Saturday, January 14, 2017

Tough Topics in YA Fiction

In October, Publishers Weekly posted an article called YA Authors Turn Advocates. The article focused on young adult authors who choose to write about topics such as mental illness, bullying, suicide, sex trafficking, life as a refugee, living with a disability, and sexual assault.

There is no shortage of YA books that explore these types of topics. In fact, the amount of books published that focus on social issues and tough topics seems to be increasing (based on my observations). Sometimes, though, it can be hard to get these books into the hands of teen readers, because teens may be too afraid to ask for books that deal with sensitive subjects, especially when it means their privacy may be at stake.

To help, I've put together a list of books the library has, and their call numbers, that touch on sensitive subjects and difficult topics. I've broken it down by topic to make it easier to find books about any given subject. These lists include books that haven't been released yet, but that will be published later this year. For those books, I've included the release dates, that way anyone who wants to see if the library has purchased those books can check the catalog closer to the publication dates.

In the interest of making sure the lists aren't too long, I tried to include only books that have been published from 2012 to 2017 (with a few exceptions).


The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond (YA Fiction Almond)
Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (YA Fiction Colasanti)
Period 8 by Chris Crutcher (YA Fiction Crutcher)
Speechless by Hannah Harrington (YA Fiction Harrington)
Random by Tom Leveen (YA Fiction Leveen)
How It Ends by Cathy Lo (YA Fiction Lo)
Tease by Amanda Maciel (YA Fiction Maciel)
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu (YA Fiction Mathieu)
#scandal by Sarah Ockler (YA Fiction Ockler)
The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts (YA Fiction Roberts)
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (YA Fiction Ruby)
Identity Crisis by Melissa Schorr (YA Fiction Schorr)

Characters of color

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA Fiction Alexie)
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (YA Fiction Han)
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia (YA Fiction Kanakia)
Like No Other by Una LaMarche (YA Fiction LaMarche)
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham (YA Fiction Latham)
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (YA Fiction Magoon)
Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (YA Fiction Medina)
Ink & Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani (YA Fiction Maetani)
The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler (YA Fiction Ockler)
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (YA Fiction Ockler)
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (YA Fiction Reynolds)
When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez (YA Fiction Rodriguez)
Permanent Record by Leslie Stella (YA Fiction Stella)
The Hate U Give by Angie C. Thomas (YA Fiction Thomas)

Disabilities and obesity

How to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo (YA Fiction Cozzo)
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (YA Fiction Giles)
Butter by Erin Jade Lange (YA Fiction Lange)
Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange (YA Fiction Lange)
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (YA Fiction Murphy)
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (YA Fiction Niven)
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (YA Fiction Schneider)
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland (YA Fiction Sutherland)
Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (YA Fiction Thomas)
All in Pieces by Suzanne Young (YA Fiction Young)


Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown (YA Fiction Brown)
Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman (YA Fiction Brugman)
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (YA Fiction Cronn-Mills)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (YA Fiction Danforth)
Tessa Masteron Will Go to Prom by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin (YA Fiction Franklin)
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (YA Fiction Garvin)
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian (YA Fiction Mesrobian)
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (YA Fiction Moskowitz)
It's Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters (YA Fiction Peters)
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (YA Fiction Smith)

Mental illness and suicide

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (YA Fiction Asher)
Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall (YA Fiction Gornall)
Paperweight by Meg Haston (YA Fiction Haston)
OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu (YA Fiction Haydu)
How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes (YA Fiction Holmes)
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (YA Fiction Kinsella)
Calvin by Martine Leavitt (YA Fiction Leavitt)
When We Collided by Emery Lord (YA Fiction Lord)
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (YA Fiction Niven)
World Without You by Beth Revis (YA Fiction Revis)
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (YA Fiction Shusterman)
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (YA Fiction Stone)
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (YA Fiction Whaley)

School shootings

Hate List by Jennifer Brown (YA Fiction Brown)
The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs (YA Fiction Combs)
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (YA Fiction Nijkamp)
Underwater by Marisa Reichardt (YA Fiction Reichardt)
Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson (YA Fiction Violent)

Sexual assault

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA Fiction Anderson)
Some Boys by Patty Blount (YA Fiction Blount)
Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen (YA Fiction Cohen)
Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook (YA Fiction Halbrook)
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (YA Fiction Hartzler)
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (YA Fiction Johnston)
Asking for It by Louise O'Neill (YA Fiction O'Neill)
Those Girls by Lauren Saft (YA Fiction Saft)
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (YA Fiction Smith)
All the Rage by Courtney Summers (YA Fiction Summers)
Empty by K.M. Walton (YA Fiction Walton)

Student-teacher/student-adult relationships

Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott (YA Fiction Alcott)
Darkness Before Dawn by Sharon M. Draper (YA Fiction Draper)
Hit by Lorie Ann Grover (YA Fiction Grover)
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga (YA Fiction Lyga)
Consent by Nancy Ohlin (YA Fiction Ohlin)
We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt (YA Fiction Reinhardt)

Another great resource for further information and booklists is the Teen Librarian Toolbox, which has done multiple projects about tough issues:

SVYALit (Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature)
FSYALit (Faith and Spirituality in Young Adult Literature)
MHYALit (Mental Health in Young Adult Literature)
Poverty in YA Lit (This is a less in-depth project, compared to other Teen Librarian Toolbox has done, but I'm hoping it will grow over time.)

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