Book list: Feminist teen protagonists

In light of the recent events in the Australian political scene it made sense that we would provide a list of YA titles that explore girls in leadership positions and the notion of empowerment.


Not That Kind of Girl

Siobhan Vivian

In Vivian’s 2010 title, the reader is presented with two female characters who have two distinctly different concepts of that way in which to be empowered in high school.  Natalie is all about control, organisation and keeping every aspect about herself above board, her ex-babysitting charge Spencer is seeking her foothold using her sexuality.  Neither is completely right in their approach, nor are they wrong.  Vivian presents this complex issue with nuance and a lack of judgement that is enormously.


Melina Marchetta

While thoughts of Quintana of Charyn came immediately to mind – she is after all the Queen…we all know that Marchetta often explores girls in position of power and leadership.  In Looking for Alibrandi, Josie is the Vice Captain of her school (she actually won but was deemed unworthy) and in Saving Francesca, Frankie is the unofficial leader of the small pocket of girls as a private boys school becomes co-ed.  This continues with On The Jellicoe Road with Taylor Markham (you cannot leave her surname out) as the leader of the borders in the territory war that serve as both a historical and present day underpinning in the narrative.  The Lumatere Chronicles see two royal queens which drastically different struggles, lands and allies with Isaboe and Quintana.  Marchetta’s work is peppered with women that are strong, worthy and flawed that serve as a lynch pin to a rich story of family.


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

E. Lockhart

I may be cheating a little bit here but Frankie Landau-Banks may not have been chosen as a leader of her school…she just decided she would be its puppet master.  Frankie (our second on the list) is a feminist and is dedicated to turning the old school patriarchy of her school upside down.  Lockhart, through Frankie’s very distinct voice, does a marvelous job of depicting the complete obliviousness in these Old Boys establishments and the  deliberateness in keeping females at bay…and in their boxes.

Frankie is not a fan of boxes.

Emily Lockhart

The Lonely Hearts Club

Elizabeth Eulberg

While Penny isn’t an elected leader in her school, she does become an unofficial leader of girls.  In her desire to avoid entanglements with boys (and the ensuing hurt) she forms a support group for girls.  What she forms is a group that encourages one another to seek fulfillment outside of romance, to pursue interests that will make them happy.  It sounds trite, however Eulberg really sells the idea that if girls support one another positively then good things can happen.  There are the occasional cliche but the concept of empowerment overcomes this.

There is also a fantastic Beatles element (see cover art) that is genuinely humorous and fortunately not heavy handed.


Do you have more suggestions – add them to our comments section.

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