The best books for tough girls facing tough times

Who am I?

My mother was one of the first women to do labor negotiations in the Steel Industry. My sisters and I were raised to believe we could do anything. I have one sister who does executive coaching, another who is a pilot, and I am a writer. I also have two girls of my own. One is an EMT and the other is getting her doctorate in Special Ed. They are both giving but strong-minded. I am proud of them both. I believe strongly that girls need role models in life to understand that with grit and hard work, they can make a world in which their dreams can be realized.


I wrote...

The Root of Magic

By Kathleen Benner Duble,

Book cover of The Root of Magic

What is my book about?

Willow’s life is anything but magical. Her brother, Wisp, is ill. Her parents’ arguments over Wisp’s treatments have escalated to the point where they have separated. And Willow has been the one left to pick up the pieces. But when a car accident lands Willow in the tiny town of Kismet, Maine, she finds her life taking an unexpected turn. The town is oddly isolated, and the longer Willow stays, the more she begins to see really strange things happening all around her. 

Slowly, Willow begins to unravel the secret to Kismet—There is magic in this town! Can that magic save Willow’s sick brother and distant parents?  Read The Root of Magic to find out!

The books I picked & why

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Catherine, Called Birdy

By Karen Cushman,

Book cover of Catherine, Called Birdy

Why this book?

Catherine is by far one of the spunkiest young protagonists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in a book. I fell in love the moment I read the first page. The year is 1290 and Catherine’s father is determined to marry her off to the richest man he can—no matter how horrid that man may be! But her father hasn’t reckoned with the ingenuity of his young daughter. Catherine will match her wits with any of her father’s suitors and win the battle of her own independence. She will fight to the bitter end. I was championing her the whole way, laughing at her antics and delighting in her wit.


Our Only May Amelia

By Jennifer L. Holm,

Book cover of Our Only May Amelia

Why this book?

What do you do when you have seven brothers, are the only girl for miles, and are being told you need to act like a proper lady? You say no. May Amelia does not want to be harnessed like a darn mule. The Washington wilderness of 1899 lays before her in all its glory. Her brothers are off exploring. Why can’t she too? And if that means breaking a few rules, well May Amelia Jackson is just the girl to do it. May Amelia’s tenacity and bravery made me want to stand up and cheer. She is my kind of girl—one who has the will and the determination to make a life lived on her terms.


Out of My Mind

By Sharon M. Draper,

Book cover of Out of My Mind

Why this book?

Tough girls are my love, and Melody Brooks is one of the toughest. Life throws us all curves, but Melody has some of the toughest I’ve read about. She knows absolutely everything because she has a photographic memory. Yet no one knows how smart she is because Melody can’t walk or talk or write. Why? She has cerebral palsy. Now, that might break most people, but not Melody Brooks! She is determined to let everyone know that a bright light is hiding inside her, one that wants to be known and recognized. Her journey toward acceptance by her peers and the world literally took my breath away.


The Great Gilly Hopkins

By Katherine Paterson,

Book cover of The Great Gilly Hopkins

Why this book?

Being raised in foster care is tough. But Gilly Hopkins is tougher by far. Known to be completely unmanageable, brash, and bitter, Gilly has been shuttled from one family to the next. When she is sent to stay with the Trotters, she knows it won’t be for long. She can outlast them! She can outlast anyone! But the Trotters aren’t that easily thrown. So even with her angry blow-ups, her gum-chewing scowls, and her every attempt to get herself sent away once again, Gilly might have finally met her match. For girls who are having tough times, tough Gilly is an excellent protagonist who can model the benefits of learning to control your anger and finding alternative ways to express your frustration while keeping true to yourself. 


Beyond the Bright Sea

By Lauren Wolk,

Book cover of Beyond the Bright Sea

Why this book?

Being abandoned and set adrift as an infant sure is tough. But Crow, now twelve, is ready to face the realities of who she is and where she came from. When a mysterious light appears on the island from which she was sent, Crow becomes involved in a trip of discovery with hidden treasure, shipwrecks and danger aplenty. Crow’s tenacious journey kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting breathlessly to find out what would happen next. But it was her courage and determination to discover who her family is and to ultimately discover what family is truly about that kept me turning the pages.  


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Washington state, the Middle Ages, and foster care?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Washington state, the Middle Ages, and foster care.

Washington State Explore 36 books about Washington state
The Middle Ages Explore 245 books about the Middle Ages
Foster Care Explore 25 books about foster care

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Strange Birds, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Stargirl if you like this list.