In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about feminist children’s books. Now I want up the age scale and talk about feminist books for teens. The teen market has exploded recently, and many of the books, like The Hunger Games have strong female leads, but there are other popular series, like Twilight that feature female leads that are not only lacking in strength, but seem to be lacking anything outside of the man they are attached to.
The teen years, let’s face it, are awkward for everyone. Reading about strong female characters like Katniss Everdeen and hearing her internal monologue can be inspiring, but unrelatable for some teenagers. The list I put together features all kinds of women dealing with all kinds of topics: fantasy, romance, friendship, immigration, war, mysteries, and beauty pageants.
Feminism is a movement that allows women to be themselves and not adhere to anyone’s agenda, except their own. While these books all feature female protagonists, they aren’t just for teenage girls to read. Women’s issues aren’t just women’s issues: they’re human issues that people of any gender or age can appreciate and identify with – from being awkward and seeking out friendship to coping with the aftermath of a terrible life event.
This science fiction book stars a girl by the name of Meg who lives in a town that doesn’t appreciate her. One day, Meg, her little brother, and their friend Calvin go on a quest through space to find their father. This book is one that teens who feel they don’t fit in will easily identify with, which has made it a classic.
How do you escape the labels others thrust upon you, like slut? Yet a better question, can you forgive those who gave you that label in the first place? Deanna Lambert has to deal with living in a small town and what being caught in the backseat of a car at the age of 13 by her father, who labels her a slut, does to her reputation. She wants to escape her hometown and leave this hurtful label behind, but sometimes escape isn’t a viable option.
The four Garcia sisters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia, have a lot to deal with after them move from the Dominican Republic to New York City in 1960. These girls have to figure out who they are not only as women, but in their new country as well. The novel deals with racism, immigration, assimilation, social expectations, and bicultural/biracial identities during a time of social unrest that drove their family to the United States.
Eleanor, a 15 year old transfer student, is picked on at her new school because she is overweight and dresses as she pleases. Park is a Korean boy who feels like an outsider living in Omaha, Nebraska. These two awkward teens find out they have a lot in common from their love of X-Men comics to their love of mixed tapes. Put all these elements together, shake them up, and you have a touching story of a first romance with two offbeat characters.
Sophie thinks she is doomed to an uninteresting life as a hatter, that is, someone who makes and sells hats. Sophie’s real life and adventure begins when the Witch of the Wastes turns her into an old woman and Sophie hides on an odd moving castle. There she meets the chilly wizard Howl. This humorous book follows Sophie as she tries to break her curse, but it’s really her curse that allows her to figure out who she is.
Some of you might recognize Philip Pullman as the author of the fantasy series His Dark Materials, another set of books by Pullman that features strong female characters. Sally Lockhart is trapped in a world far from fantasy. She deals with her father’s death and is seeking out the truth about what happened to him. Sally is in a dangerous world and exhibits bravery, intelligence, and independence in the face of danger.
Have you ever wondered to yourself, “self, if we took the choir boys from Lord of the Flies and replaced them with the girls in Miss Teen Dream Pageant, what would happen?” This book is a comedy that will make you laugh hard and think hard. I should also mention this book features sexy pirates, because no book about beauty queens is complete until there is a sexy pirate or two.
This book isn’t told in the way a classic story is told – from start to finish with a narration connecting all the thoughts together. Instead, it’s a series of vignettes, or short, descriptive literary pieces, that paint he story of Esperanza. Esperanza is a Hispanic girl living in poverty within the inner city. She dreams of escape from this world but is also experiencing her world and growing up in it while she dreams. This story is highly imaginative and poetic.
Love can happen unexpectedly, and at the worst time. Like on the cusp of war. For Daisy, a 15 year old American visiting her family in England, love happens as bombs from an unknown attacker are falling on England. At first, the teenagers are left without adult supervision and feel removed from the war going on around them, but soon the war catches up to them and Daisy has to navigate her feelings with the landscape of war surrounding them.
For more feminist teen readings, check out this 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader from Bitch Magazine or this previous blog post I wrote about my favorite feminist fantasy books, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.
Today’s Books for Feminists post featured teen lit, check back later for adult literature and classic feminist literature.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter @ThePandaBard, on Pinterest @ThePandaBard, or on Medium @ThePandaBard. You can also find her research on Academia.Edu at Cpp.Academia.Edu/MandaRiggle.