I’ve been on the hunt for books like Mamma Mia! my whole life. I always joke that I watched Mamma Mia! too many times in my formative years and that’s why I’m obsessed with Pierce Brosnan in white linen pants, ABBA, and literally every musical that has ever been made. My birthday after the film came out was Mamma Mia!–themed, with plates and napkins plastered with the cast and everything. I talked through the entire movie. How my friends remained my friends after that, I haven’t a clue.
I am notorious around my workplace for recommending Mamma Mia! to any person I come into contact with. It will forever be my lasting mark on this world and I can die happy knowing that. Everyone deserves to see the Dad-esque weird head-nod dance Pierce Brosnan does while Donna and the Dynamos sing “Super Trouper.” Everyone. And you haven’t known joy if you haven’t seen Meryl Streep (and Lily James) wander around a Greek island, overall-clad and singing ABBA songs. It’s the epitome of joy. I’m firmly in camp Pierce Brosnan’s Singing Was Not That Bad and I hold a grudge against every critic who said it was because the lack of his singing in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was a travesty. Some people don’t know how to have fun.
For all you fellow Mamma Mia! Cinematic Universe (MMCU) lovers out there, here are a few books like Mamma Mia! to take a chance on.
Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga
Sam Carmichael. Harry Bright. Bill Anderson. If Sophie’s yearning to find her father, down to the penning of letters to him or…them at the start of Mamma Mia! is what you’re looking for, try Here We Are Now. The main character, Taliah, is visited by her previously-absent rock-star father and drops everything to find out everything. In a mirror to Sophie, by the time Tal’s mom finds out, it’ll be too late. She’s hoping, as her Mamma Mia counterpart hoped, that everything will fall into place. But meeting her father isn’t exactly what she hoped it would be. Not everyone winds up with three dads willing to take a third when all is said and done.
Girls Like Us by Randi Pink
Are you, as I often am accused of being, obsessed with the ’70s? Are you drawn to young Donna’s coping with her surprise pregnancy in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? Try Girls Like Us by Randi Pink. It explores the experience of four young girls dealing with unplanned pregnancies in 1972. This is more teenage, more realistic, and with less overalls for sure, but worth a read nonetheless if you want more of the realistic side of what young pregnancy looked like 50 years ago. Not everyone is so lucky to be Donna Sheridan living in an old farmhouse plucking oranges from the tree day after day.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
If the one night, and one night only, of Donna and the Dynamos captivated you, try The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. Colby and Bev hit the road, playing with Bev’s band through run-down venues through the Pacific Northwest while college and their impending end loom. It’s bittersweet as the pair contemplate what comes next. As Donna says, though, life is short and the world is wide, and the girls will find out soon enough that it is important to make some memories.
Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno
If Kalokairi, Aphrodite’s rumored water-of-love island, captured your attention, but you want something stranger and even more magical, try Summer of Salt. Moody weather, magic potions, and centuries-old birds are just the beginning of a strange summer of the island of By-The-Sea. It’s Kalokairi’s edge-of-the-world atmosphere with magic thrown on top. It’s emotional and hard-hitting and oh so very beautiful. If you see the wonder of a fairytale, you’ll like this dream-world.
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
If you want a taste of Donna’s diary without Sophie’s dot dot dot editing, try the classic, ever charming Bridget Jones’s Diary. A young woman, Bridget, trying and failing in love while being absolutely hilarious and a little big cringey and a lot a bit relatable? Her relationships with two men are chronicled in this diary-style novel along with a large cast of friend and family characters. If you haven’t yet, why not take a chance on reading this? You’ll be just as invested in someone else’s love life as Sophie’s friends were in Donna’s. Or, maybe more so. Sophie’s rendition left out a lot.
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
I’ve always been staunchly on Team Sam. For my fellow Sam fans, or if you loved Donna’s insta-love summer fling that turned out not to be such a happily ever after after all, Only Mostly Devastated is perfect for you. Ghosted after a summer fling, an emergency in Ollie’s family forces him to move across the country. Too bad his romance ghoster, Will, is at the very school he moves to. Dealing with someone who broke your heart suddenly there, in your space, all the time? Ollie (and Donna) know all about how awkward dealing with that is. At least there are no goat houses and bagpipes involved here. Just lunch hours and music class and a resolve not to let Will back under his skin. But, then there are those angel eyes.
Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce
If you liked Donna’s (and her mother’s) romances abroad, especially Harry Headbanger’s spontaneous summer storyline, pick up Hot British Boyfriend. In an effort to get a Harry-esque “hot British boyfriend,” Ellie makes a deal with her classmate Dev to learn how to win over her crush. Sightseeing across England, whirlwind romance, and a journey to self-discovery and acceptance await you. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
For all you Young Bill fans, obsessed with the little heel/foot dancey thing he does while singing “Why Did It Have to Be Me?” and his boat, The Loose Ends List is a cruise-ship-based exploration of family, friends, and first love. Torn from her summer plans when her dying grandmother forces her family on a cruise, Maddie begins the journey with a vow to squeeze every drop out of life. It’s funny and it’s sad, much like both Mamma Mia! movies (I cry every time I watch the “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “My Love, My Life” scenes). How the heartaches do come and go for Maddie, but she learns she’ll be dancing again too.