Let’s start with the Song of the Lioness Quartet, by Tamora Pierce. These are fantasy chapter books that range from about a 6th grade reading level to a 9th grade reading level. Nevertheless, they form the core of the pickychick book vision, and a great base to spring from.
The books of the quartet are Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hands of the Goddess, Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant. The series (Pierce’s first), follows Alanna of Trebond from her eleventh birthday when she decides to switch places with her twin brother in order to become a knight, all the way through her [SPOILER] attainment of the title of King’s Champion, ten years later.
In Alanna, readers will find a fiercely independent protagonist who will certainly not without her flaws – temper, recklessness, prone to get violently seasick – never fails to get the job done, and usually all on her own. She battles evil sorcerers and minor Gods, but also struggles to navigate her relationships with her friends and family. While surrounded by men, Alanna never depends on them – more often, she leads them. As a role model, she kicks butt like a pro, and never fails to do the right thing, even when it results in harsh consequences that she alone must face. Strong and smart, she faces down each challenge with her wits and sword.
Throughout the series, Pierce’s narrative strength grows with her heroine, and she never fails to present interesting scrapes for Alanna to get in and out of. While pickychick also encourages you to check out Pierce’s plethora of other series (the majority of which star female protagonists), the Song of the Lioness Quartet is a staple of any young reader’s diet, and Alanna is the original B.A. This series is skillfully plotted and never boring, and good for reluctant readers – once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop!