I’m lucky that I don’t have to convince my teenage daughter to read. She’s become quite the avid reader that I am but I started noticing that her book selection would be limited to stories my daughter believed would interest her which fell in line with the contemporary. When I would reach for a classic novel, my daughter would cringe and ask, “What’s that about? It looks boring.” So I made a deal with her. I would buy her the Pretty Little Liars series and not balk at her reading Twilight if she gave a few of my novel choices a chance. My daughter in turn started giving me books she found compelling enough to read and I found she was right.
Since both my daughter and I love books with strong, endearing, and/or relatable female lead characters, I made a list of books we both recommend for your teen/tween daughters. Please note: The age appropriateness of these novels vary and although I’ve made my age recommendations, please research first.
The Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell – recommend for ages 11 and older
I read this book when I was twelve and it’s still one of my favorites. Set on an island off the coast of California, this is the story of Karana, a young Native Indian, who is left to fend for herself after the demise of her tribe. This book was both intense and beautiful and I remember thinking what a tough chick the main character was and quickly gained my admiration.
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle – recommend for ages 11 and older
This book is perfect for a preteen and my own daughter admitted it was good after I forced her to read it. This novel follows main character, Meg Murry, in this sci-fi adventure that is also a coming of age story.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – recommend for ages 14 and older
This novel was on my required reading list my freshman year of high school. I admit that it was hard for me to get into it at first but I ended up falling in love with the main character, Jane, as her character endured so many ups and downs throughout the story.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier – recommend for ages 14 and older
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” This book was also required reading for me and quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time. The lead female character, Mrs. de Winter, is not one of the strongest female protagonists I’ve come across but I still liked her. She narrates the story as her older self reminiscing about her younger self when she first married Mr. de Winter. I found this relatable as an adult (when I read it again) because don’t we all reminisce about our younger selves?
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – recommend for ages 14 and older
Who couldn’t like Elizabeth Bennett and her antagonist relationship with Mr. Darcy? I loved this novel that I read of my own free will, I might add, as a teen and couldn’t help but to adore the female lead.
Uglies – Scott Westerfeld – recommend for ages 11 and older
These sci-fi novels follow Tally Youngblood as she rebels against society’s rules to become “pretty”. My daughter liked the moral of the story which was basically to find your own path, you don’t have to follow others’.
Maximum Ride Series – James Patterson – recommend for ages 11 and older
A sci-fi fantasy series, written by the famed James Patterson, brings you the story of Max,who along with six other children, try to discover who they are and where they come from while escaping scientists who were experimenting on them. This series was a favorite of my daughter’s because it had the total package: adventure, humor, great characters, and an awesome female lead.
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins – recommend for ages 12 and older
Also a sci-fi novel (notice the pattern here?), this novel is about Katniss Everdeen competing in a game of death with other children and teens in order to save her younger sister. My daughter decided to read this book before the movie came out (and was glad she did). She admired Katniss because of her caring but strong-minded nature.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett – recommend for ages 14 and older
Set in the South during the Civil Rights era, this book features several female characters as Skeeter, an aspiring novelist, causes an uproar when she writes about a group of African American maids. Again, my daughter read the book and saw the movie (in that order). She recommends this book because it brings forth a good lesson about making positive changes even in the face of adversity.
Cut – Patricia McCormick – recommend for ages 14 and older
Voted “Best Books for Young Adults” by the American Library Association, Cut is about fifteen-year-old Callie McPherson who’s inner turmoil causes her to cut herself. My daughter liked this book because of the character’s evolution from being a “weak” young woman to someone who overcomes her demons and is stronger for it.
My daughter and I also recommend I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou with strong caution. I did not read this novel until I was an adult however my daughter did read this for her English class her freshman year of high school. Although, there is some graphic content that may be disturbing to young readers, it’s a good book and if your daughter is mature and can handle it, I say let her go for it.
What are your favorite books from your childhood? Do you have a favorite female character protagonist? Tell us your thoughts.