Spring Reads for Teens
We’ve talked about how, for kids, books can be an easy introduction to a hard topic. The same is true for teens and even adults.
As kids enter their teen years, their bodies and emotions start to change. Relationships become more complex, self-esteem is often more fragile, and popularity can seem much more important than it did a few years ago.
Reading and discussing a book can help a teen think about a topic or a problem in a unique way or from a different perspective. It can help them find a voice for what they may be experiencing in their own life.
It’s important that parents or caregivers offer their teens resources to develop their understanding of relational aggression and bullying.
Here are 13 books geared for teens, but can be thoughtful reads for adults too.
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The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale
The Bully Book is a Top Ten Indie Next List pick of 2013, and Publishers Weekly called The Bully Book a "gripping debut novel." The paperback includes a Q&A with the author. Eric Haskins, the new sixth-grade bully target, is searching for answers. He finds them, though they may not be what he expected.
This book pulls from actual events. The author loosely recounts what it was like when he was bullied in sixth grade. It incorporates both sides of bullying and addresses this ongoing issue in the lives of middle schoolers.
The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake
Sharon Flake's award-winning debut novel!
Maleeka suffers every day from the taunts of the other kids in her class. If they’re not getting at her about her homemade clothes or her good grades, it’s about her dark, black skin.
When a new teacher, whose face has a startling white patch, starts at their school, Maleeka can see there is bound to be trouble for her too. But the new teacher’s attitude surprises Maleeka. Miss Saunders loves the skin she’s in. Can Maleeka learn to do the same?
Dear Bully by Dawn Metcalf
Today's top authors for teens and young people come together to share their stories about bullying—as bystanders, as victims, and as the bullies themselves—in this moving and deeply personal collection. Don't miss this excellent catalyst for both one-on-one and classroom discussion.
Lauren Oliver, R. L. Stine, Ellen Hopkins, Carolyn Mackler, Kiersten White, Mo Willems, Jon Scieszka, Lauren Kate, and many more contributed 70 heartfelt and empathetic stories from each corner of the schoolyard.
In addition, Dear Bully includes resources for teens, educators, and parents, and suggestions for further reading. For those working to support social and emotional learning and anti-bullying programs, Dear Bully can help foster reflection and empathy.
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel about a girl with cancer who creates a take-no-prisoners bucket list that sets off a war at school—only to discover she's gone into remission.
When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend, Harvey, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge as it is about hope.
But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission, and now she must face the consequences of all she’s said and done.
Contemporary realistic fiction readers who love romantic stories featuring strong heroines will find much to savor in this standout debut.
Tease by Amanda Maciel
Provocative, unforgettable, and inspired by real-life incidents.
Amanda Maciel’s highly acclaimed debut novel Tease has a powerful narrative, an unconventional point of view, and a strong anti-bullying theme. This coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.
Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy.
And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
“This story takes an unflinching look at the intricacies of high school relationships .... Fans of the film Mean Girl will enjoy this tale of redemption and forgiveness.” ―School Library Journal
Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard. Falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around.
Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first.
Does My Head Look Big In This? By Randa Abdel-Fattah
When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…
Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full-time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else. Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school?
Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.
Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi
Adonis is a jock. He's on the football team and he's dating one of the prettiest girls in school. Alan is the new kid. He wears lipstick and joins the Fashion Club. Soon enough the football team is out to get him. Adonis is glad to go along with his teammates . . . until they come up with a dangerous plan to humiliate Alan. Now Adonis must decide whether he wants to be a guy who follows the herd or a man who does what's right.
From critically acclaimed author Paul Volponi comes this discussable and finely wrought story of bullies, victims, and the bystanders caught in between.
American Born Chinese written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang
A powerful book by New York Times bestselling graphic novelist Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he's the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny's life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax.
American Born Chinese is the winner of the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award, a 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, the winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, an Eisner Award nominee for Best Coloring, a 2007 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and a New York Times bestseller.
It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller
Growing up isn't easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, and this is especially true for LGBTQ kids and teens.
In response to a number of tragic suicides by LGBTQ students, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage uploaded a video to YouTube with his partner, Terry Miller. Dan and Terry uttered three words that would give rise to a global movement focused on empowerment of LGBTQ+ youth — it gets better.
It Gets Better is a collection of original essays and expanded testimonials written to teens from celebrities, political leaders, and everyday people, because while many LGBTQ teens can’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. This book is full of hopeful essays that share how it is possible to move on from bullying and cruelty and to lead great lives.
Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman’s Inspirational True Story by Jodee Blanco
While other children were daydreaming about dances, first kisses, and college, Jodee Blanco was trying to figure out how to go from homeroom to study hall without being taunted or spit upon as she walked through the halls.
This powerful, unforgettable memoir chronicles how one child was shunned—and even physically abused—by her classmates from elementary school through high school. It is an unflinching look at what it means to be the outcast, how even the most loving parents can get it all wrong, why schools are often unable to prevent disaster, and how bullying has been misunderstood and mishandled by the mental health community.
You will be shocked, moved, and ultimately inspired by this harrowing tale of survival against insurmountable odds. This vivid story will open your eyes to the harsh realities and long-term consequences of bullying—and how all of us can make a difference in the lives of teens today.
Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
One day. One huge New York City high school. Three girls, headed toward one slow-motion collision.
There’s Trina, a pretty, self-involved artist who’s sure she’s bringing beauty and color to the lives of everyone around her, regardless of what they really think. There’s Leticia, who skates by on minimal effort; she’s more interested in her cell phone, her nails, and gossip than school. And there’s Dominique, an angry basketball player who’s been benched for low grades.
When Trina unknowingly offends Dominique, Dominique decides that it’s going down—after school, she’s going to jump Trina. Trina has no idea. And Leticia is the only witness to Dominique’s rage, the only one who could stop the beatdown from coming. But does she want to get involved in this mess?
In this 2009 National Book Award finalist, Rita Williams-Garcia proves that she has an “uncanny ability to project unique voices” (Publishers Weekly). Jumped is told in alternating points of view between three girls as they struggle to make tough choices when they become involved in a fight at their urban high school.
Wonder by RJ Palacio
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Beginning from Auggie’s point of view and expanding to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others, the perspectives converge to form a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope.
R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.