The baddest ladies on my pre-teen bookshelf.
I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly during the angst of my tween years. As such, most of what I learned about other girls and female empowerment came from books. Add your own in the comments, but when I was 12, this was my personal list of the baddest ladies on the bookshelf.
1. Hermione Granger (“Harry Potter” series, J. K. Rowling):
Though I wouldn’t fully appreciate the rarity of having a lead female character whose purpose was not to be the love interest of the main male character until later, I think some of her independence resonated with me. Hermione, quite frankly, never got half the recognition she deserved for saving Harry and Ron’s ungrateful butts at least once per book. She was the personification of the phrase “knowledge is power.” Ms. Granger was always the smartest person in the room, and made sure you damn well knew it.
2. Ginny Weasley (“Harry Potter” series, J.K. Rowling):
I feel like Ginny is overlooked as a character because the movie franchise completely failed to do her justice. Over the years, we watched Ginny’s transformation from the shy little sister to fierce young woman. Growing up with six older brothers, Ginny clearly learned to take a hit or two, and the books imply she became a very formidable witch. Anyone who calls her “The Girl Who Waited” (looking right at ya, Tumblr) can go the Forbidden Forest.
3. Princess Mia Thermopolis (“The Princess Diaries” series, Meg Cabot):
Yes, there were books, and they were actually quite different than the Anne Hathaway movies. Despite being about teenagers, most of the novels kept it PG. Mia may have been a self-pitying, whiny drama queen, but to be fair, she did have an entire country thrust upon her shoulders at the ripe old age of 14. In any case, my nerd heart went out to her and her Greenpeace-loving ways.
4. Kristy Thomas (“The Baby-Sitters Club,” Ann M. Martin):
“I hereby call this meeting to order.” The fearless leader of a gang of 13-year-old girls that ruled the ‘80s and ‘90s with their childcare, Kristy was an outspoken, opinionated feminist who didn’t take crap from anybody. I was always a sucker for a female-centric series, and Ann M. Martin made a career out of doing just that.
5. Massie Block (“The Clique,” Lisi Harrison):
I know she sounds like the last person anyone should idolize, but hear me out. The Clique series was those books we all hid from our mothers in middle school. Controversial as they were, allow me to say: Massie was the queen of the bad bitches. I know we were supposed to root for “nice girl” Claire Lyons, but let’s be real, Claire kind of sucked. Her whimpering insecurity always seemed to pale in comparison to Massie’s far more interesting dynamism. Massie was the kind of character who walked the fine line between heroine and villain, and girls are rarely featured in the anti-hero trope. Overall, the biggest thing I learn from the amber-eyed leader of the Pretty Committee was: you’re only as confident as you pretend to be.
6. Katani Summers (“The Beacon Street Girls,” Annie Bryant):
Fashion-forward and ****flawless, Katani was the best role model of the five Beacon Street Girls. Sadly, I was probably more of a Charlotte.
7. Annabeth Chase (“Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series, Rick Riordan):
Nerd girls, let me hear it for this daughter of Athena. Annabeth was equal parts intelligent and unwaveringly brave. She called out Percy and pretty much everyone else in the series when they deserved it, and refused to let her gender relegate her to a “damsel in distress” role.
8. Kiki Strike (“Kiki Strike: Inside The Shadow City,” Kristen Miller)
Lesser known, but no less awesome. The leader of a group of rebel Girl Scouts, Kiki Strike was a pint-sized badass who spoke multiple languages and could kick your ass faster than you could say “New York underground.”