The best books on resilience for young adults and adults

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in stories about becoming. Whether it’s a coming-of-age story, a story about overcoming adversity, or a story about discovery or recovery, I find that the best books about becoming also tend to be books about resilience. For me, the lure of a book is often more about its themes and perspective than it is about where it’s categorized and shelved. Having written a memoir in verse for an upper young adult reading group, this is especially true of my experience as an author. Each of the books on this list has something profound and singular to offer young adult readers and adult readers alike.


I wrote...

Disappearing Act: A True Story

By Jiordan Castle,

Book cover of Disappearing Act: A True Story

What is my book about?

Moving and evocative, Disappearing Act is a young adult memoir in verse following author Jiordan Castle's coming of age as her family reckons with the aftershocks of her father's imprisonment. Reckoning with the aftershocks of her father’s incarceration, Jiordan had to navigate friends who couldn't quite understand what she was going through, along with the highs and lows of first love. Recounting her own experiences as a teenager, Disappearing Act is a searing and evocative true story about the challenge to be free when a parent is behind bars.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize

Jiordan Castle Why did I love this book?

It’s impossible not to root for Lucy Clark. Shipped by negligent parents to a boarding school where every semblance of comfort is taken from her, and then brutally banished to NYC after a terrible accident, Lucy finds herself trying to solve a murder mystery.

The target is an elderly woman who has been grossly underestimated, much like Lucy herself. With a keen best friend, ageism-defying twists, and the rich refuge of plants and desserts, this book is a must-read for anyone who’s ever found themselves at the bottom, looking for a way back up.

By Margo Rabb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize 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?

"A delightfully offbeat mystery that is also about the mystery of becoming yourself." -Rebecca Stead, New York Times bestselling author

In this witty and whimsical story by award-winning author Margo Rabb, a sixteen-year-old girl is suspended from boarding school and sent to New York City, where she must take care of an unconventional woman entangled in a mystery.

Lucy Clark has had it. After being bullied one too many times, Lucy retaliates. But when the fallout is far worse than she meant it to be, she gets sent to Manhattan to serve as a full-time companion to the eccentric Edith…


Book cover of Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir

Jiordan Castle Why did I love this book?

If you like graphic novels, you’ll love this book. If you like odds-defying coming-of-age stories, you’ll love this book. (You’ll love this book!)

Robin Ha generously captures and shares her own turbulent teen years in this visually and emotionally stunning graphic memoir. An abrupt move from Seoul, Korea to Huntsville, Alabama changed everything for Ha overnight, forcing her to grapple with racist schoolmates, language barriers, and isolation, but also finding her way forward through drawing.

It’s a powerful meditation on identity, as well as an incredibly unique style of memoir.

By Robin Ha,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Almost American Girl 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?

Harvey Award Nominee, Best Children or Young Adult Book 

A powerful and moving teen graphic novel memoir about immigration, belonging, and how arts can save a life—perfect for fans of American Born Chinese and Hey, Kiddo. 

For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.

Overnight,…


Book cover of Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man

Jiordan Castle Why did I love this book?

This memoir hurts and heals in equal measure, with thoughtful retellings of childhood trauma (CW: sexual abuse), an adult mugging, and all of the moments that fracture a life and reshape an identity.

No one is more self-made, in so many ways, than McBee, who takes readers on a journey of discovery, forgiveness, and survival. And the emphasis isn’t solely on surviving, but on what it means to be unapologetically, wholly alive in the world. For anyone who has lived through major trauma, or loved someone who has, this book is a vessel of hope.

By Thomas Page McBee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man Alive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner - Best Transgender Nonfiction - 2015 Lambda Literary Awards Best Books of 2014 - Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014 - NPR Books Best Nonficton Books of 2014 - Kirkus Reviews 10 Best Transgender Non-Fiction Books - Advocate "Thomas Page McBee's Man Alive hurtled through my life. I read it in a matter of hours. It's a confession, it's a poem, it's a time warp, it's a brilliant work of art. I bow down to McBee--his humility, his sense of humor, his insightfulness, his structural deftness, his ability to put into words what is often said but rarely, with…


Book cover of I'm Glad My Mom Died

Jiordan Castle Why did I love this book?

With a codependent mother relationship that feeds into various forms of abuse (CW: eating disorders being one of them) and Hollywood as the backdrop for this coming-of-age story, this is an important, unforgettable memoir.

It’s a gift to be so darkly funny and honest as a nonfiction writer, particularly when your own deep vulnerability is in service of something larger. Written in short numbered passages that span McCurdy’s life from early childhood into adulthood, this true story is a perfect rollercoaster.

Both laugh-out-loud funny and deliriously sad, there’s never a moment you won’t feel held by this book and this writer.

By Jennette McCurdy,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked I'm Glad My Mom Died as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor-including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother-and how she retook control of her life.

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother's dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called "calorie restriction," eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while…


Book cover of For Black Girls Like Me

Jiordan Castle Why did I love this book?

Everyone should be reading middle grade books for characters and stories like this.

Eleven-year-old Makeda is loved, but as a Black girl in an adoptive family of white people, she questions what it might be like to grow up in a family that looks like her. Lockington draws from her own experience as a transracial adoptee, and writes with lyrical accessibility and honest, meaningful depictions of mental health struggles within a family.

This coming-of-age story for the younger set reminds people of all ages that while love matters, it takes work every day to keep evolving, showing up for, and fighting for those we love.

By Mariama J. Lockington,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked For Black Girls Like Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Makeda June Kirkland is eleven-years-old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda's family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena - the only other adopted black girl she knows - for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda's sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can't seem to find one real friend.

Through it all, Makeda can't help but wonder: What would it…


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Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

Book cover of Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

Felice Picano Author Of Six Strange Stories and an Essay on H.P. Lovecraft

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author

Felice's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood.

Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart.

He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…

Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

What is this book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood. Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old, possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart. He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…


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