Sexual Assault in Young Adult Fiction
Sexual assault is a heart-wrenching topic, but it is an important topic to raise with teens, bringing awareness and understanding. Here is an updated list (June 2019) of recent and important young adult novels that feature characters who are survivors of sexual assault.
Grace’s life has been thrown into chaos – but she’s been living that reality for two years. Since her father died, Grace has been living in foster care, waiting for her uncle to finally claim her and bring her home to the town of New Harbor. But returning to the house that has so many fond memories of summers spent with her dad also brings back memories of the night that changed everything for Grace. Forced to confront the people and memories of that night, Grace starts to uncover the details of what happened -but the truth is something she never expected.
Hadley’s best friend Magda was raped by four classmates. A few months later, Magda is dead, having taken her own life. Hadley is left with a drowning sense of grief and guilt. She has to see the four boys in her classroom everyday as the four of them were never charged. When a sudden opportunity arises, Hadley decides to create some of her own justice and plans to go after each of the boys who hurt her friend.
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
Eden was always good at being good. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.
What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and 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.
Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team. But during a cheerleading camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
Some Boys – Patty Blount – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 5 August 2014
When Grace meets Ian she’s afraid. Afraid he’ll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After she accuses the town golden boy of rape, everyone turns against Grace. They call her a slut and a liar. But…Ian doesn’t. He’s funny and kind with secrets of his own.
But how do you trust the best friend of the boy who raped you? How do you believe in love?
Alexi never told anyone what happened to her. But the silence is eating at her. She doesn’t sleep, instead she hides in her closet and carves her fingernails into her neck. But she does know what it’s like to feel pain, so when Bodee’s mother is murdered, Alexi is supportive when her parents suggest he move in with them. Soon Bodee and Alexi connect over their shared pain and learn to support and challenge each other as they face their pasts.
While this technically may fall under New Adult it was so fabulous I can’t help but include it in this list.
Leaving a party alone, college freshman Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night – but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.
How can you talk about something you can’t remember?
Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still…), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.
From the outside Annabel seems to have the perfect life, even if her best friend hates her. But it’s not until she meets Owen that she begins to learn that not only is she lying to those around her, but to herself as well. Owen teaches Annabel the beauty of true friendship, music, being honest with yourself and that it is ok to admit things aren’t going so well, so long as you know your options.
Obviously, there are plenty more books that cover this topic, notably the well-known Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is just a short list of the books that particularly stand out for me.