The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary

  • Interest Level: Grade 9 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

A 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection

A 2018 New York Public Library Best Book for Teens

Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.

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Interest Level Grade 9 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 8
Genre Young Adult
Category Diverse Books: Feminism, Diverse Books: LGBTQIA+, Diverse Books: Mental Health & Neurodiversity, Diverse Books: #MeToo, Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: B Self-Management, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, Social Emotional Learning
Copyright 2018
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Lab ®
Language English
Number of Pages 344
Publication Date 2018-02-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS YAF058140, YAF022000, YAF011000
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 5.5 x 8.25
Lexile 500
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews

Author: NoNieqa Ramos

Raised in the Boogie Down Bronx, NoNieqa Ramos is an educator and literary activist. Their work includes the young adult novels The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary and The Truth Is, as well as the picture book Hair Story. They believe Halloween is a lifestyle, not a holiday. If you're in Virginia, you might catch NoNieqa getting motorcycle lessons from their soulmate Michael or going indie bookstore hopping with their preciosos Jandi and Langston. Connect with their works on or on the Latinx collective


  • In the Margins Book Award Top 10 Titles, Winner, 2019
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Winner, 2019
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Teens, Winner, 2018



“Ramos’s stunning, gritty debut is equal parts hilarity, heartbreak, and hope.”—starred, VOYA

The Horn Book Magazine

“Macy tells her story through electric-voiced, slang-laden entries. . . [A] powerful debut.”—The Horn Book Magazine

Foreword Reviews

“[A] harrowing, heartbreaking tour de force, a story of will and determination against all odds.”—starred, Foreword Reviews

Publishers Weekly

“Ramos makes effective use of vernacular to channel Macy’s anger, anguish, and sharp-edged perspective in a disturbing but empathetic portrait of life as a child in poverty.”—Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“This complex story of love and loss can lead to insightful discussions about the problematic label of ‘disturbed.’ . . . Purchase where Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is popular.”—School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“Ramos’ relevant and thought-provoking debut is a powerful addition to any collection.”—Kirkus Reviews


“Ramos is a voice to watch; her exceptional writing and compassionate realism will draw many readers . . .”—starred, Booklist

Ashley Hope Pérez

“These pages vibrate with Macy’s fury, beat with her enormous heart, and take flight. I wanted to burn down the whole damn world and build a new one worthy of her. Instead, I started the book over to witness again the alchemy that turns brokenness into a thing of beauty. Unforgettable.”—Ashley Hope Pérez, author of Printz Honoree Out of Darkness and The Knife and the Butterfly

Amy Zhang

“Nonieqa Ramos’s The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary comes at a relevant time and with a powerful and endearing cast. Macy’s story is necessary and unique, and both she and NoNi present voice and narrative unlike anything we’ve seen before.”—Amy Zhang, author of This is Where the World Ends

David Bowles

“[A] one-of-a-kind, no-holds-barred teen memoir will blow your mind and break your heart.”—David Bowles, author of Chupacabra Vengeance and the Garza Twins series