Booklist: Sexual Assault, Rape, and Dating Violence in Young Adult Fiction

I plan to keep this up to date and add more resources and commentary. If you have a title to add, please let me know in the comments! (still a work in progress as of 11/28/2015) 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobksy
Goodreads | Amazon | My review
1999. Childhood sexual abuse, dating violence, and rape are all plot points in this touching novel.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Goodreads | Amazon
1999. A classic. A young woman heals after experiencing sexual assault.

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Goodreads | Amazon
2000. A young woman’s boyfriend becomes physically and verbally abusive.

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn
Goodreads |
2001. A wealthy boy is abused by his father. When he begins dating, he realizes that he has the same controlling and violent tendencies as his father.

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
Goodreads | Amazon
2005. The story of a popular high school athlete who ends up raping a girl he claims to love. Short and will appeal to reluctant readers. Unreliable first person narrator.

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess
Goodreads | Amazon
2007. A teen girl struggles with her father, who raped her, returning from prison.

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Goodreads |
2007. A teen boy reflects on his abuse and sexual relationship with a teacher five years earlier.

Something Happened by Greg Logsted
Goodreads | Amazon
2008. Teacher-student relationship, male POV.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Goodreads | Amazon
2008. A girl is abducted at the age of 9 and sexually and physically abused for 5 years. (Note: Although I haven’t read it, from my understanding this one is pretty graphic, and though it is considered YA, we shelve it in adult fiction at my library, which is a decision made before I started selecting for YA).

Evernight by Claudia Gray
Goodreads | Amazon
2008. Ostensibly about vampires and boarding school, this book also contains portrayals of abusive behavior within teen relationships. See this commentary.

Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Goodreads |Amazon
2008. Disturbing novel in verse with parent-child sexual abuse.

One Lonely Degree by C. K. Kelly Martin
Goodreads | Amazon
2009. (This has come up on sexual assault/rape/dv lists before, but I haven’t read it, and reviews/synopsis didn’t indicate why it would appear. Will research).

Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters
Goodreads |  Amazon
2009. Lesbian intimate partner violence. See detailed, critical review at Teen Librarian Toolbox.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Goodreads | Amazon
2010. A girl deals with the effects of date rape with the help of supportive friends.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Goodreads | Amazon
2010. A popular girl is slut shamed and bullied after rumors about her and a friend’s boyfriend circulate.

You Against Me by Jenny Downham
GoodreadsAmazon
2010. A girl’s sister is raped, and the boy she accuses is her boyfriend’s brother.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
GoodreadsMy review
2010. Epic fantasy about a curse and a quest. Secondary character, Froi, who is the titular character of the sequel, attempt to assault the heroine in one important scene. His journey of redemption is quite interesting, and the entire series deals with issues of consent in important yet understated ways.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
Goodreads | Amazon
2011. Young woman’s boyfriend becomes increasingly controlling, jealous, and abusive.

Stay by Deb Caletti
Goodreads | Amazon
2011. Young woman’s boyfriend becomes increasingly controlling, jealous, and abusive.

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
Goodreads | Amazon
2011. Childhood sexual abuse, rape, and self-mutilation.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace
Goodreads | Amazon
2011. A successful young girl dates a troubled boy, and he becomes physically and emotionally abusive.

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Goodreads | Amazon
2012. A girl is assaulted at a party and a new friend and romance with a slacker boy helps her come to terms with it, with an eating disorder subplot.

Easy by Tamara Webber
Goodreads  | Amazon
2012. A young woman in college is stalked by her attempted rapist.

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Goodreads | Amazon | My review
2012. A mystery. A girl’s boyfriend is killed in a car accident, and she loses her memory of the incidents. Flashbacks reveal he wasn’t the perfect guy everyone thought he was—he was emotionally and physically abusive.

Live Through This by Mindi Scott
Goodreads | Amazon
2012. A young woman struggles with years of sexual abuse by a family member.

Rape Girl by Alina Klein
Goodreads | Amazon
2012. The struggles of a teen girl who has been raped.

Bad Boy by Dream Jordan
Goodreads |
2012. A teen girl experiences dating violence. (Possibly didactic).

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
Goodreads |
2012. A privileged girl befriends a troubled boy who is caring for his younger sister on his own. He tells her a story of a queen who is mistreated, and she realizes that it has basis in reality.

Empty by K. M. Walton
Goodreads | Amazon
2013. An overweight teen is raped and no one believes her. I haven’t read this one, but other librarians have found its treatment of the issue problematic.

Lily and Taylor by Elize Moser
Goodreads | Amazon | My review
2013. Both young women in this novel have witnessed violence against women and experience violence themselves. I highly recommend this title as an accurate portrayal of teen dating violence.

Fault Line by Christa Desir
Goodreads | Amazon | My review
2013. A boy struggles to support his girlfriend, who was raped at a party he did not attend. Desir is a rape counselor. Recommended.

Until it Hurts to Stop by Jennifer Hubbard
Goodreads | Amazon
2013. A bullied girl suffers from low self esteem which leads to poor relationship decisions.

Canary by Rachele Alpine
Goodreads | Amazon
2013. A Girl who is the daughter of the basketball coach at an elite school struggles with coming forward when one of his players assaults her.

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher
Goodreads | Amazon
2013. Suicide and slut shaming (not recommended).

Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray
Goodreads |
2013. The aftermath of a sexual assault. Readers don’t discover the gender identity of the survivor.

Swagger by Carl Deuker
Goodreads | Amazon
2013. A teen boy struggles with knowing what to do when he discovers his friend on the basketball team is being sexually abused by their coach.

Some Boys by Patty Blount
Goodreads | Amazon
2014. A girl who accuses the town bully of rape and is branded a slut.

The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely
Goodreads | Amazon
2014. A teen boy recovers from sexual abuse by a member of the clergy.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Goodreads | Amazon
2014. An elite ballet dancer copes with a myriad of issues, and the narrative also explores issues of rape and consent.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
Goodreads | Amazon
2014. A girl opens up about a traumatic event with the help of a shy boy next door.

Punch Like a Girl by Karen Crossing
Goodreads | Amazon
2015. A girl with an anger issue does community service at a domestic violence shelter, and comes to terms with her own sexual assault.

Consent by Nancy Ohlin
Goodreads |Amazon
2015. A high school senior has an affair with her music teacher who is ten years older than her.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Goodreads |
2014. Rumors circulate about a girl who hooks up with two guys at a party and is in a car crash because she was sexting. What’s the truth? Only Alice knows. A look at slut-shaming.

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
GoodreadsMy Review
2013. Ethan likes sex, and he seeks out willing partners that don’t require emotional investment. When he hooks up with the wrong girl, he’s severely beaten by other young men. When he goes to his family lake house to recover and spend time with his distant father, he meets a girl very different from his previous conquests, and begins to untangle the relationship between sex and violence. Very nuanced, character-driven study of teen sexuality.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Goodreads |
2015. A teen girl from the wrong side of town is branded a liar when she accuses the son of the sheriff of rape. Highly recommended.

Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook
Goodreads |
2015. A teen girl witnesses a sexual assault at a party and must decide whether to stay silent or speak up.

The Word for Yes by Claire Needal
Goodreads |
2016. The story of three sisters growing apart in the wake of their parents divorce, and the issue that forces them to unify: a date rape.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Goodreads |
2016. A high school freshman is raped by her brother’s best friend, and the story shows how trauma impacts her life throughout her high school career.

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

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt {review}

Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Desert Angel by Charlie Price

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Mathew Quick

The Good Braider by Terry Farish

Bait by Alex Sanchez

33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

The Fix by Natash Sinel

What We Saw by Aaron Hartler

25 thoughts on “Booklist: Sexual Assault, Rape, and Dating Violence in Young Adult Fiction

  1. You may want to check out Deception: A Deaf Girl’s Journey through Trust, Betrayal, Abuse, and Redemption (the book is about the author’s experience with educator sexual abuse)

  2. Hello Molly,

    I commend you for making this comprehensive list of books that explore and raise awareness of sexual violence.

    My YA novel, Unshatter Me tells the story of 19 year old college student, Alena Pavlis, who is healing after her sexual assault experience at high school. It is one of the first YA books on sexual violence that has a diverse cast and explores interracial relationships. Unshatter Me will be published in July 2015 by UrbanEdge Publishing.(www.urbanedgepublishing.com).

    This book is probably different to anything you would have read on the subject. Would you be interested in adding my book to your list? If you are also interested in taking a look at my book and letting me know your thoughts, that would also be great!

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Michelle Diana Lowe

  3. Are there any books on Male Sexual Assault? It is a topic that is often addressed as a funny joke, but it is not funny to those who have suffered through it.

      1. I have! This list only features YA titles (I’m a teen librarian and it began as a project). But I have read the first 3 or 4 Outlander books and agree the TV adaptation is on point.

  4. Hi Molly. I’m looking around for books my 13 year-old daughter would enjoy. She was always a voracious reader until recently, when some toy called a Nook got into our house with its video games. And despite not having a TV, with the help of my wife’s computer she and her sister are now couch potatoes. I can holler (and it takes hollering) at them to turn that thing off, but I can’t holler her into loving reading again. As an English teacher for many years, I know too well the sharp drop-off in reading that happens during middle school. I would talk to my students about it, and they confirmed my suspicion that school takes the fun out of reading. Once the books were there to please you, but now you’re reading to please the teacher. But there’s something else.

    My daughter wants something other than dread and disgust from reading. She’s 13. I know this may put her in the minority these days, but she won’t be ‘dating’ for another four years. Certainly then a humane book about inhumanity in the world of sexual relationships will be appropriate. I’m not persuaded, though, that every author writing about sexual and other forms of abuse is necessarily humane, let alone wise. A person writing novels to work through her own trauma may derive a lot of good from the writing, but this in no way implies that anyone would derive any good from reading it, let alone a child Also, it’s obvious that there’s gold in them thar rapin’ hills, and not every writer who chases gold cares about anything else.

    Some readers, young and old, relish pain and malice. My daughter doesn’t. She read the first Hunger Games book and, like me, found the violence gratuitous. As for the book’s themes, I notice none of the parents here and few elsewhere bother to identify any of these edifying themes, beyond calling the book ‘dystopian.’ In fact, the novel’s funhouse-mirror satire of our own maturing police state, with its desperate addiction to panem et circenses, presents images far more unpalatable to many Americans than scenes of impaled children.

    This all approaches a rant, but here is my point and question. Many kids my daughter’s age, and older, have insufficiently developed sado-masochistic inclinations to appreciate the serious material that is marketed as ‘YA.’ So I’m asking you in all honesty, at what age do you think a person enters the ‘young adult’ market? If you think that a 13 yr-old isn’t there yet, do you have any advice as to what a person that age might enjoy reading? As it is, she has given up reading fiction and tries to amuse herself with biographies, animal encyclopedias and science magazines. I have to believe, though, that there are authors who realize there is more to human experience, even after puberty hits, than traumatic sex and violence, but she and I haven’t been able to find them. Your suggestions would be most welcome. Thanks.
    Jim Caton

    1. Hi Jim,

      Of course, there are many YA books that have dark themes, because many young adults and children live dark lives. I can’t help but notice you left this inquiry on the list of books about some of these dark issues — sexual assault, dating violence, and rape in YA fiction — and disparage the fiction that deals with these issues. I began maintaining this list after doing a presentation for volunteers and social workers at a local domestic violence agency (where I also volunteer) that introduced themes in these books and discussed how fiction can frame understanding of issues like power and control, consent, and domestic violence. These books and conversations about them are important.

      Readers are all different, but as a general rule, I think most YA is appropriately marketed to those in the 12-17 age range. Some 10 year olds are ready for younger YA, and adults can love YA, too. More and more, YA books are being designated 14 and up, and there are many published with a 10-14 age designation. Middle grade fiction, generally published with a 3-6th grade reader in mind, is booming! So there are plenty of books besides biographies, animal encyclopedias, and science magazines for readers like your daughter to enjoy.

      I get inquiries from parents like this all the time at work, and to that end I maintain a list of middle grade sci fi and fantasy, a list of YA sci fi and fantasy for younger teens, and a list of realistic fiction for younger teens, which I update. I’ll also plan to write a few blog posts in 2015 about this issue. I hope this helps!

  5. Thank you so much for including SCARS, Molly; I so appreciate it! And my latest book, STAINED, also fits; in STAINED, Sarah is abducted and repeatedly raped, and must find a way to rescue herself–before it’s too late. Like I did with SCARS, I drew on my own trauma and healing experience to write it….

  6. Normal by Danielle pearl DEFFINANTLY belongs on this list.. It’s book 1 of a series, the 2nd one will be called okay and is expected to be released in couple months

  7. Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney is a great book about sexual assault and how relationships with parents can affect your life. Well, not as dorky as I just said, it was a great book.

  8. Great sum-up on Sex & Violence! I also loved Evan and Baker’s relationship. Thanks for pointing me in this direction, I’m sorry I missed it at first.

  9. Sex & Violence by Carrie Mescrobian. Male POV- fabulous exploration of the aftermath of violence (as well as sex).

  10. Thank you for this list. I am trying to find a book on the same theme that I read sometime in the 90s. It is about a young girl who meets a boy while doing a summer job working with little children. She ends up being so codependent that she “drops” her best friend to spend any possible time with the boyfriend. He becomes increasingly controlling. It is fairly “clean” and is suitable for grades 6-9 or so. I don’t have much else to go on, as of course, I can’t remember the title or the author. Do you have any books that old on your list?

    1. I haven’t read all of these. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is very well regarded. I have read and can recommend Breaking Beautiful, Finnikin of the Rock (and the sequel, Froi of the Exiles), Perks of Being with a Wallflower, and Easy. This is a work in progress and I’ll continue to update it.

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