Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ten (Non-Dystopian) YA Novels With Characters who Resist

It’s 2017, and never before have I related more to dystopian YA heroines. A resistance movement is in full swing here in the United States, compelling us all to channel our inner Katniss Everdeens and Tris Priors.

But oppressive futuristic societies aren’t the only places you can find characters fighting for their rights—historical, contemporary, and fantasy novels contain just as many triumphant stories of activism and persistence. So, because we all need a bit of inspiration in this time of resistance, here are ten (non-dystopian) books with characters who stand up to structures of power both big and small. Some of the characters aim to overthrow their government, others seek to deliver justice where due, and others ache to influence their culture’s norms—but all are astonishingly smart and strong.

Set during the Inquisition, this masterpiece of a novel tells the tale of three sisters and a heretic named Dolssa who dare to question the Catholic church. It vividly weaves together friendship, history, religion, and suspense—and it’s hands-down one of my all-time favorite books.

This heartbreaking, hopeful, unexpectedly thrilling story follows a girl forced into an unwanted arranged marriage by her conservative immigrant parents. She stands up to her family while maintaining her love for her Pakistani culture, taking readers on an emotionally gripping journey along the way.

The women’s suffrage movement in early-1900s London creates a marvelous backdrop for this coming-of-age story about a girl who protests for what she believes in.

Set in an eerie, atmospheric slaughterhouse, this Phantom of the Opera retelling explores the dynamics of power and oppression between two fictional ethnic groups—and what happens when a revolution causes the carefully-constructed hierarchy to crumble.

This book is set in an alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War II and follows a shape-shifting bike racer on a quest to kill Hitler. If that’s not an epic example of resistance, I don’t know what is.

How could I not include this insightful, relevant novel that takes on the topic of police brutality? If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly encourage you to change that.

Set against an alternate historical New England backdrop, this book tells the story of Cate Cahill and her sisters, three witches who aim to dismantle their oppressive, patriarchal, magic-hating government.

At Themis Academy, the administration trusts and expects its student body to behave honorably—it almost never hands out punishments, as admitting student wrongdoing would mar the school’s pristine reputation. Instead, an underground student society called The Mockingbirds dedicates itself to righting wrongs committed on campus, resisting the indifference of the administration.

As the first girl to attend a previously all-male military academy, Sam McKenna faces a group of cadets who want her gone—and will stop at nothing to force her out. But despite danger and fear, she never stops persisting and fighting to maintain her right to attend her school.

Complete with vivid imagery and details, this book follows a cast of endearing characters who refuse to lose themselves in the repressive, horrifying rituals of a gay conversion camp. The Summer I Wasn’t Me is alarming but engrossing; I couldn’t put it down.


What are your favorite books with characters who resist? Send your recommendations my way!

Also, friendly reminder that reading about characters who resist is an amazing pastime, but it’s important that you're resisting as well! I know the state of the planet can feel hopeless and overwhelming, but your small contributions do help. Volunteer, donate, and protest if you can, and for my American friends, make sure you're calling your elected officials! A few resources that help me are Five Calls and Daily Action (which give you issues and scripts to use for your calls) and Celeste Pewter’s Twitter feed—she does an incredible job of breaking down the news and giving us action steps we can take.


  1. WOLF BY WOLF! <3 Such great characters, and such a great setting / plot too. :) I'm glad - but not at all surprised - to see it on your list Emily. The characters in Written in the Stars were fantastic and well-written too. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous post! <3

  2. I had to write an essay on YA novels. Some people cheapest writing services but I write my own and to be honest you've really helped me out with it. Thank you.


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