Go Big Or Go Home: Teen Girls Find Their Place

Laughing contestant

We were all teenagers once, whether our memories of that time are pleasant or not. I've picked out some teen books that may be enjoyable for adults as well as the high school set, dealing with confidence and appearance issues. Most of them are funny, even if they have a serious theme. 

In Julie Murphy's Dumplin', Willowdean Dixon is an unapologetic "fat girl" in small-town Texas and with her best friend Ellen, can take on the world. Then an ex-jock kisses her and she doesn't tell Ellen. The idea of a relationship shakes Willow's confidence, and she decides to enter the local beauty pageant with a quartet of other unlikely contestants. With a cast of characters including Willowdean's former-pageant-winning mother and Mitch, the sweet guy Willow just doesn't have any chemistry with, this character-driven, humorous romp proves you can never have too much female friendship or Dolly Parton. 

Speaking of pageants, they feature heavily in Elizabeth Eulberg's Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality. Lexi is perfectly content to let her seven-year-old sister be the center of her parents' lives, who spend every weekend and penny on beauty pageants in (again) Texas. Then one day she decides on a makeover, and her life changes: popular girls befriend her, and a football star expresses a romantic interest. Lexi is pretty sure this is all due to makeup and clothes, but she tries to balance her old life and new. Mixing comedy and drama, Eulberg drives home a point about the pressure to be pretty.

K.A. Barson's 16-year-old, normally levelheaded Ann decides she needs to lose 45 Pounds (more or Less) in order to be in her aunt's wedding. Pushed by her thin mother who has food issues of her own, Ann endures both expensive, icky food and overly rigorous exercise regimens in her quest to fit into a bridesmaid's dress by the end of the summer. Ann's wry voice narrates the issues of first love, mean girls, and blended families from an outsider's point of view. while there are definitely lessons to be learned here, Barson keeps the tone light and the jokes coming.

Beth Fehlbaum's Big Fat Disaster is a dark look at the personal blowback of political scandal. Colby is the overweight daughter of a politician and a beauty queen when she discovers a photo of her father with another woman. In the aftermath, her father abandons the family, which includes Colby's little sister, and they have to move into a trailer near relatives in Texas. Even after a disastrous first day of school, Colby perseveres despite her monster of a mother and judgmental grandparents, finally getting help from her unique teachers and a therapist. This quick read is full of well-crafted, profane dialog and Colby's pinpoint-accurate observations.

Did you find your way as a teenager? Tell us about in the comments.

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