The best YA books featuring teens who are builders & makers

Who am I?

I write books for intelligent, adventurous, globally-minded teens who aren’t afraid to fall in love with someone different from themselves. I started as a journalist, so it is no surprise that my YA books contain a lot of facts to go along with the fiction. Whether you want to know about Japan (Tanabata Wish), the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 (Breathe), what it’s like to be an Olympic-caliber skater (Every Reason We Shouldn’t), or how unscripted television works (Faking Reality), I take readers on swoony journeys to unusual places. So, if you like books that educate as they entertain, I hope you’ll check this book list—plus my books—out.

I wrote...

Faking Reality

By Sara Fujimura,

Book cover of Faking Reality

What is my book about?

Fifteen-year-old Dakota McDonald has been on TV since literally the day she was born. But now, her family’s HGTV show is coming to an end, and this talented builder and maker is struggling to figure out who she is outside of the spotlight. Meanwhile, Leo Matsuda works too much in his family’s Japanese restaurant. He dreams of free time, a social life, and even having a girlfriend. These two teens have been best friends forever, but now they’re getting older, and the hormones are kicking in. Life gets messy when you fall in love with your best friend, especially when he’s dating somebody else.

The books I picked & why

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Super Fake Love Song

By David Yoon,

Book cover of Super Fake Love Song

Why this book?

I know Sunny Dae would be fast friends with my book’s Dakota. Not only would they bond over using power tools for geeky purposes, but they are also both that rare type of 50-50, right brain-left brain maker who brings an artistic flourish to everything they build. I played bass guitar in a garage band during high school, so it was fun watching Sunny (and his reluctant D&D buddies) attempt to become their school’s hottest new band so that he could win the girl. Of course, his lie comes back to bite him hard, but I love a good reinvention story, especially when at least part of the lie eventually becomes the character’s new truth. 


By Brittney Morris,

Book cover of Slay

Why this book?

Billed as Ready Player One meets Black Panther, Morris takes the reader on an immersive, nuanced story about what it’s like to be a BIPOC girl gamer in the bigger—and, let’s be honest, often toxic—world of online gaming. I am not interested in gaming at all, but I couldn’t put this book down. I love books that take me deep into cultures and show the varied—and sometimes conflicting—voices inside that space. Morris is unapologetic about the realities of Black Americans, but she takes the conversation one step further by exploring Black culture from around the world. Obviously, it’s perfect for BIPOC girl gamers, game developers, and coders, but it can be enjoyed by others (like me!) who don’t fit into any of those boxes.        

If I Fix You

By Abigail Johnson,

Book cover of If I Fix You

Why this book?

All of Johnson’s books are swoony and awesome, but I love that Jill works in the family business—just like Dakota and Leo do—fixing cars in her family’s auto shop. It’s not something you see a lot of girls doing in YA books, but it makes so much sense in her bigger struggle of being a “fixer” in her everyday life. I have no mechanical skills, but boy, do I relate to trying to fix things that were never really my problem to solve in the first place. Teens with complicated family dynamics will appreciate seeing themselves portrayed in an authentic, nuanced way. Johnson leaves the reader with a powerful but gentle message that when faced with impossible situations, sometimes you need to fix yourself first.      

We Regret to Inform You

By Ariel Kaplan,

Book cover of We Regret to Inform You

Why this book?

This book is about the crushing disappointment that can derail overachievers when they don't reach their goals. What made this book unique, though, was the shenanigans Mischa and the “Ophelia Syndicate”—a group of tech-savvy girls flying under the school’s radar—get into as they solve a cyber-mystery at their elite prep school. I love watching girls own their “weirdness” and wielding it as their superpower. If you liked Never Have I Ever (Netflix), then you will enjoy this tale of an overachiever who learns some life-changing lessons and makes some new ride-or-die friends along the way.  


By Betsy Cornwell,

Book cover of Mechanica

Why this book?

I wasn’t sure how Cornwell could possibly make a Cinderella retelling fresh and unique, but she did. She roots Nicolette—who her evil stepsisters call Mechanica—deep enough in the classic fairytale that we get all the satisfying beats, but then Cornwell turns them on their head. I love steampunk stories, and Cornwell replaces the Disney-fied animal helpers with mechanical insects and a metal horse fueled by coal and outlawed faery magic. She also addresses some outdated ideas in earlier renditions for a modern twist set in a Victorian-ish time period. Though Nicolette is not the first mechanical Cinderella on the YA bookshelf, Mechanica is not a rip-off of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. I enjoyed both of them. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in love, bildungsroman, and fairy tales?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about love, bildungsroman, and fairy tales.

Love Explore 145 books about love
Bildungsroman Explore 159 books about bildungsroman
Fairy Tales Explore 175 books about fairy tales

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Because You Love to Hate Me, The Wrath & the Dawn, and Kill Me Softly if you like this list.