Young adult authors are often accused of writing “after school special” or “ripped from the headlines” stories. While it is true that they tackle some really difficult topics like rape, bully violence and drug abuse, they do so not because of their sensational qualities but because teens deal with these issues on a regular basis. Teens need to be able to find safe ways to deal with the hardships of growing up in this modern and often scary time. I know that we grown-ups often say that “When I was a kid, I had to deal with…” but I’m telling you, when I was a teenager, I did NOT have to deal with such depravity, horror or difficulty as teens today do. If they can pick up a book about someone who was raped and find a way through it then, perhaps, that character will give him or her the strength to survive and move past the tragedy. I’m all for “teen issue” books because I’m all for doing anything that might help a teenager. Below is a short list of books that I think are must reads.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Inexcusable by Chris Lynch should be required reading for all teenagers before graduating from high school. Speak is a stirring story about a young girl who is raped by an acquaintance at a party just before her 9th grade year. Inexcusable is about a boy who desperately tries to convince the reader and himself that he’s a good guy and could not have possibly raped his good friend. Both books present completely believable protagonists and situations. If you are a high school teacher, I’m certain that you have probably seen these two teen characters walking the halls of your school…I have.
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus is an intense story written is verse about two forever-best friends, Kate and Liz, who are torn apart when Kate accuses Liz’s brother Mike of doing the unspeakable. Who is telling the truth? Kate or Mike?
Hate List by Jennifer Brown tells the story of how a fairly common thing, a list of people you don’t like or who are mean to you, becomes a kill list and what happens to the survivors.
After the Death of Anna Gonzalez by Terri Fields presents the suicide of a girl from the view point of her class mates. Some know her personally, other peripherally but all are affected by the loss.
Shattering Glass by Gail Giles reveals the terrifying power of pack mentality and how dangerous and manipulative popular kids can be. There are tragic consequences and a single, terrifying act of violence but the perpetrator will surprise you.
Black-eyed Suzie by Susan Shaw…Suzie is the face of abuse but not the bruised or broken face you’d expect. Rather, the reader will watch as she mentally and physically builds a box around herself, as protection from her abuser.