6 Girl-Focused YA Books You Should Still Totally Read Now

These teen novels were hits with ’80s and ’90s girls. And they’re still awesome.

1. Girl by Blake Nelson (1994)

The plot: Originally appearing as a series in Sassy, the novel follows Portland high schooler Andrea as she explores the grunge and indie-rock scene, experiments with thrift store fashions, and (of course) her relationship with a shady downtown-type boy. A mix of innocence and darkness.
How it changed you: This book is a picture of ’90s culture; for some, this may have been your entry into your education of the best of Gen X.
Sex aka the best part: Yes. Both consensual and non-consensual.

2. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (1994)

The plot: Surprisingly, a story about a girl living in the year 1290 can be hands-down awesome if it’s written in the right language. In diary entries, 14-year-old Catherine (nickname “Birdy”) cleverly talks about her life and the various potential suitors her father pushes her way.
How it changed you: Made you totally thankful that you weren’t forced to get married before getting your training bra.
Sex aka the best part: Meh, not really. Although Birdy talks a lot about marriage and observes grown-ups around her, there’s no explicit mention or action.

3. Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block (1998)

The plot: Dangerous Angels is actually a compilation of Block’s first few short novels, which, together, are more commonly referred to as the Weetzie Bat books. We begin with Weetzie Bat, a whimsical teen living a fairy tale-like life in L.A. The following stories talk about her friends and children. Block is famous for mixing the dark and dangerous with dreamy, sugar-coated imagery.
How it changed you: Made you want to move to Los Angeles, get a house in the Hills, braid your hair with feathers, ride in vintage convertibles, have gay best friends.
Sex aka the best part: Yes, but it’s generally treated in a different, less obvious/graphic ways than typical teen sex. It’s often talked about in terms of gender, culture (as a darker thing that can kill you), or as a weird magical connection to someone. Although one book does get quite dark.

4. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)

The plot: In this very Cinderella-like fairy tale, Ella is sent to live with her two evil step sisters. The twist is that Ella has been given a curse which forces her to obey any command. Things get complicated when she falls in love with a prince named Char, but doesn’t want her curse to get in the way.
How it changed you: It might not have. But it certainly made the Cinderella character more relatable and much cooler.
Sex aka the best part: No. But much of the plot deals with Ella’s potential (and eventual) marriage to Char.

5. Wise Child by Monica Furlong (1989)

The plot: A fantasy book set in Scotland during the Dark Ages, a 9-year-old girl is sent to live with Juniper, a sorceress/witch/spiritual something-or-other, who teaches Wise Child the tricks of the magical trade. The main conflict involves Wise Child’s biological mother.
How it changed you: Confirmed your hate for your own mother; made you want to run away and live with a mysterious, magic lady.
Sex aka the best part: No, but there’s definitely an element of female obsession in the characters’ relationships.

6. Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth by Patricia Clapp (1991)

The plot: A diary of a young girl who is an early settler at Plymouth.
How it changed you: The relationships in this book were kinda hot. For a second, it almost seemed appealing to get married and live in a little house with your crush.
Sex aka the best part: There are a few pretty steamy scenes in here. There’s no full-on sex (although at the end, it’s implied), but the stories about Constance’s multiple suitors can get pretty passionate.

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