YA Novels With Girl Heroes that Guys Read ... And Like

Which young adult novels featuring girl protagonists do guys like to read? I asked the question on Twitter, and we came up with this list (books have to feature only one protagonist who is female), which is up for discussion:

Science Fiction / Fantasy
  • GRACELING and FIRE by Kristin Cashore
  • MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series by Cassandra Clare
  • HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
  • INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher
  • CRY OF THE ICEMARK series by Stuart Hill
  • DUST OF 100 DOGS by A.S. King
  • GONE series by Lisa McMann
  • TWILIGHT series by Stephenie Meyer
  • MAXIMUM RIDE series by James Patterson
  • LIFE AS WE KNEW IT: THE WORLD WE LIVE IN by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • HIS DARK MATERIALS series by Philip Pullman
  • MORIBITO by Nahoko Uehashi (Graphic Novel)
  • RUNAWAYS by Brian K. Vaughan (Graphic Novel)
  • UGLIES series by Scott Westerfeld
  • THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak
Contemporary Fiction
  • SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • HEIST SOCIETY by Ally Carter
  • CRANK and other books by Ellen Hopkins 
  • LIAR by Justina Larbalestier
  • THE COMEBACK SEASON by Jennifer E. Smith
  • STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr
Historical Fiction
  • CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • FEVER, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi (Graphic Novel)
    Middle Grade Science Fiction / Fantasy
    • TUCK EVERLASTING by Natalie Babbitt
    • WILD THINGS by Clay Carmichael
    • CORALINE by Neil Gaiman (Graphic Novel)
    • EON: DRAGONEYE REBORN by Alison Goodman 
    • THE DRAGON OF TRELIAN by Michelle Knudsen
    • GATHERING BLUE by Lois Lowry
    • TIFFANY ACHING books by Terry Pratchett
    • ROSE by Jeff Smith (prequel to BONE) (Graphic Novel)
    Classics (published before 1970)
    • WIZARD OF OZ by L. Frank Baum
    • A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle
    • HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh
    • TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

    Can't help help noticing the abundance of titles in the fantasy and science fiction genres, as well as the number of graphic novels. I'm also curious about how many main character names and book covers on the list are "gender-neutral."

    Disagree that a particular book should be on the list? Got a title to add? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments, and I'll update.


    My kids are loving Wild Things by Clay Carmichael (realistic fiction with Zoe as main character). I think it helps boys to have strong and independent girl characters, and secondary male characters as friends or mentors.
    The Giver is another one...great list!
    Gathering Blue is another. My nephew loves Hunger Games and Life as We Knew It series. But 13 Reasons Why...I can see why it might qualify for girl protagonist but since boy is telling story too a lot is seen through his eyes.... Good list!
    Mrs.Westlake said…
    THE GIVER has a male protagonist, Jonas.

    Lots of my students are reading PERSEPOLIS.
    Mitali Perkins said…
    Yes, I deleted 13 REASONS WHY because the main character is a guy, really, and that's true of THE GIVER, also.
    sunihali said…
    Great post, thanks. I'd add all of Ellen Hopkins' books to your YA list, though.
    Lisa H said…
    How about Shannon Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge? Not a gender neutral cover!
    Mitali Perkins said…
    Hmmm ... I don't know. A hot comic-bookish cowgirl with a cowboy checking her out in the background, plus a guy co-author and guy illustrator? The presence of guy is felt, I think. Good suggestion, though.
    proseandkahn said…
    The most enthusiastic fans of Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson have been seventh grade boys.

    I would also add Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman to the list of fantasy. I think more boys than girls are reading that at my school.

    Great list.

    Mindi said…
    I would also add Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. One of the main characters, Deryn, is a girl masquerading as a boy in order to join the British army.

    The boys in my 7th grade class are eating this book up.
    david elzey said…
    I'm not surprised by the sci-fi/fantasy because what draws boys to these books is that they (and their main characters) tend to deal with big ideas and the main characters tend to be the explorer archetype. Put a character on the road, out to discover a truth, and gender doesn't matter to a boy reader.
    Anonymous said…
    I disagree that Twilight has a female hero. The main character in the book doesn't have to make any strong choices in the book or any of the series. She simply waits for her prince charming to come.
    nisha said…
    great list, mitali!
    Color Online said…
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Linking your post on our FB pages.

    Hope you're well. It's been a month of Sundays since we've chatted. Come by CO and I'll make it my business to get here.
    Melissa said…
    Terry Pratchett has apparently received a lot of fan mail from boys as well as girls for the Tiffany Aching books--Wee Free Man, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith. They're fantasy.
    Beth said…
    The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima. It's fantasy with a girl and a guy as a main character, so does that count? The story alternates between the girl's and the guys's first person perspective.
    Doret said…
    Heist Society by Carter
    Liar by Larbalestier
    Comeback Season by Smith