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.

Quick book picks for March

In case you’re stuck for new books to read or want to know what’s coming out, here are my top books for March, with quick summaries and links if I’ve posted a review somewhere.

  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – A moving story about hope, love, and freedom, set in Nigeria between 1985 and 2008 and charting Yejide and her husband Akin’s attempts to have children and live as the family they have imagined.
  • Little Nothing by Marisa Silver – A novel fusing fairy tale and reality that focuses on transformation and belief in the face of difference.
  • The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown – A timely historical novel about persecution and prejudice centred around Alice, the imagined sister of 17th century Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins.
  • The Lonely City by Olivia Laing – A memoir of loneliness in New York mixed with details and histories of major twentieth century artists who suffered from the same issue and how art and loneliness can connect.
  • Nasty Women by 404 Ink – A collection of essays about intersectional issues facing women in the twenty first century, often moving and funny.
  • The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – A dark literary thriller about a seemingly privileged family and their secrets.
  • The Bomb Girls’ Secrets by Daisy Styles – A light historical novel about the social issues and personal drama of women’s war effort in WWII.