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Andrea’s Book Nook: Book recommendations with strong female leads

By Andrea Silva Santisteban Fort, April 14 2022—

In celebration of International Women’s Day last month, I want to provide four book recommendations with strong female characters. These are great reads for those seeking books where the female leads of the story are fierce and resilient. Happy reading!


The Forest of Vanishing Stars tells the story of Yona, a German girl who is stolen from her home and raised in the European forests by a mysterious elderly woman, Jerusza. As twenty years pass, Yona learns about the importance of survival in a difficult environment and strives to find her own identity despite the many unanswered questions she has about her past and origin. 

Meanwhile, as the atrocities of  World War II begin to spread, Yona uses her gained knowledge and intuition to help Jewish refugees seek refuge from the Nazi atrocities. This presents new challenges for her, as she learns to do something she has never done before — trust people. In this book, Harmel creates a story led by a strong and independent female character in a unique set of circumstances and mystical atmosphere. The character and story development were extremely well executed, which makes for a great recommendation for those looking for  fast-paced historical fiction.

2. THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give follows the story of the 16-year-old Black girl, Starr Carter. She lives in a low-income neighbourhood but goes to a white-dominated, elite private school. This makes her feel like she is in the middle of these two very different realities. 

One night, that uneasy balance is broken as she witnesses the shooting of Khalil, a childhood friend, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil’s death makes national news and gets the attention of protesters, intimidating police officers and drug lords. Everyone wants to know what happened that night. 

This book dives into the complexity of the Black Lives Matter movement, diversity and police brutality through an amazing plot and an insightful main character. I liked how the story is about a girl trying to find her voice in a very loud and oppressing world. As the main character of a young adult novel, Starr is an example of resilience and strength, which serves as a great role model for younger readers.

3. LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly

This book is centred around the experiences of three different women during the Second World War. Caroline Ferriday is a wealthy American socialite that works for the French consulate in New York and is dedicated to aiding refugees fleeing their war-torn countries and helping children and families impacted by the war. 

Dr. Herta Oberheuser is a young German doctor who strives to succeed in the medical field, which leads her to perform unimaginable medical experiments on the female prisoners assigned to her in the concentration camp she works at. Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish resistance fighter who ends up a victim of Herta’s crimes, at the Ravensbrück camp. 

The story rotates in chapters between the points of view of each of these women before, during and after the war. In my opinion, Kasia and Caroline are examples of strong female leads, as they both show bravery and develop through the story in a very interesting way. Caroline, a character inspired by a real person, showed the importance of proactivity and having the courage for standing up for what is right, while the reader gets to see Kasia’s journey of surviving the unthinkable and being stronger for it. Overall, Lilac Girls is an intense but worth-reading book.

4. THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center

Things You Save in a Fire is a women’s fiction novel about Cassie, a firefighter who leaves her life in Texas to move to Boston to help her mother who needs her. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that it is about the experience of a woman in a male-dominated field. I also liked how one of the main themes of this book was about the journey of forgiveness the main character has to do to let go of the baggage she has been carrying for a long time. 

Cassie was a complex character that developed interestingly throughout the book. There is also a romantic aspect of the story, between Cassie and Owen, the “Rookie” that adds a lighthearted aspect to the plot. Overall, this book offers a great read for those looking for a strong female lead in a well-written and heartful plot.

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