The best YA books of the #MeToo movement

Who am I?

I began writing The Way I Used to Be back in 2010. For me, it started simply as a place to work through my own private thoughts and feelings about sexual violence. I was writing as a survivor myself, but also as someone who has known, loved, and cared for so many others who have experienced violence and abuse. By the time I finished, I realized my novel had evolved into something much bigger: a story I hoped could contribute something meaningful to the larger dialogue. These powerful books on this list are all a part of that dialogue, each based in a richly diverse, yet shared reality. Readers will learn, grow, heal, and find hope in these pages.

I wrote...

The Way I Used to Be

By Amber Smith,

Book cover of The Way I Used to Be

What is my book about?

Eden was always good at being good. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, everything changes. What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved, she now hates. What she thought was true…now lies. She knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So, she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative novel reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, all while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had.

The books I picked & why

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By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Book cover of Shout

Why this book?

For decades, Laurie Halse Anderson’s work has been a guiding light for so many young people in her honest portrayals of life’s hardest challenges, including sexual assault. Her 2019 book Shout, a memoir written in verse, is a deeply personal reflection on her own experience with sexual assault and its impact on her life. She first tackled this topic twenty years earlier in her groundbreaking 1999 novel, Speaka book that profoundly affected me as a young person. Born out of outrage over the lack of change that has happened in regard to how society treats survivors (and perpetrators) of sexual violence in the twenty years since Speak was published, Shout is a beautifully fierce and moving call to action for today.

The Nowhere Girls

By Amy Reed,

Book cover of The Nowhere Girls

Why this book?

The Nowhere Girls tells the story of a diverse group of girls who come together, and in finding their own strength, raise their collective voice to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate. I love the truly empowering message of this book: That we (as individuals, and society as a whole) have the ability to raise each other up, and demand that survivors’ stories are seen and heard. This book came out in 2017, directly in the midst of the #MeToo movement going viral—and not by accident. This is one of those books that holds a mirror up to society, perfectly reflecting not only the problem, but also offering a model for change and justice.

Learning to Breathe

By Janice Lynn Mather,

Book cover of Learning to Breathe

Why this book?

Learning to Breathe tells such an important side of the #MeToo Movement, with sixteen-year-old Indira (Indy), a Black Bahamian girl who struggles to find her place in the aftermath of an assault that leads to an unwanted pregnancy. Set in the Bahamas, a place so often portrayed in Western culture as idyllic, it depicts a very different gritty and authentic lived reality for the main character. This heart-rending, yet empowering novel is enlightening on so many levels. Not only does it offer the unique and all-too-often overlooked point of view of a young person of color, but it also deals with complex family issues, homelessness, and a young woman’s path to claiming power over her own body and future. 

The Mirror Season

By Anna-Marie McLemore,

Book cover of The Mirror Season

Why this book?

The Mirror Season is a novel about two teenagers: a girl and a boy, who are both sexually assaulted at the same party. While this book addresses such important themes as injustice based on race, ethnicity, class, and gender, it is also poetic and exquisitely written, drawing on elements of magical realism that are rendered with immense care and depth. This book brings to light multiple important points of view through its main characters, including a queer Mexican American female survivor, as well as a White male survivor. These perspectives are so necessary but have not traditionally had enough representation within mainstream dialogue about sexual assault, which is often focused on straight, cisgender white women.    

I Have the Right to: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope

By Chessy Prout, Jenn Abelson,

Book cover of I Have the Right to: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope

Why this book?

I Have the Right to is the true story of Chessy Prout, who was sexually assaulted as a freshman as part of a ritualized “game” of conquest perpetrated by the boys at her high school. The book follows her quest for justice, as her case and trial gained international media attention. She has become a passionate advocate for consent education, and in 2017 (at the age of eighteen!) she started a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of sexual assault in high schools. I’m in awe and admiration of the bravery and strength of this young woman, and believe everyone—teens and adults, boys and girls, everyone—needs to read her story. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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