Strong women in YA

Teen Advisory Board member Annalise Comer talks about her favourite novels and series that champion complex and strong women.


Strong protagonists written by authors like Jane Austen, Sarah J. Maas, Nicola Yoon and Suzanne Collins are inspirational figures for young people everywhere, as they show us that you can do anything – regardless of the limitations and expectations placed on you by society and the people around you. Below, I am recommending four YA books that have inspired me to be the best version of myself, through their incredible main characters.


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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas has said she was inspired by her grandmother’s strength, who is a Holocaust survivor. So far, she has written four different fantasy series and each has a strong cast of capable women. Maas’s characters go through significant pain and trauma in their lives and although this shapes who they become they do not let it define them or break them. Throughout their stories they don’t have one magical moment that suddenly fixes all their past pain and makes them whole again either - they are strong every day. Even though Maas’s books are set in fantasy worlds, she makes sure that women’s pain and suffering are never belittled or overshadowed, which has historically been the case in many fairy tales.

My personal favourite of Maas’s protagonists is Feyre Arecheron from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Feyre began providing for her family and looking out for them when her own father wouldn’t do so, and throughout the series, she develops into a character who doesn’t stand behind anyone and bows to no one. ‘I was not a pet, not a doll, not an animal. I was a survivor, and I was strong. I would not be weak, or helpless again. I would not, could not be broken. Tamed.’ This quote from A Court of Mist and Fury, the second book in the series, shows Feyre realising how powerful she is and how she doesn’t need to be less so that someone else can be more. Feyre goes through enormous growth within her story. After losing all their belongings, her family is moved from a wealthy lifestyle to living in a cottage. She doesn’t know when she will have her next meal or if her family will survive the winter. The youngest of three, each day she goes out to hunt for her family’s meal to keep them alive.


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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen wrote Elizabeth Bennet, a powerful character who didn’t let society’s rules define what she believed in. She turned down a marriage proposal even though it would have been advantageous to her family and would have raised their social status. Although she later accepted the proposal, she did it out of love, not because she was forced to or because she felt obligated to her family. She did it on her own terms for herself.


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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon’s character Madeleine Whitter from Everything, Everything didn’t have a normal upbringing. She wasn’t allowed to go outside due to a disease that makes her vulnerable to any type of bacteria. After being cushioned and safe in her house for 17 years she steps out (quite literally) and takes control of her life. After leaving her home for the first time she goes on an adventure with the boy next door and discovers parts of herself that she didn’t know existed. While her adventure is with Ollie she finds herself not through him but through her connection to the ocean.


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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

We have all heard of The Hunger Games and Katniss Everdeen as a strong protagonist. But what about Effie Trinket? Isn’t she the really stuck-up one? Yes, she is, but she’s also important to talk about as another kind of strong woman. While she was in the employment of the Capitol, she did as she was told, without asking questions until she realised that the Capitol’s interests were selfish and wrong. Before Snow’s trial she comes back to Katniss but she isn’t on the Capitol’s side; she stands with the rebels. Although Effie is flawed, like we all are, she is strong enough to listen to others, even if she disagrees with them at first, and is open to having her mind changed.


Many characters have helped to shape the person that I am today. They have taught me that it is okay to have scars, to have been through pain, to cry. But they have also taught me to get back up and to never give up. They have taught me to believe in myself and to not listen to what others say, to not do something to please others. Their strength, vulnerability and determination can be inspirational to us all.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

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