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Warrior Women: Epic Adventures with Tough Heroines

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • June 19, 2019

Chick Lit Champions

It has a reputation for being light and fluffy, but what exactly is chick lit? Is it books about women or for women? Does it need to be romantic? Should it make us laugh? Is it the same thing as beach read? A potboiler to enjoy in the bath with a glass of wine? In our humble opinion, chick lit (which has been proven to be enjoyed by men too, btw) can be all these things and more. Read on to explore an especially fun subcategory of the genre. These are five of our all-time favorite books featuring powerful women and girls who stand up and fight!

Kindred by Octavia Butler

The legendary Octavia Butler has been lauded as the first African-American woman to reach national prominence as a sci-fi writer, but that distinction hardly seems important when the product is this good. Offering a unique perspective on slave-era America thanks to a time-traveling twist, Kindred had us spellbound from page one. This book was written in 1976, but still feels relevant! The premise? A young black woman in 1970s California, is suddenly and inexplicably yanked back in time to Maryland in 1815, where she saves a white boy from drowning only to find herself staring down the barrel of a shotgun. The combination of time travel with historical fiction works exceptionally well in this context. There's something particularly eye-opening about having our heroine hop from modern times to pre-Civil War society.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

An NPR review of this 2017 contemporary thriller declares that it is hard to read, but even harder to put down. We concur! Fourteen-year-old Turtle (Julia) lives with her father Martin, a charismatic sociopath who is convinced that the world is rapidly headed for ecological doom. Martin has trained Turtle extensively in off-the-grid survival tactics, including marksmanship, plant identification, and navigation. He keeps her isolated and afraid with regular psychological and physical abuse. Despite his exacting cruelty, Turtle adores Martin, but as she begins to make connections outside of his insular world, she begins to realize that something is very wrong with their life together. Warning: this book contains graphic descriptions of violence.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

If you haven't read this bestselling 1997 novel yet, get thee hence and pick up a copy! Set in biblical times, this is a book that truly transports the reader to far-off time and place. Diamant is certainly not the first author to offer the female perspective on a male-dominated historical episode, but she sets herself apart with this fantastic retelling of the story of Dinah, a minor figure from the book of Genesis. Beginning with the lives of her mothers, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah, wives of Jacob, Dinah emerges as a fierce and hardworking woman fighting to protect herself and those she loves. With her lyrical, evocative writing style, Diamant brings rich depth to the lives of women in ancient times.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Another classic, this young adult fantasy, first published in 1982, is one of our all-time favorites! Harry Crewe is a recently orphaned young woman who comes to live with relatives in Damar, a fictional desert country shared uneasily by the Homelanders (colonizers) and the secretive, magical Hillfolk (natives). Relations between Homelanders and Hillfolk are tense, setting the stage for conflict. Harry feels largely invisible and insignificant, that is until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King. Harry is a wonderfully relatable protagonist with her quiet unassuming power. Once she gets a sword in her hand, she is seriously unstoppable! This is a great choice for kids and adults alike.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

This 2016 dystopian novel is a little different from the others. Rather than featuring one powerful female character, it imagines a world where young women all over the world spontaneously develop the power to create electricity with their hands. This shocking development (hee hee) sets off a sea change as women gain physical power over the men who have, in many cases, abused and oppressed them. It's a wild, thrilling ride as young women rise up in a worldwide revolution against the tyranny they have faced for generations. The results are intense and unsettling—an illuminating take on the dark side of human nature. This is another book containing descriptions of graphic violence.

Keep ‘Em Coming!

This is just a few of our favorite ferocious females in literature, but we know there are bunches of others. Reply with your favorites! And be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more great reading recs.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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Related Subjects

Fantasy | YA | SciFi | Women_Authors
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