2017 National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature

Elana K. Arnold

What Girls Are Made of by Elana K. Arnold Elana K. Arnold
What Girls Are Made Of
(Carolrhoda Lab / Lerner Publishing Group)
ISBN: 9781512410242

National Book Foundation: What’s your writing process: where do you do wr ite, and how long does it take to finish a book?
Elana Arnold: I write everywhere. As a homeschooling parent of two teenagers, I do lots of driving and lots of waiting, so I often write in my car or at a café. My favorite place to write is at home, flanked by animals. Once I am committed to a book, I like to finish a first draft within a season—around twelve to fourteen weeks. If it takes much longer to get to the end of the story, I begin to feel as if the threads have spun out too far from me, and I feel an urgency to spin them all back in, so the last third of a first draft is often written in a breathless whirlwind of ten-hour days, with me thinking and dreaming about the story whenever I am away from it. Revision can take much longer, up to a year or more, before a manuscript becomes a book.
Foundation: What’s your favorite bookstore or library?
Arnold: My favorite bookstore is called Gatsby Books. It’s in Long Beach, California, not far from where I live, and it is home to a cat named Ruby. That’s one of the things I love about Gatsby Books—the presence of the cat—and I love that Ruby was taken in by Sean (the bookstore’s owner) when another local bookstore closed down and their shop cat needed a place to live. I’ve held several launches at Gatsby Books and have led a workshop there, too. The owner’s daughter, who is a young teen, often helps in the shop, and she is a delight.

judges' citation

Elana K. Arnold’s What Girls Are Made Of examines what it means to be a girl, a woman, a physical object—to own oneself and to be owned by others. This challenging work invites readers to look within themselves and explore their own identities and imperfections. A strong backbone of feminist mythology gives the novel an extra layer of depth and pain. The result is both devastating and healing, and altogether unforgettable.


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.

About the Author

Elana K. Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. Her books have been included on the LA Public Library’s Best Books of the Year list, the Bank Street Best Book list, the YALSA “Best Fiction for Young Adults” list, have been ALAN picks, and have been selected for inclusion in the Amelia Bloomer Project. Her most recent YA novel, Infandous, was a Westchester Fiction Award Winner and won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis and currently lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals.  


- WEBSITE: elanakarnold.com

- FACEBOOK: facebook.com/ElanaKArnold

- TWITTER: @elanakarnold

(Photo credit: Martha Brockenbrough)


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