So, kick-ass heroines. I was all set to write this list and include all of the female characters I'd normally include if I were thinking of 'kick-ass' girls. You know the ones - Katniss Everdeen, Rose Hathaway, Tally Youngblood, Katsa from Graceling. Maybe Hermione Granger or Tris from the Divergent series. And then I decided that I didn't want to do a list of these girls. I'm sure plenty of other people will be writing about these girls and I think that will be enough.
It was actually in The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead, which I was reading recently, where I read something that made me stop and think. In it, one of the characters was talking about Sydney and said something along the lines of there are other ways to be kick-ass besides being a bad-ass dhampir like Rose. So in the same vein, I wanted to create a list of normal girls for the kick-ass category. Girls from contemporary YA novels, in which none of them have any special powers or weapons training. None of them are part-vampire and none of them have magical abilities to help them along. And yet they are some truly awesome women nonetheless.
Here is my list of kick-ass heroines from contemporary YA, and just to make things simpler, they are all from books that I've read in 2012. Enjoy.
I want a real life Ruby Oliver to come and be my best friend. For reals. I think she is super awesome with her sassy ways and her weird fashion sense. Ruby Oliver is definitely kick-ass to me, she's one of my favourite characters ever written and I am utterly sad to have read the final book in the series about her!
A lot of struggles in the series were about the boys that have circled around her, but she also deals with a fair dose of what else is important - friends, family, herself, music, sticking up for what's right, having the self-confidence in order to go after what you want, the realisation of knowing what will make you happy and not cowering in the face of not so nice people. Nothing but love for Ruby Oliver!
Echo is definitely my kind of kick-ass heroine. She's going through some rough stuff. She used to be one of the popular girls in the in-crowd with everything going for her. And then she's attacked by somebody close to her and afterwards she's left with no memory of the event and nobody giving her any answers either.
But Echo refuses to give up. So she doesn't have the charmed life she has before. But with the help of a certain bad boy, Echo continues asking the hard questions, searching for the answers she so desperately needs. It was very painful at times, reading Echo's story. I wanted to give her a big hug throughout most of it, but Echo is tougher than she looks and I give her plenty of credit for opening up her heart again after the hurt and betrayal she has faced.
Ah, Jeane Smith. She's not everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure. I've read plenty of reviews along the lines of how unlikeable she is as a character. Me? I thought she was pretty realistic - moody and emotional and a right cow sometimes. But she's also pretty lonely and dealing with too much stuff for her young age.
I love that she's got this weird fashion sense and that she speaks her mind and that she's incredibly successful and independent. But that isn't to say that she isn't quite vulnerable at times too and that she doesn't need other people in her life. She quite clearly does. Asking for help and needing other people? Is pretty kick-ass to me.
With Daisy we have yet another broken heroine on my list. Daisy has gone through some pretty rotten times during the course of this book. She's lost her father, she's dealing with the guilt of killing her mother. People in her life that should have had her back have used her terribly. She has no one left and she's carrying these dark, guilty thoughts.
What I love most about Daisy's story is that bad stuff happens, but things can always get better. Luckily Daisy has a kick-ass mentor of her own that helps Daisy back to a better place. But characters like Daisy show us all that we all have the ability to be kick-ass in our own way. Even if that way is just by not giving up hope.
I really wish that more people knew about Cass and this story. I haven't seen very many reviews of this book and that is a shame. I really loved this story and I love the journey, but physically and mentally, that Cass takes.
This book is told in different parts. On the one hand, we have Cass as she's travelling across country on her bicycle. Her and her best friend were supposed to take a road trip over the summer but she dies suddenly and her death changes everything! So on this road trip, we see flashes of Cass and her best friend before dies and we have Cass on this cycling trip trying to deal with her grief and also her confusing feelings about how she felt about her friend.
And in another part, we see Cass as she has come back home after her trip and together she helps this play that her best friend wrote about ninjas and cool stuff. And Cass has to deal with this circle of friends and also Cass' arch-nemesis, the girl who 'outed' Cass years ago. I love how much this book is about friendship and fitting in as well as it is about love and also of confusion about sexuality. This is definitely one of my favourite books that I've read all year. I really recommend it!
I never reviewed The Fault in Our Stars because I didn't think that anything that I have to say about the book would be different enough to warrant yet another gushing review of the book. It's a beautiful book though, and I love Hazel as a character. She's brave and funny and interesting and I would love to be best friends with a character like her.
It's really quite emotional, this story. The idea that this girl is facing her own death from cancer, not once but twice in her short life. She worries about how her family will cope with her loss by focusing on the characters of her favourite novel. I love Hazel's observations on life and the other people she knows. Her relationship with fellow-cancer-survivor, Augustus is unbearably sweet. I honestly can't think of this story or of Hazel and Augustus with tears coming to my eyes.
It seems that a lot of the girls I've chosen from this list are people who have gone through some bad stuff and have then picked themselves up and moved on. I really, really believe that doing this is worthy of the term 'kick-ass.' And Carly is no exception. At the beginning of Raw Blue she is resigned herself to dropping out of school, working a dead-end job and surfing. Because surfing is the only thing that allows her to be happy and not obsess over what happened to her two years ago. Then Carly meets Ryan, another surfer fresh out of jail, and Carly has to decide whether she can do the scary thing and move forward, away from her past.
When I first started to read this book I really felt like it was going to be a straight forward love story about two sort of broken people, one with terrible memories of the past and the other with the baggage of being in jail. What I loved about this book is that while Raw Blue does contain that love story, it is more about Carly herself - how Carly is able to take one step at a time to get past the trauma that she suffered. I love that focus on just her.
It's been awhile since I've said it, but this magical middle-grade series by ML Welsh is one of my absolutely favourite series of recent years! I LOVE Verity Gallant. In this sequel to Mistress of the Storm, we see Verity in her seaside town with her friends standing up to more evil. I love how in both Mistress of the Storm and Heart of Stone, Verity and her friends are up against really powerful, magical and evil beings and they're just regular. They have goodness and intelligence on their side. Plus, Verity is tough. But in her toughness, she still knows that she needs her friends around her. And I love the friendships that Verity has with Martha and Henry. I wish I had friendships like these when I was younger and who am I kidding? I wish I had them now.
One of the things that I love so much about these books are the importance placed on words and books and these Original Stories. I love that librarians are the biggest force against evil! That made my heart sing. This book is utterly sweet with a hint of the old-fashioned about it, with strong friendships and adventure and a hint of first love. Verity and her friends are strong, smart and independent with a strong sense of what's right. And that definitely makes her kick-ass in my eyes.
I really loved Lola. Despite having no fashion-sense myself, I really love characters like Lola with a bit of flair about them. I'm far too shy and uncomfortable in my own skin to make much of a statement and the idea of everyone staring at my outlandish costumes would make my heart pound wildly and my breathing would go all erratic. But not so Lola, who lives for fashion and for these cool outfits.
But I think what I loved most about Lola is despite the weird clothes, she's very normal. She's struggling through what we're all struggling through. Relationship issues, friendships both old and new, what our parents want for us versus what we want for ourselves, wondering who 'ourselves' really are. Normal girls are still kick-ass!
I almost didn't include Anna in this list because of the element of time travel within Time Between Us, but I figured Anna isn't the one with the magical ability, so she counts as a contemporary YA kick-ass heroine! And I did so love Anna.
Anna has been almost nowhere in her entire life. She's focused on her running and her dreams of travelling the world. And then she meets Bennett, who is a time traveller from the future. He has this ability to take Anna anywhere in the world at any time and they fall in love and it's wonderful...
But what I love most about Anna is that she decides not to become that girl who relies on her boyfriend to take her to the places she dreams of, she's capable of doing that all on her own. She decides not to become that girl who waits around for him in order to be happy.
So there are my top ten choices of kick-ass heroines in contemporary YA. I'd love to hear who you would choose?