100 books like Story of a Girl

By Sara Zarr,

Here are 100 books that Story of a Girl fans have personally recommended if you like Story of a Girl. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of This Boy's Life: A Memoir

Wayne Harrison Author Of Spark and the Drive

From my list on coming of age unstoppable, underdog protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I began reading seriously (albeit late in life!), I’ve been seduced by the travails of underdog protagonists trying to save their own lives through transformation. If you had told me when I was a teenager—drinking too much, racing muscle cars, and scraping by with Ds and Cs in a vocational high school—that I would end up teaching writing at a university, I would’ve said you were nuts. It wasn’t until I started college in my mid-twenties that I actually read a novel for the pleasure of it. My novel and short story collection are expressions of my cheering on the young underdogs who bravely fight to change their worlds despite all odds.  

Wayne's book list on coming of age unstoppable, underdog protagonists

Wayne Harrison Why did Wayne love this book?

Celebrated author and Stanford professor Tobias Wolff recounts his perilous teenage years in the 1950s Pacific Northwest. Clever, conniving Toby (self-named Jack Wolff) will do whatever it takes to reinvent himself in a memoir full of larger-than-life characters, thrilling events, emotional rollercoasters of betrayals, broken dreams, and hard-won triumphs, all conveyed in prose so lucid that the book has been college assigned for its poetic honesty at the sentence level for decades. Guaranteed you’ll be floored by what it takes for Wolff to ultimately transcend the merciless circumstances of his life. 

By Tobias Wolff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked This Boy's Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A classic of the genre.”―New York Times

The 30th anniversary edition of Tobias Wolff's "extraordinary memoir" (SF Chronicle), now with a new introduction by the author.

Thirty years ago Tobias Wolff wrote a memoir that changed the form. The “unforgettable” (Time) This Boy’s Life is the story of the young, tough-on-the-outside but vulnerable Toby Wolff. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother travel from Florida to Utah to a small village in Washington state, with many stops along the way. As each place doesn’t quite work out, they pick up to find somewhere new. In…


Book cover of Speak

Alexandra V. Méndez Author Of What the Jaguar Told Her

From my list on the power of stories and finding your voice.

Why am I passionate about this?

Stories and the myriad ways they’re told fascinate me. Growing up in Atlanta with Mexican and American heritage, I first learned about Mexican códices—centuries-old books that tell stories through images—on a trip to visit family in Mexico. Later, I studied the history and literature of Latin America at Harvard and got a Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. I’ve studied storytelling in many forms, from Mesoamerican maps to early Spanish chronicles of exploration and invasion, to modern Latin American novels. The books listed here celebrate oral storytelling, written traditions, and artistic expression, and they take seriously the perspectives of young people.

Alexandra's book list on the power of stories and finding your voice

Alexandra V. Méndez Why did Alexandra love this book?

In this book Laurie Halse Anderson lets us inside the mind of Melinda, a high schooler who finds herself increasingly isolated from friends and family.

As a reader, it was easy to share her frustration with how others treat her, because it was clear that her inner world didn’t match up with what others perceived outside of her. She has experienced a traumatic event, a violation that she doesn’t know how to process or talk about.

This novel masterfully captures the way Melinda compartmentalizes what has happened to her and grasps for coping mechanisms. Some of my favorite scenes occur in art class, where art-making becomes a key part of Melinda’s journey of gaining the courage to speak up about her trauma, and of reconnecting with others. 

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Speak 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?

A fiercely authentic, critically acclaimed and award-winning modern classic.

'Speak up for yourself - we want to know what you have to say.'

From my first day at Merryweather High, I know this is a lie.

Nobody will even talk to me, let alone listen - all because I called the cops on an end-of-summer party.

But if I could only tell everyone why I called the police that night...

If I could explain what happened to me...

If I could speak...

Then everything might change.

'With the rise of women finding their voices and speaking out about sexual assault…


Book cover of Salt to the Sea

Meg Wiviott Author Of Paper Hearts

From my list on YA with strong characters set during war.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader and writer, I am drawn to stories that have implications for the wider world. I love characters who are put in a box by others—whether based on race, religion, gender, or societal norms—yet they fight against those constraints, proving they have value beyond anyone’s expectations. I write historical fiction because I am an unabashed history nerd. I write Jewish (or Jewish adjacent) stories because I believe it is essential for every reader to find themselves in a book. I also believe it is essential that that same book opens a world of understanding to others. 

Meg's book list on YA with strong characters set during war

Meg Wiviott Why did Meg love this book?

Ruta Sepetys writes historical fiction like no one else. All her books are wonderful, however, this one is my favorite. Not only does she write about a little-known event in history, she does it masterfully with short chapters told from four distinct points of view, doling out backstory as if it is a treat rather than something a reader must endure. Yes, the story is fascinating, but it is her craft that makes me reread it with a highlighter in hand. 

By Ruta Sepetys,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Salt to the Sea 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?

WINNER OF THE CILIP CARNEGIE MEDAL 2017

It's early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore's The Siege will be totally absorbed.

This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children,…


Book cover of Boy Toy

Nicole McInnes Author Of 100 Days

From my list on teens overcoming impossible odds.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a former teen who faced my own slew of challenges, I became a YA author who writes about teen characters who do the same. It’s not easy being an adolescent these days: From the seeming hopelessness of some social, academic, and family situations to the lack of support many teens receive, things can seem pretty bleak at times. As the protagonists in books like the ones I’ve mentioned here show us, however, there are many good people out there who are willing to help if we’re willing to hang in there and keep pushing forward toward a better day and a better life.

Nicole's book list on teens overcoming impossible odds

Nicole McInnes Why did Nicole love this book?

Boy Toy is a book that stands out for me because it tackles a rarely discussed subject in young adult literature—the sexual abuse of boys. In this case, the protagonist, Josh, was molested by a teacher when he was younger. Now that he is about to graduate from high school, the repercussions of that abuse, along with the everyday stress he deals with, is coming back to haunt him. Lyga handles this subject matter in an unflinching and realistic way, which can be uncomfortable at times. That said, Boy Toy is definitely a worthwhile, original read.

By Barry Lyga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boy Toy 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?

Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.
   Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t. And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there’s Rachel, the girl he thought he’d lost years ago. She’s back, and she’s determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not.Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who…


Book cover of Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens

Jodi Aman Author Of Anxiety...I'm So Done with You: A Teen's Guide to Ditching Toxic Stress and Hardwiring Your Brain for Happiness

From my list on to teach teens how to love themselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love of helping others to heal started early. From the garden I started when I was 8-years-old to the baby ducks I found a home for when I was 10, I have always been passionate about nurturing life. I feel deep empathy for the complexities of others’ pain and am compelled to stand against the context of injustice that causes it. Using this keen understanding of why people suffer, my unique and varied training, rooted ethics, and 25 years of trauma-informed clinical experience, I now help the helpers release what they don't want, recover their energetic bandwidth, and grok a socially conscious life of overflowing joy. 

Jodi's book list on to teach teens how to love themselves

Jodi Aman Why did Jodi love this book?

This is an anthology for teens that explores disability from a fictional lens, so that it entertains as it teaches tolerance and compassion. Each short story’s author lives with a disability and writes about first loves, friendship, hardship, and adventure. Unbroken is for teen readers to step into the shoes of teens with disabilities so that they can understand other experiences besides their own. Understanding differences and recognizing one’s own positionality and privilege helps teen find their own agency, purpose, and empowered hope for the future. 

By Marieke Nijkamp,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Unbroken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This anthology explores disability in fictional tales told from the viewpoint of disabled characters, written by disabled creators. With stories in various genres about first loves, friendship, war, travel, and more, Unbroken will offer today's teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.

The contributing authors are award winners, bestsellers, and newcomers including Kody Keplinger, Kristine Wyllys, Francisco X. Stork, William Alexander, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Kayla Whaley, Keah Brown, and Fox Benwell. Each author identifies as disabled along a physical, mental, or neurodiverse…


Book cover of In the After

Nicole McInnes Author Of 100 Days

From my list on teens overcoming impossible odds.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a former teen who faced my own slew of challenges, I became a YA author who writes about teen characters who do the same. It’s not easy being an adolescent these days: From the seeming hopelessness of some social, academic, and family situations to the lack of support many teens receive, things can seem pretty bleak at times. As the protagonists in books like the ones I’ve mentioned here show us, however, there are many good people out there who are willing to help if we’re willing to hang in there and keep pushing forward toward a better day and a better life.

Nicole's book list on teens overcoming impossible odds

Nicole McInnes Why did Nicole love this book?

Demitria Lunetta is a wonder. Her debut novel, In the After, has been described as a postapocalyptic thriller, but it’s the inclusion of sci-fi and horror elements that really makes this book unputdownable. The novel’s teen protagonist, Amy, is a fierce, plucky, and formidable heroine who literally faces what looks like the end of the world before living to fight, be rescued, and fight some more for herself and the person she cares about most. It’s the perfect read for anyone who loves speculative fiction with grit and adrenaline thrown in.

By Demitria Lunetta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the After as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In debut author Demitria Lunetta's heart-pounding thriller, one girl must fight for her survival in a world overrun by violent, deadly creatures. Perfect for fans of New York Times bestsellers like The 5th Wave and Across the Universe. Amy Harris's life changed forever when They took over. Her parents-vanished. The government-obsolete. Societal structure-nonexistent. No one knows where They came from, but these vicious creatures have been rapidly devouring mankind since They appeared. With fierce survivor instincts, Amy manages to stay alive-and even rescues "Baby," a toddler who was left behind. After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken…


Book cover of Billy Bathgate

Anthony Schneider Author Of Lowdown: A Mafia Romance Thriller

From my list on character-driven gangsters.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up on a diet of The Godfather, The Sopranos, thrillers, and gangster novels, and living in New York City with eye-opening trips to Sicily, I became slightly obsessed with the Mafia. I came to see the American Mafia as a quintessentially American fabric, woven of family, power, immigrants, money, history, loyalty, legacy, and, yes, crime.  

Anthony's book list on character-driven gangsters

Anthony Schneider Why did Anthony love this book?

Few writers inhabit history, distill it, and convey the feeling of an era with the verve or immediacy of E.L. Doctorow.

In Billy Bathgate, he trains his lens on the 1930s and introduces us to Billy Behan, a fatherless Irish-Jewish kid from the Bronx, who has a chance encounter with New York gangster Dutch Schultz and decides “whatever my life was going to be in this world it would have something to do with Mr. Schultz.”

Add a love triangle, a colorful cast of mobsters, murder, blackmail, a special prosecutor, and you have the propulsive plot and rich characters that power this unforgettable novel.   

By E.L. Doctorow,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Billy Bathgate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I was living in even greater circles of gangsterdom than I had dreamed, latitudes and longitudes of gangsterdom'

It's 1930's New York and fifteen-year-old streetkid Billy, who can juggle, somersault and run like the wind, has been taken under the wing of notorious gangster Dutch Schultz. As Billy learns the ways of the mob, he becomes like a son to Schultz - his 'good-luck kid' - and is initiated into a world of glamour, death and danger that will consume him, in this vivid, soaring epic of crime and betrayal.


Book cover of Winter's Bone

Carl Vonderau Author Of Saving Myles

From my list on thrillers that are as much about family as danger.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a former international banker and now a prize-winning author. My books take place in the financial world. However, my writing principle is that behind every crime is a family. In my thrillers, the crime amplifies the family dysfunction. My characters can only survive by growing and coming together. If you like character development, as well as the twists and turns of a good plot, you will like the novels that I recommend. 

Carl's book list on thrillers that are as much about family as danger

Carl Vonderau Why did Carl love this book?

This is one of the few thrillers that brought tears to my eyes.

Ree, a teenage girl, must save her family by negotiating with the violent inhabitants of the Ozarks. Ree’s father has disappeared from his trial and, if she doesn’t find him, the family will lose everything they own because he pledged it as collateral for his bail bond.

I love how Woodrell portrayed her loyalty and fierceness, as well as how he wrote the deeply flawed characters who love her. His descriptions and metaphorical uses of winter and the landscape are breathtaking.

The book is literary but also has great narrative propulsion.

By Daniel Woodrell,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Winter's Bone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a fiercely original tale of love, heartbreak and resilience in the lonely wastes of the American Midwest. The last time Ree saw her father, he didn't bring food or money but promised he'd be back soon with a paper sack of cash and a truckload of delights. Since he left, she's had to look after her mother - sedated and losing her looks - and her two younger brothers. Ree hopes the boys won't turn out like the others in the Ozark mountains - hard and mean before they've learnt to shave. One cold winter's day, Ree discovers…


Book cover of Monster

Wayne Harrison Author Of Spark and the Drive

From my list on coming of age unstoppable, underdog protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I began reading seriously (albeit late in life!), I’ve been seduced by the travails of underdog protagonists trying to save their own lives through transformation. If you had told me when I was a teenager—drinking too much, racing muscle cars, and scraping by with Ds and Cs in a vocational high school—that I would end up teaching writing at a university, I would’ve said you were nuts. It wasn’t until I started college in my mid-twenties that I actually read a novel for the pleasure of it. My novel and short story collection are expressions of my cheering on the young underdogs who bravely fight to change their worlds despite all odds.  

Wayne's book list on coming of age unstoppable, underdog protagonists

Wayne Harrison Why did Wayne love this book?

This one’s the fastest read of the bunch; in fact, you may find yourself rebooting for a second savory read without putting it down. Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon faces a life sentence for his alleged participation in a robbery that killed a convenience store owner. To cope with the horrors of his cell block, where the spirited African American teen is housed until his trial ends, Steve recounts events before and after the crime in the form of a screenplay; this enthralling courtroom drama deep-dives into the racial and economic forces responsible for overcrowding our flawed criminal justice system. Steve’s perseverance against odds is truly inspiring.  

By Walter Dean Myers,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Monster 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?

This New York Times bestselling novel from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial.

Presented as a screenplay of Steve's own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.

Monster is a multi-award-winning, provocative coming-of-age story that was the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award recipient, an ALA Best Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor selection, and a National Book Award finalist.

Monster is now a major motion picture called All Rise and starring Jennifer Hudson, Kelvin Harrison,…


Book cover of I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This

Marie Jaskulka Author Of The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy

From my list on YA about overcoming abuse and assault.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with reading in fourth grade but felt like real girls weren't reflected in young adult books. The characters had friend problems and boy problems, but books about really big problems like sexual assault were rare because most people thought subjects like addiction and abuse weren't appropriate for young readers. It's one of those weird dichotomies: we know kids deal with big problems, but we're afraid to broach the subject. I used books to help me understand stuff I didn't feel comfortable talking about so I appreciate books that show people how to claw themselves out of a bad place and be their own hero.

Marie's book list on YA about overcoming abuse and assault

Marie Jaskulka Why did Marie love this book?

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This is one of my favorite novels for its subtlety. It's almost like sleight of hand because you aren't sure where to look. The story kind of unfolds all around you. One of the hardest things after a sexual assault is opening up to someone about it, so I am a fan of books that give people a blueprint of how to go about it. There is no single right way to tell someone about abuse and assault, but it helps to have examples. 

By Jacqueline Woodson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This 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 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 12 year old Marie is African American. She befriends Lena, a white girl, because both have lost their mothers. Lena has a terrifying secret, and Marie must decide if she can help Lena more by keeping her secret--or..


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