Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Girls Who Kick Butt: Fierce Female Protagonists in YA Novels - December 2012

Selected and annotated by Kelsey Bates


Aguirre, Ann. Enclave. Feiwel, 2011. 272p. Gr. 6-8.
Deuce is a huntress in her enclave, a society that lives deep underground, years after the world above them has died.  As a huntress, she has to search for food to feed her people as well as fight the zombie-like creatures that try to survive in the tunnels.  When the zombies begin to organize and hunt together, Deuce must get her people to realize the danger they are in before it is too late.

Bick, Ilsa J. Ashes. Egmont, 2011. 480p. Gr. 9-12.
Alex is hiking in the woods when her world changes as an electromagnetic pulse kills a large portion of the society.  Almost all of the survivors turn into ravaging monsters whose only desire is to eat human flesh.  Alex must fight back as she tries to find a place that is safe in a world she no longer recognizes.

Brosgol, Vera. Anya's Ghost. First Second/Roaring Brook, 2011. 224p. Gr. 8-10.
At first, when Anya falls down a well and comes away with the ghost Emily as a friend, she thinks that the friendship will be fun.  And at the start it is: Emily is able to cheat on tests for her and find information out about Anya’s crush.  But when Emily starts to become too powerful, Anya must stand up to her before Emily hurts someone in order to get what she wants.

Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. Harcourt, 2008. 471p. Gr. 8-10.
Katsa was born with a Grace that gives her the special ability to kill.  Her uncle, the king, has forced her to use her power to his advantage.  When she has the opportunity to escape her uncle’s rule and make amends for her Gift, she takes it.

Chen, Da. Sword. Geringer/HarperCollins, 2008. 240p. Gr. 5-7.
On her fifteenth birthday, instead of seeing a matchmaker, Miu is given the destiny of killing the emperor to avenge her father’s death.  Using the sword her father had crafted, Miu leaves to go to what will surely be her death.  With the help of magic and her kung fu skills, Miu sets out to bring honor to her family.

Clare, Cassandra. Clockwork Angel. McElderry, 2010. 496p. Gr. 9-12.
Tessa has the power to turn into any person, which causes her to be a sought after tool in London’s Downworld.  With creatures like demons, vampires and magic users after her, she must learn to use her power to survive.

Clement-Moore, Rosemary. Texas Gothic. Delacorte, 2011. 415p. Gr. 9-12.
Amy comes from a family of witches, but she refuses to embrace her heritage. Will a summer at her aunt’s ranch change her perspective?   When a burial ground is found and ghostly events begin to occur, Amy finds she must use magic to uncover what is happening before anyone gets hurt.

Collins, Suzanne. Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008. 420p. Gr. 7-10
Each year in Panem the deadly Hunger Games takes place, forcing 24 select child tributes to fight to a gruesome end until only the winner is left alive. When Katniss volunteers to enter the Games to save her younger sister, she knows that she must use all of her strength and wit if she is to survive. Once inside the arena, however, she finds herself unintentionally making allies, complicating her plans.

Cook, Kristi. Haven. Simon Pulse, 2011. 416p. Gr. 9-12.
At her new boarding school, Violet learns that others have supernatural gifts much like her own.  While there, the dreamy Aidan—whose gifts are very unlike her own—catches her eye.  However, when it is revealed that Aidan is a vampire and Violet a vampire slayer, will their romance survive or will Violet be forced to kill her love?

Durst, Sarah Beth. Into the Wild. Razorbill, 2007. 272p. Gr. 6-9
Julie is fascinating: Rapunzel is her mother, and the Wild, the force that drives fairy tales, resides under her bed.  When the Wild breaks free, it begins taking over the town, forcing people to reenact the old fairy tales.  Julie must venture into it to find her family and save her town before everyone forgets who they really are.

Haines, Lise. Girl in the Arena. Bloomsbury, 2009 324p. Gr. 9-12
Lyn has only two options: become a wife to Uber—the man who killed her stepfather—or fight him in the arena.  Unlike her mother who has buried seven husbands, Lyn decides she would rather fight—even if it means fighting a man that she begins to have feelings for.

Hale, Shannon. Rapunzel’s Revenge. Bloomsbury, 2008. 144p. R Gr. 4-7.
In this graphic novel, Rapunzel escapes the Queen’s cruelty and flees into the surrounding countryside where many people need help.  Using her long braids as whips and lassos, Rapunzel fights monsters, bandits and henchmen as she tries to find a way to overthrow the Queen.

Johnson, Maureen. The Name of the Star. Putnam, 2011. 384p. Gr. 8-12.
Rory arrives in London for boarding school just as a Jack the Ripper copycat murderer begins reenacting the legendary killings.  No one is able to figure out who is doing it until Rory accidently witnesses one of the murders.  Now, she must find him again before he starts searching for her.

Kagawa, Julie. The Immortal Rules. Harlequin Teen, 2012. 512p. Gr. 9-12.
In this futuristic novel, most of the remaining humans are kept as food sources for vampires, who have taken over the world.  Allie, one of the few unregistered humans living outside the cities, is attacked and almost killed—but she is rescued by a vampire.  When he turns her into the thing she hates the most, she must decide if she is going to embrace her powerful vampire side or protect humans.

Knight, Karsten. Wildefire. Simon, 2011. 393p. Gr. 9-12
Ashline thought she only had normal teenager problems like fitting into her new school.  However, she realizes that she is actually at a school of gods and goddess from many different cultural mythologies.  More importantly, she finds out that she is also a goddess who has a deadly destiny.

Maas, Sarah J. Throne of Glass. Bloomsbury, 2012. 416p. Gr. 8-12.
Known throughout the kingdom as the deadliest assassin, Celaena is released from prison by the crowned prince so that she can fight in a fierce competition to be the King’s Champion.  Celaena prepares herself to face her opponents but is not ready for the mysterious killings that slowly begin to remove the competitors.

Marchetta, Melina. Finnikin of the Rock. Candlewick, 2010. 416p. Gr. 9 and up.
Evanjalin has prophetic dreams that she believes will help her and Finnikin reunite their war-torn country, driven to chaos for the last ten years.  Together, they must fight for what they believe in, with Evanjalin using her political knowledge and righteousness to finally give her country peace.

Mead, Richelle. Vampire Academy. Razorbill, 2007. 332p. Gr. 9-12
Rose lives to protect her best friend, the vampire Lissa, from the more sinister vampires that walk the night.  When forced to attend a school especially for vampires and their bodyguards, Rose believes that homework and gossip will be the worst thing that she has to face.  However, evil plots are brewing that will put everyone Rose cares about in danger.

Pearce, Jackson. Sisters Red. Little, 2010. 338p. Gr. 8-12.
Both Scarlett and Rosie know how to take care of themselves.  Attacked as small girls by a Fenris (werewolf), they have trained most of their lives to protect others from the same fate.  This great retelling of Little Red Riding Hood has Little Red fighting back.

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. Tegen/HarperCollins, 2011. 496p.  Gr. 8-10.
Tris’s society makes teens pick their faction, which will become their entire life.  She selects the Dauntless, the group known for their bravery and who are in charge of protecting the other factions from outside dangers.  Tris learns to fight and then has to use her new skills when her society begins to fall apart.

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Delacorte, 2009. 320p. Gr. 9-12
Mary lives deep in the forest, in a small town surrounded by a fence that protects the town against the Unconsecrated, who are zombies.  The zombie apocalypse happened so long ago that no one is able to remember a life before the Unconsecrated or before the fence.  When the zombies get inside the fence, Mary and her friends must survive long enough to figure out if the old tales of other safe zones are true.

Sala, Richard. Cat Burglar Black. First Second/Roaring Brook, 2009. 126p. Gr. 4-7
K. is an orphan who succeeds in all things crime-related but hopes that life will get better now that her aunt has summoned her to boarding school.  However, there are only three other students, and the headmistress tells the girls that they must use their skills to steal paintings that, when placed together, will reveal the location of a treasure. 

White, Kiersten. Paranormalcy. HarperTeen, 2010. 335p. Gr. 8-10.
Evie bags and tags monsters such as vampires and banshees for a secret government organization.  Her ability to see through glamours allows her to see the monsters as they really are and lets her know the best way to take them down.  Armed with a pink taser, impeccable fashion sense, and a quick humor, Evie is ready to take on anything that comes her way.

Young, Moira. Blood Red Road. McElderry, 2011. 480p. Gr. 9-12.
Saba will do anything to find her twin brother after he has been kidnapped in the post-apocalyptic world they live in.  She braves a desert, gladiator games, a waterfall, and many other dangers all before she can even find him.

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