“Tears aren’t woman’s only weapon” ~Cersei Lannister | Ladies in Literature

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Ten female literary characters that break stereotypes

“Tears aren’t woman’s only weapon” ~Cersei Lannister. Fiction and nonfiction books have been around for centuries. For the better part of history, a man has been chosen as the lead role and is left with the responsibility of saving the world, which, usually, involves a damsel in a distress. Well, it’s the 21st century and women are saving themselves now! I have a list of YA novels that break stereotypes the women usually find themselves in. (No particular order)


  1. Maximum Ride – Maximum Ride by James Patterson

Maximum, or Max, is a 14-year-old girl who grows up throughout the series while taking care of her family, which includes five other kids ranging from the ages of six to 14. There are no adults taking care of them and she actually has two male ‘siblings’ who are the same age as her, but it is known she is the leader of their family. She has to make ‘motherly’ decisions like bedtimes and what is deemed to be too dangerous for the younger ones, and also drastic decisions that affect the fate of the entire world. 

2. Rose Hathaway – Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Rose is just like other teenagers. She lusts after boys, enjoys an occasional party and values friendship above all else. Except she’s also a dhampir, half vampire, half human. Her job is to basically be a bodyguard for the Morio, full-blooded, peaceful vampires. She’s still in school but has already chosen her best friend, who is the last in her royal bloodline, Vasilisa Dragomir (Lissa), to be her charge. Rose is a no-nonsense girl who would die (or kill) for Lissa and nothing could come between that.     

3. Tessa Gray – The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Tessa starts off as a ‘normal’ damsel in distress. She’s thrusted into a new world where supernatural creatures exist and she is one of them. While she is terrified, she takes her new life like a champ and uses her newfound abilities to not only help her brother but to help the people around her. And Spoiler Alert: there is a love triangle, but not a cringy cliche kind that we all have read countless times. The point is that while Tessa starts off as a helpless girl, she tackles her problems with dignity and pushes through them with grace.     

4. Lysandra – Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Lysandra grows over the entire series and you learn about her life in the later books, but the gist is that she is a courtesan that has sold her soul to the head of the brothel in the city. She grew up poor and instead of being homeless, she took to this lifestyle. She almost gained enough wealth to buy her freedom, but a little girl was ‘blossoming’ and was about to be brought into this lifestyle as well. Refusing to let this girl suffer through this life, Lysandra marred her face so she would not be wanted, taking on the little girl’s debt as well. This character is really complex and that’s what makes her awesome.     

5. Manon Blackbeak – Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Manon is a phenomenal female character in this series by Sarah J. Maas. She starts off as a heartless witch who was raised to be loyal only to her coven and to kill anyone who stood in their way. Throughout the series though, she steps away from the brutal path that was made for her and forges her own. She chooses her own allies and decides for herself what is best for her and the people she leads.   

  6. Lisbeth Salander – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth is no ordinary girl. After growing up with a traumatic past, she has grown up to be a badass computer hacker who works for an elite security firm. She uses the alias ‘The Wasp’ and is known all over the hacker community (similar to the group Anonymous). She is known for her hatred of men who harm women, due to horrendous events she herself has gone through. Some even believe she has Asperger’s Syndrome as she doesn’t follow Society’s Norms.     

7. Amy Elliott Dunne – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Amy is an unusual character in that she plays victim and tries to get her husband arrested for her murder. She fakes her disappearance, moves in with a controlling ex, kills him, and then goes back to her husband with a story of how she was kidnapped. After that, she forces him to stay with her after she impregnates herself with his semen that they had stored at a fertility clinic. Talk about plot twist after plot twist, am I right?     

8. Linh Cinder – The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Linh is a character loosely based off of the old fairytale Cinderella. In this take, she is a cyborg who lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters and works as a mechanic. While working one day she meets the prince who immediately has a liking towards her. Although the romance that sparks between the two of them is very stereotypical, her attitude and what she goes through to find out who she really is and what she needs to do to save Earth is anything but.   

  9. Moria and Ashyn – Age of Legends Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong

Moria and Ashyn are twin sisters who are known as the ‘Keeper’ and the ‘Seeker.’ They, accompanied by their bonded animals Diago (a wildcat) and Tova (a dog), must seek to restore balance between the spirits and humanity and save the world. While Moria is a fighter and very outspoken, Ashyn is quiet and subdued and believes words can solve problems without violence. These sisters balance one another and together fight to save everyone, including themselves.     

10. Arya Stark – Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Arya is probably one of the characters that everyone knows, but for those who don’t, she is a nine-year-old girl at the beginning of the book who faces hardship after hardship but never lets go of the mission she has: avenging her family. Each night she reminds herself of this mission by repeating the names of those she plans to kill over and over again. This girl travels across her continent, to other continents, trains to become one of the most deadly assassins and still sees the importance of family to be above all else.


Michelle McKernan is a senior studying professional writing with a concentration on editing and publishing. When not working or at school, you can usually find her cuddled up with her dog enjoying a book or catching up on some much-needed sleep.


Tags: amy, arya, ashyn, linh, lisbeth, lysandra, manon, max, rose, tessa