What's Up in YA

Sexual Assault Awareness Month and YA Lit, Upcoming Superhero Novelizations, and More YA News

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Future Shock.

Good April, YA fans!

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks in the YA bookternet. Maybe part of it has to do with this being a huge release season — we’re seeing tons of books hitting shelves each Tuesday (and sometimes Thursday) and will through the end of May — and it may have to do with some big industry-related trade shows happening now. There’s surprisingly little news to talk about, so this week’s newsletter will take a bit of a different approach, with a quick round-up of links at the end.

As you may or may not know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is a topic that’s covered really well in the YA internet, and it’s a topic that not only generates worthwhile discussion in April, but it lingers throughout the year.

Here’s the out for anyone who needs it — and feel zero shame taking it: sexual assault and rape are the topic at hand for the bulk of this newsletter. If you want to skip to the round-up of other news, hop down to the *** below.

It’s been really difficult to grasp the importance of the topic of sexual assault lately, especially following the not guilty verdict of the Jian Ghomeshi case, wherein the victims of assault were called liars by the judge for not coming forward soon enough and not recalling specific details of the trauma they incurred. Of course, that is one case of hundreds each year, and it’s one case that highlights precisely why victims choose not to speak up or out. It’d be easy to name many more without even thinking too hard about it.

I’d like to take the opportunity with this newsletter to talk about and highlight some of the incredible young adult books that explore issues relating to sexual assault and rape culture. The only way that we’re able to make change as a culture is to talk about it, as well as make real effort in understanding the short- and long- term effects of such violence against victims. The bulk of these books are available now, though forthcoming titles have been noted with publication dates. All descriptions are from Goodreads and titles are listed alphabetically. This is a very white, straight list — which is worth an entire newsletter in and of itself — and the bulk of the books on this list involve female victims (though not all). Note that this is not comprehensive. Likewise, I highly recommend checking out this recent NPR piece about the value YA lit has in teaching teens about consent and sex.

All The Rage 
by Courtney Summers: The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

Asking for It 
by Louise O’Neill: Emma O’Donovan is eighteen, beautiful, and fearless. It’s the beginning of summer in a quiet Irish town and tonight she and her friends have dressed to impress. Everyone is at the big party, but all eyes are on Emma.

The next morning Emma’s parents discover her in a heap on the doorstop of their home, unconscious. She is disheveled, bleeding, and disoriented, looking as if she had been dumped there in a hurry. She remembers nothing from the party.

That day several devastating photos from the party are posted online and go viral, eventually launching a criminal investigation and sending the community into tumult. The media descends, neighbors chose sides, and people from all over the world want to talk about her story. Everyone has something to say about Emma, whose life has been changed forever by an unthinkable and all-too-common act of sexual violence, but all she wants is to disappear.

Exit, Pursued By A Bear by E. K. Johnston: Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.

But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:

Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.

Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.

Every Last Promise by Kristin Halbrook: Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn’t supposed to. But she hasn’t told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.

Now Kayla’s coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.

Faking Normal by Courtney C Stevens: Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.

When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in “the Kool-Aid Kid,” who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.

The Gospel of Winter 
by Brendan Kiely: As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

by Chris Lynch: Keir Sarafian knows many things about himself. He is a talented football player, a loyal friend, a devoted son and brother. Most of all, he is a good guy.

And yet the love of his life thinks otherwise. Gigi says Keir has done something awful. Something unforgivable.

Keir doesn’t understand. He loves Gigi. He would never do anything to hurt her. So Keir carefully recounts the events leading up to that one fateful night, in order to uncover the truth. Clearly, there has been a mistake.

But what has happened is, indeed, something inexcusable.

by Joshua C. Cohen: The football field is a battlefield.

There’s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on – and off – the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy – including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school’s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

Some Boys 
by Patty Blount: 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?


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country, written by a lovely author who promotes white-guilt in her free time.

The Way I Used To Be 
by Amber Smith: Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. 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.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.

What We Saw 
by Aaron Hartzler: Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

Wrecked by Maria Padian (October 4 — get this on your radar!): Everyone has heard a different version of what happened that night at MacCallum College. Haley was already in bed when her roommate, Jenny, arrived home shell-shocked from the wild Conundrum House party. Richard heard his housemate Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with. When Jenny formally accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard find themselves pushed onto opposite sides of the school’s investigation. But conflicting interests fueling conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible–especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

* I had the chance to read an early copy of this one, and it’s such a powerful look at rape culture, campus culture, and it allows space for growth, change, and learning — told from a male and female POV, it’s a nice look at the wide-ranging impact of a sexual assault.

I would be remiss in not highlighting this interview I had the privilege to do with Laurie Halse Anderson in 2014, where we talked about rape culture and YA books, on the 15th anniversary of her ground-breaking classic Speak.


The round-up of forthcoming YA titles in the second quarter of 2016 should hit Book Riot in the next week or so, which should explain why there are fewer stories to share in this newsletter (so many books are hitting shelves! Everyone is busy reading!). But here’s a look at some of the highlights:

And let’s wrap up with a few pieces from the Book Riot archive:

  • Dig into some YA books featuring …geeks!
  • A handy flowchart to YA books that are light on sex and violence, so they’re safe “green light” bets for any type of reader (some people might call them “clean reads,” but that’s a highly problematic label — books aren’t dirty or clean, but rather, they have different reader appeal).
  • This piece from 3 years ago (!!) about why YA lit matters to all readers is worth ending on, since it succinctly captures why the books named in this newsletter are important.

As always, thanks for rocking out with us at Book Riot, and keep YA-love in your heart. Thanks for your comments, your questions, and your feedback — see you again in two weeks!

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