8 YA Books that Empower Readers to Speak Up About SA 

Sexual assault is a serious topic that must be discussed. With the help of YA books, readers can be educated and healthily cope with these treacherous acts.

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are you listening, the color purple know my name, moxie books

Trigger Warning: The mention of the triggering acts of rape/sexual assault/domestic violence may be triggering for some readers. Please exercise personal care when reading.

We here at Bookstr want to spread SA awareness while giving reassurance to our readers that they are not alone. As bookworms, it’s so common for us to get lost in fictitious worlds. These eight YA books are here to provide a helping hand, continue conversations, and give you strength.

In these young adult novels, we see the results of SA and the overall battle of recovery. SA can happen to ANYONE and that’s why we provided a variety of different voices in various forms. Here are eight novels that will give you the courage to speak up about SA.

1. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu-- girl sitting on the ground, pink scribbles-- YA books

At Vivian Carter’s school, the football team can do no wrong. She’s sick of the sexist dress codes, and the sexual harassment that is spewed at her and the other girls. She decides to take inspiration from her mother, who in the 90s was a tough feminist, belonging to a punk rock group called Riot Grrrl. Vivian decides to create a feminist zine to post across her school campus anonymously. Everything changes after when all the girls begin to respond, agreeing with Viv. Cliques and popularity rankings are voided as she begins to forge friendships.

You have the power to do anything. Take a stand, and do what you want and when you want. Scream your truth!

In 2021, Netflix adapted the book into a movie with Amy Poehler as the director.

2. SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence by Katie Cappiello and Meg Mcinerney

SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence by Katie Cappiello and Meg Mcinerney-- slut wrote in big red uppercase font

Joey is sexually assaulted by three of her best friends. When she speaks her truth on the matter, instead of receiving help from her peers, she is shamed and victim blamed for how it happened. She realizes the deeply rooted sexual double standards and rape culture has been normalized into society. This guidebook was written in collaboration with New York City high school students as they offer concrete tools, talkbacks, and production notes of the assembling play.

Slut-shaming is extremely common in a high school setting. Whether that be how the person acts, how she dresses or the type of friends a girl has, it’s a horrible feeling to be labeled a slut when you’re just living life.

In 2020, Netflix adapted the book into a show entitled The Grand Army.

3. are you listening by Tillie Walden

are you listening by Tillie Walden-- two woman, a cat, a car

Meet Bea and Lou. Two queer individuals that are running away from their pasts. Lou is grieving her mother’s death, while Bea is trying to cope with the past of her cousin who harmed her. She was molested continuously for many years. Bea’s had enough of it all, and in order to heal properly, Lou and Bea lean on each other in shared grief. Together they travel to West Texas to return a lost cat, and in the process, they begin to reveal their paths.

4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, girl looking through a tree

I’m sure any book lover has come across this book cover before. Speak is a story about Melinda Sordino, a freshman who is condemned by her peers for calling the cops during an end-of-summer party. Everyone hates her, so she decides to stop talking altogether. Instead, she relies on her internal consciousness as she observes the hypocrites of high school. It’s not that easy though because the reason why she called the cops that night wasn’t to get everyone busted. She did it in fear and utter shock. She must confront what she has been avoiding for months. Melinda will have to speak her truth.

In 2004, Speak was adapted into an indie film.

5. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky-- yellow green book

Sexual assault does happen to men. This should never be forgotten. In Perks of Being a Wallflower, we dive inside the mind of Charlie as he writes letters to a ‘friend.’ He shares his journey of making new friends and dabbling in romance. However, Charlie still has unresolved trauma from his past. He’s a wallflower through and through, so travel in his new adventures with old scars that can’t be healed properly unless confronted.

In 2012, the book was adapted into a movie.

6. Wrecked by Maria Padian

Wrecked by Maria Padian-- pink book-- sexual assault

Wrecked is not only a great read but also an educational way of viewing consent on college campuses. The absence of the word ‘no’ does not mean a yes. Haly and Richard are at two ends of the spectrum when they hear two different accounts of a sexual assault/‘hookup’ account. Haly saw Jenny appear frazzled when she returned to the party, while Richard heard Jordan recounting a sexual incident with enthusiasm.

When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, we are left with two different accounts of what happened. This book will leave you thinking about memory identity, truth, and what are the contents of consent.

7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple by Alice Walker-- to girls dressed in purple

The Color Purple shows the lives of young black women during the early twentieth century. Celie and Nettie were sisters separated at a young age. They continue their loyalty and love for each other across time and silence. In the novel, you will find a series of letters between the two sisters. The story has been known for breaking the silence around domestic and sexual abuse–allowing a voice for different women to share the pain and struggle, yet their ultimate bravery. The Color Purple is about love and redemption.

All the way back in the 1980s, The Color Purple was adapted into a movie.  

8. Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alice Sáenz-- man looking out

As stated previously, sexual assault does happen to men.

Zach has no idea how he got to this mental hospital facility. He is at a place where alcoholics, drug addicts, and people with anger issues have come together to try to better themselves. Whenever Zach is trying to remember his past, his body begins to shut down. This novel shows the vices that a person may grasp when something unspeakable happens to them.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance with anything similar to the books listed above please contact: 

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Click here to get help with human trafficking

To feel safe at all times is a basic human right; let’s work to make this world physically and mentally safe for everyone.

If you or someone you know is battling with mental health-related distress, we urge you to be kind and hold space for them, and contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (confidential, free, available 24/7/365):

→ Call or text 988

→ Chat at 988lifeline.org

→ Connect with a trained crisis counselor

European RNCE +44 (0)141 331 4180 or www.rcne.com/

List of Hotlines in 46 Countries: https://wave-network.org/list-of-helplines-in-46-countries/

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453 (4 A CHILD)

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