Clara Lemlich from Audacity by Melanie Crowder: I know Clara Lemlich is an actual historical person but this is a somewhat fictionalized look at her life though as based on fact as it could be as a novel. She was an amazing person and this book tells her story beautifully
Princess Goewin from A Coalition of Lions by Elizabeth Wein: Goewin is brilliantly strategic and gets stuff done working hard to protect the interests of her country and people during harsh times.
Taylor Markham (and Raffy) from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: Taylor is hard on the outside, but a hot gooey mess on the inside. Going with her on her journey to figure out her past and how it will connect with her future is heart wrenching but so worth it. And Raffy is the perfect foil and best friend that Taylor needs.
Theo from Pointe by Brandy Colbert: Theo has so much strength, but it's being tested under the harshest of conditions and she is learning how much she is capable of. And also when she needs to reach out for help. I love her story so much
Francesca Spinelli (and Justine, Tara, and Siobhan too) from Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta: *whispers* I actually like Francesca more than Taylor. Francesca is snarky, resentful, and stubborn. She is vulnerable and scared as her foundation for life is rocked by her mother's depression. The story of this one year of her life and all its ups and downs is one of the best I've read and is (strangely enough) a go to comfort read for me. Her three best friends balance her out in all the right ways, and the friendship the four of them have is my absolute favorite in all of YA realistic fiction. (Yes, it even beats Maddie/Julie for me though only barely.)
Rose and every single female character in Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein: Rose begins her story young exuberant innocent and full of ideals. She is broken in many ways by her captivity in Ravensbrück. Watching her put the pieces of herself slowly together again is almost as hard as reading the events that broke her apart in the first place. But so worth it. And every woman in this book has an important voice and story that needs to be heard.
Maya from This Side of Home by Renee Watson: Maya is proud, stubborn, smart, and angry at a lot of the changes happening in her neighborhood and the fallout she sees from that. Watching her navigate the changing landscape of her world and arrive at new conclusions about it and herself while staying true to who she is, is time well spent.
Sibylla and Louisa from Wildlife by Fiona Wood: Sibylla and Louisa are two very different girls facing two very different types of heartache. The way their stories intertwine and the unexpected things they learn from each other is truly wonderful.
Piddy Sanchez from Yaque Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina: Piddy's story is truly heartbreaking and all too real, but she is a character you want to wrap up and love and protect.
Here are the other posts in this series:
MG Speculative Fiction
MG Realistic Fiction
YA Speculative Fiction