“My Silence Does Not Mean Yes”: YA Books That Support the #MeToo Movement

With the recent (not so shocking) guilty verdict in the Bill Cosby rape case, I finally made time this week to read Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, a book that has been on my TBR since it came out a couple of years ago.

This book and others like it are eye-opening, and I can’t help but think about how many precarious situations I put myself in, especially when I was a teen. It was only by sheer luck–some would say by the grace of God–that I was spared the experiences of girls like Emma O’Donovan in Asking For It or Melinda in Speak. Would I have had the courage to speak out, or to even tell my parents what had happened?

With the recent (not so shocking) guilty verdict in the Bill Cosby rape case, I finally made time this week to read...

I honestly have no idea what I would have done, which is why books like these are so important. How is a girl (or boy, because they can be raped, too) supposed to know what to do in a situation like that? Whether or not they have a supportive family, wouldn’t reading books about other teens going through the same thing be massively helpful for victims of sexual assault? They feel confused and don’t know what to do next, but they can read about what other fictional and nonfictional teens did when faced with the same situation.

Teens who haven’t been victims of sexual assault could also read these books and learn the importance of situational awareness. They can see the consequences of allowing someone else pour their drinks or taking drugs someone offers. They can learn how to protect their friends at a party or bar. By reading books like these, teens will be armed with the knowledge that these situations happen far too often and easily. They can experience the rape and aftermath through someone else’s eyes in the pages of a book, which will make them less likely to experience it in real life.

Asking for It (Louise O’Neill)
Emma O’Donovan is eighteen, beautiful, and fearless. It’s the beginning of summer in a quiet Irish town and tonight she and her friends are dressed to impress. Everyone is at the party, and all eyes are on Emma. The next morning Emma’s parents discover her collapsed on the doorstop of their home, unconscious. She is disheveled, bleeding, and disoriented, looking as if she had been dumped there. Emma can’t remember what happened the night before, and none of her friends will respond to her texts. At school, people turn away from her. Her mind may be a blank as far as the events of the previous evening, but someone has posted photos of it on Facebook under a fake account. (Quercus UK, 2015)
I Stop Somewhere (T.E. Carter)
Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper. But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her. The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place. (Feiwel & Friends, 2018)
Tradition (Brendon Kiely)
Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous. Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place. (Margaret K. McElderry, 2018)
The Way I Used to Be (Amber Smith)
Told in four parts: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years. Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes. What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved–who she once loved–she now hates. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be. (Margaret K. McElderry, 2016)
We Does Consent Really Mean? (Pete Wallis,‎ Joseph Wilkins,‎ Thalia Wallis)
Following the sexual assault of a classmate, a group of teenage girls find themselves discussing the term consent, what it actually means for them in their current relationships, and how they act and make decisions with peer influence. Joined by their male friends who offer another perspective, this rich graphic novel uncovers the need for more informed conversations with young people around consent and healthy relationships. (Singing Dragon, 2017)
Exit, Pursued By A Bear (E.K. Johnston)
Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team–the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black. (Dutton, 2016)
I Have a Right To (Chessy Prout, 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. (Margaret K. McElderry, 2018)
The Nowhere Girls (Amy Reed)
When Grace, Rosina, and Erin learn that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of Grace’s new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, they are incensed that Lucy never had justice. The three misfits form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students. (SimonPulse, 2017)
Speak: The Graphic Novel (Laurie Halse Anderson, Emily Carroll)
From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless–an outcast–because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018)
Deep Dark Blue: A Memoir of Survival (Polo Tate)
I want to be in the Air Force someday. These are the words Polo Tate engraves on her junior dog tags at age eleven. An unpopular dream for most young girls, but her hard work pays off and at age eighteen, Polo finds herself in Basic Training at the United States Air Force Academy. She does everything right, except fly under the radar. No one prepares her for what comes next. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of her superior. Betrayal at the highest levels of authority. Harassment from her peers, who refuse to believe her story. (Feiwel Friends, 2018)
Blood Water Paint (Joy McCullough)
By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia Gentileschi was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost. (Dutton, 2018)
Vigilante (Kady Cross)
It’s senior year, and Hadley and her best friend, Magda, should be starting the year together. Instead, Magda is dead and Hadley is alone. Raped at a party the year before and humiliated, Magda was driven to take her own life and Hadley is forced to see her friend’s attackers in the classroom every day. Devastated, enraged and needing an outlet for her grief, Hadley decides to get a little justice of her own. Donning a pink ski mask and fueled by anger, Hadley goes after each of the guys one by one, planning to strip them of their dignity and social status the way they did to Magda. (Harlequin Teen, 2017)
What We Saw (Aaron Hartzler)
The party at John Doone’s last Saturday night is a bit of a blur. Kate Weston can piece together most of the details: Stacey Stallard handing her shots, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early. But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same questions: Who witnessed what happened to Stacey? And what responsibility do they have to speak up about what they saw? (HarperTeen, 2015)
Wrecked (Maria Padian)
Everyone on campus has a different version of what happened that night. Haley saw Jenny return from the party, shell-shocked. Richard heard Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with. When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible–especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict. (Algonquin Young Readers, 2016)
The Female of the Species (Mindy McGinnis)
Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best–the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone. (Katherine Tegen, 2016)
Honor Code (Kiersi Burkhart)
Sam knows how lucky she is to be part of the elite Edwards Academy. As she dreams of getting into Harvard one day, she’s willing to do anything to fit in and excel at the private high school. Even if that means enduring hazing, signing up for a sport she hates, and attending the school dance with an upperclassman she barely knows. But when she learns the high cost of entry, will Sam be willing to bury the worst night of her life in order to “keep the community sacred”? (Carolrhoda Lab, 2018)


Girl Made of Stars (Ashley Herring Blake)
Publication date: May 15, 2018. Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018)
What I Leave Behind (Alison McGhee)
Publication date: May 15, 2018. Unique format: 100 chapters of 100 words each. Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house. When Will learns Playa was raped at a party–a party he was at, where he saw Playa–it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2018)
Learning to Breathe (Janice Lynn Mather)
Publication date: June 26, 2018. When Indy is sent to live with distant relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth. Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with. (Simon & Schuster, 2018)
A Heart in a Body in the World (Deb Caletti)
Publication date: September 18, 2018. When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run? So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her. (SimonPulse, 2018)

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