Since I am a math geek at heart, I love to see fictional characters who aren’t afraid to be their science loving selves. Here is a list of my favorite ladies in the sciences from YA novels.
- Juliana Telford from Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Antsey. Not only was Juliana into studying beetles, she was a lady in nineteenth century England. I loved how unexpected her interests were and how she pursued them without fear of judgement. Also, she had quite a talent for getting into unladylike situations and getting out of them embarrassing herself socially.
- Charlotte Holmes from the Charlotte Holmes Series by Brittany Cavallaro. Charlotte is one of my favorite kinds of brainy characters. She is a jack of all trades; chemistry, languages, psychology, you name it. I loved how real her character was. Geniuses are often misunderstood socially and can typically be outcasts in social circles. Charlotte was no exception. She spent most of the series, while being very impressive intellectually, also learning about how to interact with other people (often experimenting with these interactions on Watson). I also want to applaud the gender bending on a classic like Sherlock Holmes.
- Elsa da Veldana from Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare. Elsa is a lot like Charlotte Holmes in that she also struggled to interact with other people. She was a scriptologist (and secretly a polymath) who spent most of her life never needing anyone to help her. I really enjoyed watching her be a kick-ass genius, without compromising who she was. She never let other people’s feelings stop her from putting out her best work. And, her work served as inspiration for other female characters in the series like Portia and her sister. It’s not often that we see a theme of female intellectuals inspiring others in YA novels, so this was a breath of fresh air.
- Veronica Speedwell from The Veronica Speedwell Series by Deanna Raybourn. Much like Juliana Telford, Veronica Speedwell made her living studying lepidoptery (butterflies). She was an early twentieth century woman who was going out into the world and making a name for herself. While some of her opinions were considered scandalous, I love the contrast of her forward thinking with her male sidekick’s chivalrous traditionalism. Stoker never held Veronica back, and in fact, he encouraged her to be herself, but, when called upon, he was always the gentleman. Not only does this series include a strong, smart, female lead, it also captures an understanding and supportive male counterpart.
- Rhen Tellur from To Best the Boys by Mary Weber – Rhen was an aspiring doctor in a society where women can’t even go to college. This whole story is about overcoming sexism in a setting where it is abundant. Rhen wants more than to just be a doctor, she challenged societal norms and set a strong example that being yourself is the best way to live.