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5 Books All Women Should Read by Their 20s

A definitive list of fictional books.

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1. 'The Handmaid’s Tale'

This dystopian novel written by Margret Atwood has not only been adapted into a gripping TV series, it is also one of the most reflective novels about feminism and womanhood that a girl could read. Without explaining the whole plot, the book follows the story of Offred: a woman whose sole purpose in society is to provide a fertile reproductive system for a male called Fred. This novel highlights the height of 1970s/80s feminism and captures the cruel truth about how women are perceived in society. 10/10; a book ALL women should read.

2. 'Girl, Interrupted'

Suzanna Kaysen’s memoir dedicates itself to her time in a psychiatric ward as a young woman suffering with borderline personality disorder. It’s quirky, funny, and sometimes unsettling. With it being based on true events, it portrays the harsh reality of mental illness in women, and shows how Kaysen lived her younger years with an illness. It portrays the good times, and the bad, during Kaysen’s time in the psychiatric ward, and also presents how other women experience mental illness. 9/10; an interesting read with insightful recounts.

3. 'Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging'

Although childish, this book and the series Louise Rennison created follows Georgia and her gang of teenage friends. The series explores their adventures into becoming women and finding love. It truly is a coming-of-age story that provides humour and an exploration into teenage-hood. Georgia experiences love, heartbreak, and the do’s and don’t’s when it comes to being a teenage girl. 8/10; perhaps seen as one for those of younger years, this book is still enjoyable and relatable at all ages.

4. 'Fangirl'

Rainbow Rowell creates the tale of Cath Avery, a geeky “Fangirl” girl trying to fit in at university, who expresses her feelings about change and feeling left out. Cath is a twin, yet is more introverted than the other, and the two end up drifting apart. This affects Cath and she ends up feeling alone, as she feels as though she has no family or friends. Rowell creates a story that highlights the lows and highs of university, and how students, even those who are going through the worst of times, have to have hope and power on through. Although centred on Cath’s studies and her attitude towards university, Rowell also includes romance into this amazing novel. 9/10; this book is perfect for anyone struggling with studies, change, and fitting in.

5. 'Before I Die'

Jenny Downham’s novel follows Tessa, a teenager diagnosed with terminal cancer. Tessa and her mate Zoey create a list of things to do before she dies—hence the title. The book is written from Tessa's point of view which highlights her last few months of life. It explores her relationships, her newfound sex life, and her internal struggles with dealing with a body which is failing. Although depressing, the book gives an insight to the heights of teenage life, and how that life can be affected by a terminal illness. However, some of the activities Downham indicates are a part of teenage life are quite controversial; Tessa participates in illegal activities which some suggest are too inappropriate for such an audience. 9/10; if you want a stimulating read that’s guaranteed to make you think, then this is the book for you.

The five books are all very different, yet all are similar in spotlighting the main factors of growing up from childhood to womanhood. Some are childish and funny, whereas some are serious and portray feminist ideologies. The variety goes to show that girls should be reaching out to read all sorts of books, and that any book can provide them with a form of knowledge that they might hold with them for life. For any girls and women reading this: keep educating yourself, keep reading, and most importantly: “don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

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