The best MG & YA books about girls seeking bodily agency & body confidence

Why am I passionate about this?

As a person who has lived with chronic illness and disability for over a decade, I've often found it difficult to advocate for myself because I was afraid and because I just didn’t know that I had a right to speak up. Not just in medical settings but also with family and friends. So often, others with “authority” think they know what’s best for us, but in the end, we know our bodies best. I’ve learned to set boundaries, say no, and advocate for myself as a means of survival. These five books are wonderful examples of strong girls and young women using their voices to protect their bodily agency and build their body confidence.


I wrote...

Aniana del Mar Jumps In

By Jasminne Mendez,

Book cover of Aniana del Mar Jumps In

What is my book about?

Aniana del Mar belongs in the water like a dolphin belongs to the sea. But she and Papi keep her swim practices and meets hidden from Mami, who has never recovered from losing someone she loves to the water years ago. That is, until the day Ani’s stiffness and swollen joints mean she can no longer get out of bed, and Ani is forced to reveal just how important swimming is to her. Mami forbids her from returning to the water but Ani and her doctor believe that swimming along with medication will help Ani manage her disease. What follows is the journey of a girl who must grieve who she once was in order to rise like the tide and become the young woman she is meant to be.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Breathe and Count Back from Ten

Jasminne Mendez Why did I love this book?

I loved Natalia Sylvester’s tender and gripping YA novel about a young woman living with hip dysplasia yearning to be a mermaid because it reminded me of the big dreams I had as a young teenage girl.

Verónica will do just about anything to get a job as a real-life mermaid at Mermaid Cove, however her parents are not having it. They want Verónica to be a “serious” young woman and pursue jobs and opportunities that will benefit her future and they think they know what’s best for her body and her disability.

I resonated with this deeply because I too pursued goals and dreams that my parents were often not in favor of and have had to advocate for myself and what my body needs.

By Natalia Sylvester,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Breathe and Count Back from Ten as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

In this gorgeously written and authentic novel, Veronica, a Peruvian-American teen with hip dysplasia, auditions to become a mermaid at a Central Florida theme park in the summer before her senior year, all while figuring out her first real boyfriend and how to feel safe in her own body.

Veronica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body.

Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks . .…


Book cover of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Jasminne Mendez Why did I love this book?

Charlie’s mom is anything but accepting of her weight. And that’s unfortunate because Charile really does want to love her body and wants to be accepted for who she is no matter what.

In a world where thin social media influencers, models, and actors perpetuate harmful ideals about weight and size, Charlie shows us someone who is capable of loving their whole curvy and quirky self. I was rooting for Charlie to find romantic love and self-love no matter what, throughout this entire funny, fast-paced, and heart-warming YA novel.

By Crystal Maldonado,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fat Chance, Charlie Vega as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard. Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

A NEW ENGLAND BOOK AWARD WINNER!

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it's hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn't help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be…


Book cover of Iveliz Explains It All

Jasminne Mendez Why did I love this book?

Iveliz is angry and depressed, about a lot of things, including the death of her father. In an attempt to help Iveliz manage her anger and depression she sees a therapist and takes medication.

Iveliz knows taking her medications will help her, but what if the meds aren’t helping anymore? And what if seeing a therapist and talking about her problems isn’t what Iveliz wants to do? Why does no one want to listen to what she wants?

Iveliz struggles to say no and to advocate for herself and she pours all her thoughts and feelings into her journal, until she realizes that maybe using her voice is a better way to be heard. I loved the way Iveliz’s emotional journey and mental health are chronicled and treated with respect and care in this award-winning middle-grade novel in verse.

By Andrea Beatriz Arango, Alyssa Bermudez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Iveliz Explains It All as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

NEWBERY HONOR AWARD WINNER • In this timely and moving novel in verse, a preteen girl navigates seventh grade while facing mental health challenges. A hopeful, poetic story about learning to advocate for the help and understanding you deserve.

"Powerful." —Lisa Fipps, Printz Honor-winning author of Starfish

How do you speak up when it feels like no one is listening?

The end of elementary school?
Worst time of my life.
And the start of middle school?
I just wasn’t quite right.
But this year?
YO VOY A MI.

Seventh grade is going to be Iveliz’s year. She’s going to make…


Book cover of The Moon Within

Jasminne Mendez Why did I love this book?

There is nothing more confusing, exciting, or scary than a young girl’s first period.

As an adolescent I couldn’t wait for my first period to arrive and “make me a woman.” But Celi Rivera is not looking forward to it because getting her first period means participating in a moon ceremony (a Mexica ritual done after a girl’s first period arrives).

While Celi’s mother is insistent and excited about it, Celi struggles to find the words to tell her mother that she doesn’t want a moon ceremony or at least that having one should be her choice.

Told in verse with wit, humor, and sensitivity, Salazar weaves us a story that brings us back to the tumultuous and vulnerable times of our youth while offering us hope and light.

By Aida Salazar,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Moon Within as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The dazzling story of a girl navigating friendship, family, and growing up, an Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? for the modern day, from debut author Aida Salazar.

****Four starred reviews!****

* "A worthy successor to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret set in present-day Oakland." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Celi Rivera's life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend's exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.

But most of all, her mother's insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It's an…


Book cover of Starfish

Jasminne Mendez Why did I love this book?

Ellie has been bullied about her weight for some time and her mom insists on dragging her to doctors who can help her “manage her weight.”

Ellie wants to stand up to her bullies and her mom but sometimes she just doesn’t know how. While Ellie struggles to find the words she needs to advocate for herself, she finds solace in swimming. Because under water is where she feels the most weightless and free and it’s when she loves herself and her body the most.

With therapy and the help of her new best friend, Ellie shows us how true body confidence and bodily agency can be achieved even when it feels like it’s impossible. 

By Lisa Fipps,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Starfish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she's been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules - like "no making waves," "avoid eating in public," and "don't move so fast that your body jiggles." And she's found her safe space - her swimming pool - where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It's also where she can get away from her pushy…


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Book cover of Adventures in the Radio Trade: A Memoir

Joe Mahoney Author Of Adventures in the Radio Trade: A Memoir

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Broadcaster Family man Dog person Aspiring martial artist

Joe's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Adventures in the Radio Trade documents a life in radio, largely at Canada's public broadcaster. It's for people who love CBC Radio, those interested in the history of Canadian Broadcasting, and those who want to hear about close encounters with numerous luminaries such as Margaret Atwood, J. Michael Straczynski, Stuart McLean, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gzowski, and more. And it's for people who want to know how to make radio.

Crafted with gentle humour and thoughtfulness, this is more than just a glimpse into the internal workings of CBC Radio. It's also a prose ode to the people and shows that make CBC Radio great.

By Joe Mahoney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adventures in the Radio Trade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In dozens of amiable, frequently humorous vignettes... Mahoney fondly recalls his career as a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio technician in this memoir... amusing and highly informative."
— Kirkus Reviews

"What a wonderful book! If you love CBC Radio, you'll love Adventures in the Radio Trade. Joe Mahoney's honest, wise, and funny stories from his three decades in broadcasting make for absolutely delightful reading!
— Robert J. Sawyer, author of The Oppenheimer Alternative''

"No other book makes me love the CBC more."
— Gary Dunford, Page Six
***
Adventures in the Radio Trade documents a life in radio, largely at Canada's…


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