Top 5 Badass Heroines in Young Adult Literature

Between the scantily-clad, high heeled women that dominate the video game scene, the objectified sex dolls trying to sell us beer on TV and the doped-out movie starts with their panties around their ankles, there are a lot of negative portrayals of women in the media. With all of that rubbish assaulting our senses 24/7, it’s nice to take a moment to appreciate all the positive female images in the media.

They cast spells, hunt with bows, and serve as portals into other dimensions: these are the top 5 badass heroines in Young Adult literature.

5. Hermione Granger: The Brains Behind the Scar

Book: The Harry Potter series
Author: JK Rowling

Hermione Granger about to cast a spell that’s probably too advanced for her age. Why? Because she’s Hermione Granger, that’s why.

Can we just pretend that Hermione didn’t abruptly become Harry and Ron’s boxer-scrubbing maid in The Deathly Hallows? Please? Because other than that little hiccup, this girl kicks some serious butt. In case you lived under a rock during the 90s, I’ll give you the run down on everyone’s favorite teenage witch (take that, Sabrina). Hermione was born to non-magic parents and didn’t even know that the wizarding world existed until she turned 10, when she received a letter informing her that she’d been accepted to attend a mysterious school that no one had ever heard of. And you thought you were a pioneer for being the first woman in your family to go to college. Once she gets to Hogwarts, Hermione doesn’t let the fact that she’s at 10 year disadvantage get in her way; she quickly because the most erudite and practiced student in that school. Not only that, but she befriends the young wizarding world figurehead, Harry Potter, and drags his incompetent hide through academics, magical social interactions and battles with the dark forces.In short, Hermione was thrust into a new world where she not only survived but thrived, she was largely responsible for the salvation of the wizarding world, and she was clever and snarky to boot. For that, she has earned a place on this list, despite her domestic seizure in the last book

.4. Katniss Everdeen: Selflessness and Archery, A Very Badass Combination

Book: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, The Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen scoping out targets to take down with her flawless aim.Or maybe she’s thinking about the family that she’s supported since she was a child. Who knows. She could be doing anything. Because she’s awesome.

Love or hate The Hunger Games, you can’t deny that Katniss Everdeen is a grade-A badass. When Katniss was young, she lost both of her parents: her father to a mining accident and her mother to self-pity. Rather than let her family starve, preteen Katniss took to the forest–despite the fact that trespassing there is punishable by death, and the forest is filled with man-eating beasts– and learned to hunt with a bow. She learned to trade on the black market, and so she kept her little sister and her mother fed and clothed. And all of this happens before the first book starts. When Primrose, Katniss’s little sister, his selected to participate in the annual Hunger Games (think battle royale but with starving children), Katniss doesn’t hesitate to volunteer in her place, setting herself up for almost certain death. Alright, we get it; Katniss is a selfless care taker. But that’s not all there is to her; throughout the series, Katniss proves herself to be wonderfully flawed and deliciously snarky. There’s something to be said for a woman who doesn’t hold her tongue, and Katniss proves that on every page. Combine that with the fact that, bow in hand, she holds her own against the other Hunger Games participants, and you’ve got one seriously badass package wrapped up in a pretty little bow– pun intended.
So all in all, Katniss’s merit goes far beyond just being a selfless caretaker. She’s a kickass archer with nerves of steel and tongue of barbwire. Well rounded and sharp, she’s the fictional character little girls should aspire to be like

3. June Iparis: Gotta Love a Woman in Uniform

Book: Legend
Author: Marie Lu

June Iparis in her military garb. Note the calculating eyes and general aura of badassery.

I would never want to meet June Iparis. Not because she’d be irritating or unfriendly or have bad hygiene habits or anything like that, but because I would be terrified of her. June is teenage prodigy of the Republic (post- apocalyptic dystiopian America). She’s the only person on record to have received a perfect score on her Trial (which is a test all Republican children must take to see where they belong in society), and she’s the youngest yet highest ranked person at her military training school. Long story short, she could kick your ass. I don’t care who you are. When June’s brother, Iparis, is murdered by an infamous criminal, she makes an early debut into the military ranks and makes it her mission to track and capture her brother’s murderer. Which she does. In a matter of days. Again, I would not want to meet this girl, particularly not in a dark alley. But June proves to be more than a military tracking machine; beneath her rebellious nature and personal vendetta she hides an unshakable moral compass. She may be proud, but when she makes a dire mistake (I won’t say what it is for the sake of not spoiling the novel), she put everything on the line to correct it.
Honor, loyalty, strength, morality and keen deduction skills are all key characteristics that make June Iparis such an impressive character– that and when Lu describes her in full military dress, you’ll find yourself wanting to salute (which is fine, just make sure you’re not on a public bus, because people will think you’re weird if they see you saluting a book–trust me, I know).

2. Tris (Beatrice) Prior: Because Finding Fulfillment Takes Courage

Book: Divergent and Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth

The silhouette of Tris Prior as she marches into unknown territory.

The silhouette of Tris Prior as she marches into unknown territory.

If only there were words that could adequately describe how cool this character is. I spent a lot of time debating whether or not she deserved to claw her way to the top of this list– after all, Tris Prior is no stranger to clawing her way to the top. Tris lives in a society that is divided into factions that are supposed to represent certain traits; she was born into the Abnegation faction, which embodies selflessness. Tris has never felt like she belonged in her birth faction, which results in a combination of shame over being too “selfish” and the yearning for a life that holds more than just always putting others above herself. When Tris comes of age, she is given a choice: she can stay in her home faction and please her parents and spend the rest of her life never thinking of herself, or she can go against everything she was taught and go for what’s best for her, at the risk of being disowned by her family. She takes the chance and plunges herself into the Dauntless, a faction that values bravery above all that. From there she faces brutal initiation, terrifying enemies and devastating personal battles.
The best thing about Tris is that she’s flawed and human, but never a doormat. She’s brave and when she believes in a course of action, she will follow it through, no matter who is pressuring her to do otherwise, whether it’s her parents or a love interest. If you haven’t read Divergent you should, because Tris is a character everyone should know.

1. Gemma Doyle: Because it Takes Skill to Kick Ass in a Corset

Gemma Doyle: You can corset her waist and crush her spine in a crippling whale bone embrace, but you cannot bridle her free will or her power.

Gemma Doyle: You can corset her waist and crush her spine in a crippling whale bone embrace, but you cannot bridle her free will or her power.

Books: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing
Author: Gemma Doyle

Number one badass heroine goes to Gemma Doyle, and here’s why: in a world where women’s minds are corseted as tightly as their waists, and they’re expected to trot as perfectly as trained ponies with blinders, Gemma still manages to be the strongest, most badass (yet believable) character in YA literature. After her mother is murdered, Gemma discovers that she is the heiress of a dark secret and an incredible power; she is the portal between the physical world and a magical world called the realms. Throughout the course of the trilogy, Gemma is faced with foes of both the human and magical variety, which she must battle all while learning to sip tea like a proper Victorian lady and trying to avoid being thrown into Bedlam because of her visions.
The most amazing thing about Gemma is that she lives in a society that tells her she is less, and she refuses to accept it. Even without the magic, Gemma is a very powerful character determined to shape her own destiny and live her own life, regardless of the rules imposed on her by her family, Victorian society or ancient magic coveting brotherhoods. And that’s why Gemma Doyle is the number one badass YA heroine. Widgets


3 thoughts on “Top 5 Badass Heroines in Young Adult Literature

  1. I agree, they’re my favorites too! Except for Gemma Doyle, I haven’t read that yet. But I will… now. 🙂

    • That’s great! I’ve read a few of your book reviews, and I love them. Post back when you read the Gemma Doyle trilogy and tell me what you thought of it– I’m dying to discuss it with someone, but no one I know has read them. Thanks for reading my blog!

  2. Pingback: My Evil Feminist Agenda | Happy Birthday Jennifer Lawrence, and thanks for being a role model

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