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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

15 High Octane Novels With Superstar Heroines

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What’s a Superstar or a”Bad Ass Heroine?”

In our literary context, a “BAH” is a main female character who:

  • Doesn’t quit when the chips are down, but digs deep, discovering and drawing on resources she probably didn’t know she has.
  • Is a dynamic, three-dimensional character.
  • Overcomes adversity with valor, integrity, determination, and grit.
  • Isn’t perfect, but learns from her mistakes.
  • Is clever and courageous.
  • Keeps a clear eye, a keen ear, and a level head.
  • Possesses rapier wit. Bonus points for a decent sense of humor.
  • Turns Mama Grizzly in a nano-second if her loved ones are threatened.

Oh yeah. Having a titanium spine qualifies, too. So does not acting like an idiot. Additionally, …

Other Qualifications

… these female characters must also “star” in a book that’s actually worth reading. Like, has a coherent plot. Is interesting and engaging. Briskly paced. Thought-provoking. Ditto superior writing. (And doesn’t beat readers over the head with some dumb political polemic.)

Ready for the list? Great! Then let’s roll with:

15 High Octane Reads With Bad Ass Heroines (How many have you read?)

In no particular order:

1. Wild Land, by Rebecca Hodge

She’ll do anything to save them. One woman’s courage in the face of catastrophe. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. One of this year’s best! (Read my full review here.)

2. Racing Manhattan (YA), by Terence Blacker

Seabiscuit and Cinderella unite in this gritty, well-researched novel about a young misfit heroine who has an unusual talent with racehorses. When Jay Barton meets an equally misunderstood mare who is about to be written off, they come to an understanding and a kind of kinship develops between them.

3. The Edge of Nowhere, by C.H. Armstrong

Set in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, it’s a story about Victoria Hastings, a strong woman who has to deal with all that life throws at her. And it throws plenty. Loosely based on the life of the author’s grandmother. (Read my full review here.)

4. Black Berry and Wild Rose, by Sonia Velton.

A rich, atmospheric tale of a household of Huguenot silk weavers. The pursuit of the perfect silk design leads them all into ambition, love, and betrayal. Set in 18th century London.

5. Chains (YA), by Laurie Halse Anderson.

The first novel in the Seeds of America trilogy. The historical novels follow the story of thirteen-year-old Isabel, a Black American slave fighting for her and her younger sister’s freedom during the Revolutionary War.

6. True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (YA), by Avi.

In 1832 England, thirteen year old Charlotte boards a ship to return home to Rhode Island. What begins as an exciting voyage turns into a harrowing journey, and Charlotte winds up on trial for murder.

7-9. Island of the Blue Dolphins, Sarah Bishop, and Sing Down the Moon, YA by Scott O’Dell.

10. Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.

A murder mystery. A coming-of-age narrative. A celebration of nature. Owens  surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child, Kya, aka: the Marsh Girl. (Read my full review here.)

11. The Wartime Sisters, by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Set on the home front during World War II, this poignant novel centers on two estranged and very different sisters. One is an officer’s wife and the other is a widow. They reunite at the Springfield Armory. Then the fireworks start. But not the kind you might think. (Read my full review here.)

12. The Bitterroots, by C.J. Box.

Montana private investigator Cassie Dewell must unravel a treacherous web of lies and deceit in order to discover the truth about a man framed for a terrible crime – while someone’s trying to murder her. The title has a double meaning. (Read my full review here.)

13. Hattie Big Sky (YA), by Kirby Larson.

This novel reveals much more than the difficult life on a Montana homestead. Hattie Inez Brooks is a sixteen year old orphan and single girl. She’s preparing for the adventure of a lifetime, but Hatti has no idea what she’ll encounter under Montana’s big skies.

14. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

The classic story follows the emotions and experiences of its title character, including her growth to adulthood, and her love for the mysterious Mr. Rochester, master of Thornfield Hall.

15. My Antonia, by Willa Cather.

The third book in Cather’s Prairie Trilogy, My Antonia commemorates the spirit and courage of immigrant pioneers in America in the 1880s. The story of Ántonia Shimerda is told through the eyes of Jim Burden, a neighbor who befriends Ántonia, teaches her English, and follows the remarkable story of her life.


What would you add?

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