The best books for young people about healthy sexuality and relationships

Who am I?

Shafia Zaloom is a health educator, parent, consultant, and author whose work centers on human development, community building, ethics, and social justice. Shafia has worked with thousands of children and their families in her role as teacher, coach, administrator, board member, and outdoor educator. She has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous parenting blogs. Shafia’s book, Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between has been reviewed as “the ultimate relationship guide for teens of all orientations and identities.” It is one that “every teen, and every parent and educator - and every other adult who interacts with teens - should read.”

I wrote...

Sex, Teens & Everything in Between: The New and Necessary Conversations Today’s Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More

By Shafia Zaloom,

Book cover of Sex, Teens & Everything in Between: The New and Necessary Conversations Today’s Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More

What is my book about?

Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between is written for teenagers, their parents, and other adults who are interested in understanding what teenagers fret about, desire, fear, and hope for when it comes to sexuality and relationships. The book is anchored in real-life teen experiences told by teens themselves about how they are navigating one of the most complicated and profound dimensions of their lives: healthy sex and love.

Each chapter offers guidance and conversation starters for engaging in meaningful dialogue about consent and the implicit and explicit messages young people are bombarded with daily. It features frequently asked questions teens across the country ask, not only about what consent is, but what it looks, sounds, and feels like in practice within relationship dynamics and the social landscapes they navigate.

The books I picked & why

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What Makes a Baby

By Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth (illustrator),

Book cover of What Makes a Baby

Why this book?

Cory Silverberg’s book for children ages 3+ answers the question, “Where do babies come from?” It covers conception, gestation, and birth in a way that is inclusive and celebratory within a variety of family structures. Any child’s birth story may be recounted and affirmed during this read. The story creates space for adults to share as many or as few of the details surrounding where children come from as they like. The vivid, colorful illustrations represent the vast array of identities children see in the world, and the central message is that all kids and families are unique and special. Silverberg’s book, Sex is a Funny Word for the slightly older child of 8-10+ is equally inclusive and joyful. All of Silverberg’s books encourage and embrace a healthy sexuality perspective.

Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls

By Sonya Renee Taylor,

Book cover of Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls

Why this book?

I love this book because it encourages body positivity among girls who represent a vast variety of identities, especially when it comes to size. I appreciate that Taylor honors the possibility that a female-bodied girl may actually feel like their body and sex assigned at birth does not align, sometimes or all of the time, with how they feel about their gender. Not only does this book include “fascinating facts” boxes of practical and medically accurate information—and empathetically assures readers that “you have company” and are not alone—it pays tribute to body diversity and encourages body pride with its inclusive and affirming approach. You will find everything in here from the wonders of puberty and all of its changes, to how we can take care of our awesomeness with nutrition and physical activity. In addition to empowering girls to take responsibility for knowing the incredible power within their bodies as well as how to take care of them, Taylor addresses mental and emotional health. She brings it all together in the spirit of holistic wellness that cultivates bodily autonomy and agency.

Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys

By Cara Natterson, Micah Player (illustrator),

Book cover of Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys

Why this book?

This book, for boys 8+ years, is a great ice breaker and conversation starter in preparation for the change puberty brings, by providing practical information for growing up in a safe and healthy way. Natterson’s down-to-earth tone and illustrations create the right balance of facts and humor. Topics cover everything from hair care to healthy eating, bad breath to shaving, acne to voice cracking, pubic changes to moodiness, peer pressure to bullying, and everything in between. Many times, our society leaves boys out of the puberty discussion. It’s important to change this social norm and include boys in this dialogue about puberty, health, and wellness. This impactful book is full of age-appropriate, medically accurate information, as well as addresses the nuances of cultural messages about masculinity and how boys may deal with and express their feelings. Natterson recently embraced this topic further and in more depth with her latest book: Guy Stuff: Everything You Need to Know about Your Feelings. Another must-read!

Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up

By Heather Corinna, Isabella Rotman,

Book cover of Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up

Why this book?

This fun and approachable book is fantastic! A prime pick for any preteen or young teen. Inclusive of many different genders, orientations, and other identities, this book covers relevant and important topics like body and body image, the media and cultural messages (in particular around bodies and sex), sexual and gender identity, gender roles and stereotypes, crushes, relationships, and feelings, as well as how to be kind, empathetic, and mature. The characters, Malia, Rico, Max, Sam, and Alexis, support each other while figuring out confusing feelings and experiences. What sets this book apart is not only how beautifully inclusive and positive the authors’ approach is, but how it empowers young people with effective questions for reflection that serve all of us no matter what age. Corinna and Rotman are expert sex educators who “get it” and all that goes along with navigating growing up in today’s realm of healthy sexuality and relationships. An essential book to enrich any puberty education in school or at home. 

S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties

By Heather Corinna,

Book cover of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties

Why this book?

This is the textbook I teach from in my high school healthy sexuality and relationship class. Ideally, it would be on the shelf of every teenager and young adult. Corinna tackles all of the real and relevant, as well as trickiest, topics about healthy sex, relationships, and love. It provides comprehensive, medically accurate information on any and everything a teen and young adult needs to know about understanding sex and sexuality within this popular culture, it also addresses the nuances of cultural messaging and the complexities of human relationships. From how to sort out gender and sexual identities to updated information on safe sexuality practices to finding and cultivating meaningful and healthy relationships, to how to set and respect boundaries, communicate desires, and rock consent, this book is an all-in-one resource for empowering young people. The information and guidance it provides encourages the joys and responsibilities of healthy bodies and sexuality.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Let's Talk about It: The Teen's Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human, The Breast Book: A puberty guide with a difference - it's the when, why and how of breasts, and Taking Up Space if you like this list.