If You Loved 'Booksmart,' Read These 11 YA Books About Self-Discovery & Teen Rebellion
It's a sad fact that Hollywood rarely prioritizes stories about rebellious teen girls. It's always the boys (and more so, the white boys) who get to have fun, go on an adventure, be a little reckless, and come out on the other side relatively unscathed. Young women are so often the voice of reason, the steady presence, the moral compass, the goody-two-shoes who keeps themselves and everyone around them on the right track. So when films like Booksmart hit theaters (or 2017's Ladybird, or 2016's The Edge of Seventeen), people stop and take notice.
Booksmart follows academic overachievers Molly and Amy (portrayed by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Denver), who have spent four years keeping their nose to the gridstone. But on the eve of graduation, the best friends suddenly realize that they may have missed out on the quintessential teen experience. Determined to make up for lost time, the girls decide to cram four years of fun into one night.
The film takes the tropes usually seen in male-centered films like Superbad, and gives them to women: They figure out what they truly want, own up to who they really are, and seek out life experiences that make "perfection" a messy goal. If you're looking for more stories like Booksmart, the books below certainly deliver on the same themes.
It's important to note that the books below are not all straight-up comedies. Many of these books feature young women of color whose personal discoveries and rebellions often result in consequences that wouldn't be shared by white women in the same situations. The stories are all different but, in each of these books, you'll find a little bit of the spirit of Booksmart:
'With the Fire on High' by Elizabeth Acevedo
Emoni Santiago has a daughter to care for and an abuela to help support, so she knows she doesn't have time for her school's culinary arts class — or money for their trip to Spain. But once she embraces her passion for cooking, she can figure out what she truly wants out of life.
'The Unexpected Everything' by Morgan Matson
When a scandal rocks her father's political career, Andie's perfectly planned summer goes up in flames. What she gets instead is a dog-walking job, an unexpected romance, and a whole new outlook on life.
'Don't Date Rosa Santos' by Nina Moreno
Rosa Santos is cursed — she longs for the sea, though the women in her family only meet tragedy there; she wishes to see Cuba, though her grandmother won't speak of it. But this summer, Rosa is determined to break the curse.
'Leah on the Offbeat' by Becky Albertalli
With college looming, her tight-knit friend group fracturing, and her inability to come out as bi to anyone but her mom, Leah's life feels decidedly off beat. But it's now or never to end high school on her own terms.
'Famous in a Small Town' by Emma Mills
Sophie has always been an overachiever, and is more concerned about getting her beloved marching band selected to play in the upcoming Rose Parade than anything else. But when a new boy moves to town, her carefully crafted life begins to change.
'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Maurene Goo
Clara Shin cares more about practical jokes than making nice with her uptight classmate, Rose. And she'd much rather spend the summer in far flung locales with her influencer mother than working on her dad's food truck. But can a summer of disappointment lead to the discovery of a lifetime?
'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
In this beloved ode to Dolly Parton and female friendship, self-professed fat girl Willowdean Dickson decides to join her local beauty pageant with a band of fellow misfits, rebelling against her mom's expectations and learning to truly accept herself in the process.
'The Victoria in My Head' by Janelle Milanes
Victoria wants to be a rockstar, though she's sure her overprotective Cuban parents would be against it. But after a chance encounter with boy named Strand, whose band just so happens to need a lead singer, Victoria decides to turn her fevered daydreams into reality.
'There's Something About Sweetie' by Sandhya Menon
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
'The Education of Margot Sanchez' by Lilliam Rivera
Margot is struggling to fit in at her fancy prep school and feeling trapped under her father's old-fashioned macho attitudes. When she meets Moises, a local activist, she starts to question everything she ever thought she wanted.
'American Panda' by Gloria Chao
Mei has always lived her life according to her strict parents' rules: Become a doctor, marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, have lots of kids. But when she falls for her Japanese classmate, and decides she'd rather do anything than take biology, she has to find a way to be herself.