Powerful girls in literature

AbeBooks loves the strong, fearless and smart young women in literature - both fiction and non-fiction. The girls we're showcasing all share common attributes - they inspire, drive change and lead the pack even through the face of adversity. Take a moment to think about all the strong girls in your life and celebrate them for who they are.

Fearless girls in fiction

A list of young women from novels who are inspirational leaders and courageous beyond their years.
By Jean Craighead George
Faced with the prospect of a disagreeable arranged marriage or a journey acoss the barren Alaskan tundra, 13 year-old Miyax chooses the tundra. She finds herself caught between the traditional ways and the modern ways of the whites. Miyax, or Julie as her pen pal Amy calls her, sets out alone to visit Amy in San Francisco, a world far away from Inuit culture and the frozen land of Alaska.
By JK Rowling
Logical, witty and extremely knowledgeable, Hermione Granger isn't bothered by her reputation as a "know-it-all." Girls in school are often teased for being smarter than boys, but Hermione embraces her consistent position at the top of the class. Her intelligence, combined with her compassion and loyalty, is an invaluable tool in accomplishing great things.
By Neil Gaiman
In Coraline Jones' new house, there are 21 windows and 14 doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The 14th is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own. Only it's different. Coraline fights to save herself and her family from the clutches of evil other-mothers.
By LM Montgomery
Anne Shirley - the underdog whom no one really believed in and almost everyone found annoying. Anne doesn't mind that people find her odd, nor is she discouraged by her blunders. Rather, she persistently learns from her mistakes and always remains true to herself.
By Pam Munoz Ryan
Esperanza thought she'd always live a privileged life on her family's ranch in Mexico. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. When Mama gets sick and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances-because Mama's life, and her own, depend on it.
By Elizabeth Wein
October 11, 1943. A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. When Verity is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. A book about survival, resolve and the power of true friendships.
By Louisa May Alcott
Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn't be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Jo, in particular, is smart, strong-willed and uninterested in marriage - a strong female character in a man's world.
By Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. What Starr does - or does not - say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
By Philip Pullman
Lyra Belacqua is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal, including her friend Roger. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger could want.
By Suzanne Collins
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she volunteers to take her sisters place to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before - and survival, for her, is second nature.
By Scott O'Dell
The story of Karana, a 12-year old girl who lives alone on a Pacific island after she leaps from a rescue ship. Isolated on the island for 18 years, Karana forages for food, builds weapons to fight predators, clothes herself in a cormorant feathered skirt, and finds strength and peace in her seclusion. A classic tale of discovery and solitude.
By Roald Dahl
Matilda is a genius with idiot parents - and she's having a great time driving them crazy. But at school things are different. At school there's Miss Trunchbull, 200 menacing pounds of kid-hating headmistress. Get rid of the Trunchbull and Matilda would be a hero. But that would take a superhuman genius, wouldn't it?
By Carolyn Keene
Clever, independent and brave, Nancy Drew really is the girl who has it all. She's still in high school, but she already has a stronger detective reputation than most adults. Let's not forget that Nancy Drew is so accomplished because she chooses to be, not because she just is. She's far too ambitious to let opportunities idly pass her by.
By Harper Lee
Scout Finch knows that she can embrace her own identity, regardless of who others expect her to be. A young girl in the 1930s is trained to be polite, lady-like and submissive to authority. But Scout? She fights with the boys, speaks her opinion at every opportunity and occasionally even keeps the adults out of trouble.
By Madeleine L'Engle
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

Real life female heroines

A selection of non-fiction books about real life heroines.
By Anne Frank
Diary of a Young Girl is one of the most famous accounts of living under the Nazi regime of World War II comes from the diary of a 13 year-old Jewish girl, Anne Frank. It is one of the most celebrated and enduring books of the last century and it remains a deeply admired testament to the indestructible nature of human spirit.
By Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser
Girl Code is the story of two teenage tech phenoms, Andrea and Sophie who met at Girls Who Code summer camp, teamed up to create a viral video game, and ended up becoming world famous. Get ready for an inside look at the tech industry, the true power of coding, and some of the amazing women who are shaping the world.
By Malala Yousafzai
Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala Yousafzai was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school. No one expected her to survive. Now Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.
By Mo'Ne Davis
At the age of 13, Mo'ne Davis became the first female pitcher to win a game in the Little League World Series and the first Little Leaguer to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A month later she earned a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Mo'ne's story is one of determination, hard work, and an incredible fastball.
By Marjane Satrapi
The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-grandaughter of Iran's last emperor, Marjane Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. This is a beautiful and intimate story full of tragedy and humour - raw, honest and incredibly illuminating.
By Nujeen Mustafa
Nujeen Mustafa has cerebral palsy and cannot walk. This did not stop her braving inconceivable odds to travel in her wheelchair from Syria in search of a new life. Nujeen recounts the details of her childhood and disability, as well as the specifics of her harrowing journey across the Mediterranean to Greece and finally to Germany to seek an education and the medical treatment she needs.


More children's books to explore

By Jessica Doyle
January 13, 2022
The John Newbery Medal celebrates the most distinguished contributions to American literature for children. Discover every winning book since 1922.
1 Min Read
July 27, 2021
The mythical, the magical, and the magnificent! Fairy tales are some of our earliest stories and for centuries, children and adults alike have pored over the tales of princes and princesses, beasts and fairies.
1 Min Read
By Richard Davies
June 03, 2021
Looking to inspire the next generation of women leaders? Consider Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli.
1 Min Read