The best girl power young adult sci-fi/fantasy books

Maree Kimberley Author Of Dirt Circus League
By Maree Kimberley

Who am I?

I love young adult fiction. I especially love it when female characters face their fears and fight for what’s right. And if they’re not afraid to run headfirst into a battle, even better. I think it’s incredibly important for young women to have access to books that break free of female stereotypes. None of the heroines in these books are waiting for someone to save them. They’re in the thick of it, confronting their demons, and maybe slaying a few, too! My PhD explored power and belonging in YA fiction, and I’ve written and presented on the importance of strong female characters. Here’s to girl power!

I wrote...

Dirt Circus League

By Maree Kimberley,

Book cover of Dirt Circus League

What is my book about?

Dirt Circus League is a compelling and fast-paced novel about the powerful allure of danger.

Asa’s running from a troubled past. To a remote outback town, a disappointing father, and a fresh start that’s already souring. But then the notorious Dirt Circus League arrives. A troupe of outcast teens performing spectacular fight sequences and challenging any who dares to take part. They’re ruthless. Menacing. Thrilling. And led by the magnetic Quarter. He’s dark, powerful, and intensely attractive—and he faces a threat only Asa can see. Will Asa be drawn into the league’s mysterious community? And, as she discovers the violent secrets at its heart, will she delve into her own untapped abilities to save herself—and heal those caught in its evil web?

The books I picked & why

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The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

By Ambelin Kwaymullina,

Book cover of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

Why this book?

Ashala Wolf is an unforgettable character. Strong-willed, she’s always ready to fight for her people and will stop at nothing to uncover the truth. Even when her Sleepwalker super-power fails her, even when confronted by the worst in others, even when brought to her knees by physical and emotional pain, Ashala battles on to expose evil and protect those she loves. 

Ambelin Kwaymullina creates such a wonderfully realised world in this novel, from the beauty of the magical Firstwood forest to the sterile horror of the detention centre. I love Ashala Wolf’s intelligence, fierceness and loyalty to her friends. And like many of my favourite female characters, she’s someone who’s not afraid to run towards a fight.

In the Dark Spaces

By Cally Black,

Book cover of In the Dark Spaces

Why this book?

In the Dark Spaces is a stunning YA novel breathed into life by its main character, Tamara, a heroine who grabbed my heart from the first lines and didn’t let go. 

Tamara loves her family above everything else. And when she’s separated from them in a universe torn apart by war, she must draw on all her strength and smarts to survive. Her gift for languages and ability to adapt gives her an advantage when she’s captured by the enemy. But she’s also forced to do things that terrify her and break her heart. I love Tamara’s unique voice, and the way it expresses the deep bonds that tie us to friends and family made my heart sing. She’s truly a heroine that embodies the fighting spirit.

The Last City

By Nina D'Aleo,

Book cover of The Last City

Why this book?

Fast-paced action, adventure, humour, combat, and brilliant world building: The Last City has it all. The female characters fight alongside — and against the male characters in this action-packed sci-fi novel, set in the multi-layered city of Scorpia. I loved immersing myself in this fictional world inhabited by a legion of post-human species. The struggles of the main female characters, including Sihlo, whose history means she’s a target for the bad guys, and object-morphing Diega, are drawn with clarity and depth that meant I really cared for these oddball creatures and cheered for them to defeat the enemy. This book is such a lot of fun, and I loved it from start to finish.


By Jodi McAlister,

Book cover of Valentine

Why this book?

Valentine is the first in a three-book urban fantasy series, and I’ll be honest: Pearl, the heroine, annoyed me at times. That doesn’t make her a bad character. Quite the opposite. Author Jodi McAlister gives her heroine room to grow over the course of the trilogy and I really enjoyed watching Pearl’s character develop and mature. She has a lot to cope with when the Unseelie comes looking for the fairy changeling that was swapped for a human at birth. Is it Pearl? Or one of the three others in her group that share the same birthday? I loved the way Pearl’s teenage suburban life contrasts with the terrifying and unpredictable Unseelie. It makes the menacing evil within the book all too real. I read it with one eye on my garden in case of invading evil faeries!

The Undercurrent

By Paula Weston,

Book cover of The Undercurrent

Why this book?

There’s nothing I like more than fast-paced action adventure with a gutsy heroine. Add a bit of electricity — and by that I mean an uncontrollable electrical undercurrent that surges beneath the heroine’s skin — and I know I’m going to be hooked. This YA sci-fi-romance is peppered with intrigue and activism as the novel’s heroine, Julianne, crosses Australia from the city to the outback to investigate who caused the explosion that trapped her and the attractive but secretive Ryan in a city elevator. She encounters activists, suffering farming families, greedy corporations, and the military in her quest to uncover the truth, and kicks quite a few butts along the way. If you love action-adventure with real heart as much as I do, check out The Undercurrent.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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