The best feminist young adult sci-fi and fantasy books

The Books I Picked & Why

Iron Widow

By Xiran Jay Zhao

Book cover of Iron Widow

Why this book?

I was shocked when I read Iron Widow - seriously, what a sci-fi powerhouse! It’s a retelling of the rise of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history. But since it’s sci-fi, it has a ruthless patriarchal military system and giant mecha robots. Boy pilots are celebrated like heroes, but girl pilots are treated like concubines, like Zetian’s sister, who was killed. I loved the raw power of Zetian as she swears to get even with men responsible for her sister’s death.


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Cast in Firelight

By Dana Swift

Book cover of Cast in Firelight

Why this book?

Cast in Firelight is such an awesome combination of romance, adventure, and feminism! It’s about two teens arranged to be married who always try to outdo each other. After years of not seeing each other, they meet up, but each thinks the other is someone else. They end up teaming up to save their countries and start to fall for each other. I adored the mix of rom-com and superhero fantasy action, and especially how powerful a girl can be when she puts her mind to it and trusts herself.


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City of Shattered Light

By Claire Winn

Book cover of City of Shattered Light

Why this book?

The two girls in City of Shattered Light could not be fiercer! Asa’s a runaway rich girl who flees home to save her sister, a victim of scientific tests. Riven’s a tough smuggler gunning for a big bounty to guarantee her a place in one of the city’s matriarchal (!) crime syndicates. There’s kidnapping, a wild neon sci-fi world, and a healthy portion of romantic longing. I loved this misfit team!


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A Curse of Roses

By Diana Pinguicha

Book cover of A Curse of Roses

Why this book?

Set in the patriarchal 1200s, this book fascinated me with a look at the lengths people are willing to go for their beliefs. Yzabel tries to turn a curse into a blessing but is hindered by men who think they know better and believe they need to keep the women in line. I was absolutely taken with the intelligence, cunning, and magic Yzabel and a few other women use to try to save the people of Portugal!


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Rise of the Red Hand

By Olivia Chadha

Book cover of Rise of the Red Hand

Why this book?

Oh wow, the world in this book was as amazing as it was scary and realistic. The country is ruined by climate change and ruled by a ruthless, technocratic government that sacrifices the poor to finance a utopia for the rich. So two poor, revolutionary girls from the streets work with a politician’s son (and secret hacker) to change that. I really enjoyed reading about these kick-ass heroines!


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