With the number of YA releases, you’d think it shouldn’t be too hard to find good books for teen girls. But many YA books these days seem to be more for adults than teens. There are also so many books for teens with romance as the central plot (which I have no qualms about), but some teens don’t enjoy reading about romance.
For this list, I tried to choose wholesome books that teen girls will enjoy, with minimal language, something more than romance, and relatable themes. The stories below are some of my favorite YA stories, and like with all gendered lists, everyone can read these — they’re just YA books starring teen girls!
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25 Fantastic YA Books for Teen Girls
Here are 25 great YA books for teen girls:
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Published: February 4, 2020
British teen Pippa Fitz-Amobi has decided to do her senior capstone project on a local murder case that was closed 5 years ago. Five years ago, high schooler Andie Bell went missing, and her boyfriend Sal Singh sent his father a text admitting to the crime, after which he was found in what seemed like an apparent suicide. But Pip doesn’t buy it. This is a thrilling clean teen murder mystery with a clever, likeable protagonist. Fans of true crime podcasts like Serial will love this book with a similar plot — especially if you listen to the full cast audiobook.
Published: January 31, 2023
I’ll be upfront: This is a full-on historical romance for teens, BUT it’s squeaky clean in terms of language and features four Black sisters who stumble into love in different ways. It’s also about the Davenport family business and features side characters who are dealing with compelling issues, like a maid trying to start a business and a best friend whose parents are forcing her to form a relationship with the Daveport’s only son. The Davenports is a swoony romance that manages to still be appropriate for older teens ages 15+
Published: May 31, 2022
In this book for teen girls, high schooler Serene gets more than she bargained when her fashion designer single mom gets diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She decides she’s going to try to find her father who left when she was a baby. This is a gripping YA story with frequent uses of strong language, a cute romance subplot, and a mild sexual harassment subplot. It’s by Kelly Yang, so you know it’s well written!
The Love Match
Published: January 3, 2023
Calling all Pride & Prejudice fans! Zahra Khan’s is a new high school graduate who’s saving up for college—which she’s had to defer because her mom can’t afford to send her just yet. Her mother, though? She thinks their family’s way out is an arranged marriage to a wealthy family. Too bad the family’s son Harun Emon doesn’t care for Zahra. Zahra herself is falling for a new waiter in the cafe where she works. So Harun and Zahra band together to make their parents call off the courtship.
This was such a romantic, tender, feel-good love story with lots of insight into Bangladeshi culture, arranged marriages, and Bangladeshi film history. I listened to the audiobook which was much easier to get into and once I did, I couldn’t put this book down. I typically hate love triangles but this was almost as good as Peter K vs John Ambrose! Definitely recommend.
Published: November 15, 2022
After a horrific Valentine’s Day, Emilie Hornbie is ready for a do-over — or so she thinks. Her boyfriend is cheating on her, her dad is planning to move away without asking how she feels, and her car is totalled after an accident with a schoolmate. But she feels better after arriving at her grandma’s house that evening. Except… when she wakes up the next day, it’s Valentine’s Day again!
Stuck in the time loop, Emilie tries to undo the calamities, but she keeps running into the same schoolmate, Nick — and falling for him too. This was an absolutely delightful romance — but also not just a romance. It also delves into grief, family, and perfectionism.
Tokyo Ever After
Published: May 18, 2021
When Izumi Tanaka finds out that her father (the one her single mother never wants to talk about) is the crowned Prince of Japan, she’s whisked away to Japan to meet her father and the family she didn’t know she had. Of course, this means she had to leave close to the end of her senior year in high school, hoping to return in time for graduation. When she gets to Japan, however, she’s met with a new (handsome) bodyguard, Akio; cunning cousins, and a whole lot of royal etiquette to learn. This is a great escapist romance with infrequent mild language, perfect for fans of The Princess Diaries!
One True Loves
Published: January 4, 2022
One True Loves is Elise Bryant‘s sophomore YA novel set in the same universe as her debut, Happily Ever Afters. This companion title focuses on the sassy, seemingly unbothered Lenore Bennett, Tessa’s one of Tessa’s new friends. Lenore has had bad experiences with every guy she’s dated. They’ve either cheated on her or broken up with her at the worst time. So, she decides she’s done looking for love and that the whole true love thing will never work for her. Until her family goes on a Mediterranean cruise, where she meets Alex Lee.
I loved this swoony, multi-layered young adult novel about making room for vulnerability, redefining Black excellence, and finding the courage to be one’s true self. Heads up that there is a bit of language in this one!
All the Fighting Parts
Published: September 19, 2023
This powerful verse novel for teens follows a 16-year-old teen recovering from sexual assault by her pastor. It’s definitely a tough read with serious topics, but I think most teens can handle it.
Made in Korea
Published: May 18, 2021
Valerie Kwon is a business-savvy Korean-American teen who runs V&C K-Beauty with her cousin, Charlie, out of her high school locker. She’s saving up so that she can take her halmeoni to Paris on a memorable vacation. Valerie’s dreams face a huge obstacle when a new, good-looking Korean-American student Wes Jung unwittingly starts his own competing K-beauty business in their school.
This is a sweet, charming, and entertaining young adult enemies-to-lovers romance. With a headstrong female protagonist and an endearing male protagonist, this story packs family, romance, and coming-of-age challenges into an engaging, compulsively readable package.
When It All Syncs Up
Published: June 6, 2023
Ballet is Aisha’s life. So when she’s denied yet another lead at her elite academy because she doesn’t “look” the part, she knows something has to change–the constant discrimination is harming her mental health.
Switching to her best friend Neil’s art school seems like the perfect plan at first. But she soon discovers racism and bullying are entrenched in the ballet program here, too, and there’s a new, troubling distance between her and Neil. And as past traumas surface, pressure from friends and family, a new romance, and questions about her dance career threaten to overwhelm her.
There’s no choreography to follow–for high school or for healing. Aisha will have to find the strength within herself–and place her trust in others–to make her next move.
Published: October 15, 2019
Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Published: April 15, 2014
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control. This is a beloved classic perfect for all fans of YA romance.
Published: June 6, 2023
Fifteen-year-old Jessie, a quirky loner obsessed with the nineties, is diagnosed as autistic just weeks before starting high school. Determined to make a fresh start and keep her diagnosis a secret, Jessie creates a list of goals that range from acquiring two distinct eyebrows to getting a magical first kiss and landing a spot in the school play. Within the halls of Holy Trinity High, she finds a world where things are no longer black and white and quickly learns that living in color is much more fun. But Jessie gets more than she bargained for when two very different boys steal her heart, forcing her to go off-script.
Published: April 11, 2023
This is one of my favorite books for teens! Sam and her mom can’t seem to get along, but their relationship is nowhere as strained as her mother and grandmother’s. When her grandmother falls into a coma, Sam and her mom, Priscilla get into a bad argument. Then a strange cab ride lands Sam in the 90s as her mother’s classmate! Sam has to fix her mom and halmoni’s relationship in the past before it’s too late and she ends up learning a lot about her both women. This was a fun, poignant exploration of the mother-daughter relationship and how times have changed since the 90s.
The Faint of Heart
Published: June 13, 2023
This unique YA graphic novel is set in a world where everyone but one high schooler has had their heart taken out. It turns out being the only one with a heart is lonely and June is contemplating having the procedure done, until she meets a classmate whose heart has begun to grow back. This book is haunting, romance-free, and refreshingly different from anything I’ve ever read! Perfect for kids ages 12+
You Bet Your Heart
Published: May 30, 2023
Sasha Johnson-Sun might not know everything—like how to fully heal after her dad’s passing or how many more Saturdays her mom can spend cleaning houses. But the one thing Sasha is certain of? She will graduate this year as Skyline High’s class valedictorian.
At least, she was sure before the principal calls Sasha and her cute, effortlessly gifted ex–best friend, Ezra Davis-Goldberg, into his office to deliver earth-shattering news: they’re tied for valedictorian and the scholarship attached…
This outcome can’t be left to chance. So, Sasha and Ezra agree on a best-of-three, winner-take-all academic bet. As they go head-to-head, they are forced not only to reexamine why they drifted apart but also to figure out who they’ve become since. With her future hanging in the balance, Sasha must choose: honor her family’s sacrifices by winning (at all costs) or give her heart a shot at finding happiness?
Tilly in Technicolor
Published: August 15, 2023
Tilly Twomley is desperate for change. White-knuckling her way through high school with flawed executive functioning has left her burnt out and ready to start fresh. Working as an intern for her perfect older sister’s start up isn’t exactly how Tilly wants to spend her summer, but the required travel around Europe promises a much-needed change of scenery as she plans for her future. The problem is, Tilly has no idea what she wants.
Oliver Clark knows exactly what he wants. His autism has often made it hard for him to form relationships with others, but his love of color theory and design allows him to feel deeply connected to the world around him. Plus, he has everything he needs: a best friend that gets him, placement into a prestigious design program, and a summer internship to build his resume.
Everything is going as planned. That is, of course, until he suffers through the most disastrous international flight of his life, all turmoil stemming from lively and exasperating Tilly. Oliver is forced to spend the summer with a girl that couldn’t be more his opposite―feeling things for her he can’t quite name―and starts to wonder if maybe he doesn’t have everything figured out after all.
Give Me a Sign by Anna Sortino
Published: July 11, 2023
Lilah is stuck in the middle. At least, that’s what having a hearing loss seems like sometimes—when you don’t feel “deaf enough” to identify as Deaf or hearing enough to meet the world’s expectations. But this summer, Lilah is ready for a change.
When Lilah becomes a counselor at a summer camp for the deaf and blind, her plan is to brush up on her ASL. Once there, she also finds a community. There are cute British lifeguards who break hearts but not rules, a YouTuber who’s just a bit desperate for clout, the campers Lilah’s responsible for (and overwhelmed by)—and then there’s Isaac, the dreamy Deaf counselor who volunteers to help Lilah with her signing.
Romance was never on the agenda, and Lilah’s not positive Isaac likes her that way. But all signs seem to point to love. Unless she’s reading them wrong? One thing’s for sure: Lilah wanted change, and things here . . . they’re certainly different than what she’s used to.
The Queens of New York
Published: June 6, 2023
Best friends Jia Lee, Ariel Kim, and Everett Hoang are inseparable. But this summer, they won’t be together.
Everett, aspiring Broadway star, hopes to nab the lead role in an Ohio theater production, but soon realizes that talent and drive can only get her so far. Brainy Ariel is flying to San Francisco for a prestigious STEM scholarship, even though her heart is in South Korea, where her sister died last year. And stable, solid Jia will be home in Flushing, juggling her parents’ Chinatown restaurant, a cute new neighbor, and dreams for an uncertain future.
As the girls navigate heartbreaking surprises and shocking self-discoveries, they find that even though they’re physically apart, they are still mighty together.
The Unstoppable Bridget Bloom
Published: May 2, 2023
Bridget Bloom’s out-of-this-world voice is the perfect fit for center stage. When Bridget’s admitted to Richard James Academy, a college prep boarding school with a prestigious music program—where heartthrob Duke Ericson attends—all her dreams are on track to come true: leave the hometown where she’s never belonged, fall in love, and launch her Broadway career.
But upon arriving at the academy, she learns that due to her low music theory scores, she’s not eligible to perform or earn the sponsorship she needs to afford the tuition. Worst of all, Dean of Students Octavia Lawless, the one person with the power to reverse the decision, challenges her to work on her humility . . . by not singing at all.
Without her voice, Bridget will have to get out of her comfort zone and find a new way to shine. Good thing she is unstoppable!
There Goes the Neighborhood
Rhea’s neighborhood is fading away―the mom-and-pop shops of her childhood forced out to make space for an artisanal kombucha brewery here, a hot yoga studio there. And everywhere, the feeling that this place is no longer meant for her. Because while their little corner of South L.A. isn’t perfect, to Rhea and her two best friends, it’s something even more important―it’s home. And it’s worth protecting.
But as more white people flock to their latest edgy, urban paradise for its cheap rent and sparkling new Whole Foods, more of Rhea’s friends and family are pushed out. Until Rhea decides it’s time to push back. Armed with their cellphones and a bag of firecrackers, the friends manipulate social media to create the illusion of gang violence in their neighborhood. All Rhea wanted to do was protect her community. Her friends. Herself. No one was supposed to get hurt. No one was supposed to die.
But is anyone ever really safe when you’re fighting power with fear?
The Downstairs Girl
Published: August 13, 2019
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.”
When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby.
But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.
Where the Rhythm Takes You
Published: May 11, 2021
Seventeen-year-old Reyna is working at her family’s hotel, The Plumeria — as she has since her mother’s death two years before. Everyone around her seems to be moving forward with their lives. Her best friend, Olivia is going to art school in England, her first love Aiden moved away to the US where he has become a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. Even her father seems ready to move on. But Reyna is stuck, and now Aiden is back on a surprise trip to Tobago — where Reyna lives — to celebrate his birthday.
Things get even more complicated when Reyna’s father asks her to be a tour guide for Aiden and his friends — Eliza, Fish, Hayley, and Leonardo. I loved this alluring, immersive, and swoony YA coming-of-age story with a heartwarming second-chance romance.
Listen to Your Heart
Published: May 29, 2018
Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.
But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend . . . until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego.
Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.
Breathe and Count Back from Ten
Published: May 10, 2022
Peruvian-American teen Verónica finds solace in swimming — and not just because it alleviates some of the discomfort from her hip dysplasia. She feels free and nimble under water, but she’s also practicing for a lifelong dream of performing at Mermaid Cove, an underwater sort-of-theme-park in her Florida town.
The only problem is that her immigrant parents are overprotective and her father thinks performing as a mermaid is a waste of time when Verónica could be improving her grades ahead of college. But when the chance to audition falls in her lap, Verónica can’t resist.
This is a poignant young adult novel about disability, Peruvian culture, body image, and identity. With a sweet YA romance and strong themes of family and bodily autonomy, this book manages to be strong, swoony, and contemplative all at once.
There they are: 25 of the best books for teen girls! Which of these books have you read and loved? What did I miss?
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