Written by Leah, staff member, Halifax Public Libraries
"There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise" – W.E.B. DuBois
With stories that are timely, honest, and poignant, teen books are filled with strong female leads standing up, speaking out, and smashing the patriarchy.
For more than 35 years, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood has stood as an eerie warning of a future filled with oppression, control, and power, and a testament to the ability of women to stand up and say "enough." And although this novel takes place within a dystopian future, Atwood's use of real-life social and political events has ensured its continued relevance and importance through the decades.
The Handmaid's Tale was written for an adult audience, so, while perusing my local Library over the last year, I have been very excited to see that the themes explored within are finding a new home in the world of teen fiction, a home that has quickly become my favourite.
Featuring characters who rise up to fight against the status quo for a better future for themselves and their loved ones, I call this genre "smashing the patriarchy." The books written under this umbrella explore a variety of genres; fantasy, dystopian, contemporary —but the one thing that they share is strong, teenaged female protagonists leading the charge for a better world.
Grace and Fury by Tracy E. Banghart
In an alternate world where women have no rights, two sisters face very different fates after an attempt to win the favor of the heir to the throne--one in the palace, the other on a volcanic prison island. Thrilling and captivating, Grace and Fury is a story of fierce sisterhood, and of survival in a world that's determined to break you.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden. In Garner County, girls are banished for their sixteenth year to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
In a world where Beauty is a commodity only a few control, one Belle will learn the dark secrets behind her powers, and rise up to change the world.
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the camp's director and his guards.
Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with an administration at her high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice. Get ready for battle.
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity—and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Unpregnant by Jenni Hendricks
When seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke discovers she is pregnant, she enlists the help of high school misfit Bailey Butler to drive her over nine hundred miles to the closest abortion clinic. What could go wrong? Not much, apart from three days of stolen cars, crazed ex-boyfriends, aliens, ferret napping, and the betrayal of a broken friendship that can’t be outrun.
The Hate U Give by Angie Reynolds
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the mostly Black, lower-income neighbourhood where she lives, and the fancy suburban, mostly white 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. Khalil was unarmed. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
Some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.
The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardian, they receive a well-rounded education that promises to make them better. But the girls’ carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears. As Mena and her friends uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations Academy will learn to fight back.
For more great reading ideas, check out NoveList—a free Library recommendation tool!