I was struck by how many YA novels seem to have a female heroine and have compiled a list of my favourite ones. This list must be the hardest list I’ve ever made…ever.
WARNING: Contains multiple spoilers for various series!
10. Beatrice “Tris” from the Divergent trilogy
She’s a Divergent which means that she has an aptitude for more than one of the factions. She’s clever, brave and selfless. She was brave enough that, despite knowing that choosing Dauntless was something people would disapprove of, she chose it anyway. She did not conform to society’s wishes and did things her own way. *Spoilers* At the end, even though Caleb had betrayed her, she forgave him and sacrificed herself to save him, the only family she had left.
“I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me–they, and the love and loyaty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.”
9. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy
I feel so bad for putting her so low on the list. I would put her much higher if I could but I can’t…Katniss volunteered to die in her sister, Prim’s, place when she was selected to compete in The Hunger Games without hesitation. She started hunting from a young age after her father died, to support her family when her mother proved to be useless.
“There are much worse games to play.”
8. Alina Starkov from the Grisha trilogy
I love how human Leigh Bardugo wrote Alina out to be. Alina started out as a boring “nobody,” someone who wasn’t beautiful, and even when she discovered her powers, she still remained plain. It was only with Genya’s powers as a Tailor that changed Alina and made her prettier.
Genya didn’t make drastic changes to Alina though, there was no “plastic surgery” kind of change. Her changes were all subtle and simply brought out Alina’s real beauty that had been hidden all those years.
As the series progresses, Alina matures but also changes too. At the beginning, she was frightened of her own power but later, she embraces it. In the end, she learns to put the greater good above her own happiness and I think that takes a lot of courage to do.
But what made her extremely human to me was that as her power grew, so did her hunger for it. She ends up wanting the final amplifier, and I think that she wouldn’t have wanted that at the beginning.
“I’m the Sun Summoner. It gets dark when I say it does.”
7. Nina Zenik from Six of Crows
I struggled with Alina and Nina’s placement on the list so I’m going with instinct here.
I found Nina daring, funny and overall, quite a unique character. She’s a Heartrender and at first, she only wanted to go home. She was taken by druskelle (people that hunted Grisha) but a storm hit her ship. She managed to stay alive alongside Matthias, a druskelle. They both sort of develop a strange alliance as they fight to survive together. Slowly, love develops between them. When Matthias was recognised by other Grisha to be a druskelle at a seaport, she had no choice but to report him and say she was kidnapped. This decision would mean that they would both be taken away, with Matthias chucked in prison. She stays in Kerch instead of returning home, and works to free Matthias one day. Once he is freed, she discovers that he has changed and that imprisonment has caused him to hate Nina even more than he perhaps once did. She does not give up on him and slowly, they make up.
I found Nina hilarious, emotional, and loyal. When she sees bodies of Grisha that had been burnt but still barely alive, she cries and begs someone to kill them out of mercy. She knows what the druskelle have done to her people yet she still loves Matthias. Although they didn’t try to overcome their differences together, but rather, they tried to sort things out in their own heads, things did turn out good between them in the end.
Oh, and I do love Heartrenders.
“Stay till the end.”
6. Vin from the Mistborn trilogy
Vin changes a lot in the series. When we first meet her, Vin is an untrusting girl with very short hair and is a strong tomboy. Slowly, she changes and matures into more of a woman. She starts to enjoy balls and sees things as they are – that not all nobility are bad. Her hair grows out too. (Why do I keep talking about her HAIR? 0.0)
Vin finds that she is a Mistborn and a very powerful one at that. She learns to utilise her powers with the help of Kelsier and the crew. She wasn’t afraid to experiment with different metals despite Kelsier’s warning that it would be dangerous.
I think what I loved most about Vin was her fierce love for Elend, her insecurities and how badass she was. She wasn’t afraid to stand up to those around her when she thought that they were wrong. I loved the scene where she goes slightly mental with Zane and started killing loads of people. She also questions herself many times in the series and whether she’s right for isn’t confident in the same way.
“The best liars are those who tell the truth most of the time.”
5. Valkyrie Cain from the Skulduggery Pleasant series
Actually Hermione was in 5th place originally but after typing out my reasoning, I decided that she should be ranked higher. Valkyrie Cain is another really epic character. She has the power of fire, water, air, and earth. She later also trains to use necromancy as well but does not choose it as her magical discipline. She is extremely witty and sarcastic, funny, and stubborn. The dialogue in this series is definitely at the top of the “I-laughed-so-hard-I-was-in-stitches,” list. She’s also very loyal and when Skulduggery Pleasant was lost in another universe, she did everything to save him. She is extremely loving towards her family and is angry when someone of the “magic” world comes near them.
“I want to hit him. I want to hit YOU, but I also want to hit him.”
4. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series
Hermione Granger taught us that you can be bookish, a nerd and still be badass. She punched Draco Malfoy in the face, ok? And she confunded Cormac while he was in the air because she wanted Ron to get the position of Keeper. She also erased her parents’ memory of her so they would be protected.
Something I’ve noticed is that many “badass” characters have what is stereotypically described as “masculine” traits. Hermione doesn’t pick up a sword, she isn’t aggressive and neither is she rebellious.
Hermione ought to be top of the list really, but this is MY list which means I make the rules so…
“I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist!”
3. Inej Ghafa from Six of Crows
INEJ. You’re so strong. Kidnapped and sold as a slave from a young age, she was humiliated and violated time and time again. Yet she was never broken.
When Kaz recruits her into The Dregs, she learns to defend herself in a male-dominated environment. She still has ambition in her though: she hopes to one day have her own crew and save girls like her: kidnapped and sold as slaves. Plus, she’s like a ninja.
“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”
2. Celaena Sardothien/Aelin Galathynius from the Throne of Glass series
Do I really need to explain this one? Does anyone not like her??? Witty, intelligent, badass, strong: she’s got everything. She’s hilarious too. And damn scary when she’s pissed. Brilliant with any kind of weapon, with the bonus ability to control fire, you don’t wanna mess with her. As well as being a renowned assassin, Aelin is actually still very childish. (A trait we share.) She likes cake \(*^*)/, books, and music. And she also has no self-control whatsoever when she shops. I swear she’s my twin sometimes. Also, we both have a penchant for knives. Yes, I do like them.
“Tell me that even if I lead us all to ruin, we’ll burn in hell together.”
1. Emma Carstairs from The Dark Artifices series
She’s strong, and has been there for Julian when he needed someone most. She helped him raise his 4 siblings and I find her loyalty and determination inspiring. I do a mile run everyday now because of her. It’s nothing compared to what she does though, she does 5! I’m working up to it…maybe…But I just love how independent and confident Emma is!
She does what she feels is needed and right, and doesn’t care what others think. Some of her decisions may have killed me but…I still love her.
“I thought it was ‘the Law is annoying, but it is also flexible.”
I just realised that 3/10 of the characters I listed were written by Leigh Bardugo. Yup, totally not being biased. And not gonna change it now since this post took me 5 hours to write. Yes 5. It was so hard to write up what I liked about each character and I kept second-guessing myself and changing the characters and order. In the end, I thought, ” I need to decide and stick to it.”
In case you were interested though, these are the other characters I had considered:
- Tessa Gray
- Clary Fairchild
There were others too, but I decided that it would simply be much too hard if I added secondary characters in too so I stuck with mains.
How about you? Are some of these your favourite characters too?