Happy International Women’s Day! What a perfect day to branch out into the wonderful world of feminist YA. If you’ve read and loved Holly Bourne’s ‘How Hard Can Love Be?‘ but don’t know where to head next, we’ve got your back.
Holly Bourne is spearheading the cause for feminism in UKYA at the moment and we heart her. Her latest book, ‘How Hard Can Love Be?’, is the second book in the Spinster Club series and it carries on championing female friendships, discussing being a woman in all its glory and the trials and tribulations of looking for love.
Here are 6 of our very favourite feminist YA novels to get that feminist fire burning!
It’s unlikely that you won’t have heard of Louise O’Neill’s debut dystopia. It’s a bleak, unforgiving look at the pressures put upon women to make themselves appealing to men. The girls (eves) in frieda and isabel’s world are bred for that very reason: as companions (wives), as concubines (mistresses) and the ones nobody chooses become the chastities. They have no right to their bodies, are encouraged not to think, the worse crime you can commit is being fat and the girls don’t even have the privilege of a captial letter to start their name… It’s incredibly powerful and will make you fiercely angry.
When the fifty girls competing for the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant end up stranded on a desert island, all hell breaks lose. This book is side-splittingly hilarious. Libba Bray’s humour is dry and witty and she delivers the most wonderful messages about female empowerment: about owning your sexuality, not apologising for the space we take up in the world, how women are sexualised to sell everything:
“The Corporation would like to apologize for the proceeding pages. Of course it’s not alright for girls to behave this way. Sexuality is not meant to be this way – an honest, consensual expression in which a girl might take an active role when she feels good and ready and not a second before. No. Sexual desire is meant to sell soap. And cars. And beer. And religion.”
When Frankie discovers that her boyfriend is part of a secret boys-only club at her exclusive prep school, Alabaster, she decides it’s time to act. What ensues are the most glorious pranks of revenge, but they also reveal the elitist, sexist and exclusivity of the club and Alabaster itself. This book is driven by Frankie’s intelligence and self-awareness. There’s no hint of our heroine being blinded by love – she knows exactly how much Matthew is (subconsciously) trying to fit her to what he wants. It’s SO GOOD.
‘All the Rage’ by Courtney Summers
Courtney Summers’ fifth novel, but the first to be published in the UK, is a blistering, sparsely written look at the aftermath of a rape. After Romy is raped by the town’s golden boy, Kellan Turner, she is branded a liar and the whole town turns against her, but when news of someone else tied to Kellan, she has to decide whether to stand up and fight or not. This is a tough read. It made us sad, and furious, and frustrated, and it highlights the danger of rape culture in the starkest way possible. It’s books like these that should be required reading.
This is one of our very favourite books, and for good reason. It a sweeping fantasy set in a world where some people are born with a Grace: an exceptional skill that is both feared and revered. Katsa is Grace is killing and she is pure badassery. Katsa refuses to be owned by another person, even Po (*happy sigh*) who she’s wholly in love with, she’s doesn’t want to marry and won’t compromise her beliefs and wants. She’s fierce and independent and we love her.
‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Now this isn’t YA, it’s not even fiction – it’s Adichie’s TED talk – but if you’re starting out in feminism, it’s a must-read. At only 65 pages, you can have this under your belt in half hour, and you really should. Adichie discusses being a woman in Nigeria and being a woman in America, the way women are treated in the academic community and the constructs of masculinity. This to-the-point little essay answers the oft posed question of: “Why feminism?”
What are your favourite feminist YA novels? Tell us at @maximumpopbooks!
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