Books to help teens navigate serious subjects of rape, abuse, bullying


According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), in a year's time about 60,000 children are the victims of substantiated sexual assault. Ninety percent are female, and the majority of the attacks are at or near their own homes.

It is essential that victims know they are not alone and that there is help. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or is in an unsafe situation, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE. More information is available at

Here are some young adult books that deal with this tough topic:

"All the Rage" by Courtney Summers

St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016

Age 13 and up

Branded a bully and a liar when she makes accusations against the town’s golden boy, Romy has lost her friends, her community, even the support of her family. Her only refuge is the diner outside of town where she works. There, no one knows her or about what she says happened. But when another girl is assaulted, Romy has to decide whether to fight for the truth or live with knowing more girls could be hurt.

The book takes on victim blaming, shame, rape culture, class prejudice, and bullying in a way that will make the reader feel as much rage as Romy does. The story is tough to handle, but it is all too real.

"Asking For It" by Louise O’Neill

Quercus, 2016

Age 13 and up

Emma is found unconscious on her doorstep after a party. She is bleeding, disoriented, and can’t remember what happened the night before. A Facebook page featuring horrible pictures of “Easy Emma” even pops up. The images are horrifying … and she remembers none of them. When an investigation is launched, everyone in town chooses sides. What really happened? Emma is known to be promiscuous, so did she ask for what happened to her?

This book will make you angry. It is riveting and it is essential. As the afterword says, "We need to talk and talk and talk until the Emmas of this world feel supported and understood. Until they feel like they are believed."

"Exit, Pursued by a Bear" by E.K. Johnston

Speak, 2017

Age 13 and up

Hermione is captain of the cheerleading squad. She’s a popular girl who knows she’s bound for greatness. But during cheerleader camp, someone slips something in her drink and she blacks out. When she discovers she’s pregnant, her whole life is knocked off course. But Hermione is determined to regain control of her life and that means there are tough decisions to be made.

Unflinching and powerful, this is the story of someone committed to being more than just a victim of unthinkable circumstances.

"Moxie" by Jennifer Mathieu

Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Age 13 and up

Vivian is fed up. She’s tired of gross comments from guys, sexist dress codes, and she’s tired of a culture that thinks the football team is always right. So, she starts an anonymous 'zine. For her it’s a way to release stress, but her classmates are suddenly very into it. As Vivian forms friendships with girls from all over school, and from lots of different cliques, she quickly realizes that everyone has something to protest.

Addictive, gutsy, and relevant, this book will empower everyone who reads it to stand up against unfair treatment and to be courageous about being who you are.

"Saints and Misfits" by S.K. Ali

Salaam Reads, 2017

Age 13 and up

Janna believes there are three kinds of people in the world: saints, misfits, and monsters. Especially the monster at her mosque who everyone else thinks is perfect.

As Janna journeys from terrified victim to someone who is brave and knows she’s worthy of support, readers will learn about Muslim culture, female empowerment, and they will find solidarity in the satisfying conclusion.

"The Way I Used to Be" by Amber Smith

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017

Age 13 and up

Eden has always been a good girl. Then, one night, her brother’s best friend rapes her. Nothing makes sense anymore, so she buries the past and forgets the way she used to be.

The book is broken into four parts — freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior — and it focus strongly on the aftermath of trauma and how it impacts every part of a victim’s life. Eventually desperation becomes courage, and Eden realizes that she may be a victim, but she’s also a survivor.

Wendy Dunn is the teen programming librarian at the Fort Worth Library.