A previously proposed strain gradient plasticity theory is extended to incorporate a non-quadratic power law function of the plastic strain gradient in the free energy expression with an exponent of N + 1. The values of N are taken to vary from N = 1 to N = 0. A simple shear problem of a metal layer between rigid boundaries is analyzed. Two stages of plastic deformation are considered. In stage I, the plastic strain is taken to be zero at the boundaries. Stage I ends when a specified magnitude of the plastic strain gradient is attained at the boundaries. In stage II, the magnitude of the plastic strain gradient at the boundaries is fixed at the specified value. With N = 0, a critical plastic strain gradient cannot be specified at the boundaries because the plastic strain gradient is infinite at the boundaries. The theory with N = 0 predicts a constant plateau stress immediately after initial yield, and the dependence of the plateau stress on the layer thickness can fit experimentally observed plateau stress values. However, with N = 0, a stress gap occurs between the initial yield stress and the plateau stress. The theory with 0 < N ≤ 1 and with stage II also can reproduce the experimentally observed dependence of the plateau stress on the layer thickness for any value of N in that range, with an appropriate value of critical plastic strain gradient at the boundaries. The solution for 0 < N ≤ 1 includes that for N = 0 as a limiting case.