YA Friday: #SVYALit

Multicolored Fists


In 2006, Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase "Me Too" to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society. On October 15, 2017 actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a note that read "Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write #MeToo." Social media was immediately flooded with the hashtag, conveying the gravity of the problem.

  • Current stats indicate that by the time they are 18, 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 8 boys, depending on what source you use, will be the victim of some type of sexual violence
  • In college, current stats indicate that 1 in 4 female students is the victim of some type of sexual violence
  • It is currently understood that incidences of sexual violence are vastly under reported, which means these stats may in fact be much higher
  • Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, etc.

In a time when our president and high-profile celebrities are being accused of assaulting and harassing women, people are being exposed to the harsh realities of rape culture earlier and earlier. Luckily, there are plenty of books that make learning about rape culture, sexual assault, and it's consequences accessible for teens and young adults who are beginning to learn about the nuances of these issues.

School Library Journal's Teen Librarian Toolbox has created the Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature (#SVYALit) Project that uses young adult literature to talk with teens about sexual violence and consent with the goals to:

  • Discuss sexual violence in the lives of teens and in ya literature on an ongoing basis
  • Raise awareness of the issues and titles that can be used to discuss the topics with teens
  • Give librarians, educators and parents the tools to evaluate and discuss these topics in the lives of teens
  • Promote teen reading and literature

These novels listed below explore the many aspects of rape culture that affect young adults, from the role of bystanders and mental health and trauma, to rampant victim blaming and the many issues with reporting sexual assault. These books provide perspective and solidarity. All of these reads are beneficial for all genders, especially those looking to deconstruct rape culture and all of the daily micro-aggressions that contribute to it, how their own internalized misogyny can be fought against, and what they can do to make it easier to recognize rape culture in their own lives, and encourage their friends to speak up and speak out against it at every turn. Now is the time to create a culture in which women are supported and perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable for their actions; and teens and young adults can do so much to ensure that our future is a safer place for all.
Speak: The Graphic Novel book cover

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, artwork by Emily Carroll

Melinda is already a pariah on her first day as a freshman at Merryweather High. She involved the police in an end-of-summer party, and now everyone shuns her. Unable to tell anyone what actually happened at the party, Melinda withdraws more and more into herself. Rarely speaking, ditching classes, and ignoring school assignments, she spirals downward into apathy and depression. One of the few people to reach her is her art teacher, who helps her express with art what she has so deeply and painfully buried. This potent retelling of the modern classic Speak blends words and images to create magic: a new representation of a teen whose voice is ripped from her, the battles she must wage to find it again, and the triumph of finally being able to speak out.

Asking For It book cover
Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

It's the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O'Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, she doesn't know how she got there. She doesn't know why she's in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don't want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town's heroes.

Exit, Pursued By A Bear book cover

Exit, Pursued By A Bear by E. K. Johnston

At cheerleading camp, Hermione is drugged and raped, but she is not sure whether it was one of her teammates or a boy on another team--and in the aftermath she has to deal with the rumors in her small Ontario town, the often awkward reaction of her classmates, the rejection of her boyfriend, the discovery that her best friend, Polly, is gay, and above all the need to remember what happened so that the guilty boy can be brought to justice.

Saints and Misfits book cover

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Janna, an Arab American hijabi teen living with her mom and brother, is in the midst of several dilemmas. First, her brother’s courting the impossibly perky, perfectly pious “Saint Sarah,” a study circle leader at their mosque. Next, Janna’s crushing on non-Muslim Jeremy, which is definitely haram. Her biggest problem, though, is the Monster, who’s revered by everyone at their mosque for his exemplary faith. But they don’t know he sexually assaulted Janna, and now he’s spreading cruel rumors about her. Janna’s not sure who—or whether—she can tell, but as she starts relying on unlikely friends, she finds the strength to stand up for herself.

A Heart in a Body in the World book cover

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Eighteen-year-old Seattleite Annabelle is hardworking, pretty, and seemingly has it all: good grades, great friends, and a loving family. Following a tragedy, however, Annabelle is wracked with guilt over a crime she did not commit but feels responsible for, and as a result, she suffers from severe anxiety and PTSD. The only thing she feels she can do now is run. Joined by her Italian immigrant grandfather, Grandpa Ed, in his RV and cheered on by a self-appointed publicity team comprising her 13-year-old brother, Malcolm, and her friends Zach and Olivia, Annabelle runs across the nation in an attempt to come to terms with the event perpetrated by a person whom she dubs The Taker.

I have the right to : a high school survivor's story of sexual assault, justice, and hope book cover

I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, a memoir by Chessy Prout, with Jenn Abelson

In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul’s School, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in court. Then, in the face of unexpected backlash from her once-trusted school community, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voice. This memoir is more than an account of a horrific event. It takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators.

Further Reading

Faking Normal book cover
The Way I Used To Be book cover
The Nowhere Girls book cover
Honor Code book cover
Some Boys book cover
Girl Made of Stars book cover
Learning to Breathe book cover
What We Saw book cover
Charm and Strange book cover
Good and Gone book cover
Starfish book cover
All The Rage book cover
Everybody Sees the Ants book cover
Tradition book cover
Every Last Promise book cover
Moxie book cover
Wrecked book cover
Rani Patel in Full Effect book cover