Strongest Female Protagonist in YA?
One of the complaints made about Twilight is that Bella, the central female protagonist, is not the strongest person. She is clumsy and gawky; she needs to be rescued – a lot; and she stands in the shadow of both Edward and Jacob. We at Strange Chemistry are frustrated that this is one of the few examples of a YA female protagonist that people know, because there are some *fantastic* examples of truly great and strong female characters.
We asked our trusty bloggers to tell us who they deemed to be the strongest female protagonists in YA and they came through for us again!
Deeba from Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
In my opinion, the strongest YA heroine I’ve read so far is Deeba from China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun. No, she doesn’t have awesome kickass fighting skills or supernatural talents, but she’s got spunk and a sense of duty and a sensible streak a mile wide. And most of what she accomplishes is done by being smart and deciding to step up and do the right thing. When told she needs to retrieve a magical object to to beat the Smog and that this is a quest which will lead her on various expeditions via clues to get the next piece in the puzzle, she just decides ‘Sod that!’ and skips right to the end and still manages to get what she needs anyway. She’s feisty, funny and smart and, at the end of the day, manages to save her friends and herself. In my book that makes for a very strong heroine!
Mieneke from A Fantastical Librarian
Riley from The Demon Trappers series by Jana Oliver
There are a lot of strange females in YA but one of my favourites of recent years has been Riley from The Demon Trappers series by Jana Oliver. She kicks butt and has to deal with being a girl in a job that is mainly done by men who aren’t all very accepting of her and she has to deal with being alone and regular stuff like money and school. An all action female that is just plain cool.
Laura from Sister Spooky: Book Fangirl
Tris from Divergent by Veronica Roth
The strongest female protaganist in YA fiction is Tris from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. To me, strong doesn’t automatically mean angry and acting without thinking. Tris has a lot to overcome, and a whole lot to prove- to Dauntless and to herself. Tris has proven time and time again that she is courageous, caring, dependable, and won’t give up- not matter what the odds are. She gains strength- not by some super human power, but by hard work (and some blood and tears too). She makes choices that are difficult and works hard to protect the ones that she loves. Tris goes through a major change in the pages of Divergent- from meek and quiet to bold and strong. Tris is a heroine that I want to believe in.
Coranne from Short & Sweet Reviews
Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
While I might have been tempted to say Kat from HUNGER GAMES or Kate from the GIDEON TRILOGY, I feel I mist give credit where credit is due. Hermione Granger from the HARRY POTTER books. She’s just so strongly written from the get-go. Here is a girl who came from the lower end of the wizard totem pole, but applied herself and used her smarts to get ahead. More gifted than even full-blooded wizards, she cruises through classes with ease by the simple act of concentration and application. She can be both utterly loveable and cantankerously snarky in equal measure, showing me a balance of the opposite ends of the teen spectrum of angst. What really begins to show about her is that when life around her gets her down, when life’s tables turn on her (whether because of boys, school, or even bullies) she stands in front of the onslaught and simply takes it. Not only that, she even finds the courage to rise above it. She uses it to fuel her skills, becoming more and more accomplished. As the series goes on she shows us time and again that she can face adversity and triumph over it. She actually makes her parents forget her existence to keep them safe from Voldemort. To me that is selfless. She joins in the leadership role to help her friends, no better yet her entire society, to face an unimaginable and powerful evil. She does this not because she has to, or because she wants to, or even because it is asked of her. She does this because she is aware that she is strong enough to do so. Probably one of the most self-aware female protagonists in fiction, not just YA fiction, Hermione Granger get’s my vote for being unequivocally brave and astonishingly strong.
Scott from Iceberg Ink
Lyra from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
As far as firecrackers go, I am an enormous fan of Pullman’s Lyra and any character ever found in a Robin McKinley novel, but most especially Rae from “Sunshine” and Harry from “The Blue Sword”. I’d have to argue that the strongest, at least in emotional terms, would have to be Lyra as she understands what she has to give up to save her world (and Will’s) and does so, with the depth of sadness and strength of character that make her so remarkable. Of course, Rae can kill vampires with her bare hands (and, occasionally, a penknife) so there is certainly some competition!
Jennie from Book Geeks
Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The strongest female protagonist that I’ve encountered in some time is Katsa from GRACELING. I know that many of you find her extremely hard to relate to, but that’s not the case for me. I love that she can never put her intense emotions aside. I love that she’s not poised or proper. I even love that she punches people in the face without thinking of the consequences. Basically, I love Katsa because she never censors herself. She never pretends to be someone she’s not, she never filters what’s on her mind before speaking, she never goes along with an idea if she disagrees with it. Katsa is just this really passionate person who never, ever holds back– and that’s what makes her so strong.
Ana from What YA Reading?
Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
It took me a while to come up with this answer, because the strongest female YA protagonists are not necessarily my favorite female protagonists. So while Calla from Nightshade and Grace from Shiver immediately came to mind, pressing for attention, it was impossible to ignore their many slip ups (especially in the name of love). So the search continued until I came up with one name: Karou from The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. She is edgy; unfazed by the looks she gets for her crazy blue hair and not paying attention to what others think of her. She even lives with creatures (not spoiling) and isn’t weirded out by it! The fact that she is unwavering in her own self-image and self-importance makes her strong. She is just really lively. But what is even more impressive is her ability to put her life into danger to find answers, to push on for those answers even after a boy becomes involved (since so many protagonists seem to loose focus at that point). Plus, if you read and find a little more about her, she can kick some ass. I mean that in the most literal sense possible.
Britta from I Like These Books
Rose from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
Rose is a seventeen year old dhampir (half-human, half-moroi). She ran away from St. Vladimir Academy with her vampire Princess/Best Friend Lissa, only to find herself dragged back by a Guardian who would one day end up being her forbidden lover (*cough* Dimitri *cough*). But that is hardly the reason why Rose Hathaway is so frightening and maybe it’s because she died in a car accident with the rest of Princess/ Best Friend Lissa’s family and was then brought back to life by Lissa using the extremely rare element of spirit creating a bond between the two girls. Maybe that’s the reason why…because she has been trained all her life to be able to hunt and kill the Strigoi aka. bad vampires. Plus attacking things is basically second nature for Rose.
Maryann from Chapter by Chapter
Unsurprisingly, however, there was but one winner. Many, many people came back with this name:
Katniss from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I have to say the strongest female protagonist in YA fiction has to be Katniss from The Hunger Games (I’m sure many will agree with me). After reading the books, what stuck with me is Katniss’ love and determination to protect her younger sister, Prim. Regardless of the cost. She was willing to sacrifice herself to keep Prim safe, and to me, that is truly heroic behavior. Katniss knows that she is walking into a nightmare when she volunteers to take Prim’ place in the Games, but she doesn’t hesitate to do it. Once she made her choice, she tapped into the strength of character and bravery that she didn’t know she possessed. I wanted her to succeed so badly, because she was doing everything for all of the right reasons. She loved Prim, and she would do anything for her. That’s what being a hero is all about – putting yourself in harm’s way to protect what you love.
Julie from Manga Maniac Cafe
The way she stood in place for her sister showed courage and how much she adored and wanted to protect her family and the fact that though she came from the poorest District in The Hunger Games Trilogy , she did not care and she fought her way to the top and to come out the winner. She held her head high and did not let herself become caught up in the war and brutal side of the Hunger Games. The fact that she won also showed that she is one kick-ass heroine :)
Paula from The Phantom Paragrapher
Katniss of The Hunger Games has to be the strongest. She goes through being separated from her family and the only life she’s known and has to play a game she wants to part of. She does this to immediately save her sister, but in the long run it’s to save much more than even she realizes. She is smart and strong and doesn’t back down from anyone.
Jessica from Book Sake
Well? What do you think? Do you agree that Katniss is the strongest female protagonist in YA literature? Who is a glaring omission from the above list?