I've posted before on feminism role models in YA literature, and while the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) isn't exactly YA, given the age of Arya at the beginning of the series (9), I think she's worth a look.
Early on in the series, Arya is show to detest sewing, prettying herself and all those other girl things, and instead chooses to try her hand at sword lessons, which a series of circumstances cause her to master a bit sooner than she'd expected. She's a big like Hermione Granger, in that she's not afraid to be herself and never turns from adventure, but she's more rambunctious, more outspoken, and even less likely to be swayed by what society expects of her. In short, she's awesome.
Some might say that Arya simply adopts the traits of a boy, and thus her power comes from acting the part (she even pretends to be a boy later on in the story). But given the strength of Martin's other female characters (more on that later), I don't think he's at all saying that you have to act like a boy to have power. Instead, you have to be who you are--not what your teachers or your sister or even your parents want you to be. It's what I think most of us try to infuse in the characters in our books, regardless of whether or not they actually have swords.
Cunning, brave, adventurous, and even vindictive at times, Arya Stark deserves a place among the kick-ass girl heros like Hermione and Katniss.
Plus, how adorable is she above?
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