The best YA books about overcoming abuse and assault

Who am I?

I fell in love with reading in fourth grade but felt like real girls weren't reflected in young adult books. The characters had friend problems and boy problems, but books about really big problems like sexual assault were rare because most people thought subjects like addiction and abuse weren't appropriate for young readers. It's one of those weird dichotomies: we know kids deal with big problems, but we're afraid to broach the subject. I used books to help me understand stuff I didn't feel comfortable talking about so I appreciate books that show people how to claw themselves out of a bad place and be their own hero.


I wrote...

The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy

By Marie Jaskulka,

Book cover of The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy

What is my book about?

Forgotten Girl, a fifteen-year-old poet, is going through the most difficult time of her life – the breakup of her parents, and her mom’s resulting depression – when she meets Random Boy, a hot guy who, like her, feels like an outcast and secretly writes poetry to deal with everything going on in his life.

In The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy, the couple’s poems come together to tell their unique love story. The two nameless teenagers come from opposite sides of the tracks, yet they find understanding in each other when they lay bare their life stories through the poetry they write and share with each other. Finally they have someone to tell and somewhere to tell it in their marble notebook.

The books I picked & why

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Speak

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Book cover of Speak

Why this book?

I love Speak because the prose is so poetic and raw. It's such a realistic portrayal of what it's like to go from confused depression to the realization of what really happened. Assault is so confusing. There's a part of you that doesn't want to believe that's what really happened, so we rationalize what happened--but deep down we know, so it won't let us go. Plus the narrator is so unflinchingly cool. I just reread this last year and it still holds up really well. 

Speak

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Why should I read it?

5 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…


I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This

By Jacqueline Woodson,

Book cover of I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This

Why this book?

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This is one of my favorite novels for its subtlety. It's almost like sleight of hand because you aren't sure where to look. The story kind of unfolds all around you. One of the hardest things after a sexual assault is opening up to someone about it, so I am a fan of books that give people a blueprint of how to go about it. There is no single right way to tell someone about abuse and assault, but it helps to have examples. 

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This

By Jacqueline Woodson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Story of a Girl

By Sara Zarr,

Book cover of Story of a Girl

Why this book?

I read Story of a Girl when it was brand new, yet the feeling of reading it still sticks with me. Zarr explores the pitfalls of adolescent girlhood so well. She writes like she's leveling with readers, not talking down to them. What stands out most to me about this book is when the main character confronts the guy who changed her life when she was 13 years old.  It's the conversation that lots of victims have had in their head, but most people never get a chance to have in real life. 

Story of a Girl

By Sara Zarr,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Story of a Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sara Zarr's lyrical debut novel--a National Book Award finalist--has been adapted for TV!

I was thirteen when my dad caught me with Tommy Webber in the back of Tommy's Buick. Tommy was seventeen and the supposed friend of my brother, Darren.

I'm not sure I even liked him.

In a moment, Deanna Lambert's teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of "school slut," Deanna longs to escape a life defined by her past. With subtle grace, complicated wisdom, and striking emotion, Story of a Girl reminds us of our human capacity for…


The Fix

By Natasha Sinel,

Book cover of The Fix

Why this book?

The Fix is tough to read at moments, but so, so necessary. The Me Too movement showed us that just about every female has been subject to assault on some level. Childhood sexual assault is so common that many survivors don't disclose because they don't want to seem weak. Telling someone is the best thing survivors can do for themselves, and The Fix shows that sometimes you can't whisper the truth. Sometimes you have to shout it. 

The Fix

By Natasha Sinel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.

Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she's dealt with it entirely alone.

On the outside, she's got it pretty good. Her family's well-off, she's dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she's thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.

But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the…

Just Listen

By Sarah Dessen,

Book cover of Just Listen

Why this book?

Just Listen has one of my favorite male protagonists of all time, the guy I wish I would have met in high school. As a music-head, I also love the way Annabel and Owen bond over their favorite songs. Getting over an assault requires support. On one hand, you have to be incredibly strong to tell the truth about what happened. But once you tell your people, they hold you up as you walk through healing. Telling is so hard, but support is key.

Just Listen

By Sarah Dessen,

Why should I read it?

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


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