One of my galley group teens came into the library last week to pick out a new book to read. As she was browsing the shelves of ARCs, she asked me "where are all the kickbutt girls in YA without the romance? Every YA book has to have a romance plotline! Why can't the girls just be awesome?" She then picked up an advanced copy, read the cover copy, and sighed "See? This one would have been so good before it got to 'and then she meets boy' here."
Her comments got me thinking-where are the awesome girls without romance?
Coming up with them is harder than you'd think.
Sarah very rightly suggests Code Name Verity (there's a subtle romance in there, but it's not at all front-and-center).
• There isn't one in Etiquette and Espionage, though Gail Carriger definitely laid the groundwork for one in the future.
• There isn't an overt one in Martha Wells' Emilie and the Hollow World, but again, there's the distinct possibility that there'll be one in the sequel.
• The narrator in Life as We Knew It had a crush at the beginning, but that didn't go anywhere and then it turned into ALL SURVIVAL, ALL THE TIME. But that might not count, either, because it depends on how we're defining The State Of Being Kickbutt.
• There are romantic doings in the third Kiki Strike book, but not so much in the first two? I think?
• Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series? Is there a romance in that?
As my sad brain is even more sadly failing me at the moment, I did a little bit of looking around and found these:
• A few reviews of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Every Other Day mention that it's a standout in the paranormal genre because it doesn't feature a romance: apparently, there's the potential for one, but nothing overt.
• Io9 lauded Jonathan L. Howard's Katya's World for being romance-free: There's a lot of talk about how awesome female heroines are these days, but fifteen-year-old Katya is the real deal. She's stubborn and tough, driven by her desire for respect. She's also really smart in a believable way. Plenty of other characters figure things out, but often at the same time as Katya or just after she points out something important that she's noticed. The reader doesn't ever feel like the adults around her are idiots, but rather that Katya has actually earned her place among them. Katya's also entirely unburdened with a romance. So that's getting bumped WAAAAAAAY up on my TBR list.
There MUST be more, though, yes?
*Not to say that girls in straight-up contemporaries aren't awesome, but judging by the other titles listed in the original post, I'm guessing that she's using "kickbutt" literally, which suggests, you know: action sequences and whatnot. Tangential question, because I am too lazy to Google it: Is there a contemporary along the lines of Girlfight? Except, rats, Girlfight had a romance. Wow, this is a ridiculous sidebar. Moving on.