Subscribe to SLJ
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Because No Always Means No: a list of titles dealing with rape and sexual harassment

April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And we had a lot to say about it.  The bottom line, no means no (and silence doesn’t mean yes).  That should be the message – always.  It’s what we need to be teaching all people, both boys and girls, at all ages.  Respecting others is at the heart of ending all violence, including sexual violence.  This type of education begins at birth and continues throughout all of our lives: all people are people and are worthy of respect and safety and to live a life without fear.  I teach my children that they can’t touch others without their consent.  That means any and all touching.  And of course there is always the golden rule; whatever your personal faith may be,  “treat others as you want to be treated” seems like a common sense life principle.  The reciprocal is that others can’t touch them without their consent.  It seems like such an obvious thing, and yet every day people fail at this.  Every day people are assaulted and raped and robbed of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It’s not easy to read about it or talk about it, but we have to.  Information – education – is the only way to end sexual violence.  Here are some titles that deal with this subject in various ways.  Read them.  Talk about them.  Develop empathy for the victims.  Speak out against violence and speak up for its victims.

SPEAK – Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary novel has captured the hearts of teenagers and adults across the country.  Author Laurie Halse Anderson is a spokeperson for RAINN, you can read more about it here.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT  – Coleen Clayton   


When Sid finds herself on a ski lift with hunky local college guy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled. “Come to a party with me,” he tells her, but Dax isn’t what he seems. He takes everything from Sid-including a lock of her perfect red curls-and she can’t remember any of it.

Caught in a downward spiral, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey–slacker, baker, total dreamboat–Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if only she could shake the nightmares, everything would be perfect…

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s debut is a stunning story of moving on after the unthinkable happens.

THE MOCKINGBIRDS – Daisy Whitney


When Alex wakes up one morning next to a boy from her school, flashes of the night before begin to come to her. She was date raped.  Alex seeks the help of her boarding schools secret justice society – The Mockingbirds – to help get justice for the crime committed against her. Whitney emotionally captures Alex’s journey to seek justice in a world of privilege. Emotionally raw and compelling, this is a great book for discussing the topics of date rape and the concept of justice.

EXPOSED – Kimberley Marcus

In the dim light of the darkroom/I’m alone, but not for long.

As white turns to gray, Kate is with me.

background of the dance studio blurred,

so the focus is all on her–legs extended in a perfect soaring split.

The straight line to my squiggle, my forever-best friend.

Sixteen-year-old Liz is Photogirl—sharp, focused, and confident in what she sees through her camera lens, confident that she and Kate will be best friends forever. But everything changes in one blurry night. Suddenly, Kate is avoiding her and people are looking the other way she passes in the halls. As the aftershocks from a startling accusation rip through Liz’s world, everything she thought she knew about photography, family, friendship, and herself shifts out of focus. What happens when the picture you see no longer makes sense?

LEVERAGE – Joshua C Cohen


Joshua C. Cohen began writing “Leverage” after reading a news account of a horrific attack by a group of high school seniors on their fellow underclassmen. When the victims reluctantly came forward, instead of receiving offers of help, they were ostracized by the surrounding community for sullying the reputation of the school and causing a cancellation of the football season. Joshua’s fascination with that part of human nature–the need to keep quiet when awful things occur and how that leads to victims getting wronged twice–is what started the whole story that eventually led to “Leverage.”

MONSTROUS BEAUTY – Elizabeth Fama


The mermaid Syrenka falls in love with a mortal, a decision that comes with horrific consequences.  In the future, 17-year-old Hester is afraid to fall in love because of a curse that seems to hang over the women in her family.  Although there are mystical elements to this story, there are several disturbing scenes of sexual harassment – and rape – that tie these women together and show what type of treatment many women have had to deal with for centuries.  This beautiful, haunting story led me to write an entire post about the almost casual way some men will harass women and the things that women must endure on a daily basis: What It’s Like for a Girl: How Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama made me think about the politics of sexuality in the life of girls.

RAPE GIRL – Alina Klein

Hey, look. It’s that girl. That rape girl, right?Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl. But not the rape girl…That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it.. Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers.. The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same.. Rape Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to find the strength to fight back.

GOING UNDERGROUND– Susan Vaught

Del’s a good kid, but he became a social outcast when his girlfriend texted him a revealing photo . . . and the police got involved. Now he’s finally met a new girl, but complications threaten to bring his world crashing down again. Will Del be able to overcome his past? This must-read, all-too-believable story features a likeable guy caught in a highly controversial and timely legal scenario.

BREATHING UNDERWATER– Alex Flinn


It was only a slap. Well, maybe more than one. And maybe Nick used his fist at the end when the anger got out of control. But his girlfriend Caitlin deserved it–hadn’t she defied him by singing in the school talent show when he had forbidden her to display herself like that? Even though he’d told her that everybody would laugh at her because she couldn’t sing and was a fat slob? Both were lies. Because Caitlin was so beautiful, the only person who understood him. Out of his desperate need for her came all the mean words and the hitting. But now Caitlin’s family has procured a restraining order to keep Nick away, and the judge has sentenced him to Mario Ortega’s Family Violence class, to sit around every week with six other angry guys who hit their girlfriends. And to write a journal explaining how he got into this mess. In what PW called “a gripping tale,” a 16-year-old, who is considered perfect by his classmates, suffers a turbulent home life with an abusive father, and he himself follows the pattern of violence.

EASY by Tammara Webber

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night–but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

INEXCUSABLE – Chris Lynch

“I am a good guy. Good guys don’t do bad things. Good guys understand that no means no, and so I could not have done this because I understand.”

Keir Sarafian knows many things about himself. He is a talented football player, a loyal friend, a devoted son and brother. Most of all, he is a good guy.

And yet the love of his life thinks otherwise. Gigi says Keir has done something awful. Something unforgivable.

Keir doesn’t understand. He loves Gigi. He would never do anything to hurt her. So Keir carefully recounts the events leading up to that one fateful night, in order to uncover the truth. Clearly, there has been a mistake.

But what has happened is, indeed, something inexcusable.

THE GOOD BRAIDER– Terry Farrish


Gr 9 Up–The Good Braider follows Viola on a journey from her home in ravaged Sudan to Cairo and finally to the folds of a Sudanese community in Maine. Viola’s story, told in free verse, is difficult to read without a constant lurking sense of both dread and hope. In the opening scene she gazes at the curve of the back of a boy walking the street in front of her, only to view his senseless execution moments later. This tension never completely dissipates, though it takes on different forms throughout her story; by the end it is replaced not by the fear of execution or of the lecherous soldier who forces her to trade herself for her family’s safety, but by the tension of walking the line between her mother’s cultural expectations and the realities of her new country. Yet while Farish so lyrically and poignantly captures Viola’s wrenching experience leaving her home, navigating the waiting game of refugee life, and acculturating into the United States, she’s equally successful in teasing out sweet moments of friendship and universal teenage experiences. Viola’s memorable, affecting voice will go far to help students step outside of their own experience and walk a mile in another’s shoes.

POISON STUDY – Maria V. Snyder  (Fantasy)


Shivers, obsession, sleepless nights—these are the results not of one of the milder poisons that novice food-taster Yelena must learn during her harrowing job training but of newcomer Snyder’s riveting fantasy that unites the intelligent political focus of George R.R. Martin with a subtle yet potent romance. Through a stroke of luck, Yelena escapes execution in exchange for tasting the food of the Commander, ruler of Ixia. Though confined to a dank prison cell and doomed to a painful death, Yelena slowly blooms again, caught up in castle politics. But some people are too impatient to wait for poison to finish off Yelena. With the help of Valek, her steely-nerved, cool-eyed boss and the Commander’s head of security, she soon discovers that she has a starring role to play in Ixia’s future—a role that could lead to her being put to death as a budding magician even if she hits each cue perfectly. Yelena truly has an awful past containing physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, so there are some disturbing flashbacks to that–however, they aren’t gratuitous, and definitely help explain her as a character.

Coming soon:

CANARY – Rachel Alpine  (August 2013)  “almost exactly like the Stuebenville case but basketball”
Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete.

But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

FORGIVE ME, LEONARDPEACOCK – Matthew Quick 


Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart–obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches. (male rape)
List compiled by the Librarians at YALSA-BK and annotated by Sarah Littman.  It is posted here with Ms. Littman’s permission.


More on Sexual Harrasment and Rape on TLT:
Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talking to teens about consent and rape part 1 and part 2
Also, I talk about Teaching Consent at Campus Progress

Edited to add the title Monstrous Beauty, 5/07/13

Comments

  1. It's so frustrating how a lot of things seem like basic boundaries, or common sense: don't touch others without consent, don't demean people, not saying no doesn't = yes, etc. but our rape culture has confused and twisted these messages and created societies where the onus is on the victim/survivor to prove that they fought back or called a slut and worse, or where the rapist is protected, their innocence proclaimed, and their achievements celebrated. Makes me sick.

    But like you said, people, especially youth, can learn empathy and begin to understand these issues through reading. This is a great list, and there are some on here that I haven't added to my TBR list yet, or read, but will be doing so now :)

Speak Your Mind

*