This year’s Morris Award Winner (celebrating debut YA books) was the poignant, hilarious Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero. In diary format, Mexican American Gabi gives us a detailed account of her senior year of high school. Besides family drama (including a meth-addict father, an artist-slash-graffiti vandal brother, a “bruja” religious aunt, and an old-fashioned mother), Gabi navigates her changing friendships and the possibility of love with a fellow poet.She questions the assumptions about girlhood fed to her by society, and begins to forge her place in the world. The day-to-day intimacy of Gabi’s narration makes her feel like a close friend. If you loved Gabi, here are 9 more terrific YA books written in diary format, whether you’re in the mood for comedy, tragedy, real life at its rawest, or historical fiction (hello, 1930s!).
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
When You’re in the Mood For: A diary written by the equivalent of Bridget Jones’ little sis.
What it’s About: A year in the life of 14-year-old Georgia, a wry, dramatically opinionated English teen concerned with kissing techniques, tennis tournaments, her missing cat, her father’s move to New Zealand, and her crush on “Sex God” Robbie, a local singer in a band whose younger brother is dating Georgia’s best friend.
Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose, edited by Gillian McCain & Legs McNeil
When You’re in the Mood For: A real version (we promise) of Go Ask Alice that makes The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, by Jennifer Lynch, seem tame.
What it’s About: In this nonfiction work, Mary Rose’s 600 pages’ worth of journals have been culled down to 327, with no words changed. She writes about her life from age 15 to 17, a life filled with drug and alcohol abuse, painful treatments for cystic fibrosis, and a desperate search for true love and loyal friends.
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
When You’re in the Mood For: A love quadrangle set in pre–World War War II Britain. It also happens to be one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite books.
What it’s About: Living in a crumbling castle with her eccentric father (who suffers from writers’ block) and an older sister, Rose, determined to escape poverty, 17-year-old Cassandra keeps a journal chronicling a six-month period in her life when she and Rose fell in love with two American brothers. The answer to the question of who will end up with whom is a lovely, poignant, occasionally heartbreaking surprise.
Life As We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer
When You’re in the Mood For: Down to earth (i.e. frighteningly realistic) sci-fi dystopian YA.
What it’s About: The moon is knocked closer to earth and wreaks havoc on the planet’s gravitational forces; extreme weather, food shortages, and technological breakdowns ensue. Our diarist, 16-year-old Miranda, is pretty much housebound in Pennsylvania with her two brothers and mother, trying to survive.
The Carbon Diaries 2015/2017, by Saci Lloyd
When You’re in the Mood For: An urbanized, eco-thriller version of Life as We Knew It, with a narrator who plays in a London band called the Dirty Angels.
What it’s About: Laura Brown’s secret diary depicts a not-so-distant world of carbon rationing cards, drought, recession, unemployment, flooding, inflation, and despair. The inclusion of realistic graphics of texts, receipts, government decrees, newspaper headlines, postcards, and magazine headlines add to the chill level.
The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them, with Erin Gruwell
When You’re in the Mood For: A true inspirational-teacher story as written by the real teens affected.
What it’s About: Erin Gruwell’s students at Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA, who face local gang warfare in their daily lives, become advocates for tolerance after reading Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata Filipov’s Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo. The students record their reactions to historical conflict and discover metaphors for their current situations in Shakespeare plays.
The Black Book: Diary of a Teenage Stud, by Jonah Black
When You’re in the Mood For: The Carrie Diaries from a boy POV, set in Pompano Beach, FL, instead of Connecticut. While Carrie Bradshaw will one day grow up to become a sex columnist, Jonah suffers the current embarrassment of having a mom who writes popular sex-education books.
What it’s About: Jonah’s self-described studliness is self-deprecating; he feels like the only person in his group of friends who’s not having sex, and he’s deeply confused by the various girls in his life, particularly his best female friend, Posie.
The Bunker Diary, by Kevin Brooks
When You’re in the Mood For: Existentialism, fear, and/or nihilism. (Just warnin’ ya!)
What it’s About: The 2014 Carnegie Medal winner is a psychologically complex story of a homeless boy, Linus, who’s knocked unconcious and wakes up in a bunker with surveillance cameras recording his every move. And he’s not the only one with questions about why he’s there or what he’s being punished for…
The Keysha Diaries, by Earl Sewell
When You’re in the Mood For: Gossip Girl meets Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
What it’s About: After a tough life with her mom, the fear of foster care always hanging over her head, 16-year-old Keysha Kendell moves in with her estranged, wealthy father, which means sharing her fancy new digs with a stepmother and half-brother. But newfound popularity and money don’t protect her from drama; instead, they bring more of it.