Adolescence is not the easiest stage of life, but these middle grade novels about puberty and the accompanying roller coaster of emotions will make things–if not easier–at least more entertaining. This book list is full of fiction books about puberty and the changes that come with adolescence, both emotional and physical.
Adolescents of all gender identities have so many questions and sure it's important to talk to mom and dad, but sometimes it can be nice to read stories in the privacy of your own room, ya know?
This list is weighted heavily on girls' experiences. Partly because that is what is available and partly because even though I read a few books about boys and puberty I only felt like I could recommend two of them.
Feel free to recommend your choices in the comments.
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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
by Judy Blume
This classic coming of age story is just as relevant now as it was in 1970. 6th grader, Margaret moves from NYC to New Jersey. She and her new friends form a club to talk about issues related to puberty and social life. As part of an interfaith family, Margaret doesn't have a strong religious connection. Instead, she forms a relationship with God by talking directly to Him.
The Garden of My Imaan
by Farhana Zia
Aliya’s family is Muslim and Indian-American. Aliya, entering the beginning stages of adolescence, wonders about how to navigate being old enough to fast during Ramadan, if she wants to wear a headscarf and what it might mean to draw attention to her identity as Muslim. A new acquaintance from Morocco seems so secure in her choices to display the outward symbols of her faith. This is a great book to discuss the different ways families may practice the same religion.
The Moon Within
by Aida Salazar
This is a remarkable, much needed tale. Celi is a Latina who is learning about how her body is changing and taking her into womanhood. Celi's mother wants to have a moon ceremony when Celi has her first period, but Celi doesn't want that. At school, Celi is adjusting to her best friend Mar's own transition, from girl to "xochihuah," or non-binary. This important book explores cultural and gender identity in an engaging and contemporary story.
Revenge of the Red Club
by Kim Harrington
Riley and her middle school friends have formed a club where they come together to talk about the ups and downs about having their periods. It's a place where they can talk freely and support one another, imparting information that they aren't getting elsewhere. However, an anonymous complaint leads to the school shutting down their club. The girls are upset and are determined to set things right!
Karma Khullar's Mustache
by Kristi Wientge
Karmajeet Khullar is going to be starting middle school soon, but she is worried about the 17 new dark hairs on her upper lip. She is anxious to get the help and advice from her best friend, but she has been acting so different lately and Karma feels lost. Karma's Indian father is learning how to be a stay at home dad, and her white mother is very busy with work. The book addresses themes of middle school friendships and bullying and I love how Karma's interfaith Sikh-Methodist household plays an integral role in her journey.
Lily and Dunkin
by Donna Gephart
This is a marvelously written story told in alternating voices. Lily Jo knows she is a girl, but most of the world knows her as Tim. She has the support of her mom, sister and best friend but Lily needs the love and support of her father in order to gain the confidence (and medication) she needs. Dunkin is the new kid in town but he has a secret. He struggles to come to terms with his bipolar disorder and find out where he fits in, too. The two protagonists may have difficulties that most kids won’t experience, but their journeys to express themselves, find their own way and make the right friends will resonate will all middle schoolers.
Go with the Flow
by Karen Schneemann and Lily Williams
In this graphic novel, a group of diverse girls are fed up with their school's emphasis on boys' sports, not to mention that the feminine hygiene dispenser in the bathroom is always empty. The girls work together amidst the ups and downs of every aspect of high school life: crushes, dances, sports, friendships, etc. in order to create a period-positive environment for everyone. An extra fun touch is the red tone of the illustrations!
Then Again, Maybe I Won't
by Judy Blume
I didn't like most of the boys and puberty novels I came across during my research for this post, but I can still recommend Blume's classic book for tweens and teens. 13-year-old Tony's mind is preoccupied with a lot of new stuff like his best friend's sister, the changes in is body and the way money and status makes his mother behave.
The Porcupine Year
by Louise Erdrich
In 1852, 12-year-old Omakayas and her family are focused on surviving a tough winter. They must move on due to the invasion of white settlers on the land. Erdrich is a master at staying true to the difficult social, environmental and personal challenges of Omakayas' Ojibwe community while still writing a story full of humor and heart. Despite her circumstances, Omakays is still a girl on the brink of womanhood, reflecting on her changing heart and first crush and anticipating the physical changes on the horizon. This is the third book in The Birchbark House series.
Planet Middle School
by Nikki Grimes
Grimes writes this coming of age story in short verses, making it a quick read. Joylin is used to a life of basketball, hanging out with her best friend, Jake, and not caring much about her clothes. But things are changing. The new boy, Santiago, has caught her eye and Jake is acting differently. And her body is changing, too.
The Amazing Life of Birds : (the twenty-day puberty journal of Duane Homer Leech)
by Gary Paulsen
I didn't care much for Paulsen's Mercy on these Teenage Chimps, another book about boys and puberty, but I can recommend this short book. 12-year-old Duane has been watching a bird nest on his windowsill and in his journal he compares all the changes he is going through to those birds. Duane feels like his body and mind have gone mad and his journal observations are hilarious.
Sophie Hartly and the Facts of Life
by Stephanie Greene
The fourth book in a the Sophie Hartly series, this charming story of a 10 year old girl entering adolescence is an excellent choice for kids ages 8 and up. Sophie thinks her friends are acting like ridiculous teenagers; her sister, Nora, is overly concerned with her appearance and her mother, a nurse, is set to deliver a talk on puberty. Will Sophie get through it?
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