Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: YA Lit with Food Allergies

Earlier today I talked a little bit about food allergies and shared some ever evolving thoughts I had about food in teen programming. Now I want to share 5 MG and YA lit titles that have characters that deal with food allergies. I have only read 2 of the following 5 titles, but the rest are now sitting on my TBR title after doing a little bit of research and finding them.

DELICATE MONSTERS by Stephanie Khuen

Publisher’s Book Description: From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

Karen’s Thoughts: I have read part of an advanced copy of DELICATE MONSTERS and I was immediately drawn to how it discussed food allergy issues. It also mentions abdominal migraines, which is an ailment a teen girl I love suffers from that I had never heard of before meeting her. In addition to handling food allergy issues and the emotions surrounding them well, Khuen also just writes really fantastic thrillers and this is no exception. This book will be published in June by St. Martin’s Press.

MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK by Andrea Pyros

Publisher’s Book Description: If Life Was Like a Song

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe

Karen’s Thoughts: I actually came across this title when the author Tweeted about it earlier this week for #FoodAllergyAwarenessWeek. It will be published in September from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, it’s Middle Grade.

PEANUT by Ayun Halliday

Publisher’s Book Description: “A smart, affecting graphic young adult novel,” declares the New York Times.

Before you write me off as a delusional psycho, think about what it’s like to be thrown into a situation where everyone knows everyone… and no one knows you. Sadie has the perfect plan to snag some friends when she transfers to Plainfield High—pretend to have a peanut allergy. But what happens when you have to hand in that student health form your unsuspecting mom was supposed to fill out? And what if your new friends want to come over and your mom serves them snacks? (Peanut butter sandwich, anyone?) And then there’s the bake sale, when your teacher thinks you ate a brownie with peanuts. Graphic coming-of-age novels have huge cross-over potential, and Peanut is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike. (2012)

Karen’s Thoughts: This title is not about a person with a food allergy, but about a teen who fakes having a food allergy. And it’s a graphic novel. The New York Times said, “Sadie’s allergy may be fake, but the sentiments in “Peanut” are not, and that’s what matters.” You can read the entire review here.

BREAK by Hanna Moskowitz

Publisher’s Book Description:

Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah’s only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders.

When Jonah’s self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?

Karen’s Thoughts: This is a book I have not read, though Moskowitz is the author of the incredibly fascinating TEETH and NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED, which Amanda reviewed earlier. It doesn’t say this in the publisher’s book description, but apparently Jonah’s self destructive spiral is sparked in part by the pressures of dealing with his brother Jessie’s life-threatening food allergies.

FREE TO FALL by Lauren Miller

Publisher’s Book Description: What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness?

What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results.

Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school.

Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

Karen’s Thoughts: FREE TO FALL is not a book about food allergies. In fact, it never mentions food allergies at all. There is, however, a scene where a teen boy working as a coffee shop barrister gives coffee to a teen girl and instead of giving her what she orders, he gives her a coffee he thinks she would like. What this means is that he deceives this teenage girl about what she is putting into her body not knowing if she has any dietary restrictions, thus violating her and putting her in potential harm’s way. The book itself is quite good and fascinating, very discussable, and I think this scene can lead us to talk about food safety issues in ways that perhaps the author didn’t originally intend. In my post earlier today I shared with you the story of Kaye M., a young Muslim woman with religious food restrictions and how food prep people had purposely tried to get her friends and family members to violate those personal restrictions through deception. And when I originally reviewed FREE TO FALL I shared my personal concerns about the safety issues surrounding this scene regarding food allergy issues. This scene, completely unrelated to food issues and stuck in the middle of a thriller, is a poignant reminder that sometimes we can have meaningful discussions about important issues that the author never intended. It’s a good book and the scene is a good discussion prompt.

Edited 5/15/15 to Add::

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Janet Gurtler’s latest contemporary YA novel is by turns gripping, heart-wrenching, and joyous as one teen girl has to find the courage to carry on after a devastating tragedy.

She never thought a kiss could kill…

As the new girl in town, Samantha just wants to fit in. Being invited to a party by her fellow swim team members is her big chance…especially since Zee will be there. He hasn’t made a secret of checking her out at the pool. Sam didn’t figure on Alex being there too. She barely even knows him. And she certainly didn’t plan to kiss him. It just kind of happened.

And then Alex dies—right in her arms…

Consumed by guilt and grief, Sam has no idea what to do or where to turn when everyone at school blames her. What follows is Sam’s honest, raw, and unforgettable journey to forgive herself and find balance—maybe even love—in a life that suddenly seems to be spinning out of control.

In addition, there is a self-published book called SUNDIAL by M. I. Pearsall that exists and there are discussion questions available. I don’t normally read and review self-published titles because I have never worked in a library that purchased them for their collections, which I think will someday change, but I wanted to let you know it was out there because of the discussion questions that were available.


  1. Thanks for this list! I’ve been looking everywhere for novels about food allergies and couldn’t find any, and I just sent an email out to a librarian listserv with this query, and then I found your fabulous post!

    Another book you might like to take a look at is Trial by Fire, the first book in the Worldwalkers trilogy by Josephine Angelini. The main character has multiple food allergies which turn out to be exactly what will make her a powerful witch in a parallel world.

    I’m looking forward to reading the ones on your list!

    • Karen Jensen, TLT Karen Jensen, TLT says:

      I haven’t found a lot, so I would love to know of any more you hear of. Because of my daughter, I tend to notice if it’s in the books I read. I even Tweeted Stephanie Khuen and told her thank you. It’s such a big issue for many of our kids but it seems really underrepresented in the literature.

  2. As the mother of a Sadie, I think it’s interesting that two of these five titles feature Sadies.

  3. This is a great list! Thanks for including MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK and for putting the spotlight on food allergies.

  4. (PS And just FYI MY YEAR OF EPICK ROCK is out and available now! Thanks again for the mention.)

  5. Victoria B says:

    Don’t forget “Word Nerd” by Susin Nielsen (pub 2010).

Speak Your Mind