I’m too young to have adolescent or teenage girls, but I do teach them. And I know that, for some of them, a “classic” book is just too old to be appealing. Just because they won’t pick up Little Women or The Secret Garden doesn’t mean they have to miss out on beautiful, well-written, and affirmational books. These ten great novels written during the last ten years are timeless stories for you and your daughter to enjoy together.
The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E. L. Konigsburg (2004)
Margaret Rose Kane’s great uncles must rescue her from Camp Talequa and its dictatorial director. But when she gets to her great uncles’ home, Margaret soon discovers that an impersonal homeowners’ association threatens to destroy her uncles’ beautiful and historic artwork. The Outcasts of 19 Schulyer Place is an homage to a passing world where neighborhoods and personal expression triumph over by-laws and control. Margaret learns the value of standing up to save what she loves.
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson (2006)
Rosa’s immigrant mother and sister are excited about the strike against pay-cuts at the textile mill where most of the townspeople work, but Rosa is scared and confused. She loves her family, but she longs to be an educated and respected American. Based on the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, Bread and Roses, Too is a very real novel that introduces young readers to the difficult moral choices we all have to make.
The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (2005)
When the priests of Danland predict that the next princess will come from the remote province of Mount Eskel, fourteen-year-old Miri and all her friends are forced to join the Princess Academy. The academy is supposed to train the hard-working, rough, and uneducated girls into young women worthy of royalty. But Miri soon discovers that education can do a great deal more than simply catch a prince.
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (2007)
After her mother’s miscarriage, Frannie isn’t sure she believes Emily Dickenson’s poem, “Hope Is a Thing with Feathers.” But now her mother is expecting again and Frannie has to come to grips with her fear—and the reality that things might turn out okay after all. Feathers is a simple, beautiful story about looking for God in the unlikeliest of places—and learning the value of hope.
Savvy by Ingrid Law (2008)
Savvy is an unusual novel about a family where the members are all a little…different. When they turn thirteen, they develop an unexpected, supernatural talent—like controlling the weather or catching radio songs in glass jars. On the eve on her thirteenth birthday, Mibs sets out to find her father in the hopes that her new power will save him from a serious injury. As she embarks on her odyssey, the little girl begins to come to grips with becoming a young woman and with the things that make her special.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (2009)
Minli sets out on a quest to bring life to the Valley of the Fruitless Mountain and to change her family’s fortune. With the help of a flightless dragon and the mysterious Old Man of the Moon, she just might succeed. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon tells the exciting story of a young girl’s quest for a better life and the surprising answer she finds at the end of her journey.
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (2010)
Abilene Tucker’s father sends her to live in Manifest, Kansas. Manifest turns out to be “a town with a past”—a past Abilene tries to uncover as she searches for clues about her father’s life. Abilene’s curiosity draws a town of broken people back together around their shared story of grief and hope. Moon Over Manifest is a coming-of-age story about family and community.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (2010)
Melody was born with spastic bilateral quadriplegia—cerebral palsy. She can’t move on her own and she has never spoken a word. With help from her family and a Medi-Talk computer, Melody sets out to live the life of a normal fifth grader. Melody’s story demands compassion and understanding from its readers.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente (2011)
The Green Wind sends September into Fairyland on a quest in which she rides with a herd of wild bicycles, fights a villainous marquess, meets her own death, and wonders just how much her life is like a story. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a triumphant return of old-fashioned children’s fantasy like Alice in Wonderland or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech (2012)
Orphans Naomi and Lizzie befriend a mysterious boy in their tiny town of Blackbird Tree. Little do they know that meeting Finn is the start of an adventure that will lead them all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and change their lives forever. The Great Unexpected is a suspenseful tale about finding friendship and family where you never thought of looking.
Find even more suggestions at What Should She Read, a family guide to books for girls.