#MeToo: A YA Reading List That Speaks Out Against Assault

“#MeToo” was the solidarity cry heard round the internet this week, though the movement, which unites survivors of sexual harassment and/or assault, has been around since activist Tarana Burke began it a decade ago. Primarily (but not solely) tweeted and posted by women around the world, it had people sharing their stories, their anger, and their pain…something we haven’t been strangers to in YA since Laurie Halse Anderson’s seminal Speak released nearly twenty years ago. Whether you said #MeToo with your voice, with your fingers, or in silence, here are 30 books that prove you’re never alone.

After the Fall, by Kate Hart
Hart’s hard-hitting debut revolves around Raychel, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who’s got one brother (her best friend, Matt) in love with her, a secret relationship with the other (Andrew), and an assault in her recent history that she isn’t ready to talk about. Then tragedy strikes and changes everything for all of them, bringing uncomfortable truths to light.

Dreadnought, by April Daniels
Danny’s life changes pretty drastically when she happens upon superhero Dreadnought’s death and inherits his power as a result. Included in those changes? Her body, which finally looks as unequivocally feminine as she’s never quite been able to tell her family she is. But as fantastic as it is to finally present in the way that feels right, it also comes with a huge drawback: her best friend, David, suddenly acting entitled to be more than friends.

The Way I Used to Be, by Amber Smith
Smith’s New York Times-bestselling debut is from the perspective of Eden, a “good girl” who’s only fourteen when she’s raped by her brother’s best friend and told that no one will believe her if she tries to tell. Certain that this is true, Eden finds other ways to cope, acting out and becoming a different person seemingly overnight and continuing throughout her high school years until she finally finds her voice.

Saints and Misfits, by S.K. Ali
Janna is well aware of the different kinds of people that exist in her life, from those who might seem objectionable on the outside but have good hearts to guys like Farooq, whom everyone in her Muslim community seems to think is a saint but in fact sexually assaulted her at a party. When Farooq tries to publicly shame her on top of everything else, Janna fights back, and the different ways the people in her life react teach her who’s really on her side.

The Hollow Girl, by Hillary Monahan
Bethan is a Welsh Romani healer’s apprentice who yearns to do magic beyond the herbs , and she’s caught the eye of a boy named Silas. He isn’t the boy she wants, but he also isn’t willing to take no for an answer, and he and his friends assault her and farmer’s son Martyn. Enraged as she watches Martyn struggle for his life, Bethan digs deep to explore what magic she can use to bring him back, and both her healing and revenge will have a dark cost.

Exit, Pursued By a Bear, by E.K. Johnston
Things were going great for Hermione, until she was handed a drugged drink at cheer camp. Now she’s dealing with the aftermath of her rape, including being forced to decide how to handle the fact that even taking Plan B couldn’t prevent it resulting in pregnancy. Thankfully, most (though not all) of her friends and family stay at her side through the difficult decision, recovery, and determination to move forward with her life.

Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin
One thing missed in many of the conversations revolving around the MeToo movement was the fact that assault rates among non-binary people are every bit as high as among women, if not higher. In Garvin’s debut, genderfluid Riley is indeed assaulted, as well as blackmailed, after using the internet to find the voice to express what being the child of a conservative politician will not allow.

The Nowhere Girls, by Amy Reed
When Grace finds a chilling note in her new home left behind by Lucy, the girl who lived there before and moved after being gang-raped, she can’t shake it from her brain, especially with the town boys still every bit as scummy. She decides to take action, and together with two other girls in the class, who each have their own reasons for joining the fight, they form The Nowhere Girls, a group that allies against the stagnant sexism that continues to threaten them all.

All the Rage, by Courtney Summers
In Summers’ unflinching fifth novel, everyone has turned on Romy for accusing the town’s golden boy of rape; there’s only so much one can fight when the criminal is also the son of the sheriff, and everyone thinks you deserve whatever you got. Then one night, Romy wakes up with no memory of the party the night before, and the friend she was with is missing. Now she gets to see what it looks like when a girl is harmed and people actually give a damn, and it also means navigating life without the one old friend who seemed to believe in her. But when she realizes there’s a stronger link between her and the disappearance than she knew, she has to make a choice between standing up and sharing truth no one wants to hear or losing herself completely.

Pointe, by Brandy Colbert
Times were tough for Theo for a while, with the pressures of ballet combined with the severity of her best friend, Donovan, being abducted. But she’s worked through it, she’s managing her eating disorder, and she has a promising future ahead. At least until Donovan returns home and throws everything into upheaval for Theo, especially when the identity of his abductor takes her down a treacherous memory lane.

Leftovers, by Laura Wiess
Blair and Ardith always have each other, but they don’t have much else. They’re forgotten by their families and face constant harassment and assault, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. There’s only one surefire way they know to get not only revenge but justice, though the destruction they’ll leave in their wake is its own kind of unspeakable. The clever crafting of this novel and unexpected character arcs make it a standout, and despite being a decade old, its relevance hasn’t lessened a bit.

Boy Toy, by Barry Lyga
Of all genders, assault rates are the lowest for cis men, but that also means when it does happen, it can leave its victims struggling for support and even to recognize that they’ve been victimized. Such is the case for Josh Mendel, whose secret affair with a teacher that began when he was twelve isn’t a secret anymore. But what Josh struggles to process, even though Eve went to prison, is that she was a predator, and he was abused; at twelve, consent was not an option. As he tries to start up a new relationship just as Eve released from prison on good behavior, he has no choice but to face the past he can’t escape, and accept the truth of it, if he’s going to have a future.

 

 

This is, of course, simply the tip of the iceberg of sexual assault and/or harassment narratives in YA. For more perspectives, check out Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt, The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely,  The Fix by Natasha Sinel, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, The Packing House by G. Donald Cribbs, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills,  A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro, Just Girls by Rachel Gold, Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, Wrecked by Maria Padian, Live Through This by Mindi Scott, What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton, Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn,  Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess, The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney, Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, with plenty more to come.

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