1. “Speak” by Laure Halse Anderson – This is Melinda Sordino’s story of how she feels after she is raped at a party the summer before her freshman year of high school. We are drawn into her depression and withdrawal with her. It’s an amazing story of survival and over the course of the last 15 years, it has helped countless of young people who have also suffered from similar traumatic events.
2. “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher – Hannah Baker leaves a series of tapes intended for all the people that feels led to her depression and ultimate suicide. These tapes are sent to the first person on the tape with the instructions to send them on to the next person on the list. The book begins with person number nine, Clay Jensen receiving them and listening to them all in one night. As he listens, the tapes change his life as he comes to realize that words and actions truly do have consequences.
3. “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green – After reading different books about teens with cancer who have bucket lists, I was ready for something different. I was tired of lists with things like shoplifting, getting drunk, having sex, etc. I know that many teens die with dignity and don’t change who they are because death is imminent. That is what John Green wrote. Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancaster are two of the bravest, strongest, funniest, and most incredible souls in YA literature.
4. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina – When her mother becomes disgusted with the building they live in, she finds a new apartment and Piddy Sanchez is forced to go to a new high school. On her first day she is told, “Yaqui Delgado want to kick your ass.” She has no idea who Yaqui is or why she wants to “kick her ass.” At first Piddy isn’t too concerned, however Yaqui and her friends make Piddy’s sophomore year a living hell. They harrass and bully her, emotionally abuse her, steal from her, and physically beat her. All of this plunges Piddy into a serious depression and despair. Medina has given us a gut-wrenching account of the effects of bullying.
5. Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser – Alyssa Bondar is a Russian-Jewish teenager who just wants to have a normal teenaged life. However, her mother’s social drinking slowly changes into alcoholism and Alyssa’s feels like she’s the only one who cares. Her father prefers to watch television and be in denial about it all. On top of the pressures of dealing with an alcoholic mother, Alyssa is in the midst of her first love and other normal teenaged things, and she feels that she has no one to share that part of her life with. Gelbwasser has given an honest account of the issues that children of alcoholics must deal with on a daily basis.
There are countless other books that deal with so many other social issues; I know this short list barely scratches the surface. What are some of your favorite social issue YA books?