A Mighty Girl's top picks of survival stories starring girls for tweens and teens.
When disaster strikes, it takes courage, ingenuity, and determination to see yourself and your loved ones through! Not only do these action-packed stories provide exciting thrills and nail-biting suspense, but they also capture the experience of living through a moment when your world gets turned upside down: when the only thing you can rely on is yourself. And while the vast majority of both classic and modern survival stories star boys, increasingly authors are recognizing that it's time for girls to show that they can take the lead and save themselves, even in the most harrowing of circumstances!
In this blog post, we've featured a variety of tween and teen novels about Mighty Girls in survival situations. These stories feature ordinary kids — just like the reader — who, when faced with extraordinary challenges, have to persevere despite the odds and fight for their lives of and lives of those around them. Their tales of determination, hope, and heroism are sure to inspire readers of all ages!
Stories of Mighty Girls in Survival Situations
Emmi and her toymaker father immigrated to Chicago from Germany in 1869, two years ago, but the city still doesn't feel like home. Emmi misses her hometown, and she's mercilessly teased by peers — including Seamus and Cara, a pair of Irish immigrant twins who seem to have adjusted to their new country much more easily than Emmi. But when the Great Fire breaks out on October 8, 1871, the divisions between people fall away as everyone struggles to survive. Can Emmi, Seamus, and Cara make their way through the flames and choking smoke and find a way to rebuild their lives afterward? This gripping story from the Girls Survive series includes backmatter with an historical overview of the Great Chicago Fire, photos, maps, a glossary, and more.
Carmen and her Papa have lived in Boston for four years, hoping to build a better life than they could have back home in Italy. Living in a new country has taken some adjustment, and Carmen can't quite get used to the massive metal tank that looms above their crowded neighborhood. The leaky tank belongs to the Purity Distilling Company, and it's full of sticky brown molasses. Then, one day, the tank suddenly bursts, sending a wave of molasses roaring down the street. Caught in the flood, Carmen must fight for her life — the life that she and Papa built together in America. This pulse-pounding entry in the I Survived series includes backmatter about this real-life disaster and its aftermath. For another action-packed story about the Great Molasses Flood, check out Leah Braves The Flood for ages 7 to 10.
When Tara's mother announces they're traveling to Thailand to explore their Thai heritage, Tara is annoyed: she'd rather be home with her friends over Christmas. Plus, it's a long way to travel for a country she doesn't feel any connection to! But Tara gets overruled, and soon she's staying with her mother in Phuket. But the day after Christmas, disaster strikes: a massive tsunami sweeps through the resort, destroying everything in its path. Tara will have to fight to survive as she struggles to find her mother — and hopes that she's alive. This nail-biting story from the Girls Survive series brings the 2004 earthquake and tsunami to vivid life, and includes backmatter with an overview on the disaster, photos, maps, and more.
11-year-old Jessie is comfortable around Mount St. Helens, with its beautiful trails, lakes, and streams. Like everyone else who lives there, she believes that the volcano is extinct, long past the point where it could be a danger to anyone. Then, suddenly, the mountain explodes, blasting a gaping hole into the top and choking the air with ash and rock. Now Jess has to try to escape the most destructive volcanic event in America's history... all while her home changes from a haven into the most dangerous place she's ever known. This book from the I Survived series augments its captivating story of survival with backmatter about the scale of the devastation caused by this eruption. For another book about a girl surviving this historic disaster, check out Maribel Versus The Volcano for ages 7 to 10.
Roxie Warbler's uncle was a colleague of famous adventurer Lord Thistlebottom — and she wants to prove she is just as brave and resourceful as him! She pores over Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive Them and memorizes what to do if she's lost in the desert, buried in an avalanche, or trapped in quicksand. If only he also gave advice on how to deal with Helvetia's Hooligans, the nasty bullies who torment her at school. But when Roxie ends up stranded on a desert island with the hooligans — where they stumble on a crew of dangerous criminals hiding from the law — she'll have to use all her survival know-how and a healthy dash of her adventurous spirit to win the day! With its mix of serious survival situations and hilarious madcap antics, this story celebrates a would-be hero who proves her mettle when it counts.
Young Nim is comfortable handling life in her island home on her own: her mother died when she was young, and her father often has to leave for days at a time on scientific expeditions. But she knows how to climb a tree, chop down bananas with a machete, and even start a fire with a piece of glass — and she has a sea lion and an iguana to keep her company. She even has a new email friendship with adventure novelist Alex Rover. But when her father's ship is damaged — and then his cell phone calls stop coming altogether — Nim starts to worry... and when she injures her knee, things start looking grim. It will take all of Nim's ingenuity and the help of her friends — including Alex, who isn't nearly as capable as her novels' protagonists — to help her make it through. This delightful novel has also been adapted into a live action feature film.
It's Christmas Eve, 1970, and 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke has been looking forward to traveling from Lima, Peru to her parents' research station in the Amazon. But when the plane flies into a storm, disaster strikes: lightning hits the plane, the fuselage rips apart, and Juliane finds herself falling thousands of feet to the forest floor, still strapped into her seat. The next morning, she wakes up, shocked to discover she's alive — and not too badly hurt. Still, she's stranded in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, far from home. Juliane's scientist parents have taught her how to survive there, but does she know enough to get herself to safety? This stand-alone addition to the Lost series tells the gripping real-life story of Koepcke's experience as the only survivor of a plane crash in the middle of the Amazon.
Laura Ingalls and her family have grown used to the comforts that the fledgling town of De Smet, Dakota Territory offers but the brutal winter of 1880-1881 threatens it all. As blizzard after blizzard rages, houses are buried up to the rooftops, and the train tracks are packed so deep that the town is completely cut off. Laura and Pa come up with innovative solutions to the family's needs — from twisting hay into "logs" to burn from warmth to using a coffee grinder to grind wheat for bread — but with food supplies running dangerously low, can the family hold out until spring? The sixth, Newbery Honor-winning book in the Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series is a powerful tale of a family determined to survive. This beloved title is also available in the Complete Little House 9-Book Set.
A young orca named Vega knows she will be the matriarch of the pod someday, hunting and navigating the Salish Sea with her brother, Deneb, supporting her — but Vega still wonders if she's the right whale to lead. Then, an earthquake and tsunami separate Vega and Deneb from the pod, and leave the ocean unrecognizable with wreckage from the disasters everywhere. To save her brother and her surviving family, Vega will have to journey into the open water and find her way back home again. Told in alternating perspectives by Vega and Deneb, this thrilling animal adventure, accented by black and white spot illustrations, incorporates lessons about sea life and environmental issues into a powerful story about the strength of family.
12-year-old Willa knows that she and her brothers have to escape their abusive father. Five years ago, he took the family to the wilds of Alaska to live off the land and off the grid after Willa's mother died. But each year, they've struggled a little bit more to get enough to eat over the winter and, each year, her father has sunk deeper into alcoholism and abuse. When her father goes hunting by himself, Willa convinces her brothers to travel down the river to Fort Yukon to call their aunt for help. But the trip is dangerous, and their father is on their tail... This character-driven, suspenseful survival story stars a Mighty Girl determined to seek out a better life.
Maroo and her family live a peaceful life at the end of the last Ice Age, but danger is always around the corner and they have to make it to the winter camp before the weather snow sets in. But when her family is delayed in leaving their summer grounds, a blizzard comes early and traps them. Their only hope is for Maroo and her brother Otak to take the treacherous trail over the White Mountain in search of help. When Otak goes missing, however, Maroo faces the harrowing decision about whether to stay and search for her brother or continue to the winter camp in hopes of saving the rest of her family. A modern classic, this story of survival has thrilled young readers for over 20 years.
Cricket's grandmother and father are dead, and her beloved mama has run off, leaving her in the "care" of a scheming aunt — so Cricket decides the best way to get her mama to come back is to find the secret room, painted by a mysterious artist, that she always told stories about. With a few handfuls of stolen snacks, she runs off into the Mississippi woods with the only clue she has: an old coin from a nearby ghost town. As she camps out in a tree house and forages for food, Cricket tries to figure out the puzzle, meets some new friends — and starts to come to terms with some hard truths about her family. A survival adventure, an art mystery, and a touching story of searching for home all come together beautifully in this unique tale.
13-year-old Hannah is a typical young teen heading for her second-ever babysitting gig... which turns out to be anything but typical. An unexpected earthquake separates her and her charges, Zoe and Oscar Matlock, from the Seattle mainland. Worst of all, both the kids are hurt, they have no food, water, or power, and Hannah is even missing her rescue inhaler for her asthma. Hannah must find a way to keep herself and the Matlock kids safe until they can find adult help, but she has no idea how long rescue will take.... Hannah is realistically uncertain about her capabilities as she realizes that help is days away, but pushes herself to the limit and discovers her true strength over the course of this epic survival story.
Mavis Elizabeth Betterly — May B. for short — struggles at school because of dyslexia, and at home because a girl is far less useful on their Kansas farm than a boy. When her family is short on cash, her mother and father hire her out to a newlywed couple, the Oblingers, 15 miles away. She's promised that it's just until Christmas, but when the Oblingers don't return home — leaving May tapped in a snow-covered sod house without help — she'll have to find her own way to survive the winter and eventually make her way home. Told in verse, May's story is tense and lyrical, full of both gritty realism about life on a late-19th-century frontier homestead and hints of the hope that sustains her.
12-year-old Karana lives a contented life on an island with her Nicoleño people — until the day a brutal attack by Russian and Aleut fur hunters leaves many of the men dead. The remaining Nicoleño decide to leave the island, but at the last minute, her little brother Ramo leaves the ship, and Karana leaps off to join him rather than leave him alone. But before long, Ramo is killed by wild dogs, and it's Karana who finds herself stranded without anyone else to help her. To survive, she must take on traditionally masculine tasks, like hunting and fishing, and also find companions to keep her company through the years of solitude. This Newbery Medal-winning novel, with its indomitable heroine, is a modern classic.
12-year-old Maddie had planned a secret sleepover at her grandparents' empty summer apartment, and when her friends can't come, she figures she might as well stay by herself. Except when she wakes up, her town has been evacuated and abandoned... and she's been left behind. As days turn to weeks, Maddie befriends a neighbor's abandoned Rottweiler and learns the skills she'll need to survive natural hazards like Colorado winters, wild animals, and a tornado... and human ones, like looters. But worse of all is the crushing loneliness, which leaves Maddie wondering if she'll be able to make it through all on her own. This riveting novel-in-verse powerfully captures Maddie's struggle to survive alone over a three-year period.
12-year-old Julie Sims spends her summers helping her father, a scuba guide, and she's as comfortable under the waves as he is. She knows the first rule of diving is: if you don't feel right, don't go down. So when her diabetic father gets sick right before two obnoxious clients, Hank Jordan and his son, Shane, are supposed to go under, Julie steps in. Hank and Shane are reckless and refuse to follow her instructions, putting them all in danger... and when they surface, the dive boat and her dad, have disappeared. Now Julie will have to keep herself and her clients alive, avoiding sharks, hypothermia, and dehydration — but who knows how long it will take to get to safety.... Inspired by a diving accident author Watt Key experienced as a teen, this riveting story of survival in open water stars a quick-thinking and courageous Mighty Girl who refuses to give up.
12-year-old Lanesha was born with a caul, which marks her as having supernatural talents. Since her teenaged mother died, she's been cared for by Mama Ya-Ya, a midwife and visionary who can sometimes predict the future. Lanesha doesn't have many friends — especially since she has a hard time hiding her ability to see ghosts — but she feels at home in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. But then Mama Ya-Ya's visions show her a terrible storm approaching — along with her own death — and she has no way to get Lanesha to safety. Instead, she urges Lanesha to rely on both her supernatural talents and her courage to get herself through the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Vivid prose captures the terror of the rising flood waters and Lanesha's determination to survive in this powerful story about resilience and found family.
Jocelyn and Alex have been best friends since kindergarten, and a highlight of their summer has always been a trip to Joss’ family cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. But the summer before 8th grade, things are different: Alex seems distant and Joss doesn't know why. She hopes that a river rafting trip will bring them together again, but when the trip goes horribly wrong — leaving the girls stranded, unsure of where they are, and with only the contents of one wet backpack — they realize they'll have to work together if they're going to get out of the woods alive. Told in the alternating perspectives of the two girls, this engrossing tale explores the complexity of changing middle grade friendships and the resilience of the human spirit.
12-year-old Addie is facing a crisis: her father has left to hunt for gold on the West Coast, and the flux has killed both her mother and baby brother. In 1849 Essex, Massachusetts, that would normally mean she'd have to live with strangers — probably to be used as cheap labor. To avoid that fate, Addie decides to use the wilderness survival skills her father taught her and live in the woods. In the midst of winter, though, that's more difficult than she expected, and she's hanging by a thread when a local Wampanoag woman takes her in. But when Nokummus claims the two of them are actually related, Addie is forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her past. This compelling survival story, rich with historical detail, celebrates a girl determined to build her own future.
When a virus killed every adult on Earth, Lisa became the only person who could protect and take care of her little brother, Todd. She's managed to keep them both alive, but other kids need help too: sick, starving, or threatened by gangs that take and hoard everything for themselves. Before long, Lisa finds herself in charge of a small militia of children on Grand Avenue, balancing the need for food, shelter, and protection for all. Then a new, brutal gang targets Grand Avenue, determined to rule the streets themselves. Does Lisa have what it takes to not only protect her own, but also take charge of a whole city? This graphic novel adaptation of the 1975 dystopian classic explores the many moral questions that emerge in a survival situation.
In her Alaskan village, this 13-year-old is known as Miyax, but to her friends in San Francisco, she's Julie — and she's always felt caught somewhere in between, with neither identity fitting. But when her father goes missing on a seal hunt and is presumed dead, she finds herself an unwanted guest in her aunt's house, being pressured into a marriage that she doesn't want — and one that promises to be abusive. To escape, she flees into the Alaskan wilderness. In an effort to survive, Miyax tries to copy the actions of a pack of wolves — and to her surprise, is accepted by their leader. But if she finds her way back to civilization, will she be Miyax or Julie... and will she feel more at home with humans or wolves? Julie's story continues in the novel's sequel Julie.
Alyssa's California home has been dealing with the drought — which the news is still calling a "flow crisis" but locals are calling the Tap-Out — for some time. But one day, the taps run completely dry. Suddenly, Alyssa's neighborhood goes from a quiet suburb to a war zone as residents turn against one another, desperate for water. And when her parents don't return, Alyssa will have to make terrible choices if she and her little brother are going to survive. A harrowing story in an all-too-possible future, this title invites readers to imagine what they wouldn't do — and what they would — if their lives depended on it.
17-year-old Danger Danielle Warren doesn't live up to her name: ever since she lost an eye in a childhood accident she's been a prisoner to her fears and believes that everything wrong with her family is her fault. So when her distant father, Cougar — a reality TV show survivalist — invites her to join him to film the next episode, Danny is sure this is her chance to prove herself. Then their small plane crashes in the Amazon rainforest, leaving her stranded with her father, teen movie idol Gus Price, and the camera crew... which keeps filming despite the accident. To her surprise, however, Danny discovers she has unexpected strength that will see her through the dangers that face her — and realizes that she has nothing to prove. This tense survival story also explores how you can grow when you embrace who you really are.
17-year-old Ashley is a cross-country star and outdoor-lover who's been looking forward to a night of camping and partying with friends on the Appalachian Trail. But when her boyfriend's ex shows up — and she catches the two of them together — she punches him and runs drunkenly into the woods... only to take a tumble into a ravine, where a boulder crushes part of her foot. Alone, far from the trail, and with infection starting to set in, Ashley struggles to survive, contemplates her past — including abandonment and poverty — and ponders the possible fate of a boy who disappeared in the same woods a few years earlier. This harrowing novel by the author of Heroine includes graphic descriptions of the shocking actions Ashley must take to survive.