Body positivity is the healthy belief that you can find beauty in yourself just the way you are.
Parents can be a huge factor in helping their children feel body-positive. Research shows that parents who focus on health and well-being for their children as opposed to weight or appearance were less likely to reinforce negative messages about body image.
Some other ways parents can work to create a more positive and healthy environment at home include including positive imagery of diverse bodies, using words like “healthy” and “strong” instead of “think” and “beautiful,” and encouraging their children’s interests in physical activities.
You can purchase and read books with themes such as diversity, inclusion, and empowerment in children from the very beginning. Below, you’ll find 16 excellent body positivity books for tweens & teens. (All images are clickable.)
Body positivity books for tweens
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules—like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space—her swimming pool—where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.
Twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum is the fattest kid in school. But he also invents cool contraptions–like a TV that can show the past–because there is something that happened two years ago which he needs to see if he ever hopes to unravel a dreadful mystery. But inventor or not, there is a lot Owen can’t figure out. Like how his Oreos keep disappearing from his lunch. Or why his sister suddenly wants to be called by a boy’s name. Or why a diabolical, scar-faced bully at school seems to be on a mission to destroy him. He’s sure that if only he can get the TV to work, things will start to make sense. But it will take a revelation, not a cool invention, for Owen to see that the answer is not in the past, but the present. That no matter how large he is on the outside, he doesn’t have to feel small on the inside.
Seventeen pounds. That’s the difference between Abigail Walker and Kristen Gorzca. Between chubby and slim, between teased and taunting. Abby is fine with her body and sick of seventeen pounds making her miserable, so she speaks out against Kristen and her groupies—and becomes officially unpopular. Embracing her new status, Abby heads to an abandoned lot across the street and crosses an unfamiliar stream that leads her to a boy who’s as different as they come.
Anders is homeschooled, and while he’s worried that Abby’s former friends are out to get her, he’s even more worried about his dad, a war veteran home from Iraq who is dangerously disillusioned with life. But if his dad can finish his poem about the expedition of Lewis and Clark, if he can recapture the belief that there can be innocence in the world, maybe he will be okay. As Abby dives into the unexpected role as a research assistant, she just as unexpectedly discovers that by helping someone else find hope in the world, there is plenty there for herself, as well.
Before she had an eating disorder, twelve-year-old Riley was many things: an aspiring artist, a runner, a sister, and a friend. But now, from inside the inpatient treatment center where she’s receiving treatment for anorexia, it’s easy to forget all of that. Especially since under the influence of her eating disorder, Riley alienated her friends, abandoned her art, turned running into something harmful, and destroyed her family’s trust.
If Riley wants her life back, she has to recover. Part of her wants to get better. As she goes to therapy, makes friends in the hospital, and starts to draw again, things begin to look up. But when her roommate starts to break the rules, triggering Riley’s old behaviors and blackmailing her into silence, Riley realizes that recovery will be even harder than she thought. She starts to think that even if she does “recover,” there’s no way she’ll stay recovered once she leaves the hospital and is faced with her dieting mom, the school bully, and her gymnastics-star sister.
Sarah loves basketball more than anything. Crushing it on the court makes her feel like she matters. And it’s the only thing that helps her ignore how much it hurts when her mom forgets to feed her. But lately, Sarah can’t even play basketball right. She’s slower now and missing shots she should be able to make. Her body doesn’t feel like it’s her own anymore. She’s worried that changing herself back to how she used to be is the only way she can take control over what’s happening.
When Sarah’s crush asks her to be partners in a cooking competition, she feels pulled in a million directions. She’ll have to dig deep to stand up for what she needs at home, be honest with her best friends, and accept that she doesn’t need to change to feel good about herself.
Thirteen-year-old Tally discovers several surprising things about her roommate—including the possibility of an eating disorder—during a seventh-grade class trip. During a class trip to DC, thirteen-year-old Tally and her best friends, Sonnet and Caleb (a.k.a. Spider) are less than thrilled when they are assigned roommates and are paired with kids who are essentially their sworn enemies. For Tally, rooming with “clonegirl” Ava Seely feels like punishment, rather than the potential for fun.
But the trip is full of surprises. Despite a pact to stick together as much as they can, Sonnet pulls away, and Spider befriends Marco, the boy who tormented him last year. And Marco just might “like” Tally—what’s that about? But the uneasy peace in Ava and Tally’s room is quickly upended when Tally begins to suspect something is off about Ava. She has a weird notebook full of random numbers and doesn’t seem to eat anything during meals. When Tally confronts Ava, Ava threatens to share an embarrassing picture of Tally with the class if Tally says anything to anyone about her suspicions. But will Tally endanger more than her pride by keeping her secret?
Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 2 months and wants Ann to be a bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less).
Welcome to the world of informercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, endless run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—and some surprises about her not-so-perfect mother.
And there’s one more thing—it’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin—no matter how you add it up!
THE PRETTIEST: It’s the last thing Eve Hoffmann expected to be, the only thing Sophie Kane wants to be, and something Nessa Flores-Brady knows she’ll never be . . . until a list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade.
Eve is disgusted by the way her body is suddenly being objectified by everyone around her.
Sophie is sick of the bullying she’s endured after being relegated to number two.
And Nessa is tired of everyone else trying to tell her who she is.
It’s time for a takedown. As the three girls band together, they begin to stand up not just for themselves, but for one another, too.
body positivity books for teens
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.
Felipe can’t wait for winter break: Finally, he’ll get some time away from the classmates who tease him incessantly about his weight. But Felipe’s plan turns upside down when he learns that Caio, his neighbor from apartment 57, will be staying with him for fifteen days. This is a problem because (a) Felipe has had a crush on Caio since, well, forever; and (b) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to handle them while sharing a room with his lifelong crush.
Suddenly, the days that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) are a gauntlet of every unresolved issue in Felipe’s life. But if he can overcome his insecurities, then maybe — just maybe — this break won’t turn out to be such a disaster after all. . .
Faith Herbert is a pretty regular teen. When she’s not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, she’s volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove. So far, her senior year has been spent trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there’s also that small matter of recently discovering she can fly….
When the fictional world of The Grove crashes into Faith’s reality as the show relocates to her town, she can’t believe it when TV heroine Dakota Ash takes a romantic interest in her. But her fandom-fueled daydreams aren’t enough to distract Faith from the fact that first animals, then people, have begun to vanish from the town. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots to a new designer drug infiltrating her high school. When her investigation puts the people she loves in danger, she will have to confront her hidden past and use her newfound gifts—risking everything to save her friends and beloved town.
Winnie is living her best fat girl life and is on her way to the best place on earth. No, not Disneyland–her Granny’s diner, Goldeen’s, in the small town of Misty Haven. While there, she works in her fabulous 50’s inspired uniform, twirling around the diner floor and earning an obscene amount of tips. With her family and ungirlfriend at her side, she has everything she needs for one last perfect summer before starting college in the fall.…until she becomes Misty Haven’s Summer Queen in a highly anticipated matchmaking tradition that she wants absolutely nothing to do with.
Newly crowned, Winnie is forced to take center stage in photoshoots and a never-ending list of community royal engagements. Almost immediately, she discovers that she’s deathly afraid of it all: the spotlight, the obligations, and the way her Merry Haven Summer King wears his heart, humor, and honesty on his sleeve. Stripped of Goldeen’s protective bubble, to salvage her summer Winnie must conquer her fears, defy expectations, and be the best Winnie she knows she can be—regardless of what anyone else thinks of her.
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her. She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame, and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho. But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.
Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.
People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it has ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.
But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? Because it’s time people did.
Lily Rose is used to people paying attention to her gorgeous twin sister, Daisy. But even though Lily loves her own fat body, she can’t shake the idea that no one would ever choose her over Daisy not when they could have the thin twin. That is until she meets Cal, the gorgeous, sweet guy from New Zealand who can’t seem to stay away. The gorgeous, sweet guy who also happens to be Daisy’s summer crush. Lily can’t seem to figure out why she isn’t as into him as she should be. She should be head-over-heels in love, not missing time at the ice-cream shack with her life-long best friend, Cassie. Not wondering what Cassie is getting up to with Cal’s friend Jack, or what she’s thinking about when they’re alone . . . With University threatening to tear Cassie and Lily apart at the end of summer and Lily desperately trying to keep Cal a secret from Daisy, summer is set to be far from relaxing.
When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.
In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.
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The books I’ve shared in this post may help you and your middle-grade or YA student navigate body-positive messages. Remember, the best way to learn about something is through personal experience. If your tween or teen has a hard time finding their voice, it can be helpful for them to read stories that show different perspectives of self-identity. These characters will empower them with courage and confidence as they find themselves!
For more book recommendations see 20 Books Your Child Should Read After The Mysterious Benedict Society & 16 Books About Libraries, Books, and Literacy for Tweens & Teens.
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