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Throw Like a Girl

Wanting to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day on February 1st, I decided to make a booklist of YA books with female characters who play sports.  Right away I thought of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and a new release that is getting buzz for being similar, Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. Both books feature amazing female athletes who chose to play on all-male football teams for their high schools. Both explore the societal responses, positive and negative, of girls who play traditionally male dominated sports. Both books also feature romance and difficult family relationships that further explore how female athletes are perceived.

From there I thought my title brainstorming would hit a wall. In 2009, Justine Larbalestier blogged an interview with a bookseller that lamented the lack of female athletes in YA novels. Another article from Women Talk Sports, an online network of sports blogs and news reporting of women in sports, reported on research about the lack of female athletes in teen literature. I wasn’t feeling hopeful about finding enough titles. But I’m happy to report, I was wrong.

Looking through different library booklists, including this comprehensive list from Plymouth Public Library, YALSA’s 1999 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adult list Good Sports, and this great list from Kristine Carlson Asselin’s blog, there are way more books featuring female athletes than I thought. Which is amazing! Being a former student athlete myself, it’s exciting to see more books featuring these kind of characters and stories. Here’s a list of some of my favorite titles organized by sport.


  • Dairy Queen, The Off-Season, and Front & Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
  • Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally


  • I Love Him To Pieces: Or My Date is Dead Weight or He Only Loves Me For My Brains by Evonne Tsang
  • The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane


  • Boost by Kathy Mackel
  • The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr


  • Soccer Chick Rules by Dawn Fitzgerald
  • The ABC’s of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro
  • Pretty Tough by Liz Tigelaar


  • Juice by Katy Watson
  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Other Awesome Sports

  • Derby Girl by Shauna Cross
  • Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley
  • The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance
  • The Ring by Bobbie Pyron
  • The Outside Groove by Erik E. Esckilsen
  • Foiled by Jane Yolan
  • Steel by Carrie Vaughn


  • A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson by Michelle Green
  • Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law that Changed the Future of Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal
  • Up To The Plate: The All American Girls Professional Baseball League by Margot Fortunato Galt
  • Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton
  • Queens of the Ice: They Were Fast, They Were Fierce, They Were Teenage Girls by Carly Adams


This list is most definitely incomplete.  Leave a comment with your favorite YA books with awesome female athletes to help keep this list growing.

— Amanda Margis, currently reading Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet and listening to In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

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  1. High and Outside, by Linnea Due, is a moving, intense YA novel, sadly out of print, that focuses on a high school softball player who’s dealing with alcoholism.

    R.R. Knudson was a pioneer in writing sports novels with female protagonists in the 70s and 80s.

    I’ll also put in a plug for my nonfiction book, Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports (also sadly out of print!).

  2. In the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants one of the girls was like a soccer star and super athletic, though that was kind of turned into a sexuality thing a bit…

  3. Rosanne Parry Rosanne Parry

    I’d love to see dance included as a sport. Most dancers are just as fit and train just as hard as any other athlete and competition is a huge part of the dance world.

    • Amanda Margis Amanda Margis

      Good point and I can’t believe I missed out on a chance to highlight one of my all time favorite reads, Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci.

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