What Girls Are Made Of

  • Interest Level: Grade 8 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

A 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Finalist

When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now she’ll do anything for the boy she loves, to prove she’s worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of? Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are.

“Finally, finally, a book that is fully girl, with all of the gore and grace of growing up female exposed.” —Carrie Mesrobian, author of the William C. Morris finalist, Sex & Violence

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Interest Level Grade 8 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 6
Genre Young Adult
Copyright 2017
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Lab ®
Language English
Number of Pages 208
Publication Date 2017-04-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS YAF022000, YAF058040, YAF000000
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 5.5 x 8.25
Lexile 900
ATOS Reading Level 5.8
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 501100
Accelerated Reader® Points 8.0
Features Afterword, Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Reviewed, Starred Reviews, and eSource

Author: Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold is the author of several books for young readers. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

What Girls Are Made Of

A 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Finalist When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now she’ll do anything for the boy she loves, to prove she’s… View available downloads →

Meet the Imprints: Carolrhoda Books & Carolrhoda Lab

We kick off our Meet the Imprints feature with Carolrhoda Books (middle grade fiction) and Carolrhoda Lab (young adult fiction). The mission of Carolrhoda Books is to publish distinctive books with heart, including picture books (which we’ll cover later) and middle grade novels that… View →


  • Amelia Bloomer Project List, Winner, 2018
  • Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, Winner, 2018
  • Golden Kite Award, Winner, 2018
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2018
  • ILA Young Adults' Choices, Winner, 2018
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2018
  • California Book Awards Finalist, Short-listed, 2017
  • School Library Journal Best Book, Winner, 2017
  • National Book Award for Young People's Literature Finalist, Short-listed, 2017
  • Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year, Winner, 2017
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Teens, Winner, 2017
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, Winner, 2017


Kirkus Reviews Blog

“[H]arsh and beautiful, distant and immediate, furious and anguished.”—Leila Roy, Kirkus Reviews Blog

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Pair this with McGinnis’ The Female of the Species for a nuanced look at the complications of girlhood.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


“[D]escribes all things ‘girl’ in the brutally honest way. . . . Teen girls should read this book, even if it is not easy.”—VOYA


“Smart, true, and devastating, this is brutally, necessarily forthcoming about the crags of teen courtship.”—Booklist

Kirkus Reviews

“Arnold interweaves myriad landscapes . . . into a narrative wholeness that is greater than its parts. Unflinchingly candid, unapologetically girl, and devastatingly vital.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal

“The author presents a hopeful conclusion as Nina learns that self-love and fulfillment can be found through helping others. Because of its complex symbolism and graphic imagery, this well-written novel is best suited to mature YA readers.”—School Library Journal

Brandy Colbert

“Stunning in its honesty and depth, What Girls Are Made Of unapologetically examines the strength, determination, and vulnerability of girls. This book is for anyone who is a girl, was a girl, or wishes to glimpse the interwoven beauty and pain that comes with being a girl. With gorgeously spare prose, Elana K. Arnold has created a masterpiece that is sure to live long in the memory of readers.”—Brandy Colbert, author of the Cybils Award-winner Pointe

Carrie Mesrobian

“Finally, finally, a book that is fully girl, with all of the gore and grace of growing up female exposed. Arnold’s gorgeous prose takes us to all sorts of places to show us what girls are made of: a high-kill animal shelter, an abortion clinic, a bridge to nowhere that adventure seekers bungee-jump from, and all the way to Italy, to the sites of classical and religious art, where our narrator Nina learns the sacred tradition of how stories are told via the contortion and pain of a woman’s body. If you’re looking to enter the mind of a girl navigating sex, love, and her own physicality, look no further than What Girls Are Made Of.” —Carrie Mesrobian, author of the William C. Morris finalist Sex & Violence

Christa Desir

“Beautifully written and evocative, What Girls Are Made Of fearlessly examines the courage and struggle of being a teenage girl in the modern world. With a deft hand, Elana K. Arnold opens up a conversation about how girls survive as a whole when they are too often acknowledged only for their parts.”—Christa Desir, author of Other Broken Things

Martha Brockenbrough

“We think we know what girls are made of. But not always. And Elana K. Arnold removes the veil—which is as gory as often as it is gauzy. What Girls Are Made Of shows the true, beautiful, and confounding complexity of women. This one will rip your heart out.”— Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Game Of Love and Death