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The "Cocky" Female MC

It was 7:30 am on the first day of school. I was returning home from a school drop-off when my phone
Looking for the MCs who would wear this shirt with style.
buzzed. A series of texts popped up from a long-time dear friend.

I am so tired of the boring there's-nothing-special-about-me-and-yet-all-the-boys-love-me-and-the-world-hinges-on-me-doing-something-extraordinary-but-I'm-just-going-to-sit-here-and-be-passive-oh-wait-now-the-universe-has-gifted-me main characters in YA. Where are the "cocky" girls. The ones who are as arrogant as I was when I was teen? Who never let boys get away with anything?*

The texts made me laugh. Then they made me think. Where are those girls? The ones tossing out snappy one-liners. The ones who call everyone out . . . on everything? I was a bit like that as a teen, too. Not necessarily the sarcastic MCs, but more like the take-no-bullshit teens. The Veronica Mars MCs, perhaps.

I asked my friend if she was looking for a particular type of book--fantasy, romance, thriller--and she said it didn't really matter. But I was particularly intrigued by finding contemporary/realistic books with a "cocky" MC. After all, sticking a sword in your MC's hand often automatically gives her swagger. I'd like to see girls take no sh*t with nothing but an iPod and a bus pass. Because, IRL, lots of girls don't.

I had a few books in mind to tell my friend about. But I felt like my list, despite me being a voracious reader, was too short. I took to asking friends and twitter for additional suggestions, which I've listed below. I was glad for them, but STILL feel like the list is too short. So, where are they? Where are the girls who raise their eyebrows with an "I don't think so" when a guy puts his hand on her leg during the movie? Where are the girls who tell their BFFs what's what when they insist on going to that party at the frat notorious for sexual assault? Where are the girls going around telling people they're being an ass before walking away . . . for good? I want to read about these confident and candid lives.

Here are some reads I came up with from my own reading history and with the help of other awesome readers. What would you add to the list of books with cocky female MCs?

Some Girls Are and Cracked Up To Be, both by Courtney Summers.
Amplified by Tara Kelly.
Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by David Levithan
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett.
Wildefire by Karsten Knight
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.
The Vampire Academy books
Hex Hall books
The Sky Always Hears Me: And The Hills Don't Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

*That is not the EXACT text. But close enough.
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. This is a great list, I've only read a few but I'll have to put the rest on my TBR.

    I think the fact that there aren't many female MC's like this is that the MC's who are shyer, more passive, average- they're all more relateable. Most of us feel like THAT girl rather than the girl who doesn't take crap from nobody. But maybe if we had more MC's who were like that, us non-confrontational people would learn to speak up a bit more. :)

  2. I definitely agree. I love cocky. Some additions could be Graceling by Kristin Cashore, many of the women in Melina Marchetta's Lumatere Chronicles, Fia in Mind Games by Kiersten White... I'm sure there are more, it's hard to think of them though. I'm impressed with how many you found!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  3. I want to see more action. I do have a MC who is pretty affected by the things around her, but I like to see someone with spark. Not necessarily cockiness, but characters that can have acts of defiance and are active participants in their own story. Great post!

  4. Good point--I looked over my list of YA titles read in the past couple years (close to 100 in all) and couldn't find a single "cocky" female MC. Some were what I might call "sassy," but not cocky. Thanks for the list (and thanks to the commenters for additional suggestions).

  5. Great post, very thought provoking. I love cocky heroines, and I'm adding all of your recommended books which I haven't yet read to my TBR list right now! I agree on Hex Hall, Graceling, and all of Kiersten White's YA heroines. Adding to the list here, I recommend Ellie Aubrey of Blue Violet by Abigail Owen (, all of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's heroines (, Tamsin Greene of the Witch duology by Carolyn MacCullough (, the hilariously spunky Val Jensen of V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram (, Val Shapiro of the Demon Underground series by Parker Blue (, and one of my all-time favorite "cocky" heroines ever, Annika Truman in the contemporary dramedy, Just One Wish by Janette Rallison (

  6. Paper Hearts by S.R. Savelle. I'm editing it right now, and the MC DOES have an iPod and a bus pass.

  7. I'd probably add Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard. The MC sure doesn't let the dude get away with anything (plus it's set in the late 1800s, so it's quite funny how "proper" she is, but in such a biting way).

  8. I'd add
    Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
    Girl Defective by Simmone Howell
    Shadows by Paula Weston
    Blood Song by Rhiannon Hart
    Wild Awake by Hilary T Smith
    The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
    Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor

    Great post :)

  9. Oooh, I love this topic! Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy is definitely a good one. I'd add some Tamora Pierce in there, too: The Song of the Lioness Quartet and The Daughter of the Lioness series (Trickster's Queen and Trickster's Choice). Both Alanna and her daughter are trouble in the best way. And, even though it's middle grade, Lyra from His Dark Materials is my favorite all-time ballsy female character.

  10. I agree with the sentiment but I also agree with Melanie that it's about relatability. I wrote a medieval fantasy and if you put the sword in the girl's hand it's easy for her to be cocky and tough - and it doesn't need to relate as much since no one these days is carrying around a sword. In contemporary stories it's harder. For that I try to have a FMC that has all the doubts and concerns that most real people have these days - but she still manages to kick a$$ in spite of them. I like that more than just an easy victory.

  11. In contemporary, reality-based YA category, definitely add "The DIsreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks" = AWESOME with a kick-ass feminist sensibility

  12. I think Celaena needs to be added to that list :D so Throne of glass from Sarah Maas! And Grave Mercy/Dark Triumph from Robin LaFevers have two MC's I'd see on that list as well.

  13. Awesome list! I think Elisa from Girl of Fire and Thorns would fit, and Eleanor from A Darkness Strange and Lovely, too.


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Item Reviewed: The "Cocky" Female MC Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook