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The 5 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books for Young Adults and Teen Girls

Updated on July 30, 2013
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Top Five Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books/Series for Girls

Choosing books for young adult girls is tricky business. Adolescents are eager to shed their childhood identities and become teenagers, or even adults, but they are still young. Picking books that hold their interest and do not seem juvenile but also do not introduce overly adult themes, is difficult. In my experience, science fiction and fantasy books can be great choices adult young adult girls. Many of today's Sci-Fi and fantasy books feature strong young women - heroines that are worth looking up to - and present enduring themes. The fanciful worlds in these books can help girls escape from an adolescents' complex world while providing entertainment, and maybe even some important life lessons.

If the is a young lady in your life, she may enjoy reading one of these great science fiction or fantasy books. I've read all of the featured book/series, so this list lets you know what to expect from each one. The books are arranged in order by maturity level/age; the first book is the easiest, least mature read and the last book is the most mature on the list.

The Maid of the North: Feminist Folk Tales by Ethel Phelps

I distinctly remember my parents giving me this book for Christmas in 1991. Ok, so I remember getting the book, but my mom's inscription is how I know the year! This enjoyable book is filled with folk tales featuring heroines, not girls waiting to be rescued. Instead of the beautiful, meek, dutiful women in most fairy tales, these ladies are witty, resourceful, and capable of taking care of themselves. The book's 21 stories come from around the world. North American, European, and Asian stories, alike, are complemented by original illustrations. While you may have already read some of the book's better-known tales, like "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," many of them are more rare. This book is suitable for girls of all ages, from kindergarten on up.

The Circle of Magic Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce has always been one of my favorite authors. I think I've read every book she's written! Most of her books feature a lead female character, but The Circle of Magic series centers on a band of four children. Two girls and two boys from various walks of life are brought together in a community called Winding Circle to learn how to control their (sometimes unnerving) magical powers.

Each book details the life of one of the four children - the first book is Sandry's Book and focuses on Sandry, a girl of noble birth who has an uncanny weaving and thread-working abilities. Each of the subsequent books in the quartet focuses on another member of the band of misfit children. These four outcasts must learn about trusting themselves and others, as well as how to work together in order to avert disaster.

The quartet deftly illustrates how people from different backgrounds can come together, stronger as a group than as individuals. These books are best suited to younger middle school-aged girls, though older girls may enjoy them, too.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games been extraordinarily popular in the past year for very good reasons. The first in a trilogy, The Hunger Games features Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl in a post-United States country with cruel, totalitarian leaders. Katniss takes care of her mother and younger sister, even when it means volunteering to take her sister's place at the deadly, annual Hunger Games, a battle royale to the death.

The book and the movie are a bit different, but I enjoyed them both. After finishing the first book, I was so eager to keep reading that I downloaded the second book to my iPad because I couldn't wait for the book store to open in the morning! The book and movie both include some killing, but neither are over the top graphic.

Sabriel/The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix

Sabriel, the first in The Abhorsen Trilogy, is, without a doubt, one of the most inventive books I've ever read. Basically, a magical, wild kingdom exists inside a giant wall. Soldiers guard the wall, making sure that things don't get in or out. Outside the wall is the 'normal' world, devoid of magic, called The Charter, and a bit like post-War England (in my imagination). The heroine, Sabriel, was born inside the wall, but attends a boarding school outside the wall. When her father goes missing, she sets off inside the wall to figure out what happened to him.

The inventive part? Sabriel's father is basically a reverse necromancer, and Sabriel finds it necessary to follow in his footsteps. Sabriel uses a variety of different bells, each with a unique name and purpose, to accomplish tasks like binding the dead in death, instead of raising the dead, as a necromancer would.

I read this book for the first time in 7th grade, but older girls would enjoy it, too.

The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce, again! The first book of The Immortals quartet, Wild Magic, was the first of Pierce's books I ever read. These books center on Diane, a girl with, well, wild magic. Wild magic is different from the world's 'regular' magic, known as the Gift, and far more rare. The quartet tells her story as she rises from a wandering, scared orphan to a valued member of the King's court.

The quartet starts with Diane is young, and the books follow her as she ages. Therefor, the first book is the 'youngest' of the quartet - suitable for middle school girls. As Diane ages, the situations become slightly more adult, making the later books of the quartet more suitable for young adults in 8th, 9th, or even 10th grades.

The Best Books for Girls

There are many more sci-fi and fantasy books with strong heroines, but these 5 books/series are my favorite. Each of them is well-written and has a powerful, but realistic, heroine. None of these girls were born with an easy road ahead, but each of them overcame internal and external difficulties to, eventually, triumph.

I firmly believe that fanciful tales with a bit of magic and a good role model are far better for girls than 'realistic' stories of teens who mope around while waiting for a prom date (I'm looking at you, California Diaries). I hope the young adult girl in your life enjoys these books as much as I did. If you're ever looking for something to read, why not give one of them a try, yourself? Sometimes it's fun to enjoy a good escape.

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    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I could see how people might not like the end/the sister thing, but I think the sister bit was really important to the way the series concluded. The movie is a little different, of course, but it's good. Really the biggest differences are that it can't show her internal thoughts like the book and some of the details in the arena are slightly different, but they're overall pretty similar.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      My sister in law got me started on The Hunger Games series. I loved it. Like yourself, it was really hard waiting for the next book. I was lucky, all three were published when I started reading. The movie was out too but I'm not very tempted to watch it. I've read all three books. I heard people debating the ending to the series. I thought it was just right. The only thing that bothered me was having the little sister killed. But, it was a series about young people being killed, so as a last death it kind of fit too.

    • Natashalh profile image
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      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I agree - I really enjoy a lot of books 'written for teens,' like The Hunger Games. A bit of escapism is fun!

    • hisandhers profile image

      hisandhers 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Great suggestions! Although I'm a little bit past this age group I still find myself gravitating towards teen novels occasionally. It seems as if more and more talented authors are choosing to write for this particular genre. Voted up!

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for commenting, everyone!

      I agree that the Circle of Magic isn't particularly entertaining for adults, but some of her other books (like the Lioness Quartet) have a bit better staying power. I don't know why, but I never enjoyed Anne McCafffrey as much as everyone else seems to. Maybe it's becuase my favorite dragon books were Dealing with Dragons and its series. Plus, my mom once gave me a Pern book in my stocking at Christmas and instructed me not to wake her until it was finished!

    • SkeetyD profile image

      SkeetyD 4 years ago from Barbados

      Great and unique gift ideas. Books are always a great gift, they really get the creative and imaginary juices flowing. Great hub!

    • Tealparadise profile image

      Tealparadise 4 years ago

      Wow! Way to pick some of my favorites. I actually just finished re-reading the Abhorsen series. Lirael is my favorite. Tamora Pierce's books are amazing, and the Circle of Magic series especially so. They don't "hold up" as well in adulthood though. Garth Nix has a timelessness. Another auther I loved in my teens was Anne McCarthy. She often writes female leads in sci-fi. For fantasy, I also like Holly Black and Francesca Lia Block, but their stuff is a bit dark to "recommend" to a parent.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Am still fascinated by the hunger games!! A great review of all the books. Thanks for sharing! I share too.

    • Natashalh profile image
      Author

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I agree. Science fiction and fantasy are associated with guys (maybe it has something to do with stereotypical fantasy cover art?). I think females have been increasingly drawn to, or increasingly open about their liking of, fantasy/Sci-Fi. Is a trend I hope to see continue!

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 4 years ago from NJ, USA

      Tamora Pierce is a very good writer - I've read quite a lot of her stuff. The others I like too but haven't read so much! Great article - nice to see some serious fantasy aimed at females!