Five Female-Character-Heavy Reads

When I asked for recommendation requests, a friend wanted books featuring a ‘pack of female characters doing stuff’. No problem, I thought. And then I looked through my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf. It turns out there are a lot of books I’ve read featuring one or two female characters doing things—together or separately—but a real lack of groups of them doing interesting things.

Leaving out Little Women and any of the teen fiction books I actually read when I was young, I’ve put together a list of books that are either general fiction or YA that fit the category. And have resolved to find more for the second version of this list. Links to longer reviews (if I’ve written them) from individual book titles.

  • Girlhood by Cat Clarke – Not out yet, but Girlhood has to go on my list because I read it recently and loved it. It centres around one female character and her group of friends at boarding school in Scotland, and what happens when a mysterious new girl appears and seems to have so much in common with one of them, down to the same tragedy. Clarke creates a tense narrative alongside an honest and and enjoyable version of teenage troubles like going to university, sexuality, and coping with grief.
  • The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey – A small community in an Irish island, mostly made up of women, deal with loss, a new stranger, and calls to leave their home for the safety of the mainland. A different interpretation of the request, but a book with a real range of female characters working together and apart.
  • Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson – A novel about the friendship between four girls living in Brooklyn in the 1970s and how they grew up, grew apart, and saw each other differently. The book is in a photographic style giving snapshots of memories and really getting across how friendship can be tied to time and place.
  • The Bomb Girls’ Secrets by Daisy Styles – I’ve included this one because it best fits the idea of female characters together doing things, in that it is a novel about young women coming together for the war effort, gradually getting closer and also forming a band. A light period read ideal for anyone who’d prefer something more historical than YA in the group of female characters category.
  • If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo – Russo’s YA novel about a trans girl starting a new school isn’t just about a group of female characters, but the friendship between Amanda and her new group of friends—each with their own secrets and problems—forms a crucial part of the book.

Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn is a photographic kind of novel, one that creates vivid images and snapshots to show how fleeting time can be and how images might not tell the whole story. It is about the friendship between four girls in 1970s Brooklyn, told from the perspective of one of them, August, and what they saw of each other’s difficulties and differences.

The novel’s non chronological structure and writing style invoke a sense of memory, so the act of remembering feels built into the form and narrative. As with most non-chronological novels, details are hinted out and fleshed out later, but in this short novel, this feels less like holding back information and more akin to the act of telling an old memory, adding in detail that wasn’t meant to come yet. The sketches given of each of the girls’ lives leave plenty of questions, but also show how four girls can come together to be friends and yet that friendship cannot overcome the troubles of the world and the city in which they live.

The title and the narrator dream of ‘another Brooklyn,’ a place beyond the life that has been given, but the novel is also tied to location, to the journeys characters have made to live in Brooklyn, and how Brooklyn seemed like theirs but also not. Another Brooklyn is a welcome change from the often long and male-dominated books set in New York that have proliferated, portraying female friendship and how friendship can be tied to place and time.