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  • Published: 25 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141993072
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

What It Feels Like for a Girl

A heartbreaking, hilarious coming-of-age story from the voice of a generation, hailed as a new literary classic

Thirteen-year-old Byron needs to get away, and doesn't care how. Sick of being beaten up by lads for "talkin' like a poof" after school. Sick of dad - the weightlifting, womanising Gaz - and Mam, who pissed off to Turkey like Shirley Valentine. Sick of all the people in Hucknall who shuffle about like the living dead, going on about kitchens they're too skint to do up and marriages they're too scared to leave.

It's a new millennium, Madonna's 'Music' is top of the charts and there's a whole world to explore - and Byron's happy to beg, steal and skank onto a rollercoaster ride of hedonism. Life explodes like a rush of ecstasy when Byron escapes into Nottingham's kinetic underworld and discovers the East Midlands' premier podium-dancer-cum-hellraiser, the mesmerising Lady Die. But when the comedown finally kicks in, Byron arrives at a shocking encounter that will change life forever.

Bold, poignant and riotously funny, What It Feels Like For a Girl is the unique, hotly-anticipated and addictively-readable debut from one of Britain's most exciting young writers.

  • Published: 25 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141993072
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 272

Praise for What It Feels Like for a Girl

Fresh, original, heartbreaking and optimistic. The subtlety of time passing reminds me of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie's writing.

Reni Eddo Lodge

Paris Lees is the voice of a generation

Paul Flynn

Brilliant, brutal and bitingly funny, Lees is going to rip your heart out and show you the ugly truth about kids Britain would rather pretend don't exist. There's never been a book like this

Matthew Todd

Devastating one page, hilarious the next, What It Feels Like for a A Girl is unlike anything I have ever read. Utterly unique and imbued with hope - it is destined to be a classic.

Pandora Sykes

An important debut

Édouard Louis

A sensational, gut-wrenching read: raw, moving, and ultimately life-affirming

Owen Jones

Often hilarious, sometimes moving, consistently engrossing, always authentic and ultimately uplifting. Reminiscent of Trainspotting and Irvine Welsh. A tour-de-force

Matt Cain

A must-read ... as mesmerising as it is poignant


This utterly distinctive memoir, written almost out loud in Nottinghamshire vernacular, hauls you into the world Lees grew up in... it's shocking, funny, heart-rending and totally brilliant

The Bookseller, EDITOR'S CHOICE MAY 2021

What It Feels Like for a Girl says it like it is

Evening Standard, BEST NEW BOOKS IN 2021

A groundbreaking, peerless journey into trauma and the impossibility of fighting for the self

Sleaford Mods

Paris Lees has created a totally complete world in the way that something like Trainspotting or Skins or It's A Sin did... made a universe, populated it with people that you absolutely care about, dialect that you're completely absorbed by, then smashed your heart to smithereens

Alexandra Hemingsley

Nothing is off-limits in this unputdownable memoir ... her wit and expert storytelling soften some heartbreaking experiences

British Vogue

Heartbreaking, hilarious and impossible to put down: Paris Lees' What It Feels Like For a Girl is genuinely singular. It's raw, viscerally real and Byron is a character who will stay with you long after you've finished

Yomi Adegoke

Powerful and authentic, a memoir with the depth and writerly virtuosity of a fine novel.

Katherine O'Donnell

A truly fresh, exciting take on the genre of memoir


Raw, heartbreaking, and scorchingly funny, What It Feels Like For A Girl is a boldly-written and truly transformative account of an extraordinary life story. Please do yourself a favour and read it

Otegha Uwagba

Lees has lived an extraordinary life, and it makes for extraordinary writing

Rebecca Nicholson, Guardian

A ketamine-laced coming of age memoir... recalls being in a nightclub where you can still smoke and euphoric music blares non-stop ... a dark comedy from a little-heard perspective. Even when there's blood dripping on the page as a result of bullying, Lees manages to make it read like a sketch ... very powerful

Kadish Morris, The Observer

Heartbreaking and hilarious

Dazed Magazine

Smart and exuberant... By excavating her painful past in her memoir, [Lees] has crafted a vivid story of trauma, rebellion and astonishing resilience

Fiona Sturges, The Guardian

Fast and funny and furious... the writing is so alive and warm that you don't feel remotely miserable while reading it, even while your heart is pounding for her

Sophie Heawood, Grazia

It is so vivid, and the use of dialect so clever, that it feels as if you are living her life with her.

David Walliams

Written in a chatty, instantly endearing vernacular, What It Feels Like For A Girl is a crank-it-up-to-11 account of the British trans experience.


Written entirely in Midlands dialect, with each chapter named after a Noughties hit, Paris Lees's novelised account of her Nottingham childhood will make you shake with laughter and weep with heartbreak in the space of a few pages.

British Vogue Summer Reads

Set to be one of this summer's must-reads, Paris Lees' debut book is a coming-of-age memoir about her early life in the East Midlands. Written in Nottingham dialect, it's a story of growing up in a small town, with deliciously evocative tales of Noughties nights out.

Evening Standard

Energetic, dark and hilarious. Paris Lees, with her loud and proud sense of self, is set to explode.. if you read one book this summer, make it What It Feels Like for a Girl... radically cool, explosive and riotous ... long may Lees' voice shine neon bright

Shivani Kochnar, The Daily Mail

Like Alan Sillitoe on acid... it's got to be a film. I've never read anything like it.

Vicky McClure

Raw and original

Elle Magazine

Extraordinary, riotous, furiously unique, moving and funny, What It Feels Like for a Girl is a deeply important book as well as being a fantastic read

Elizabeth Day

Clever, gripping, messy, sad. I loved it.

Travis Alabanza

Sadness and joy also go hand-in-hand in What It Feels Like for a Girl, an exuberant account of Paris Lees's tearaway teenage years in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, where "the streets are paved wi' dog shit". Her gender nonconformity is just one aspect of an adolescence that also features bullying, violence, prostitution, robbery and a spell in a young offenders' institute. Yet despite the many traumas, Lees finds joy and kinship in the underground club scene and a group of drag queens who cocoon her in love and laughter.

Fiona Sturges, The Guardian, Best Books of 2021

Bold and compulsively readable... She writes with humour about heartbreakingly harrowing moments while simultaneously capturing the dazzling joy of Nottingham nightlife and the importance of finding those who accept you for who you truly are

Emma Hanson, Harper's Bazaar, memoirs and autobiographies to be inspired by

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