In literature, the concept of girlhood is a recurring theme that has been explored by authors throughout history. While the meaning and experience of being a "girl" can vary greatly depending on context, culture, and time period, it often carries with it certain expectations or ideas about femininity and womanhood. In fiction specifically, characters who are identified as girls tend to be portrayed in ways that emphasize their innocence or naivety while also exploring how they grapple with growing up into adulthood.

For example, Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women follows four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—as they come of age during the Civil War era. Each sister embodies different aspects of what it means to be a young woman: Meg is focused on marriage and motherhood; Jo strives for independence; Beth exhibits unwavering kindness; and Amy focuses on her artistic pursuits. Through these characterizations, readers gain insight into both societal expectations placed upon women at this time period as well as each individual girl's unique struggles in navigating them.

More recently, authors have taken this exploration even further by examining issues such as gender identity through female protagonists who challenge traditional notions about what it means to grow up "as a girl" in today's society. Examples include books like Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give, which follows Starr Carter after she witnesses her best friend get shot by police officers, or Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before series, which centers around Lara Jean Covey's coming-of-age story filled with love letters gone wrong. By creating relatable stories featuring strong female leads, these novels offer more nuanced portrayals of modern-day girlhood than ever before seen in literature, helping to bring attention to many important topics, including race, class, sexuality, mental health, and self-esteem, among others.