Informative YA Fiction Leading the Way in Gun Violence Awareness

Read on to discover seven YA fiction books to aid those healing from gun violence trauma and those who wish to learn more.

Recommendations Young Adult
Book covers for the Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti, and Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult on an orange background. Framed are a white background with orange stripes.

Trigger Warning: The mention of gun violence may be triggering for some readers. Please exercise personal care when reading.

Since 2020, fatalities caused by firearms have continued to be the primary cause of death in children and young adults in the United States. It is a continuing crisis that has done irreparable damage and will continue without proper knowledge and protections in place, as the extreme mental and physical trauma arising from gun violence affects not only the survivors but also their friends and families. In addition to the extensive health toll this takes, it also creates a financial burden, with thousands of dollars needed for recovery.

Books offer a series of healing benefits, offering empathy, understanding, and comfort to those in similar situations to the characters or with connections to the narrative. To offer solace to those affected by gun violence and raise awareness of the crisis, here are seven books centered around the issue.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Told in verse, Long Way Down follows 15-year-old Will on his journey to avenge his brother Shawn’s murder. As he boards the elevator to kill the murderer, the ghosts of those who know his brother get on at each stop, filling the holes in the story of Shawn’s death.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds book cover. A young Black boy's reflection in an elevator door.
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On the first stop, Buck, who gave Shawn the gun currently in Will’s hand, tells him to double-check for bullets. Will discovers that a bullet is missing, knowing that only Shawn could’ve used it. Then, a teenage girl hops on. She was hit and killed by a stray bullet, despite Will’s best effort to block her from it when they were eight. She makes him wonder what happens if, when Will arrives at his final destination, he misses his shot. As the entire story comes into view, Will must decide if and when he should get off that elevator and if he should carry out his plan or walk away.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult book cover. Two chairs are upside-down in a classroom.
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A school shooting tears through the superficial tranquility of Sterling, New Hampshire, upsetting the peace and complecacy it survived on for decades. But Josie Cormier, a survivor and the daughter of the judge working the case, can’t recall the events she witnessed on that one tragic day. As the truth of the incident unravels, so do the relationships between friends and families. In Nineteen Minutes, Picoult expertly analyzes the duality of society and the nuances of these waters.

Violent Ends by Delilah S. Dawson, Elisa Nader, Brendan Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Hannah Moskowitz, Christine Johnson, Shaun David Hutchinson, Neal Shusterman, and Margie Gelbwasser

Violent Ends by Delilah S. Dawson, Elisa Nader, Brendan Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Hannah Moskowitz, Christine Johnson, Shaun David Hutchinson, Neal Shusterman, and Margie Gelbwasser book cover. A school hallway in black and white. The title is in red.
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It only took less than 30 minutes for Kirby Matheson to ready himself with a gun and open fire in his school’s gym, killing six students and injuring another five. In a single day, Kirby and his peers’ lives are forever changed. But Violent Ends explores Kirby’s past, a life full of friends, hobbies, and adolescent normalcy. Told in an array of stories from the point of view of each victim and former acquaintance, Kirby’s journey is mapped from a seemingly typical kid to a perpetrator of disaster.

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Annabelle’s life used to be full of love and lively. She had her friends, family, and a boyfriend, whose unwavering, ambitious attention came across as both deeply charming and deeply unnerving.

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti book cover. An illustration of a girl in a red shirt on brown paper.
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And now, Annabelle can only find comfort in her Grandfather and her journals. Grappling with the pain of the past, unable to give voice to her pain and grief, Annabelle runs across the country, from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to wherever her feet and heart can take her. As she chases the chance to heal, she rediscovers hope and love on her journey.

Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong book cover. A rusty school hallway with two shadows walking down.
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Skye Gilchrist is finally returning to her hometown after losing her brother in a school shooting. However, she and her family are met with anger, as her brother, Luka, was the shooter. Together with Jesse Mandal, who lost both his own brother and Skye in the aftermath of the tragedy, the two reopened the wounds of the past. As mysteries arise and secrets are painfully unearthed, Skye and Jesse may have fallen upon a new suspect.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. A young Black girl holds up a sign with the title.
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The meticulously balanced life of Starr Carter is unexpectedly thrown off kilter when her friend Khalil, unarmed, is killed by a police officer. The nation is divided on who was to blame that night. Was Khalil a drug dealer or a gang member? Or should more be joining the waves of protest in his name? Starr is the only one who knows the truth, and no matter if she speaks up or not, someone will get hurt.

Unquiet Riot by Khristina Chess

Unquiet Riot by Khristina Chess. A man's face in a blue illustration.
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Riley has difficulty experiencing and discerning emotions, but when he meets the fantastical Henry, a kid who believes that some humans are secretly robots, he doesn’t feel as alone. Together, they play a fatal game, one that leads to a mass murder at their school. If Riley doesn’t speak up about Henry’s disappearance and lies about their game, he risks being named an accessory to the crime. But if they find Henry and he confesses, Riley is doomed.

To build a better and brighter future, we must understand the roots of the perils that plague us today. Pick up any of these books to dive deeper into this issue of gun violence.


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