Being a teenager is weird and confusing. Even more so, we’d argue, for girls. One of the things that got us through those transformative years was a group of incredible books that were smart and funny and empowering as hell. That’s why we’ve rounded up these ten titles, all of which we think should be required reading for young gals on the verge of semi-adulthood.
10 Books Every Teenage Girl Should Read
stargirl By Jerry Spinelli
The teenage years have the power to force even the strongest, individualist girl to conform to society’s standards. Spinelli’s refreshing 2000 book tells the story of Susan, a new girl in school who goes by Stargirl and refuses to let go of the things that make her unique…eventually inspiring those around her to celebrate the things that make them different, too.
the Hate U Give By Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is stuck between two worlds: the poor community where she lives and the affluent prep school she attends. This balancing act becomes even trickier when her childhood best friend is shot to death by the police in front of her eyes. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Thomas's powerful debut is an unflinching look at some of the most prominent issues facing our country today, and is an important read for adults and teens alike.
forever... By Judy Blume
It was groundbreaking in 1975, but it's still relevant today. Blume’s novel tackles teenage sexuality in a way that’s frank but not harsh or excessively advanced. Through the senior-year experience of Catherine, Blume basically provides a guidebook to first loves and all the excitement, confusion and, often, heartbreak that goes along with them.
prep By Curtis Sittenfeld
Lee Fiora is a smart, capable 14-year-old from Indiana whose world is turned upside down when her dad drops her off at the elite Ault School in Massachusetts. Lee struggles to fit in (especially in light of her scholarship status at a school where money is no object), and discovers that acceptance, even once she gets it, is never really as great as you think it’s going to be.
fangirl By Rainbow Rowell
Rowell can do no wrong in our eyes (she wrote the equally excellent Eleanor & Park). Fangirl, published in 2013, follows Cath, an awkward teen, through her first year of college, where the only thing getting her through is the fan fiction she obsessively writes and reads. Regardless of the reader’s interest in fan fic (which Rowell describes with amazingly accurate detail), Cath’s struggles to adjust to life away from home are pretty much universal.
i Am Malala By Malala Yousafzai
This 2013 memoir by 19-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Yousafzai (who was attacked by the Taliban for her outspokenness on the importance of girls’ education) is stunningly inspirational and should be required reading for any young person as a first-person account of how, with passion and perseverance, anyone can change the world.
persepolis By Marjane Satrapi
This graphic memoir recalls Satrapi’s coming of age in Tehran, Iran, during and after the Islamic revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Alternately darkly funny and tragically sad, Satrapi’s excellent book humanizes her homeland and provides a fascinating look at how vastly different life for teenage girls can be around the world.
the House On Mango Street By Sandra Cisneros
In this incredible story, Esperanza Cordero is a young Latina growing up in Chicago trying to figure out how she and her immigrant family fit into their surroundings and their new culture. Told in a series of beautiful vignettes ranging from funny to heartbreaking, Cisneros’s novel has been a hit for decades but is especially relevant in today’s political climate.
cat's Eye By Margaret Atwood
Elaine Risley is a controversial painter who returns to her hometown of Toronto for a retrospective of her work. There, she’s forced to confront her past, including a toxic teen friendship and the lasting effects of childhood bullying. (FYI: Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale should also be required reading, but we’d recommend saving that for at least junior year of college.)
feminism Is For Everybody By Bell Hooks
This short, accessible primer to intersectional feminism deserves a closer reading long after the teenage years are over but serves as a succinct primer to gender equality at a time when girls are vulnerable to the mixed messages sent by their male peers, the media and basically every other direction.