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My 10 favorite Heroines of YA Literature

YA Heroines
The Princess Diaries. Photo: Walt Disney

Is there anything that is truly better than memorable female heroines? Not just a damsel or leading lady but a real heroine. Someone for young girls, and full grown women, to aspire to be like. I know that, for me, there is no better way to improve a good book than by adding strong, interesting, female heroines.

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When I say strong I don’t just mean physically strong. You know the type, leather clad, gun-wielding, emotionally dead, sarcastic girls. How boring would our books be if those were the only women gracing their pages? What I mean are the women who are more than empty shells. I want female heroines that I can really look up to.

Fortunately, we live in an era where there are many interesting, multifaceted, female characters. Here are my ten personal favorite YA heroines.


#1 Hermione Granger

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Hermione in harry potter; ya heroines
Photo: Warner Bros

“I’m going to bed before either of you come up with a brilliant plan to get us killed, or worse expelled.”

There is no better role model for young girls than Hermione Granger. She is smart, courageous, loyal, and cares more about what is in her head than what is on it. I personally love that Hermione is never described as beautiful because she doesn’t have to be beautiful.

Hermione Granger is a great character that we should all aspire to be like, there is no problem that she cannot solve and would never abandon her friends.

#2 Azalea Wentworth

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined Book Cover

I find Azalea fascinating. She is a damsel in distress but that does not stop her from being a hero as well. She bravely faces Keeper, a delightfully horrifying villain, and does everything she can to protect her family. Azalea expresses a great deal of care for her family and is loyal to them until the end.

Azalea teaches girls that you don’t have to be a warrior or a tomboy to be a brave hero. She is traditionally feminine, which I think is great. Girly girls can absolutely be heroic and should never be told otherwise.

#3 Lucy Pevensie

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia; YA Heroines
Photo: Walden Media

Lucy Pevensie has been one of my personal heroes since I was very young. She is good for the sake of being good and naturally curious; you would have to be to find Narnia.

Something I personally love about the Narnia books is the reader gets to see the Pevensie children grow up, especially Lucy who manages to keep her faith in magic even when her family forgets Narnia. She’s brave and kind even when it seems that she shouldn’t be. But, most importantly, she is trusting. People are afraid to trust sometimes and that makes Lucy’s trust in Aslan and Mr. Tumnus an act of courage. She is a model of having faith when no one around you does.

#4 Cinder

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinder; YA Heroines

Cinder is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting and complex characters I have met. Her main struggle is not against the Lunar Queen or her stepmother or even the plague, it is against the expectations others put on her. Cinder is a prime example of being who you are in spite of what everyone expects of you. People expect her to act selfish, like other lunars or weak and broken like other cyborgs but she is not. Cinder is who she is and does not apologize for it.

Cinder also shows girls that you can be it all. You can be a princess and be tough, you can be a hero and be scared, you can be a leader and be lost. Cinder shows that it’s okay to be who you are, no matter what.

#5 Cress

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cress; YA Heroines

“I am a criminal mastermind.”

Much like Cinder, Cress is an incredibly versatile character. Cress is incredibly smart, basically acting as the entire lunar spy network. She hacks into security systems using basically a smart phone. But, even though she is incredibly smart and analytical she is not afraid to daydream and imagine a better life. Imagining is how she copes with situations she does not know how to handle. By pretending she is an actress or an explorer she finds her way through hard situations. Cress is another character who shows young girls that you don’t have to be just one thing and you don’t have to be a tomboy to be a hero.

#6 Princess Poppy

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Princess of Glass

My dad once said to me, “the sarcastic, gun-wielding, women are always your favorite character.” That is untrue! I love sarcastic female heroines whether they wield guns or not. However, Poppy is both sarcastic and wields a gun so, maybe he’s right.

The thing that makes Poppy such a great heroine is the fact that she refuses to let others tell her who she is. When a prince suddenly asks her to marry him she shouts, “I’m sixteen,” effectively telling him that it didn’t matter that he “saved” her she was going to make her own decisions.

#7 Helen

Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner

Nobody's Princess; YA Heroines

Princess Helen, though you might be more familiar with her as Helen of Troy, is a great example of a female hero. Helen is a true tomboy; she’s a Spartan and a warrior as we’ll as being a princess, at least in this telling. She learns how to use a sword and disguises herself as a man to go on adventures. What’s wrong with that? Courage, adventure, a desire to see the world, those are things we should be encouraging in young girls. Who you are and the choices you make are so much more important than what you look like.

Now, Helen is known for being beautiful but that is not what her story is about. It’s about making choices and where they lead.

#8 Mia Thermopolis

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

the princess diaries; ya heroines

Rereading The Princess Diaries as an adult I can’t help but think Mia is a petulant teenager who needs to calm down and not act like everything is the end of the world. That being said, I doubt I would be the adult I am without having read about her as a youth. Mia is passionate about everything, that’s why everything is the end of the world. Why should we find a passion like that so off-putting? It has become so common to be too cool to care we ought to be encouraging everyone, not just girls, to be passionate about things.

#9 Annabeth Chase

Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Annabeth; ya heroines

Intelligent, brave, tough, a warrior, honestly Annabeth Chase is everything I often wish I could be. She breaks down stereotypes as if they were made of Styrofoam. She is never a damsel in need of rescuing, even injured she is able to handle almost anything thrown at her. Annabeth Chase might be a little too perfect at times, and hard to live up to, but she is everything that many girls should aspire to be. She is a strong warrior character without being emotionally closed off.

#10 Nalia

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrois

exquisite captive; Nalia - YA Heroines

I thought for a long time about who deserved this final spot. There are so many good choices; Katniss Everdeen, Tris, Scarlet, America Singer, who to choose?

Well, I decided to delve a little deeper to find my final heroine. Nalia’s book is not well known yet but she is fantastic. Another character young girls should look up to.

Nalia is a jinni (genie) but more than that she is the rightful queen of her kingdom and a well-trained warrior, who is shown honing her craft. She has also been captured during a revolution and brought to the human world and sold to a wealthy man to grant any wish he wants. For being a 17-year-old girl she deals with some pretty serious stuff with an incredible amount of grace. What makes Nalia really interesting is the fact that she works through her confusion and worry in a way that makes sense for a girl who has gone through a trauma. She never lets her trauma steal her strength or power. She remains who she is no matter what.

Who are some of your favorite YA Heroines? Sound off below!

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By on June 15th, 2016

About Katrina Daroff

Part-time Writer/Full-time Dragon Slayer. Katrina Daroff grew up in Western Washington. She studied English at Whitworth University where her love for writing and literature were nurtured into an obsession. When she is not lost in worlds of fantasy and magic, Katrina Daroff enjoys hiking, slaying dragons, and causing trouble at libraries. Someday she hopes to publish her own series of fantasy novels or gain superpowers of her own. For more adventures you can follow her personal blog at hotstrongandsteamed.wordpress.com/.

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1 thought on “My 10 favorite Heroines of YA Literature”

  1. Lovely list! Happy to see so many wonderful young heroines especially Lucy Pevensie, Azalea, Cinder and Cress! I love your statement “Girly girls can absolutely be heroic and should never be told otherwise.”
    I love tomboys and girly girls and everything in-between. All of them can be completely heroic and inspiring. 😀


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