Books About Women With Superpowers To Inspire You To Kick Butt IRL

by Charlotte Ahlin

So you sawWonder Woman in theaters, you read all the think pieces, you've started a fist fight with every straight man in your life, and now you're hungry for more stories about women with powers. Well I have good news for you! Hollywood may be several thousand years behind the times in terms of powerful women, but there have been exciting things happening in the book world for a while now. The classic superhero trope may conjure images of muscular men wearing capes and lying to their girlfriends, but these days we have a few more options. Check out these books about superpowered women, because we can't leave saving the world to the men.

Too often, when we see a female character with superpowers, she's lumped in as the token girl in a superpowered team full of dudes. Or her powers are significantly less exciting. Or for some reason it is vital to her character that she go rushing into battle in high heels and a bikini (look, wear whatever you want to the battlefield, but you might want to protect a couple of your vital organs?).

Here are a few books with refreshing, nuanced takes on superpowered women, for when you need some extra powerful inspiration:


'Who Fears Death?' by Nnedi Okorafor

In the distant future, in a post-apocalyptic Sudan, genocide threatens to wipe out the Okeke people. From this violence, Onyesonwu is born, with a name that means "Who Fears Death?" As Onyesonwu grows up, though, she learns that she is no ordinary Okeke: she has the frightening ability to shift her shape, and to perform magic that she can't quite control. These powers make her an outcast, but they might just allow Onyesonwu to save her people from death itself.

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'Parable of the Sower' by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower isn't your typical superhero story, and Lauren Olamina isn't exactly a superhero. Her power is a unique ability to feel other people's pain — not exactly a fun power to have. Yet, in a far future America, Lauren is going to transform her odd ability into a revolution that just might save the human race from the brink of extinction.

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'Red Queen' by Victoria Aveyard

The world of Red Queen is split into red and silver. The red-blooded people are ordinary folk, but the silver-blooded are nobles with otherworldly powers. That is, of course, until one young Red girl proves to have god-like powers to rival the most powerful of the Silvers. So Mare finds herself engaged to a Silver prince and organizing a Red resistance, all while still getting a handle on her wild and dangerous abilities.

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'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next is a literary detective in a world much like our own (except that literature is the main source of pop culture, and dodo birds are kept as pets). But Thursday, it turns out, has the unique power to jump into literature, and hang out with fictional characters. It sounds pretty great, until Jane Eyre is kidnapped from the pages of her own novel, and Thursday must go in after her or risk the destruction of the entire Book World.

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'Sabriel' by Garth Nix

Sabriel has spent most of her life at boarding school and, as a result, she hasn't had that much experience with fighting the forces of the evil undead. But when her father goes missing in the mysterious Old Kingdom, it's up to Sabriel to journey forth and rescue him, and to use her untested magic to ensure that the dead stay dead.

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'Graceling' by Kristin Cashore

Graceling is a little bit like a fairy tale version of X-Men: in this world, some people are born with a supernatural gift...and Kasta's gift is the ability to kill. From an early age she can kill anyone with her bare hands and so, naturally, she winds up as the king's thug—until she discovers that there might be far more to her murderous gift than she thought.

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'Ms. Marvel' by G. Willow Wilson, art by Adrian Alphona

OK, this is the only real comic book on this list, I promise. But don't let the classic superhero format scare you away, because Ms. Marvel is a pretty spectacular comic. Kamala Khan is just your average Jersey teen who writes fan fiction and stumbles her way into life-changing superpowers. Can she wield these newfound powers without flunking out of high school or totally geeking out in front of her lifelong heroes? You'll just have to read and find out.

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'The Young Elites' by Marie Lu

Adelina has survived a terrible blood fever...but she's not the same as she was before. Her black hair has turned silver, and in place of one eye she only has a scar. But the change within her might go even deeper, and Adelina is not the only one. The Young Elites is the best kind of mash up of the superhero genre, dystopia, high fantasy, and mystery. Adelina is not a simple, straight forward hero, but a complex young woman with powers she's only just beginning to understand.

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