Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day! In celebration of this day, here are a whole bunch of books that center queer girls and women in sports!
Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater, ill. by Sophie Escabasse (MG)
A highly illustrated middle-grade series that celebrates new friendships, first crushes, and getting out of your comfort zone.
Ever since they can remember, fifth-graders Kenzie (aka Kenzilla) and Shelly (aka Bomb Shell) have dreamed of becoming roller derby superstars. When Austin’s city league introduces a brand-new junior league, the dynamic duo celebrates! But they’ll need to try out as a five-person team. Kenzie and Shelly have just one week to convince three other girls that roller derby is the coolest thing on wheels. But Kenzie starts to have second thoughts when Shelly starts acting like everyone’s best friend . . . Isn’t she supposed to be Kenzie’s best friend? And things get really awkward when Shelly recruits Kenzie’s neighbor (and secret crush!) for the team. With lots of humor and an authentic middle-grade voice, book one of this illustrated series follows Kenzie, Shelly, and the rest of the Derby Daredevils as they learn how to fall—and get back up again.
The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown (YA)
Piper Kitts is spending the summer living with her grandmother, training at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, and trying to get over her ex-girlfriend. Much to Piper’s dismay, her grandmother is making her face her fear of driving head-on by taking lessons from a girl in town.
Kat Pearson has always suspected that she likes girls but fears her North Carolina town is too small to color outside the lines. But when Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons, everything changes.
Piper’s not sure if she’s ready to let go of her ex. Kat’s navigating uncharted territory with her new crush. With the summer running out, will they be able to unlock a future together?
She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen (YA)
After an embarrassing loss to her ex-girlfriend in their first basketball game of the season, seventeen-year-old Scottie Zajac gets into a fender bender with the worst possible person: her nemesis, Irene Abraham, head cheerleader for the Fighting Reindeer.
Irene is as mean as she is beautiful, so Scottie makes a point to keep her distance. When the accident sends Irene’s car to the shop for weeks’ worth of repairs and the girls are forced to carpool, their rocky start only gets bumpier.
But when an opportunity arises for Scottie to get back at her toxic ex—and climb her school’s social ladder—she bribes Irene into an elaborate fake- dating scheme that threatens to reveal some very real feelings.
Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan (YA)
Bruised by Tanya Boteju (YA)
To Daya Wijesinghe, a bruise is a mixture of comfort and control. Since her parents died in an accident she survived, bruises have become a way to keep her pain on the surface of her skin so she doesn’t need to deal with the ache deep in her heart.
So when chance and circumstances bring her to a roller derby bout, Daya is hooked. Yes, the rules are confusing and the sport seems to require the kind of teamwork and human interaction Daya generally avoids. But the opportunities to bruise are countless, and Daya realizes that if she’s going to keep her emotional pain at bay, she’ll need all the opportunities she can get.
The deeper Daya immerses herself into the world of roller derby, though, the more she realizes it’s not the simple physical pain-fest she was hoping for. Her rough-and-tumble teammates and their fans push her limits in ways she never imagined, bringing Daya to big truths about love, loss, strength, and healing.
Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin (YA)
After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.
Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.
Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, Val Wise, and Oscar O. Jupiter (YA)
Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleader squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend BeeBee is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped up social pressures (not to mention micro aggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them.
Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall (YA)
There are two things that Corinne Parker knows to be true: that she is in love with Maggie Bailey, the captain of the rival high school’s cross-country team and her secret girlfriend of a year, and that she isn’t ready for anyone to know she’s bisexual.
But then Maggie dies, and Corinne quickly learns that the only thing worse than losing Maggie is being left heartbroken over a relationship no one knows existed. And to make things even more complicated, the only person she can turn to is Elissa — Maggie’s ex and the single person who understands how Corinne is feeling.
As Corinne struggles to make sense of her grief and what she truly wants out of life, she begins to have feelings for the last person she should fall for. But to move forward after losing Maggie, Corinne will have to learn to be honest with the people in her life…starting with herself.
Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler (YA, June 7th)
Amber McCloud’s dream is to become cheer captain at the end of the year, but it’s an extra-tall order to be joyful and spirited when the quarterback of your team has been killed in a car accident. For both the team and the squad, watching Robbie get replaced by newcomer Jack Walsh is brutal. And when it turns out Jack is actually short for Jaclyn, all hell breaks loose.
The players refuse to be led by a girl, the cheerleaders are mad about the changes to their traditions, and the fact that Robbie’s been not only replaced but outshined by a QB who wears a sports bra has more than a few Atherton Alligators in a rage. Amber tries for some semblance of unity, but it quickly becomes clear that she’s only got a future on the squad and with her friends if she helps them take Jack down.
Just one problem: Amber and Jack are falling for each other, and if Amber can’t stand up for Jack and figure out how to get everyone to fall in line, her dream may come at the cost of her heart.
Catch and Cradle by Katia Rose (NA)
The UNS Women’s Lacrosse team doesn’t have an official policy against inter-teammate relationships, but those words might as well be carved into stone tablets in the middle of the field. After witnessing way too much drama in the past, Captain Becca Moore is intent on keeping her players’ love lives out of the locker room.
Becca has no time or tolerance for any distractions from the game. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Hope Hastings has been since the day she showed up for tryouts: one walking, talking, charismatically dorky and way-too-kissable distraction.
Hope knew she was headed straight to the danger zone from the moment she saw Becca’s flame-red hair and surly captain smirk. She’s spent the past two years writing off her attraction as a harmless crush, but starting a new semester fresh out of an awful relationship makes Hope realize just how far from harmless the heat between her and Becca really is.
The friendships of a tight-knit team and their shot at the title are all lying on the line, but as Hope and Becca get closer to bending rules they’ve sworn never to break, they realize they’ve put their hearts on that line too. Losing has never been an option, but winning might cost more than they’re willing to pay.
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound
Endgame by Zoe Reed (NA)
Audrey Caplan knew what she wanted. It was simple, really: get the spot as captain of her college soccer team, and focus on school. That was it, and with her aptitude for structure and discipline, it’d be easy to ignore distractions. At least it would’ve been if Morgan Bailey hadn’t shown up. If there was one thing Audrey’s bulletproof restraint wasn’t prepared for, it was an annoying, adorable show-off with a heart of gold.
Buy it: Amazon
Break Point by Yolanda Wallace (Adult Historical)
Germany’s Meike von Bismarck is rich, famous, and the top-ranked amateur female tennis player in the world. She seems to have it all, but the Nazis want more. Can Meike deliver the victories Adolf Hitler requires on court while keeping her soul intact off it?
Brash American Helen Wheeler has reached the upper echelons of women’s tennis, but her fiery temper and headline-grabbing social life have prevented her from being accepted by the genteel sport’s fans. When a shadowy government agent presents Helen with compromising photographs of her with Meike von Bismarck, her one-time doubles partner and former lover, will Helen allow her career to be derailed by an inevitable morals charge or will she agree to spy on the woman she once loved?
Bring Her On by Chelsea M. Cameron (Adult)
She should have just been a cheer-camp hookup, but fate decided to toss Echo Rosenthal back into my life ten years later. She coaches the Heartwood Bulldogs, the squad that beat my Corsica Tigers at the New England Cheer Championships. Now we’re both headed to Nationals and I have one thing on my mind: revenge.
My squad is fired up and ready to go—until the Rosedale High School gym burns down. Guess who has to host them for practices a month before Nationals? Now I, Kiri Kentwood, am forced into even closer proximity to Echo and she’s really starting to get on my nerves, not to mention she’s in ridiculous shape and can still do a standing full. Bitch. I can’t decide which is worse, that I want to ram a set of poms down her throat, or that I want to shove my tongue in her mouth.
As the pressure builds toward Nationals, I can’t get her out of my mind and, after a huge argument, we end up right back where we started: in bed.
We’re headed for a battle, and I don’t know which one of us is going to come out on top, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose to her again: on the mat or off.
Buy it: Amazon
Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer (Adult)
Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.
During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.
Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.
Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.
Letting love in means putting yourself out there.
When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.
Prize Money by Celeste Castro (Adult)
Eva Angeles is a professional barrel racer headed for her third world title when a competition mishap throws her in the path of an on-the-loose bull. She is saved from impending disaster by a tall, dark, and handsome bullfighter—a woman. Toma Rozene is an equestrian stuntwoman fresh off the set of a blockbuster film when a family emergency calls her home to help run the family business: rescuing fallen rodeo riders before blustering bulls and bucking broncos trample their dreams. Eva and Toma’s shared passions and competitive spirits make friendship easy, but, as their feelings deepen, they must decide if the divergent futures they seek will stand in the way of love.
Edge of Glory by Rachel Spangler (Adult)
Corey LaCroix only wanted to snowboard, but Olympic medals and world championships only carry you so far when your knees ache and you’re suddenly an underdog for the first time in her career. Elise Brandeis doesn’t need a training partner, especially an unorthodox has-been snowboarder with an attitude. But Elise has already lost a full season to injury, and she’s struggling to make the Olympic ski team. Can teaming up with Corey give her the edge she needs to go for gold, or will the snowboarder’s infuriatingly cocky smile and rock hard abs prove a distraction she simply can’t afford?
Both champions brace themselves for the run of a lifetime. Putting their broken bodies on the line, they fight the competition, the clock, and the frozen terrain for one more chance at glory. But this time, as they ride the razor’s edge between victory and defeat, the stakes are steeper than any mountain they will ever face when legacies and hearts collide.
Roller Girl by Vanessa North (Adult)
Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.
Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.
With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.
The Long Shot by A.L. Brooks (Adult)
Talented golfer Morgan Spencer has never won a major but it’s so close she can taste it—no thanks to her sexist father, a golfing legend who won’t even give her the time of day.
Television producer Adrienne Wyatt has thrown herself into her career after her lover left her a year ago. She has a brilliant new plan: a documentary featuring Morgan’s rise and rise, capitalizing on the young woman’s star appeal.
The main problem is that the reserved golfer treats Adrienne’s plan like an invasion of privacy. The other issue is her growing feelings for the irritatingly attractive woman—an unprofessional lapse that would get her ridiculed by her peers if anyone found out.
When things come to a chaotic head, as fierce desires, risked careers, age differences, and dreams all come into play, what will win?
One Life by Megan Rapinoe and Emma Brockes (Memoir)
Megan Rapinoe is one of the world’s most talented athletes. But beyond her massive professional success on the soccer field, Rapinoe has become an icon and ally to millions, boldly speaking out on the issues that matter most. In recent years, she’s become one of the faces of the equal pay movement and her tireless activism for LGBTQ rights has earned her global support.
In One Life, Rapinoe embarks on a thoughtful and unapologetic discussion of social justice and politics. Raised in a conservative small town in northern California, the youngest of six, Rapinoe was four years old when she kicked her first soccer ball. Her parents encouraged her love for the game, but also urged her to volunteer at homeless shelters and food banks. Her passion for community engagement never wavered through high school or college, all the way up to 2016, when she took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, to protest racial injustice and police brutality – the first high-profile white athlete to do so. The backlash was immediate, but it couldn’t compare to the overwhelming support. Rapinoe became a force of social change, both on and off the field.
Using anecdotes from her own life and career, from suing the United States Soccer Federation alongside her teammates over gender discrimination to her widely publicized refusal to visit the White House, Rapinoe discusses the obligation we all have to speak up, and reveals the impact each of us can have on our communities. As she declared during the soccer team’s victory parade in New York in 2019, “[T]his is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here, every single person who is not here, every single person who doesn’t want to be here, every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree…. It takes everybody. This is my charge to everybody. Do what you can. Do what you have to do. Step outside yourself. Be more. Be better. Be bigger than you’ve ever been before.”
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound