1. Bitterblue from Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Bitterblue is memorable, not because she's the bravest or the strongest, but because she tries hard, even if her skills are more fit for a spy than a queen! Any girl making her way in the world can relate, and especially children of abusive or emotionally manipulative parents.
2. Breq from Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Breq may or may not be female, but everyone in her society is referred to by a feminine pronoun, so we'll give her a pass. Breq is uniquely committed to justice, responsible, loyal to a fault, but also strangely cold. I'm a fan.
3. Fire from Fire by Kristin Cashore
Fire is a deeply haunting character whose pain is not easily forgotten, but she is also able to forge her own path despite her past. Perhaps this is a trait of all Cashore's protagonists, but they all manage to feel different. Katsa is the most defiant, while Bitterblue is young and confused. Fire is physically young, but even in her youth, older and wiser than both.
4. Cleopatra Selene from Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Selene is another character who is able to rise from the ashes of a painful past. Her past is not of her making, however, and her compassion and sense of justice carry her through all kinds of suffering.
5. September from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
September is wild, and defiant, and weird. She's a child, but more perceptive and interesting than many adults.
And Some Older Heroines I Didn't Mention Last Time:
6. Rose from Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
Rose is determined to be an independent, accomplished woman, no matter what society tells her.
7. Emily from Emily of New Moonby L.M. Montgomery
Emily is talented, and never gives up her dreams of being a writer.
8. Sara from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Sara is strong no matter what her circumstances. She's remarkably kind, creative, and resourceful.
9. Elphaba from Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Elphaba is prickly and independent, but committed to justice, no matter the cost.
10. Claudia from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Claudia is perceptive and clever, getting herself and Jamie into the museum, and eminently practical in her choice of running away locations.