Girls Who Kick Ass

Who run the world?

Most of my favourite books feature a strong female lead character. And when I say strong, I don’t just mean a characters who’s handy with a blade and ends the book with a moody haircut or someone who the book blurb would patronizingly describe as “feisty”. Girls who kick ass are more than that. Sure it helps if they can punch a person’s head clean off their body, but strength can be emotional, intellectual or physical and in the case of a really good book, it’s all three. They’re strong characters not because they’re badass, but because they’re strong, they’re flawed and they’re real. Here are some of my favourite kick ass female leads from YA books. It's an ongoing list, so please don't think I'm so badly read that this is all I could come up with. Anyone I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

Who? Karou
From? Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy
Why? She's trained in all manner of martial arts, kicks ass and takes names when Brimstone's contacts don't deliver, and ultimately saves the world! All that aside though, Karou is badass because she's a survivor. She goes through bleak, depressing, horrible things in the series, but still stands strong and does what she believes to be right even at the cost of her own happiness.

"Be your own place of safety, she told herself, straightening. No crossbar in the world could protect her from what lay ahead, and neither could a tiny knife tucked in her boot - though there her tiny knife would most certainly remain - and neither could a man, not even Akiva. She had to be her own strength, complete unto herself."

Who? Lola LeFever
From? The Girl Who Would Be King
Why? You mean aside from the godlike superpowers? Lola begins TGWWBK by offing her own mother, donning a black catsuit and driving her motorcycle to Vegas with a plan to launch her own criminal empire, killing anyone and everyone who gets in her way.

Sure she's evil. And she's sadistic. And she's more than a little bit crazy - 14 boys pay the price for the one she loved breaking her heart - but Lola's ass kicking prowess cannot be denied. After all, any 16 year old who can take over downtown LA with a handful of hastily acquired henchmen and punch helicopters out of the sky gets GWKA (girls who kick ass) status from me!

From? Six of Crows
Why? Inej is my favouite "crow" in Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows, no mean feat when one of the other crows is Jesper, who I may love. And in my head looks like Anthony Mackie. Known as The Wraith, she's a ninja-esque spy, acrobat, enforcer, guard, watcher and all-round ass kicker. Captured and sold into slavery in the brothel's of rough end of town known as The Barrell, Inej joins Kaz Brekker's gang to become one of the most notorious figures in a notorious place. But even after years of abuse and even more years of lurking in the shadows, she's still not broken. Even her blades are named after the saints she still believes watch over her, and her share of the Six of Crows loot is going on a ship to hunt down and blast apart would-be slaver traders. The beating heart of a bleak life story, I really hope Inej gets the happy ending she deserves!

Who? Shahrzad
From? The Wrath and The Dawn
Why? The Caliph of Khorosan always has his brides killed at first dawn after marrying them. So why does Shazi volunteer herself for marriage? The murder the boy-king and avenge the death of her best friend. Succeeding where all others failed, the fast thinking Shazi becomes Queen, breaking the cycle of death and discovering the Caliph's secret. Ultimately, her head and her heart want two different things, but it's Shazi's strong sense of right and wrong, her determination, her fallibility and her inner strength that make her a girl who kicks ass. Her ability to put an arrow in a bullseye without aiming helps too.

"He was stronger than she was. Of that, there was no doubt. She could not best him physically. But I'm not here to fight. I'm here to win."

Who? Nym
From? The Storm Siren trilogy
Why? It's not about the power to rain down storms from the sky at will (or not in some cases). It's not about riding a monsterous, flesh-eating war horse. No, Nym is one of my favourite characters ever commited to the printed page because she kicks ass in spite of that. Sold into slavery and changing owners since she was a little kid, she'd be forgiven for lightning-zapping her way through anyone who crossed her. But she doesn't. Instead it's her compassion and desire to help rather than harm that lead her to become something more than just a weapon and the ultimate book themes of choice, compassion and redemption play out through perfectly through this prickly, headstrong, fiercely determined character.

“This war that’s been waged in and around each of us, this battle that’s gone on in our souls has simply been evil trying to destroy who we are. Because evil knows what we will become. Stronger. Wiser. Unstoppable. Don’t let him take who you are. Make him fear who you will become.”

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