1. Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s one of my favorite novels, so you knew it had to make the list. Scout’s first-person narration of Mockingbird is just one of the many highlights of this great book. I will admit I’m a bit nervous about the upcoming “sequel” that will hit shelves later this year. This book is so close to perfect to me that I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a second installment can’t possibly live up to my expectations.
2. Barbara Havers from the Elizabeth George mysteries. — I look forward to each new Elizabeth George novel not only for the tightly plotted mystery, but for a chance to catch up with my literary friends Inspector Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers. Havers isn’t what you’d think of as your “typical” heroine, but I can’t help but love her, flaws and all. Barbara enjoys foods that aren’t good for her, smokes too much and has a tendency to speak before she thinks. Her fashion sense is questionable and I often delight in the outfits that George chooses to describe her wearing in each installment. And yet for all that, she’s still a great partner to Lynley and a fascinatingly compelling character.
3. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables series. This one’s kind of a mixture of the character presented in the novels and the various mini-series starring Megan Follows that aired when I was growing up. Red-haired Anne Shirley is sent by mistake to the Cuthberts, who wanted a boy to help around the farm. Anne has a tendency to dream huge dreams and to say the wrong thing. She’s also prone to mishaps. And I can’t help but love the character.
4. Ramona Quimby from the Ramona books. Growing up, I read the Ramona novels over and over again. Beverly Cleary’s creation, who is allowed to grow up over the course of each novel is one of best things in all of literature — children’s or otherwise. From her confusion at how long she should sit at her desk to her fights with older sister Beezus to trying to understand how a new baby will affect her family, Ramona feels more like an old friend than a literary character.
5. Dana Scully from The X-Files. Originally brought into to debunk the work of Agent Fox Mulder, Scully proved to be his staunchest ally as the show progressed. I’d argue that Scully’s journey is the one that defines the X-Files more than the journey of Mulder. While she relied on science and wanted proof of various supernatural happenings and governmental conspiracies, Scully also held firmly to her faith, especially during the Scully has cancer arc that dominated the second half of season four. Credit Gillian Anderson for some superlative work in bringing this character to life and making her more than just a the yin to Mulder’s yang.
6. Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Of course, I’m referring to the TV show and not necessarily the feature film. Brought to life by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Joss Whedon, Buffy grew out of Whedon’s desire to subvert the vampire genre and have the blonde victim turn the tables on her vampire attackers. And while she could be tough, Buffy also had a vulnerable side. Just watch her reaction to her mother’s death in “The Body” or her having to send Angel to hell to save the world at the end of season two.
7. Mrs. Emma Peel from The Avengers — No, not the Marvel Studios film, but the classic 60’s television series, The Avengers. Called a “talented amateur” in the US opening credits, Mrs. Peel was anything but. Played with delightful charm and wit by Dianna Rigg, Mrs. Peel was an equal partner in crime-solving fun with John Steed. Together they thwarted many a plot to overthrow the government or to seize power. If you’ve never seen the 60’s series, I can’t recommend it enough.
8. Ace from Doctor Who. Many of the female companions in classic Doctor Who could scream loudly when confronted by monsters, get into trouble so they could be rescued by the Doctor and ask questions to allow the Doctor to explain what was going on in that week’s installment. But Ace was a shift from that pattern and one that I liked. An explosive experts who created her own nitro-nine, Ace wasn’t a screamer but would instead take on the various monsters and villains head-on (she uses an enhanced baseball bat on a Dalek at one point). She also had a complex, entertaining back story that the series and later the novels explored in great detail.
9. Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Yes, she’s an animated character but she’s a Disney character who loves to read and loves her family. How can you not love that?!?