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STEM Girls: Books with girls rocking science and math

Earlier this week I reviewed 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil, a book that has a main character, a girl, that is basically a physics wiz.  A lot of times, female main characters are into fashion or music and even sometimes sports.  But a lot of times, if our main characters are into academics they are also social pariahs.  Most of the time, academics aren’t even really mentioned in YA lit.  But this too is diversity: showing that our main characters, both male and female, can be involved in a variety of interests, even academic ones.  Boys don’t just have to be jocks and girls don’t just have to be fashionistas.  So here is a list of books that have main female characters that are involved in science and math.  Why just girl characters?  Because even though girls now make up the majority of college students, they still seem to lag behind in math and science, especially in terms of recognition and leadership in the field.  So here is some inspiration for us all, books that showcase girls being interested in science, math and those other subjects that fall under the umbrella of STEM eduction. 

3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

” . . . do you have anytime what time it is?”

Since it sparked the list, it deserves a place on the list.  Two girls who are incredibly intelligent in physics use that knowledge to save 2 parallel worlds.  Lots of science talk, scary tension, and a dash of romance.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

“People are always going to think something about you that isn’t real. It doesn’t matter what they think.” 

While on her way back from an academic competition, Reese is in an accident and wakes up in a secret government lab really quite different.  Can she find out what happened to her and what it means?  Inheritance, book 2, comes out later this year.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

“Excuse me if I feel skeptical,’ I said. ‘Coach’s foot fell off. How exactly do you propose to cure that? Superglue?” 

The coach is feeding the football team steroids that turn them into zombies, can Kate find an antidote before the entire high school eats itself?

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

” . . . and maybe I would do it better this time.” 

Straight A student Kate Malone is waiting to hear from MIT when her perfectly organized world starts to spiral out of control.  Then, something happens that truly blows it apart. 

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

“Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.” 

Willow is a genius obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions.  When her adopted parents die suddenly in a car accident, she uses her knowledge of nature to help build the perfect garden and rejuvenate both a neighborhood and the spirits of those around her.  Truly moving and inspiring, this new release is a must read for all. One of my favorite books of 2013.  (August 29th from Dial)

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

“The day the experiment succeeds is the day the experiment ends. And I inevitably find that the sadness of ending outweighs the celebration of success.”  

Calpurnia Tate uses science to help her understand why yellow grasshoppers grow so much bigger than the green grasshoppers in her back yard.  Along the way, she bonds with her grandfather and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.  Historical fiction, MG lit.


Find Me by Romily Bernard

“How can we all just keep swimming along when some of us are drowning?” 

Wick Tate is a superb computer hacker, skills she’ll need to use when Tessa Waye’s diary shows up at her house with a simple request: Find Me. (Coming in September from Harper Teen)

In the Shadow of the Blackbirds by Cat Winters

“…between the war and the flu, no one’s going to escape being haunted. We live in a world so horrifying, it frightens even the dead.”  

The Spanish flu is sweeping across the land.  It is 1918. Mary Shelley Black is forced to rethink everything she knows, or thinks she knows, about life and death.

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzad

“The past doesn’t disappear, but it doesn’t have to define your future. That’s up to you.” 

When Caro’s older sister Hannah returns, she is having a hard time adjusting.  Hannah is the spiritual sister while Caro uses science to help her understand the world around her.  But secrets about Hannah’s past lead Caro to better understand the both of them.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

“This is what we do. We make tea and read books and watch people die.”  

It starts with an itch.  Then the fever comes.  Soon after, you are dead. Kaelyn uses what she knows to try to keep herself alive when a virus sweeps over the island that she lives on.

Have some more titles that showcase intelligent girls that love science and math?  Please add them to the list in the comments.


  1. ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans is another great example. Love this list!

  2. The Apprentices (sequel to The Apothecary) by Maile Meloy

  3. Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

  4. Thanks for this addition to the list 🙂

  5. Thanks for this addition to the list 🙂

  6. This is a great addition to the list! I can't believe I forgot about it. Also, what is it about yellow covers for books that deal with science? Very interesting.

    Deadly can be found here http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7939963-deadly

  7. Any of these by Robin Brande:

    Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature
    Fat Cat
    Parallelogram Series (Into the Parallel and sequel Trapped in the Parallel)

  8. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson has a secondary female character who is a STEM girl.

  9. I can't wait to read 3:59. I adore Gretchen McNeil. Hmmm. What about THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER? The heroine's far better educated than most Victorian women (even though she's had to hide it) and she understands the ramifications of her father's terrible experiments.

    Thanks for picking FIND ME!!

  10. Girl Named Digit
    Jekel Loves Hyde

  11. Partials and Fragments by Dan Wells feature a strong female protagonist who is using the scientific method to solve the problem of why babies in her dystopic world are not living longer than a week.

    A Girl Named Digit and Double Digit by Annabel Monaghan features a high school protagonist who is brilliant at math.

    The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen features a student with Cerebral Palsy who tutors the main character in math.

    Tutored by Allison Whittenburg tangentially deals with math. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress also has a little bit less to do with math, but is definitely a steam punk novel that features three strong, intelligent young women. If I recall, there may be some science associated with it.

    Happy compiling and Cheers to Smart Girls!

    sent to me via email from JK

  12. I just bought the ebook of Adaptation the other day and hope to start it soon!

    Counting by 7s sounds beautiful! I'm going to have to check it out.

    This is a great list! I haven't read it but I'm assuming Kathy Reichs' YA series VIRALS would have girls interested in science. I love her adult books and the BONES show — Temperance Brennan is an awesome forensic anthropologist!

  13. Great list!

  14. The main character of The Testing, Cia, survives primarily through her intelligence, knowledge of machines and engineering, and inventiveness. Very STEM friendly.

    (In fact, minus mutants and deadly competitors, The Testing is kind of like a super serious, kind of deadly Science Olympiad.)

  15. Anonymous says

    “Glass Houses” by Rachel Caine has a science whiz main character Claire Danvers. Also, in “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer the main character is a female cyborg mechanic.

  16. The Walking Fish by Rachelle Burk is a great YA/children’s book that has a female scientist protagonist.

  17. Thanks!


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