From the Library: Summertime is YA Lit Time


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In 1930, Amelia Earhart voiced her concern for the lack of girl-centered young adult literature:

There are no heroines following the shining paths of romantic adventure, as do the heroes of boys' books...Of course girls have been reading so-called 'boys' books' ever since there were such. But consider what it means to do so. Instead of closing the covers with shining eyes and the happy thought, 'That might happen to me someday!' the girls, turning the final page, can only sigh regretfully, 'Oh, dear, that can never happen to me - because I'm not a boy!"'

Earhart spoke to how important it is that girls see themselves mirrored in the literature that they read. Books teach us stories about the way things work. Boy-ventures where girls hang out in the background taught us that girls aren't important until it's time for romance. Stories about girls who are waiting for a boy to start moving the plot taught us that girls can't create an interesting story on their own. We all know these stories. We wrote our first book reports about them and we used them to shape our ideas about what it means to be a girl.

But then we found Norma Klein, or Judy Blume, or Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, or Carolyn Mackler. These women wrote/write books with girls who are strong, complex, funny, articulate, and adventurous characters whose lives involve more than just boys. Characters who prove that while adolescence is hard, it is also navigable. Being a teenager becomes just a bit easier when you're reading about and developing relationships with characters who share your struggles and find creative ways to get through them.

This summer, I'm reading lots of young adult literature. Re-visiting some of my favorites from high school, catching up on some of the gems I missed, and paging through what has been published since I reached adulthood. I invite you to do the same. Re-read an old favorite, or discover a new one. You don't need to be a teen, parent, teacher, or librarian to read YA Lit. All you need is an interest in how stories are being told to teenagers.

Empowering girl characters are making their way into YA Lit all the time, complicating the canon. Here at the Bitch Community Lending Library, we're working on creating a list of YA Lit for the young feminist and we need your help. Let us know which YA books have empowered you the most. Help us create a list that Amelia Earhart would be proud of!

If you're in Portland, come into the library to sign up for our summer reading program and check out our selection of YA Lit (which always has room for more titles -- please consider donating!). If you're elsewhere, I encourage you to pick up some YA Lit this summer. And make sure to tell us what you think of it.

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Comments

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I love YA lit!

I keep up with queer lady-centric YA novels myself; Good Moon Rising is indeed a good pick, as are Garden's other LGBT books for young audiences, Hear Us Out! and the mother of all coming-out stories, Annie on My Mind. All of Julie Anne Peters' LGBT-geared books, eg. Keeping You a Secret, Rage and Luna are pretty impressive as well.

Otherwise, there's Lori Aurelia Williams, who wrote three stunning books about young women of color in Texas: When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune, Shayla's Double Brown Baby Blues and Broken China. These are sometimes categorized as adult fiction instead of YA, and despite being some of the most lyrically beautiful works I've ever read -- not to mention brave, since their major subjects include molestation, young alcoholism and teen parenting -- can be rather hard to find now. In the same crossover category, I love Megan McCafferty, Bennett Madison, Marc Acito and graphic memoirist Ariel Schrag, but my favorite author who written YA (or, perhaps, anything) is Jaclyn Moriarty. Her books, from her debut novel Feeling Sorry for Celia to her most recent, Dreaming of Amelia (published as The Ghosts of Ashbury High here in the US) continually fascinate me, tickle me pink and break my heart.

Aside from all my praise (and you can probably tell I could go on awhile) I recently read a YA novel which I'd really, REALLY advise everyone to stay away from: Touch by Francine Prose. (*Spoilers ahead,* so if you're dying to read this book, don't read on.) While it posits itself as an exploration of trauma post-sexual assault (like a far superior Laurie Halse Anderson book we could name) the twist is that the alleged victim is really just a regretful liar. It's just as wrong-headed and offensive as it sounds, and to make matters worse, the villain of the story is the feminist (natch!) stepmother, who (psychically?) pressured the girl into making up violation stories to further her own, evil women's rights agenda. Just remembering it makes me angry, but YA has plenty of gems to offer elsewhere.

I completely forgot about

I completely forgot about Keeping You a Secret! That book is so good I have difficulty finding descriptors that accurately describe how good I think it is.

I forgot

to say, when it comes to queer YA stories, if you're sick of the almighty-ish girl meets girl/people find out/girls stay in love despite disapproval OR break up but end with the protagonist secure in her queer identity formula, Gravity by Leanne Lieberman and Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole are good picks. They have the added benefit of contemporary cultural exploration, with the former focusing on an Orthodox Jewish girl and the latter a Cuban-American girl, AND they break the formula. There's no real moment of coming out or discovery in Gravity, allowing the book to focus on the character's personal process rather than others' antagonism. Down to the Bone BEGINS with the discovery after the protagonist has already been in a relationship for two years and continues through three more of her relationships with people of different genders. While she does eventually make a decision about what types of people she can and can't be happy with in relationships, I appreciate that the book didn't paint orientation as something necessarily determined by one's first partner, and showed coming out as the long and complicated process it is.

A bunch of good recent YA

A bunch of good recent YA books with strong, or complicated girl characters:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart. If there's one YA book all feminists should read and will no doubt love it's this one!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is one of a handful of books that kicked off the "YA renaissance" of the last decade. It's already a classic.

Celine by Brock Cole. About a complicated and quirky artsy misfit. I really really wish it had existed when I was a teenager.

Flygirl by Sherri Smith. About a black girl who passes as white to fly planes in WWII

Make Lemonade and True Believer, by Virginia Euwer Wolff. There's a third one in the trilogy, but I forget the title now. They're really inspiring verse novels about a disadvantaged girl who works really really hard to get out of her situation (not as cheesy as I just made them sound!)

Kendra by Coe Booth. Super super good book about a girl being raised by her grandmother who's trying to figure out her complicated relationship with her mother and also sex and boys and stuff. That's a terrible summary of it, but trust me that it's a must-read.

Hope was Here, Rules of the Road, etc. by Joan Bauer. She's written a whole bunch of books about teenage girls who are really good at, or really interested in, particular things (weird things like selling shoes or growing giant pumpkins for instance) and pursue them even when the adult world is against them

Dairy Queen and its sequel, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. About a farm girl who's really into football.

The Uglies series (Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras) by Scott Westerfeld. They all star young women saving the world in a dystopian future where everyone gets plastic surgery-d and lobotomized when they hit 16.

Leviathan, also by Scott Westerfeld. Features a girl who dresses as a boy to work on an airship in an alternate history of WWI

Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman. Another character I wish had existed when I was in high school.

And there's so many more!!

I'm commenting up a storm today...

because I love YA books so much (I'm 20 so it wasn't very long ago that I lived in the YA section of my local library). I just wanted to say that Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite writers. Have you read Catalyst, the companion to Speak? Or Twisted (which has a male main character but is still a great read)? Her books were on my short list of favorites when I was 14.

Oh! Oh! Oh! I have a good one...or three

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black was and still is one of my favorite books. It's your basic teenage girl finds out she is really fey and was glamoured as a baby to look human so she would not be sacrificed to pay a blood tithe between waring faerie nations, only to reveal her true nature, fall in love with a cursed elf knight, and save both their asses from sure death/ torture type o' story.

As a lover of fantasy lit and a feminist I say this book has everything that is lacking in that other, better known fantasy series, Twilight. The main character, Kaye Fierch, is strong and independent and likes what she likes despite what others think of her (which endeared this book to me more than anything else as a teenager; as I saw a lot of myself in the character). She is the heroine of the story, even with a hero-trope-fitting love interest, Roiben (in another writer's hands Roiben would do all the saving but Kaye saves herself and him as well). Roiben's character is flawed, but his flaws are written as such, unlike Edward of the Twilight series, whose foibles are painted as virtues.

Black followed up this book with a companion, Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie, which features a completely different set of characters. Our Valiant heroine is Val Russel, a runaway teen who stumbles into the supernatural in New York City. This book is very much about what it is to be an outsider. Before she runs away from home Val has only one friend to speak of (who is *gasp* a lesbian, which does not bode well at their high school and, along with "just not fitting in", results in their outsider status). When Val runs away she meets and befriends a group of human squatters who interact with, and make glamour for, faeries exiled from their realm (also, glamour can be used as a drug by humans in this book and drug use is also a major theme).

The characters of both books come together in Ironside: A Modern Faery's tale. I would go into details about this book as I have the previous two, but I feel I have already blah blahed too much and will just say of the plot that ends are tied in a way that satisfied me (which is no mean feat).

It is also worth mentioning that this series of books is not only girl-positive, but really everyone-positive. The books feature racially diverse characters, both non-white and non-human. They explore romantic relationships both straight and gay, and explore familial relationship issues, the bonds of friendship, the ambiguities that exist in the labeled "dark" and "light" sides presented in society, and the act of defining (trying to define) one's self as a young person.

I'm really glad I stumbled upon these books as a teen. They are the sort of read that makes me grateful they exist, that someone out there wrote something I could relate to so completely that it, in a small way, confirmed that I was right to be myself and not hide for fear of rejection from my peers. And now that I have practically written an essay about them, I think I'll go re-read them again for the umpteenth time.

I second Holly Black! The

I second Holly Black! The Modern Faerie trilogy was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this post. Even though they're fantasy, the teens in her books are very real, and her female characters are strong and complex. Ironside is my favorite because of the way the characters from the first two books come together (******Spoiler****** I adore Corny and Luis, they are so sweet together.)
I think Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series (also fantasy) also has some great female characters. Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner (can you tell I heart YA fantasy??) is another good one.

Spoiler

I know right? When Corney and Lewis got together I let out an audible squeal for them.

YA Lit

My favorite YA Lit series ever, partially because it segues into "adult lit" as the series goes on: the Jessica Darling books by Megan McCafferty. Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Third, Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths. Also, I've heard that the Kiki Strike ("butt-kicking girl superspy") series by Kirsten Miller is really good, although I haven't yet read it myself. YA Lit rules!!

One YA book I cannot

One YA book I cannot recommend highly enough is 'This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn' by Aidan Chambers. All his books are amazing - he wrote a series of six YA novels over twenty or thirty years that are thematically though not necessarily plot-linked - and they follow a really interesting progression from the male perspective to the female. 'This is All' is the last book in the series, and it is one of my favourite books of all time - talking about all books, not just YA.

Also second the recommendation for Holly Black's Tithe/Valiant/Ironside series. Absolutely awesome.

Amelia Bloomer Project

There's also the Amelia Bloomer Project, which has been putting together annotated lists of recommended feminist literature for young readers since 2002. The lists are divided by age, and the YA sections are full of good recommendations, some of which escaped a much mainstream notice.

I just saw on their blog that one of the nominations for the 2010 list is Cory Doctorow's For the Win, which I just read and can't recommend highly enough. It totally changed the way I understand the global economy and labor movements. And gaming. And terrific, tough female characters are a bonus.

For great YA lit, you can't

For great YA lit, you can't go wrong with M.E. Kerr! I love YA lit so much, particularly Norma Klein, Sharon Flake, Julius Lester, Constance C. Greene, Barbara Wersba and Francesca Lia Block.

Great topic!

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

YA LIT

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and soon to be released Mockingjay. Must reads for female empowerment, going against the grain and fighting a corrupt government.

I must second this

I must second this recommendation. Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy is amazing, gripping, and original, and the main character kicks ass and is one of the best fictional heroines I've read in a long time. Can't WAIT for the third book next month.

Thirded!

The Hunger Games series is amazing. Such a strong, reflective, insightful heroine, and the discourse about food/hunger/waste/consumption is staggeringly complex.

YA LIT

Fourthed!! The Hunger Games is so amazing. Interesting that it took me a while to realize the main character was not male!

Fifthed!

This series is so awesome and I can't wait until Mockingjay comes out!

Tamora Pierce, Tamora

Tamora Pierce, Tamora Pierce, Tamora Pierce. Her girl heroes are some of the best in YA fantasy literature, and she just keeps getting better. Lady knights, girl sorcerers, female police cadets, queer characters, characters of colour, just so much awesome.

Gail Carson Levine's fairy tale retellings are quite good, taking not-terribly-female-positive stories and giving them a feminist kick. Ella Enchanted (Not the movie. There is no movie. That never happened.) and Fairest are really cool.

Shannon Hale also plays around with fairy tales. Goose Girl, Book of a Thousand Days, and my personal favourite, the graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge (co-created with husband Dean Hale and not-actually-related artist Nathan Hale). Wherein Rapunzel learns to use her braids as lariats, saves herself, blows off the jerkass cowboy prince, and teams up with Jack (of Beanstalk fame) to wreak havoc across an Old West inspired fantasy landscape.

Some more excellent YA graphic novels: Magic Knight Rayearth, by CLAMP, hit me like a hammer right between the eyes as a teen. In a good way! A wonderful magical girl female power fantasy manga, with three butt-kicking girl heroines who never get as whiny and annoying as Sailor Moon.

More recently, Skip Beat by Yoshiki Nakamura is quite excellent. Kyoko is sort of recovering from the kind of life and relationship we all hate in fiction: for years, her entire life revolved around a boy, and she had no other relationships and no female friends. No, wait! It's okay! It gets better! The boy turns out to be a world-class asshole, and Kyoko vows horrific vengeance. In the process of seeking vengeance she also discovers Life Outside Boys, which includes things like acting! A career! Dreams! Hobbies! Plotting horrific vengeance! It's hilarious and wonderful.

YES!!

LOVE LOVE LOVE Tamora Pierce! The Song of the Lioness series, Trickster's Choice, and Trickster's Queen made a definite imprint on me. Hooray for strong, independent female characters and voices!

This brings me back...

One of my favorites was always Enchanter's Glass by Susan Whitcher. It's a tale about misfits in middle school coming into their own, based on Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene. So not only does it tackle all the stuff YA lit usually tackles (romantic feelings, fitting in, self-esteem, identity), it's also got a strong literary backing and brings up concepts of allegory and metafiction, all in a way that's accessible to younger readers (and, uh, really awesome and inventive.)

Off the top of my head, try Falcon's Egg by Luli Gray, The Other Shepards by Adele Griffin, The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt by Patricia MacLachlan (better than Sarah Plain and Tall), The Hanged Man by Francesca Lia Block (I don't like all of her stuff, but I like this one, as well as Rose and the Beast), Cruddy by Lynda Barry (it's a little dark for YA, but read it anyway), Tangerine by Edward Bloor, Clockwork by Philip Pullman (try his Dark Materials Trilogy as well) and anything my Tamora Pierce or John Bellairs.

Oh, I forgot.

Also, if you like graphic novels, check out the Minx comic book line. They feature female protagonists from various walks of life (including the future) and are pretty good on the whole (despite the unfortunate choice of "minx" as the collection's name).

for the youngin's

Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest series is a brilliant send up of classical fairy tale tropes great for the middle school set. She also has a new one called the Sorcery and Cecilia which is an Austin-esque tale of two girl's introduction to magic.

Garth Nix's Abhorsen series is about the light and airy subject of necromancy and two women's fight against the forces of the dead.

And finally, Ursula LeGuin has a new series out for younger audiences called Annals of the Western Shore that features a progressive exploration of the use and limits of power. I recommend the whole series but the second book is the only one with a female protagonist and specifically addresses a woman's place in society as one of it's themes.

THE WESTING GAME

I was just thinking of THE WESTING GAME. Turtle Wexler is such a great character. Has anyone read THE LIBYRINTH?

http://www.worldcat.org/title/libyrinth/oclc/290437168

It sounds really cool.

The Westing Game!

I loved that one. My sixth grade English teacher (an otherwise horrible woman...she was wound a bit too tight, but she had good taste in books) read that one to my class. Turtle Wexler was awesome and so was Sydelle Pulaski.

That teacher also read us Izzy Willy-Nilly by Cynthia Voight, about a popular girl whose legs have to be amputated after a car accident. I remember that book having a big impact on me as an 11 year old.

I LOVE The Westing Game! It

I LOVE The Westing Game! It was one of my favorites as a kid, and I have re-read it at least twice as an adult. It stands the test of time. It's so clever and funny. Turtle is awesome, but I also enjoyed the development of her sister, Angela. Raskin deals with disability, race, and class issues as well.

I had never heard of The Libyrinth, but now I am very excited to track down a copy.

Thanks!

Thanks for all of the suggestion! Please keep them coming and we'll keep adding them to our to-read list.

Ashley McAllister, Outreach Coordinator

Dessen

Any and all of Sarah Dessen's books.

Sharon Creech's books! Walk

Sharon Creech's books! Walk Two Moons, Chasing Redbird and Bloomability were some of my favorites.

Definitely! I second this

Definitely! I second this heartily.

Wonderful YA

Wonderful YA series:
Madeline L'Engle - Wrinkle in Time series
Phillip Pullman- His Dark Materials series

YA Girl-ventures!

I agree with most of the others. I'm a teen librarian, and can't get enough good Girl-Venture books.

Graceling (and sequel Fire) by Kristin Cashore
--a fantasy about a kingdom where some children begin to exhibit signs of a "grace", or a superhuman ability toward a specific thing. Katsa's happens to be killing...oOOoohh And for all you romance lovers, there is plenty here without ruining the story.

The Hunger Games (sequels Catching Fire, Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins
--takes place in a dystopic future where The Capital holds a "Lottery-esque" drawing for 2 children to fight to the death for fame and money, Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place, even though she is the main breadwinner, and fears what the outcome will be for her family and her village.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
--fantastic coming of age story about a girl who finally gets noticed after she "matures" over the summer, finds herself being excluded and blown off by her boyfriend for a "boy's only secret club". When she starts taking control of their antics, we see that she's not just in it for the fun, but she really wants people to start taking notice of things.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
--Jenna wakes up after being in a coma for over a year. The terrible accident that killed her friends has been lost in the resulting trauma. What happened? Why can't she remember? And then she starts to remember bits and pieces, but it still doesn't explain why her mother and grandmother are treating her so oddly. When she fights to go back to school, she starts to suspect that something is Really wrong...a fact that is confirmed by the blue goo under her skin, where her blood should be!

Evil Genius (sequel Genius Squad) by Catherine Jinks
--Main character is a boy genius who's biological father just happens to be a criminal mastermind who sets up a School of World Domination just for him, but he could never get by without his best friend, the amazingly intelligent Kay-Lee, who in addition to her mad math skills, also suffers from cerebral palsy. Great diversity! Her role really expands in book 2 Genius Squad.

Wake (sequels Fade, Gone) by Lisa McMann
--Self-sufficient Janie has everything figured out...except how to keep from falling into people's dreams. This sci-fi has a little romance, a little ingenuity, and a plot that keeps you guessing.

Ghostgirl (sequels Homecoming, Lovesick) by Tonya Hurley
--Charlotte has always been invisible, but this year everything is going to change. She's got a plan to get the guy, get noticed, and have a date to the dance. Until she chokes on a gummy bear, dies, and gets sent to Dead Ed! O.m.g...school for dead people!? A book about accepting yourself, your fate, and recognizing who your real friends are.

The Alchemyst (sequels The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer) by Michael Scott
--Sophie and Josh are just 2 normal teenagers excited about saving enough money to buy a car. Oh, and they're twins. Which wouldn't be important, except that Nicholas Flamel and his wife are looking for the "twins of legend" to awaken their elemental powers, so they can defeat the Dark Elders and save the world. No biggie... Did you know that immortal humans exist all over the world? Look for cameos by John Dee, Machiavelli, Gilgamesh, the Witch of Endor, Mars, Scathach, the Morrigan, Hekate, Bastet and more. Great mythology, fantastic storytelling, I can't put it down!

ok, i have to go back to work now :)

Check out my YA book blog for more great recommendations!
http://www.YAWhyNot.blogspot.com

Patricia McCormick...

wrote two great YA books for young girls. Cut, a novel about a cutter who gets sent to an institution, was so powerful that I read it three or more times in a row when I first got it. Sold, a novel about a girl from Nepal who is sold into sexual slavery, is equally powerful (perhaps more so).

And while it's on my mind...

The Fattening Hut by Pat Lowery - About female circumcision

Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry
Number the Stars - Lois Lowry

Gingerbread - Rachel Cohn

Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Friction: A Novel - E.R. Frank

Sweetblood - Pete Hautman

How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff

A Certain Slant of Light - Laura Whitcomb

A few more

WOW, I will have to put a lot of these on my list to check out! I second "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson, and "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech, the "Uglies" series, and "The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt" by Patricia MacLachlan, Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series.

"Dancing on the Edge" by Han Nolan is a challenging book about a teenaged girl, mental illness, family, and personal boundaries that made me re-evaluate things about my own family.

Ursula K LeGuin's "Tales from Earthsea" and "Tehanu" are her feminist re-visitations to the world of her excellent (but woman-despising) award-winning "Earthsea Trilogy" books.

"Homecoming" and "Dicey's Song" by Cynthia Voigt are tough but fantastic, as are many in the rest of that series.

"A Year Down Yonder" by Richard Peck is a slightly tongue-in-cheek book set in the Depression-era midwest about a teenaged girl living with her outrageous, self-reliant grandmother.

My recommendations

Friction - ER Frank
The Hanged Man and Weetzie Bat - Francesca Lia Block
Speak and Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson
Rose of No Man's Land - Michelle Tea
The Bigger Book of Lydia - Margaret Willey
The Sisters series (Phoebe, Daphne, Cassie and Lydia) - Marilyn Kaye
Abomination - Robert Swindells
Annie on My Mind - Nancy Garden
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Slam Book - Ann M. Martin
Number the Stars and the Anastasia series - Lois Lowry

I second the Kristin

I second the Kristin Cashore's "Seven Kingdoms" Trilogy, although I haven't read them yet, I've heard nothing but glowing reviews for Cahore's writing. I also recommend:
"The Midwife's Apprentice" by Karen Cushman
"Catherine, Called Birdy" by Karen Cushman
"Mathilda Bone" by Karen Cushman
"The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" by Avi
"The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare
"Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech
"Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell
"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume
"If I Stay" by Gayle Forman (I wish somebody had written a book like this when I was younger)

Fantastic YA Reads

We obvs know that Twilight just doesn't cut it for female empowerment. When I read YA books, if it doesn't have a strong female character, I just can't take it! Here are a few I know of:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and soon-to-be realeased, Mockingjay)
--These books are f-amazing! Some of the best fantasy and dystopia to come out in a long time and also very thought-provoking.

The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire, and eventually Bitterblue)
--If you want a book with kickass women main characters and really frightening villains, these are the books to go with. It also addresses sex in a very positive way and the author has not used her book as a venue for her abstinence rhetoric like Twilight.

The Incarceron Series by Catherine Fisher (Incarceron and later this year, Sapphique)
--I just finished this book and it was fascinating. Not only was the main female character very strong and independent but the plot and story of the book itself was one of the most unique I have seen recently. Many critics have proclaimed this some of the best and original fantasy to come out in quite a while.

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
--This is an "other world" fantasy novel but quite interesting with a strong, likeable female lead as well. Quite enjoyable. Plus, the author is only in her early-twenties, just out of college and the writing is well done which I find pretty impressive.

The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy, Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise, Spirit Bound and a 6th book coming out in December)
--Ok, so the title is a bit off-putting but I really enjoy these books. The voice of the novel is a young woman in her late teens who is trained to kill vampires and has a "Don't eff with me attitude" which I find refreshing. Her bff in the book is also pretty strong. Another thing about this series is that it doesn't downplay what being a teen is actually like. And the version of vampires in the story is much different than others out there.

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar
--This book is hilarious and features a variety of strong female characters.

Books that have lame female leads:
--Forest of Hands and Teeth
--Shiver
--The Vampire Diaries series (tv show is so much better!)

Sharon Creech and Karen

Sharon Creech and Karen Cushman were the ones for me. I was typically reading historical fiction at that age. I would also recommend Ann Rinaldi for historic tomes with great female leads. I also remember loving The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson. And every year I read Little Women, just because.

Another excellent YA book is

Another excellent YA book is "Ash", by Malinda Lo. A different take on the Cinderella story.

History Lesson for Girls by

History Lesson for Girls by Aurelie Sheehan, for sure!

out of the dust by karen

out of the dust by karen hesse, too.

koo name

I was just thinking of THE WESTING GAME. Turtle Wexler is such a great character. Has anyone read THE LIBYRINTH?henli

I'm a YA librarian too, so

I'm a YA librarian too, so I'm always looking for awesome stuff I can rec for teen girls. I love so many of the titles already mentioned, but I couldn't resist recommending a few more.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce - It features a fantastic pair of sisters who hunt werewolves. Think little red riding hood with a paranormal bent and strong teen girls.

Eyes Like Stars and the rest of the Théâtre Illuminata series by Lisa Mantchev - The main character, Bertie, is stubborn and independent and tons of fun, and there's a gorgeously done love triangle in the second book that's all about self discovery.

The Case of the Missing Marquess and the whole Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer - These veer a bit more middle grade than YA, but Enola is fiercely independent and whip smart and they're really well written.

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon - This is an excellent historical fantasy, with a world inspired by ancient China, starring a tough, smart heroine on a quest. I loved that Ai Ling was by turns vulnerable and aggressive, she definitely read as teenager to the core.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson - Because it's a great story about falling in love with one of your best friends and figuring out that maybe you're gay, and it's also a story about growing older and what that does to friendships, AND it's funny enough to have you laughing out loud on the bus. Good times.