Once upon a time, I wrote a blog post that was appropriately titled “Top 5 Heroines.” It was, as you might guess, a list of my favorite heroines from books. Now, even though I wrote that blog post three years ago, I still stand by it. There were some really awesome female characters on that list: June Iparis from the Legend trilogy, Cammie Morgan from Gallagher Girls, Deryn Sharp from the Leviathan trilogy, Reyna Ramirez-Arellano from The Heroes of Olympus, and Stargirl from Stargirl.
But I also wrote that blog post three years ago. I’ve read (and re-read) a lot of books since then, and I’ve fallen in love with both new characters and old. So while I still love and adore all of the ladies on my original list, I thought it was a good time to show some appreciation for a few of my other favorite heroines.
Legend by Marie Lu
I’m allowing myself one returning character, because I just finished re-reading (listening, actually) to the Legend trilogy, and there’s a lot about June that I haven’t really noticed before. In my original post, I said that I liked June because she’s determined, smart, independent, resourceful, and a strong leader. All of those things are true. After reading her story again though, I’ve noticed something else – she isn’t perfect.
Despite being the Republic’s prodigy, June has a lot of flaws. She’s grown up sheltered and privileged, and sometimes that makes her a pretentious know-it-all. When June finally gets exposed to the Republic’s dark side, she isn’t sure how to reconcile her loyalty with the injustices she sees. This causes conflicts between her and Day, the series’ male protagonist who grew up in the Republic’s poor sectors. All in all, June has a lot of growing to do, and that’s what I like about her. She learns that she doesn’t have it all figured out, and she becomes better because of it.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by Rick Riordan
There was a phase in my life where I thought “wow, liking Annabeth is such a cliche” and I’m glad I’m past that now. Looking back, I think Annabeth is one of the first female characters I encountered that could certainly hold her own in a fight, but was so much more too. Her intelligence is her biggest asset, and as a young nerd/geek/dork, I loved seeing a smart girl be presented in a positive way. And Annabeth never apologizes for being smart, either – in fact, her knowledge is usually what keeps Percy and the other characters from getting killed by monsters.
The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles is full of women with diverse personalities and skills, but Cress is by far my favorite. She’s the youngest of the cast and certainly the smallest, so she’s hardly a physical threat (unlike, say, Cinder or Scarlet). When we first meet her, she’s sheltered and naive. While Cress does grow as the series continues, she still retains her soft and shy demeanor, which is why she’s my favorite. She doesn’t have to be brave or outspoken to be “strong” – she asserts herself in other ways. Cress might be a stereotypical damsel in distress at the beginning, but she’s also the best hacker around. I like that she shows there are other ways of being strong.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Listen, it was a hard choice between Maddie and Verity. On one hand, Verity is a hardcore spy for the Allies, but on the other hand, Maddie is a pilot who ends up helping the Resistance when she crashes her plane in the French countryside. Do you see my dilemma?
In all seriousness, I love Maddie and how down-to-earth she is throughout the novel. She’s practical, brave, and selfless. Her strengths perhaps aren’t as flashy as Verity’s, but Maddie does display a steady sort of strength, especially when it comes to making a difficult decision at the end of the novel.
(Really, I just want more fantastic historical fiction, that’s all.)
Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
If I had to pick a word to describe Inej, it would be “resilient.” She grew up in a family of traveling acrobatic performers, but when she was in her early teens, she was kidnapped by slavers and forced into prostitution. When Kaz Brekker buys her freedom and recruits her for his gang, Inej accepts and becomes known as “The Wraith.”
Despite her hardships, Inej sticks to her principles – she maintains her family’s faith, which reveres a set of saints, and she isn’t afraid to stand up when she thinks Kaz or any of the other gang members are going too far. And Inej is always thinking of others, too – one of her goals is to one day have her own ship and crew so that she can hunt slavers and save other girls from having to meet the same fate she did.