The best YA books about broken people

Who am I?

I always used food to cope with painful feelings, and I developed Binge Eating Disorder as a child. As an adult, I was in therapy to deal with traumatic stuff, and I lost 100 pounds. I finished therapy with a whole new set of tools with which to navigate the world, but I still regained the weight and started hating myself again. I said, “Whoa. Time-out. I am worthy of love. That has not changed, so why do I hate myself again?” That is what I explore in Big Fat Disaster: what is our worth, and why should that worth depend on what we look like? 


I wrote...

Big Fat Disaster

By Beth Fehlbaum,

Book cover of Big Fat Disaster

What is my book about?

Insecure, shy, and way overweight, Colby hates the limelight as much as her pageant-pretty mom and sisters love it. Dad's a superstar, running for office on a family values platform. Then suddenly, he ditches his marriage for a younger woman and gets caught stealing money from the campaign. Everyone hates Colby for finding out and blowing the whistle on him. From a mansion, they end up in a poor relative's trailer, where her mom's contempt swells. A cruel video of Colby half-dressed finds its way onto the internet. Colby plans her own death. A tragic family accident intervenes, and Colby's role in it seems to paint her as a hero, but she's only a fraud. Finally, threatened with exposure, Colby must face facts about her selfish mother and her own shame.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Beth Fehlbaum Why did I love this book?

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is the reason I am a YA author. When I read this book, I was in recovery from an abusive childhood, and Chris’ authentic way of revealing characters’ trauma told me, “There is a place in the world for stories like mine.” I could write without looking over my shoulder; I could be fearless, true, and validate my own & others’ experiences. In my own book, I write in a raw way what it is like to have a binge-eating disorder and to be scorned for one’s size, because I have BED, felt shameful, and I have experienced such scorn. I possess a determination to not feel obligated to write happy endings, but to always write hopeful endings. I learned that from Chris Crutcher’s books.

By Chris Crutcher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Called a "masterpiece" in a starred review from School Library Journal, award-winning author Chris Crutcher's acclaimed Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is an enduring classic.

This bestselling novel is about love, loyalty, and friendship in the face of adversity. "Superb plotting, extraordinary characters, and cracking narrative make this novel unforgettable."-Publishers Weekly

Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune have been friends for years. When they were children, his weight and her scars made them both outcasts. Now Sarah Byrnes-the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known-sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she's hiding before its dark current…


Book cover of Goodbye Days

Beth Fehlbaum Why did I love this book?

Jeff Zentner’s writing is lyrical and beautiful and indescribably wonderful (although I just tried to describe it and failed). Goodbye Days deals in such a raw way with grief and regret—to feel the feelings instead of avoiding them—and learn to face hard realities without much support, at least at first. Check out Goodbye Days and all of Jeff’s amazing books. You will go on an emotional journey as his characters make hard choices and face new beginnings.

By Jeff Zentner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Goodbye Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

'Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming' Nicola Yoon

'Hold on to your heart: this book will wreck you, fix you, and most definitely change you' Becky Albertalli

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can't stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake's grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a 'goodbye day' together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families…


Book cover of The Truth about Alice

Beth Fehlbaum Why did I love this book?

Jennifer Mathieu writes fearlessly; in this book, she exposes the real nature of slut-shaming and bullying, but more importantly, she reveals what it is to see a person as “other”; to reduce them to nothing more than words on a bathroom wall. I desire to build empathy for others through my writing, and The Truth about Alice holds up a mirror to those who denigrate others, in this case, Alice, for personal fulfillment.

By Jennifer Mathieu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Truth about Alice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

From the author of Moxie, soon to be a major Netflix production

Fans of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY will love this powerful book about stereotypes, secrets and standing up for gender equality, from the author of Zoella Book Club book MOXIE.

There are all sorts of rumours about Alice Franklin. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumours start to spiral out of control blaming Alice for Brandon's death.

In this remarkable novel, four Healy High students - the party girl, the car accident survivor, the ex best friend and the boy next door - tell…


Book cover of Speak

Beth Fehlbaum Why did I love this book?

I am a survivor of sexual violence, and I have a soft spot in my heart for characters who have experienced such trauma. But more than the fact that Melinda, the main character, is date-raped, she is “othered” by her peers, and this refusal on the part of people to see their friends as fully developed complicated human beings is something that drives my own passion for writing stories that expose subtly layered hypocrisy. I have seen first-hand the impact of this book on readers; have had students make outcries to me when we are reading it, and watched boys’ minds explode when they realize that it does not matter if a girl is spread-eagle nude on the floor: unless she gives you consent, you do not touch her.

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. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

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…


Book cover of If You Find Me

Beth Fehlbaum Why did I love this book?

I connected strongly to this book because the protagonist has experienced abandonment and must rebuild her life from the ashes, learning to trust adults to care for her and allow her a childhood rather than expecting her to be a miniature adult. Equally striking is the power of a secret, and how its revelation changes everything. In addition, through reading If You Find Me, I learned a way of using punctuation that creates tension and immediacy.

By Emily Murdoch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If You Find Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

What happens in the woods, stays in the woods...Carey is keeping a terrible secret. If she tells, it could destroy her future. If she doesn't, will she ever be free? For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in a camper van in the heart of the woods with her drug-addicted mother and six-year-old sister, Jenessa. Her mother routinely disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone. Survival is Carey's only priority - until strangers arrive and everything changes ...Carey is a strong, resilient, loving and earnest character who is flawed but determined…


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She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

Book cover of She Refused to Bow

Farida Manekshah

New book alert!

What is my book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.

She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

What is this book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.


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