TEEN READS: These YA books celebrate women’s abilities

March is women's history month. Celebrate it with these young adult novels.

Delacorte Press, 2015

March is a month on the cusp of a new existence. It is a month that feels like the previous year has fallen away and we are well and truly encountering a new existence.

So, it is appropriate that March is the month in which we celebrate Women’s history – a month to look back and remember those who have gone before, who took chances so that today’s women have an opportunity to achieve their dreams.

The main characters in both of our books are young women whose dreams are bigger than that recognized by their families and their society. One lives in New York City in the 1890s, while the other is taken from Washington, D.C. to an enchanted kingdom. Both are fierce, determined, and about to carve out new futures for themselves.

“A Curse So Dark and Lonely”

Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2019

This book by Brigid Kemmerer is a young adult (YA) retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale. Prince Rhen is doomed to repeat the autumn of his 18th year until a girl falls in love with him. Every time this fails to happen, he becomes a vicious beast bent on destruction. He has destroyed his castle, his family, and his hope.

Harper lives in Washington, D.C. with her brother and her mother, who is dealing with cancer. Harper has cerebral palsy, and her brother sees only her limitations, refusing to see all of Harper’s abilities.


Whenever Rhen fails to find love, he sends his servant, Grey, into the world to find another girl. When Harper sees a girl in distress she comes to her aid. Grey takes Harper instead and she is pulled into a magical place.

In Rhen’s kingdom, Harper doesn’t know what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen, she begins to understand what is at stake. Rhen begins to see Harper’s true abilities and realizes she could save Ember Falls and him.

“A Curse So Dark and Lonely” is a refreshing and courageous retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” focusing on the characters’ abilities rather than their limitations.

“These Shallow Graves”

Delacorte Press, 2015

This book by Jennifer Donnelly is YA historical fiction, featuring a main character who refuses to be defined by the limitations imposed on her.

Jo knows what her future holds. After she finishes school, she will be married to a wealthy man whether she loves him or not. Her dreams reach farther than this shallow life.

Jo wants to become a newspaper reporter. Her father owns a newspaper, and she is familiar with that world.

Her life is just about perfect until the day that her beloved father is found dead. When it is determined that he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun, Jo knows something more is at play. Her father would never clean a loaded gun.

Jo decides that she must investigate his death, and she becomes convinced that she is correct. As she searches for the truth she discovers so many secrets.


Mary Schwartz works in the Park Rapids Area Library’s young adult section, ordering books and creating programming. On the Literary Mary channel on YouTube, her videos explore books, STEM, creativity and family history research. She also enjoys hiking and exploring the woods with her camera and her husband, Kevin.
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