“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”
— Louisa May Alcott
No matter how we spend our summers, there’s always one thing every girl has in common: summer reading. Almost every school encourages students to read over the summer, and even if they didn’t, what better time to read then when you’re soaking up the sun on a lazy summer day? Sometimes, however, getting to that moment can be a little difficult. There are so many good books out there to choose from! Luckily, MEDIAGIRLS has you covered. With help from Robin Brenner, the teen librarian at the Brookline Public Library, we’ve compiled a list of books that center around strong, smart, powerful female characters! As an extra bonus, they’re all by female authors, giving us a genuine perspective on each story. So, without further ado, here is your MEDIAGIRLS summer reading list!
The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
This book, which was released only a few months ago to great reviews, follows siblings Tess and Theo along with their friend Jamie, who are tasked with solving a centuries-old puzzle built into New York City by its architects. This fast-paced mystery shows readers that being smart is cool (and might get you some sweet treasure along the way).
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon and Dean Hale
Think of this book like Spiderman, but replace Peter Parker with Doreen Green and spiders with the far cooler, far cuddlier – squirrels! This book follows the story of 14-year old Doreen balancing her new school, new friends, and squirrel-like powers. This Marvel hero (she’s got comics, too) is a wonderful role model for young girls because of her strength, heroic nature, optimism, and unique personality.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
This book is a graphic novel, so it’s a quicker read, but with plenty of heart! Awkward follows Peppi during her first year at a new middle school, making mistakes and friends along the way. On her first day, when she’s hoping to fly under the radar, Peppi trips and falls in front of everyone, pushing away Jaime, the one person who tries to help her. As her art club battles Jaime’s science club during the next few weeks, will she gain the courage to apologize to him and make things right? Peppi is a real and complex character who shows us that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson’s award-winning book of poetry is a must-read for any young girl. Brown Girl Dreaming consists of poetry that captures Woodson’s life growing up as an African American girl living in North Carolina and New York in the 1960s. Her poems are important and universal, they capture the voice of a child while at the same time showing the reader an entirely new perspective. This book shows girls that their voices matter.
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
This book stars Cimorene, who is a not-your-average princess. Instead of being a damsel in distress, Cimorene decides to run away from her boring castle life and befriend a dragon. This sets her on a quest through the Enchanted Forest, where she meets a cast of interesting characters. Cimorene is an inspiring protagonist, using her wits, sarcasm, and unique problem-solving skills to make it through the forest.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
In this classic sci-fi tale, a group of children embark on a quest across space to find their missing father. The main character, Meg, has enough confidence and charisma to inspire any reader, and on top of that, a film adaptation by the incredible Ava Duvernay is slated to come out next year. What’s not to love?
FOR 7th GRADE AND UP:
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (the first book in the Finishing School series)
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is sent off to finishing school by her mother, in hopes that she’ll become less of a tomboy and learn some more “ladylike” manners. To her surprise, the finishing school teaches more than just manners; she is also learning to become a spy! This fun and thrilling book flips gender stereotypes on their heads, showing young girls that you can wear a pretty dress and be the next James Bond.
Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce
Pierce is a top-notch fantasy writer who knows how to write complex, compelling women. In Trickster’s Choice, Aly is captured by pirates and sold to an exiled royal family as a servant. She makes a deal that if she can protect Sarai and Dove, two young noblewomen, for the summer, she will be released. But with murderous plots and unwieldy girls, this task proves more difficult than it seems. This book focuses on Aly’s problem-solving skills, optimism, and ability to lift herself up out of a bad situation.
FOR 9th GRADE AND UP (and 8th-graders reading challenging content):
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This riveting piece of historical fiction is for slightly older girls, but still 100% worth a recommendation. It follows British spy Verity after she is captured in Nazi-occupied France, and separated from her best friend Maddie, a pilot. This intricately woven mystery is intriguing for sure, but nothing beats a story about female friendship. Verity and Maddie will inspire readers everywhere.
This book also contains more adult themes that could be upsetting to younger girls, but it will be a life-changing read for older girls. It follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend by a police officer. This book is extremely timely, and teaches girls about the power of activism, speaking up, and standing up against what you know is wrong.
These are some of the best books out right now with strong female protagonists. So, if you’re lacking any confidence or girl power this summer, look to these books to get your fix! Happy reading!
Clare Reynders is a junior at Vassar College majoring in Media Studies with a minor in Women’s studies. She loves singing in her a cappella group, reading books, and, of course, empowering young women!