The best middle grade books with strong female protagonists

Who am I?

Whatever story I’m telling, I try to write female characters who are smart, funny, kind, and ultimately empowering; characters that drive the narrative, not the other way around. It is really important for me that my female characters have agency – that they actively move the story forward, make decisions and step up. Those are the kind of stories I like to read too. The books on this list are some of my favourites and all contain strong female protagonists. I hope you enjoy.


I wrote...

Girl (in Real Life)

By Tamsin Winter,

Book cover of Girl (in Real Life)

What is my book about?

Girl (in Real Life) is a funny and heartfelt novel exploring the highs and lows of online fame from award-winning author Tamsin Winter. Eva's parents run a hugely successful YouTube channel, and Eva is the star of the show. But she is getting sick of being made to pose in stupid mum-and-daughter matching outfits for sponsored posts. The freebies aren't worth the teasing at school. And when an intensely humiliating "period party" post goes viral, Eva is outraged. She's going to find a way to stop the channel, even if she has to sabotage it herself.

“Winter's funny and thought-provoking third novel vividly evokes the sense of powerlessness and exposure on the flip side of viral fame.” The Guardian

The books I picked & why

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The Shark Caller

By Zillah Bethell,

Book cover of The Shark Caller

Why this book?

I have always been fascinated by sharks, so to read the story of Blue Wing, who lives among them, was an absolute joy. Set on an island near Papua New Guinea, this is a heartbreaking story, beautifully and originally told, that explores grief, friendship, forgiveness, and our relationship with nature. I’ve traveled and swam with sharks near where this book is set and it was so special to revisit those places in the book. But it’s Blue Wing’s selflessness, wisdom, and bravery that make this book utterly unforgettable. 


The Land of Roar

By Jenny McLachlan, Ben Mantle (illustrator),

Book cover of The Land of Roar

Why this book?

As someone who has always had a somewhat overactive imagination, as soon as I heard the premise of this book – a land created by twins Rose and Arthur that comes to life – I was hooked. The Land of Roar is filled with incredible things – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards! But it is also filled with their childhood fears, personified by the truly terrifying Crowky. This is a heart-in-your-mouth series with a celebration of childhood adventure at its heart. 


Where The World Turns Wild

By Nicola Penfold,

Book cover of Where The World Turns Wild

Why this book?

Where the World Turns Wild plays on one of my biggest fears about the future – a world without nature. Juniper and her little brother Bear live in a walled city where nature has been almost completely eradicated following the outbreak of a disease. What remains is a tightly controlled and terrifying society that they must escape. Juniper’s bravery and her capacity for survival are driven by the fierce, protective love she has for her little brother. This is an adventure story like no other and one I have returned to time and again.


Sisters of the Lost Marsh: the atmospheric new story from Waterstones Prize-shortlisted author Lucy Strange

By Lucy Strange,

Book cover of Sisters of the Lost Marsh: the atmospheric new story from Waterstones Prize-shortlisted author Lucy Strange

Why this book?

I absolutely adore Lucy Strange’s books and her latest one, Sisters of the Lost Marsh, is a gloriously Gothic mystery with sisterhood at its centre. The story is about a family of six sisters reigned over by their tyrannical father. When one of the sisters goes missing, 12-year-old Willa decides to take matters into her own hands and uncover what happened. This book is a beautiful blend of mystery, folktale, and feminism and one I simply could not put down. 


The Ice Garden

By Guy Jones,

Book cover of The Ice Garden

Why this book?

This is an absolute heartstopper of a novel. The protagonist, Jess, has a rare skin condition that means she is allergic to sunlight. Even the tiniest exposure can cause her serious injury and pain. She lives her life in a world of loneliness and shadows, but is desperate for an adventure. When she sneaks out one night she discovers a garden of ice that will change her life forever. Not only did I love the magic of this novel, I loved Jess’s humour and I was weeping for her towards the end. A wonderful book that really touched my heart.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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