The best contemporary young adult novels about peer pressure and addiction

Who am I?

I started to experiment at a very early age with alcohol. During my teen years, like so many of my peers, I had low self-esteem. I wanted to fit in so I understand firsthand the effects that peer pressure can have on a teenager. When I think back to those years, I sometimes wonder: what if? There were so many terrible outcomes that could have occurred in my life. These novels show their readers a “what if.” I hope that teens who read these books think twice before following a crowd and stand firmly with what they know is right in their heart as well as hope for healing.

I wrote...

Girl on Trial

By Kathleen Fine,

Book cover of Girl on Trial

What is my book about?

Does doing one bad thing make you a bad person? Sixteen-year-old Emily Keller, known by the media as Keller the Killer, is accused of causing the deaths of a family of four, including young children. Emily is one of the youngest females to be accused of a crime so heinous, making this the nation’s biggest trial of the year. But what really happened that fateful night is anything but straightforward. Living in a trailer park in Baltimore with her twin brother and alcoholic mother, Emily’s life hasn’t been easy. She’s had to grow up fast, and like any teen, has made questionable decisions to fit in with her peers. Will her mistakes amount to a guilty verdict and life in prison? It’s up to the jury to decide.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Luckiest Girl Alive

By Jessica Knoll,

Book cover of Luckiest Girl Alive

Why did I love this book?

I think this book is so relevant for teens today.

With fast-paced social media, teens are constantly feeling pressure to fit in and appear perfect. Ani seems to have it all in her adult life but is hiding behind a hardened shell after several traumatic events and demons from her teenage years. In those years, her desperation to assimilate with the popular group was painfully relatable as most women I know, including myself, were once in this situation.

This book demonstrates perfectly the mental (and social) rollercoaster that adults try to manage after trauma and physical assault. This is so important for both YA and Adult readers because…aren’t we all carrying some sort of trauma on our backs while still trying to "have it all"?

By Jessica Knoll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Luckiest Girl Alive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE. . . Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll is an audacious, page-turning debut thriller that will appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and Jodi Picoult.
Ani FaNelli is the woman who has it all: the glamorous job, the designer wardrobe, the handsome and rich fiance. But behind her sharp edges and meticulously crafted facade lies the darkest of pasts . . .

When a…


By Julia Hoban,

Book cover of Willow

Why did I love this book?

Willow is such an important novel for any teen who has gone through a traumatic event.

Willow, a 17-year-old girl is dealing with grief over the death of her parents and the fact that she was driving the car that killed them. She’s had to leave behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life, she is secretly cutting herself.

For every teen that has either cut themselves, drank to numb the pain, starved themselves, or done any sort of self-harm in order to protect themselves from their inward pain, this book is for you. Not only is this story about grief and guilt, but it is also about love and never giving up.

By Julia Hoban,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Willow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow?s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy ?one sensitive, soulful boy?discovers Willow?s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the ?safe? world Willow has created for herself upside down.

Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl?s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy?s refusal…


By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Book cover of Speak

Why did I love this book?

For any teen or adult who has been sexually assaulted or had any self-esteem issues, you should read this book.

Melinda, the protagonist, is dealing with the same issues that many teenagers deal with: self-esteem. She’s changing schools from middle school to high school and changing friends. But she’s also hiding a secret, before beginning high school, she was raped at a party one night.

She becomes a friendless outcast. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Speak tells the story of a survivor who is the voice for so many alienated teenagers while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Speak as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fiercely authentic, critically acclaimed and award-winning modern classic.

'Speak up for yourself - we want to know what you have to say.'

From my first day at Merryweather High, I know this is a lie.

Nobody will even talk to me, let alone listen - all because I called the cops on an end-of-summer party.

But if I could only tell everyone why I called the police that night...

If I could explain what happened to me...

If I could speak...

Then everything might change.

'With the rise of women finding their voices and speaking out about sexual assault…

13 Reasons Why

By Jay Asher,

Book cover of 13 Reasons Why

Why did I love this book?

This book has had many mixed reviews, but in my opinion, it is an excellent story for adults of teens and mature teens to read.

Hannah, a teenage girl, commits suicide. She leaves her classmate a package with a cassette tape in it, explaining the 13 reasons why she decided to end her life. This novel demonstrates the cruelties of teen life, from rumors, to reputations, to rape. It shows the reader: “in the end, everything matters.”

Hopefully, people who read this book will better understand how much their actions affect one another, and they’ll think twice before causing even the littlest amount of harm to someone else. We all need to have more empathy for one another, because this world is cruel enough as it is. 

By Jay Asher,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked 13 Reasons Why as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Featuring cover art from the Netflix original series, with exclusive interviews and photos inside!
"Eerie, beautiful, and devastating." --Chicago Tribune
"A stealthy hit with staying power. . . . thriller-like pacing." --The New York Times
"Thirteen Reasons Why will leave you with chills long after you have finished reading." --Amber Gibson, NPR's "All Things Considered"

You can't stop the future. 
You can't rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his…

Girl in Pieces

By Kathleen Glasgow,

Book cover of Girl in Pieces

Why did I love this book?

Girl in Pieces is such an important story for anyone who has gone through any addiction or trauma of any kind before.

Charlotte, the protagonist, is in pieces. At seventeen she’s lost more than most people lose in a lifetime and she’s learned how to forget her trauma in order to protect herself. This is a book about Charlotte surviving in a world that has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together.

Although this book tells a story of people being cruel to themselves, it is ultimately a book about learning how to be gentle with yourself.

By Kathleen Glasgow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Girl in Pieces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"A haunting, beautiful, and necessary book."—Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in teenagers, survival, and suicide?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about teenagers, survival, and suicide.

Teenagers Explore 96 books about teenagers
Survival Explore 163 books about survival
Suicide Explore 144 books about suicide

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Anne of Green Gables, The Poet X, and The Book Thief if you like this list.