One of the keys to falling in love with a book is identifying with its characters — and that’s why as a female reader of science fiction, I’m always on the lookout for strong female leads! If you’re looking for inspiration, here are a few favorites from YA sci-fi adventures.
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Join a squad of misfits graduating from Aurora Academy — plus Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, a half-Irish, half-Chinese girl who’s just woken up from two centuries in cryo-sleep. The story is action-packed and tons of fun as you get to know the whole band of adventurers. While you might find yourself falling for one character or another, Aurora is my star of the show who, as she discovers her new powers in her new time, is also a beacon of kindness and strength.
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
This YA sci-fi romance features a teenage soldier named Noemi, flying and fighting to protect her planet. In her world, mechs are the enemy. So when she ends up on an enemy spaceship with an AI named Abel, she’s ready to fight to the death. But when Abel deems Noemi his new master — as an AI, he always answers to a human — they end up going on an adventure through the galaxy together. Expect lots of action and romance in this one!
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
This beautiful novella follows Binti, a teenage girl from the Himba tribe in Nimibia who is accepted into a prestigious academy many planets away. As the first of her people to leave home, she believes that to master the art of harmonizing through mathematics and technology she must learn from the academics of the universe. But when warring aliens attack her ship on the way to the school, she is left alone and trying to survive. What I love most about this book is Binti’s unique talent for understanding others through her tech, which comes into play in important ways as she tries to survive on a ship full of murderous aliens.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
This YA adventure by Brandon Sanderson follows Spensa, a teenage girl who is one of the last human survivors of an alien war. She dreams of becoming a pilot like her (now-deceased) father, but a mistake he made has cast a shadow on her family. As a protagonist, it’s hard not to love her passion and determination, even after a lifetime of war and loss. Her spirit is contagious. When she discovers the remains of an ancient ship, she commits to fixing and flying it — and along the way, she finds an unlikely ally in the ship’s AI. If you’re looking for a strong female lead, Spensa is all you could ask for.
Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Princess Rhiannon, heir to an ancient dynasty, has spent her life training to avenge her murdered family. But just before she takes the throne, she barely survives an attack on her life. When a refugee-turned-reality star is accused of killing her, he and Rhee end up in hiding together and discover there’s a lot more going on. This book tackles some deep and relevant topics, such as systemic racism, technology, and privacy issues. Along the way, it’s exciting to watch Princess Rhee grow from sheltered and scared space princess to a mature woman thrust into some of the most difficult situations she’ll ever face.