Who Runs the World? Girls

By Nikki Palazzo

I love so many things about the books on this list. Most of all, I like how these YA novels star super cool teenage girls who are realistic, even if their worlds or situations aren't. They are the protagonists, the lady bosses, the heroines—call them what you will. Personally, I'd like to call them my best friends. (Fictional characters can totally be your best friends. It's fine. Really. I promise.)

  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

    2008 by E. Lockhart

    For years this book has been my go-to recommendation for anyone, of any age. Reading this was my feminist breakthrough, because of all that Frankie is not. She's not a girly girl or a tomboy or any other female stereotype. She's not a rah-rah feminist, but she's also not someone who is content to sit back and let things happen to her. Frankie is crazy smart and crazy cool but she's also normal and relatable. She is fun and funny and is surrounded by girls and boys whose flaws, like her's, aren't hidden.

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  • Does My Head Look Big In This?

    2005 by Randa Fattah

    This book quickly earned a spot on my To Be Read pile, because, hello, look at that cover. Yes, I did judge this book by its cover, but I judged it with enthusiastic positivity. It turns out that it was worthy of my preconceived approval. Amal feels familiar to me even though she lives in Australia and her debate about whether or not to wear a hijab full-time is not something I've ever had to consider. Her dilemma is woven into family problems, friend drama, and all the classic struggles of growing up. I enjoyed being along for her journey.

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  • Weetzie Bat

    1989 by Francesca Lia Block

    Full disclosure: I haven't read this one yet, but it caught my eye after a friend told me it was one of her favorites when she was a teen. I looked it up and the main characters are named Weetzie Bat, Dirk, Duck, and My-Secret-Agent-Lover-Man, so yeah, color me intrigued. It gets bonus points for having very divided reviews on GoodReads. People either loved it or hated it so naturally I'm eager to see which side I fall on.

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  • A Great and Terrible Beauty

    2003 by Libba Bray

    High school cliques suck but reading about them doesn't, especially if that clique attends a boarding school in Victorian England. It's extra fun when the clique features two outcasts who take the group on adventures to another realm. That is exactly what Gemma Doyle does with her new roommate, Ann. This book, the first in a trilogy, features one of my all-time favorite book crushes, Kartik, a young man who follows Gemma to England from her former home in India.

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  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone

    2011 by Taylor, Laini

    We all have that one friend who dyes her hair all kinds of crazy colors. If you don't have that friend then it's probably you. Kara is the ultimate version of that friend. Her hair actually grow in blue and she speaks a ton of languages—some of which aren't even human. Oh yeah, she's also linked to an underworld full of monsters and faeries. Karou's story takes place in cool, mystical places like Prague and Marrakesh so you'll totally get bitten by the travel bug when you read this first installment of the three-part series.

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  • Code Name Verity

    2012 by Elizabeth Wein

    Code Name Verity is two for the price of one in awesome female protagonists. It's the story of Maddie and Queenie, two best friends who join the British military during World War II. Without giving away too much, I can tell you that this book is sort of like the film Inception—there are no limits to its plot twists and turns. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll gasp multiple times. This is one of the best historical fiction novels I've ever read.

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  • Wolf by Wolf

    2015 by Ryan Graudin

    Sticking to the historical fiction theme, we've got Wolf by Wolf. Set in 1956, the novel stars death camp survivor Yael who is on a quest to win a motorcycle race so she can have a private meeting with Hitler—and kill him. Did I mention that this is an alternative history where the Axis powers won World War II? I should also mention that, as a side-effect of the experiments done at the camp, Yael can shape shift. It's a total mish-mash of genres and it totally rocks!

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  • Shadowshaper

    2015 by Daniel José Older

    This book first grabbed my eye because of its striking cover. Then it was recommended to me by YA librarian, Shauna. Then a week later it was recommended by YA librarian, Laurel. It was also a summer reading book in 2016. With all that praise I'd be a fool not to check it out!

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