10 Books With Female Leads and No (or Little) Romance

I was talking to one of my coworkers a week or so back, and she said something to the effect of  “What I really wish is that there were more YA books out there where the female main character doesn’t have a romance.” Which got me thinking: how prevalent is this? How many books out there where you have a female main character, and she doesn’t have a love interest.

The answer? Not many. As I set about combing my lists for books like this, I found that most — especially in speculative fiction, interestingly enough — the female main character has a love interest. And not only that, often she NEEDS the love interest to feel complete.

I’m not saying here that I don’t like romance as part of my story; I do, when it’s done well (read: not love at first sight) and when it adds something to the story. For that reason, I’ve added a few books where there is a romantic element, but it’s not the central focus of the story.

So, with that (and in no particular order), 10 books with girls and no/little romance.

1. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray: It’s been a while since I’ve read this one, but from what I remember, the point of this wasn’t falling in love. The point is to mock contemporary culture.

2. Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: I think there might be a romance between D.J. and Brian, but I’m not sure it really is in this one. (Another long time since I’ve read it.) What I do remember is D. J. being a strong personality, and the way she gender-bends by playing football is worth some bonus points.

3. The Latte Rebellion, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson: A book about a mixed-race girl trying to raise race awareness. Not a shred of romance here at all.

4. The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchet: You’d think, from the cover, that the Nac MacFeegle are the main characters of this one, but Tiffany Aching is. And, possibly because she’s only nine, there’s no romance. So, maybe it doesn’t count. But, if I remember right: she manages the entire series, holding her own, standing up for what she does and believes in.

5. Flygirl, by Sherri L Smith: A historical novel about one of the women service pilots in World War II. An African American woman, at that. No romance.

6. Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore: I’m cheating giving you a third in a series, especially since the other two are so fantastic. But, out of the three, this is the one without the romance. Bitterblue is too broken (thanks to her father, who is evil incarnate) to truly have a romance, so even though there is a guy, it’s not the central focus of the novel.

7. Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer: It’s the end of the world, and Pfeffer doesn’t have our main character falling into the arms of a boy. Instead, she hunkers down with her family and works to survive.

8. The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Also: Wintergirls and Speak): Anderson writes girls who deal with their own problems, whether they be date rape, anorexia, or PTSD. They don’t need a guy — even if Finn does show up in Haley’s life, and there is a romance — to help the find answers. So, I’m including this one, even with the Finn story, because Anderson knows how to write complex female characters.

9. The Tyrant’s Daughter, by J. C. Carleson: Laila has a boy interested in her, and she even kisses him but for the most part, she’s more interested in figuring out her mother’s manipulations and her country’s problems and trying to understand American culture than in being in love.

10. Cold Fury, by T. M Goeglein. Yeah, there’s a boyfriend, and a wee bit of a romance. But the main focus of this series is Sara Jane and her mafia connections, as well as finding out what happened to (and saving) her family. She’s tough, and she doesn’t need a guy.

Are there any others? What did I forget?


5 thoughts on “10 Books With Female Leads and No (or Little) Romance

  1. I'm on the last of Tiffany Aching books right now and romance is definitely not the focus. Tiffany now as the witch of her area has to deal with the crunchy things of life, like cleaning up after domestic abuse, rape, and other pleasantries.


  2. Jenna Blake, the protagonist of the Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala, is awesome: strong, smart, courageous. There are ten books in the series. She is attracted to a guy and she does have a boyfriend for a bit in later books, but romance is never the focus of the series.

    Feathered by Laura Kasischke

    The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Not YA but a classic, a staple, and a must read and re-read!


  3. Tylar says:

    The Bone Grit Historeum by Kamilla Reid
    Plain Kate by Erin Bow

    Both are fantastic reads with very little romance. So happy to hear that I’m not alone in being bored with the typical romance that is plaguing YA these days 🙂


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