Things are changing for women; history is now actively including HERstory. In order to continue to grow as strong women, we need role models to mimic and look up to. Even though all of these characters are fictional, they’re strong and exemplary people that sing an anthem of hope for women as a whole. They all have something to teach us.
Here are ten novels featuring incredibly strong women!
Just a heads up, this post contains affiliate links—that means I get a small commission of any sales made from the links below, but the price is the same for you whether you purchase via my link or directly from Amazon 🙂
1. Where the Crawdads Sing
AUTHOR: Delia Ownes
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Coming of Age
SUMMARY: Where the Crawdads Sing is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Kya Clark who grows up in the marsh of North Carolina.
Left by her mother when she was only six, her brothers and sisters the years following, and then eventually her father, she has no choice but to figure out how to do life completely secluded and on her own.
Despite only going to school one day in her entire life, Kya is smart and sensitive. She has sharp insights about the world and people. She’s been abandoned, ridiculed, and on the receiving end of prejudices no one—especially a child—should have to endure, yet she’s still fascinated by life.
Kya is a brilliant character who will melt your heart. And just when you think you’re starting to understand her, she throws you for loop after loop.
2 .To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
AUTHOR: Jenny Han
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction | Romance
SUMMARY: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean and the deep love she’s kept buried in a hatbox.
Each time Lara Jeans falls in love, instead of confessing her feelings to the boy at the other end, she writes a heartfelt letter, pouring her soul onto the page, and then tucks the letter safely away, knowing it will never to be seen again. Except, somehow, all of her letters find their way to their never-intended recipients.
While mortifying, the public reveal of her feelings wouldn’t be that bad, except that her sister’s newly ex-boyfriend Josh received one.
To save face and try to restore some of her dignity, Lara Jean makes a deal with Peter K., the school’s resident heartthrob.
As Lara Jean and Peter go about their fake relationship, she starts to realize maybe she doesn’t have the feelings for Josh she thought she had. And Peter isn’t at all like she thought he was.
3. A Woman is No Man
AUTHOR: Etaf Rum
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Family Saga
SUMMARY: In A Woman Is No Man, three generations of Arab-American women tell their story, something that’s never been done in their culture before.
Fareeda is the family matriarch, running the household in Brookyln, New York after she and her husband escape from their horrendous homeland. Fareeda is a stickler for tradition and reputation, making sure to let her new daughter-in-law Isra know how much she’s letting the family down by only bringing baby girls into the world and no boys.
Isra moves to Brooklyn from Palestine when she marries Fareeda’s son Adam in an arranged marriage. Eager at the idea of a new start in America and freedom to be her own person, Isra’s hopes are extinguished when she quickly discovers that America is not only just as suffocating as Palestine, but now she’s surrounded by strangers posing as family.
Deya, Isra’s daughter, has approached the age where she’s meeting with suitors, but despite her grandmother Fareeda’s urging, she objects to marriage and only wants to set her focus on college. When a mysterious stranger shows up looking for her, Deya begins to understand why she feels so rebellious and what her past memories really mean.
4. Mrs. Everything
AUTHOR: Jennifer Weiner
GENRE: Women’s Fiction | Historical Fiction | Coming of Age | Family Saga | LGBTQ
SUMMARY: Mrs. Everything is the story of Jo and Bethie Kaufman, two sisters coming of age in the ’50s and ’60s. Growing up, Jo and Bethie got along well, despite their differences. Jo was sporty, good in school and harboring a secret that caused her to build heavy walls around herself. Bethie was girly, felt alive in the center of a stage and would go to any length to look the part of the glamorous star she believed she was meant to be.
But as time passes, Jo and Bethie grow apart.
Jo finds herself conforming to all the ideals and expectations of women in modern society, despite her earlier iconoclast years. After fighting so hard to stay out of the cookie cutter mold, pure exhaustion leads her to fall right in the middle of it.
Bethie finds herself lost, literally and figuratively. After a devasatting and traumatic experience, Bethie wanders the world, sleeping on park benches, eating whatever food she can find and roaming farther and farther away from the idyllic life she’d always wanted.
But as the sisters get older they both start to realize that there’s never a time when one must stop trying—it’s always possible to change your own circumstances. Instead of letting their lives happen to them, they finally realize that it’s their personal responsibility to mold their experiences into the lives they truly want.
5. The Girl He Used to Know
AUTHOR: Tracy Garvis Graves
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Romance
SUMMARY: The Girl He Used to Know is the story of Annika and Jonathan—alternating between ten years ago when they were in college, first falling in love, and present day, rekindling the flame that was extinguished so suddenly all those years before.
Annika is a high-maintenance girl, although she doesn’t intend to be. She has special social needs and finds it hard to click with others. But when she meets Jonathan during her senior year in college, he seems to just get her.
They fall in love and have a wonderful relationship, until something tragically pulls them apart.
Now, ten years after college, they run into each other again, both having never lost those feelings from so long ago.
6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
AUTHOR: Taylor Jenkins Reid
GENRE: Historical Fiction | LGBTQ
SUMMARY: In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Evelyn Hugo is a Hollywood legend, growing to the height of fame in the 1960s.
While Evelyn had a thriving and memorable career on camera, she was even more infamous for her personal life, especially, her seven husbands.
Now, retired and coming towards the end of her life, Evelyn contacts an unknown journalist, Monique, to author her biography—promising insights into her life she’s never granted to anyone before.
But the seemingly connectionless tie between Evelyn and Monique becomes more clear, and more significant, as Evelyn shares her untold story of heartbreak, hard lessons and forbidden love.
7. The Kiss Quotient
AUTHOR: Helen Hoang
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Romance
SUMMARY: The Kiss Quotient is a gender-swap version of Pretty Woman. Stella, an autistic girl with a big brain and an even bigger heart, hires Michael, a professional male-escort, to teach her the ways of the bedroom.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Despite Stella’s rigorous lesson plans, she begins to fall for him. And not just fall—obsess.
But Michael has some issues of his own—he has a treacherous past and is constantly living under the fear that he might be turning into his father, a very, very bad man.
This is a sexy and fun loving story that’s unique and refreshing.
8. Ask Again, Yes
AUTHOR: Mary Beth Keane
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Coming of Age | Family Saga
SUMMARY: Ask Again, Yes is the story of two neighboring families, close in proximity but not in heart. But when an unexpected violent event happens, separating them miles and miles, their lives become intertwined forever.
This book spans almost four decades, following the members of the families through various milestones of their lives—marriage, infidelity, illness, births, new jobs, new homes, lost jobs, and even death.
While the external story is a coming-of-age family saga, the real story is about forgiveness—how much can it way down those who have not yet given it and who gets the most benefit when it’s finally granted—the one who gives it or the one who gets it?
9. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
AUTHOR: Anissa Gray
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Family Saga
SUMMARY: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is the story of three sisters—Althea, Viola, and Lillian—and their complicated lives.
Althea is the oldest, having raised her younger siblings, the other two girls as well as their brother. Althea had always been strong willed and focused; being made to step in as the family matriarch at such a young age further hardened that will.
But when Althea and her husband Proctor are arrested and sentenced to prison for seven years, the younger sisters have to step up to fill Althea’s shoes.
This story alternates between Althea, Viola, and Lillian, going through their current lives while also taking long looks back at their formidable years.
This is a strong story about family obligations, mistakes that grow more powerful than ever anticipated, and the complicated business of forgiveness.
10. The Help
AUTHOR: Katherine Stockett
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SUMMARY: It’s 1960s Mississippi, a time where “separate but equal” is the social norm.
The Help is told from the perspective of three different women—Aibileen, an experienced black maid who is currently raising her seventeenth white child, Minny, a younger and sassier black maid who has lost yet another housekeeping job because of her untamable tongue, and Skeeter, a post-graduate white woman who is determined to stay out of the box society wants to put her in.
Trying to break into the competitive world of publishing in New York City, Skeeter quickly realizes she needs to set her self apart if she ever wants a chance to become an editor. Devoid of any real experience, Skeeter decides to write a book about the domestic help in Mississippi, from the perspectives of the maids.
After much coercion, Aibileen and Minny finally decide to help Skeeter with her project, even though they all have to keep it the utmost secret. If anyone discovers what they’re doing, it will be more than reputations that are at risk.
What’s a novel you love with a strong female lead? Share it in the comments below!