Somebody. 



Now it's your turn 2

Who are some of your favorite female heroines in YA? or NA? In your opinion, what makes a female lead strong? Oh! And, would you rather ‘give’ or ‘receive’?– I totally mean ‘gifts’, so you people with the dirty minds… STAHP.

Signatrue 2


27 responses to “Strong Females in YA. Yo, do they even exist anymore?

  1. sydneyeditor1

    I think what makes a female character strong for me is the ability to grow — into the confidence and maturity you’ve basically described in your list. I can give characters a little leeway in the beginning as long as I can see they’re growing as characters. Nothing drives me more crazy when that doesn’t happen. SIGHs. Which happens so much these days.

    • I KNOW! Nothing makes me madder than a female protagonist that never grows or develops throughout the series or at least by the end of the book. *mad face*

  2. So true! Which is why there are a few authors like Jennifer Estep and Jennifer Lynn Barnes that I can always count on to give me a good, strong protagonist.

  3. I don’t read a lot of YA but I feel that a Bella Swan type heroine is becoming more and more common. Where have all the Hermione Grangers gone!? Great discussion post.

    • Yes! There YA is flooded with the Bella Swan type protagonists! Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Twilight but COME ON. it gets kind of old after like, pfft, 20 different ones.

  4. Hellllooooo? Hellloooo??? Strong female characters, where are youuuuuu??? Man, do they ever hide well. I guess authors think we all enjoy the saps? *scratches my head* There are some, though… Katy Swartz is a favorite. I never viewed her as weak. I mean, she stood up to Daemon. And then there’s Feyre from ACOTAR/ACOMAF. She could step up and be completely B.A. when needed but was also scared, tormented, filled with doubts, etc. Not one-dimensional.

    I looove to give gifts. I actually have to rein myself in at Christmas because otherwise I get way carried away with the gift-giving. 🙂

    • Katy Swartz will Fo-eva and eva be one of my all- time FAV female protagonists! She bad her weakness but JLA knew how to develop her character in the end! And OMG, need to finish reading Sarah J Mass books girl! Thanks for reminding me…. *gasps*

  5. Sophia Rose

    I agree. Need my strong females even if they have to grow into it.

    These are some that I noted from my YA and NA GoodReads shelves: I think Darla from Mike Mullins’ Ashfall trilogy, Elliot from Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, Dahlia from Donna Augustine’s The Wilds series, Scarlet from Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, Adele from David Estes’ Dwellers series, any of the heroines from Tillie Cole’s Sweet Home series, KA Tucker’s Burying Water series heroines, Cecy Robson’s Shattered Past series heroines, and Christina Lee’s heroines.

    Love giving and receiving gifts.

    • Omg. Tank you for all of these awesome book recs!! I’m going to make a note of an it’ll of these authors!! You always seem to read really good books so I’m excited!!! 😍😍

  6. This is really funny because I just read a few books that had similar protagonists and left thinking, “Ugh, why does YA have all these super cliche strong female protagonists?” :p I mean, I like a confident girl as much as anyone, but I think I’m seeing the other cookie cutter option. It’s especially egregious in historical fiction where every female lead has to buck the norms of the day and basically a modern girl plunked into the 1500s or 1700s or 1800s, etc. She reads. She speaks her mind. She makes funny sarcastic comments that only the most progressive of men truly appreciate. She wears trousers because dresses are ridiculous. Etc. Let’s trade books, and I’ll get some boring meek girls just to break things up. 😉

    • Haha! We need to switch protagonist-types for a while then because we seem to be having the same problem! Why can’t there just be a variety of types of females that all encompass different personalities? They don’t all have to be weak or too strong but.. a combination o_O

  7. i red a TON of sci fi/fantasy and i think in sci fi/fantasy we have the opposite problem: the genre is OVERSATURATED with this “stereotypical strong girl” archetype! The issue? THEY’RE ALL STRONG IN THE SAME EXACT WAY!! They’re all pretty, tough, physically able, confident, flirty, and sassy. EVERY! FREAKING! ONE OF THEM!!! where is the character arc in that?! give me a girl who’s brave and loyal but shy! or someone who’s intelligent but not physically strong! i have found a *few* heroines who differ from the norms, but not many. three of my faves are: blue sargent from the raven cycle by maggie stiefvater (who’s a grumpy, feminist ordinary girl who’s not really over extraordinary), kestrel from the winner’s trilogy by marie rutkoski (who’s not physically strong but is insanely brilliant and is an incredible strategist), and cress from the lunar chronicles by marissa meyer (who’s shy and insecure but also loyal and brave). now *those* are *realistically emotionally diverse* heroines who i can look up to!

    • Yes!! It seems like we are on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to female protagonists! I’ve read a bunch of YA where most of them are either too strong or too weak… 🙁 ugh #sigh

  8. YEEEEESSSSS. My favorite female characters are always the ones who have confidence and a backbone and don’t take crap from the alpha males and people who keep trying to tell them what to do. I love those characters who take their life into their own hands and make things happen.

    I also like characters who have their priorities straight. So, you know, no worrying about stupid things like how she looks when she’s in a life-or-death situation -_-

    • Baha!! I always love reading your comments because you’re always so funny and real! 🙂 And YAAS girl! I love those girls the can get things done and don’t need need a man to get it done for them. I need more protagonists like that!
      *rant ova* 😉

  9. Maybe you’re reading the wrong (“wrong”) books? I feel like I’ve read SO many YA books with tough female characters… adult books too. I love kickass female protagonists, but I also love the ones that are fierce in terms of their mind… i.e. the really smart ones, like Kestrel in The Winner’s Trilogy. Have you read The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron? Or any of Cameron’s books? All of the female characters are so tough but in different ways. I definitely look up to them, admire them, and really like them. =)

    Great post, Keionda! Have a wonderful weekend. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Hey girl!! Yaas! You always give the best recs when it comes to romance books and now female protagonists!! Thanks girl! And to answer your question, teehee, NOPE, I haven’t tried any of them. So I’m going to be pretty broke by the time this is all said and done. Teehee!

  10. I agree with Alyssa above. Most of the YA heroines I read are tough these days. And complicated, which I think is great.

    And I may be in the minority here but – I’m not a huge fan of Bella pining over Edward for MONTHS when he disappeared – but I do think she was tough and loyal. Girl went through a lot and kept fighting back. lol Not my favorite by any means but I think she gets somewhat of a bad wrap being the poster girl for weak heroines.

    I love Kestrel on TWK trilogy, the girls from The Six of Crows duology

    I don’t really care about giving or receiving gifts but I love wrapping and unwrapping lol

    Karen @For What It’s Worth

    • Yes! I’m glad I’m not the only one that actually likes Bella Swan! Teehee! I’m always a huge advocate for the series! 😉 and yes, I agree! It can be either way around, sometimes the girl is too weak or she is too strong which is just as bad. #sighs#

  11. Lauren Becker

    I do think there need to be more kick-ass heroines in YA, and not just the Katniss Everdeen type. I want to see more of these great, mostly confident girls in contemporary YA either. I don’t think they need to be TOTALLY confident – I mean, who is? – but I want them to like themselves and know they are worthy!


    • I LOVE KATNISS! But I totally agree, Lauren! I don’t want them to be totally confident because that is totally unreliable! They need to have flaws and stuff… be human. 🙂

  12. RO

    I totally agree! No one wants a woman who can’t stand on her own in a book, or even in a movie, so your traits are right on point. It’s cool to see a woman in charge, who can still maintain that sensitivity. Women rock! Hugs…

  13. Olivia-Savannah

    These strong women like us… sometimes they can be so hard to find 😉 Which is why we have YOU, this amazing author who will write all the strong female leads and publish them so no reader has to suffer in non-strong-female feels every again <3 Otherwise though, I really love Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles!