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Take 5: Some of the Best Feminist YA on Rape Culture in Quotes

Sometimes there are books that I finish and I immediately think, I want my teenage daughter to read this book right away. Today I am sharing 5 of those books that are specifically about sexual violence, rape culture, and the ways we talk about and view women’s bodies. Some of them talk about female friendship, which is also important to to me. Some of them breakdown stereotypes, such as two of the titles (Exit, Pursued by a Bear and Moxie) which look at cheerleader stereotypes. This list is by no means an exhaustive list, as I had to keep it trimmed down to just five titles. So I put some parameters on myself: It had to be contemporary, which means books like Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future could not be included. It had to specifically speak towards the topic of sexual violence and rape culture, which leaves off a lot of other powerful and important feminist novels. I wanted the titles to be newer, which means that Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is not on this particular list, but it is definitely on expanded lists and for good reasons.

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If you want to add a book to this list in the comments, please share a quote from the book, the title and the author. Why in quotes? Sometimes, I like to share some of my favorite quotes so that the power of the novel can speak to you itself.

feminist1All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Quote

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.”

Publisher’s Book Description

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

exit-pursuedExit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

Quote

“If you think I’m going to apologize for being drugged and raped, you have another thing coming.”

Publisher’s Book Description

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.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

feminist2The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Quote

“But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.”

Publisher’s Book Description

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

moxieMoxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Quote

“This is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”

Publisher’s Book Description

An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school in the new novel from Jennifer Matheiu, author of The Truth About Alice.

MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

nowheregirlsThe Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

Quote

“‘The thing is,’ Rosina says, ‘people don’t want to hear something that’ll make their lives more difficult, even if it’s the truth. People hate having to change the way they see things. So instead of admitting the world is ugly, they shit on the messenger for telling them about it.”

Publisher’s Book Description

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they 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.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

Other Feminist YA Lists You Should Definitely Check Out

50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels – The B&N Teen Blog

34 Young Adult Books Every Feminist Will Love – BuzzFeed

100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader | Bitch Media

Booklist: Sexual Assault, Rape, and Dating Violence in Young Adult

YA Books About Rape Culture, Fight Against Sexual Assualt | Teen.com

When Talking About Sexual Consent, YA Books Can Be A Parent’s Best Friend

You may also want to check out our complete index for the Sexual Violence in YA Literature Project:

SVYALit Project Index

 

 

#SVYALit: ALL THE RAGE and rape culture, Trish Doller interviews author Courtney Summers

Today the book All the Rage by Courtney Summers is finally released into the world. It’s a great book. It’s an important book. It’s the type of book that encourages dialogue about important and very relevant cultural issues. While Rolling Stone is retracting their UVA rape story and causing many to question the reality of rape culture, many people are being reminded once again that sharing your story about sexual assault does not come without a huge, personal price. I read All the Rage sometime last year and have been waiting a really long time for this day to finally come. Not, however, as long as author Courtney Summers has. But today is that glorious day and I encourage everyone to please go read this book. As part of our ongoing #SVYALit Project, co-host (and author extraordinaire) Trish Doller is interviewing Courtney Summers. Stay tuned until the very end because we are giving away a copy of the book.

About All the Rage:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

 

The #SVYALit Interview

 

Q: Where did the idea for All the Rage come from?
I’ve been working on All the Rage since around the time I was working on Some Girls Are, so–2009, 2010. The plot changed a lot over the years. I spent a long time trying to figure out how I wanted to angle the story but at its core, it was always about rape culture and there were always two girls disappearing on the same night.
Q: I’ve seen you tweet about how long you worked on the book. What took so long? (Note: I’m not asking in a snarky way. Talk us through the process of building this book.)
All the Rage was an extremely difficult book for me to write for a lot of reasons. It’s one of my most ambitious novels and I really pushed myself with it. When approaching a subject like rape culture, it’s very important to be conscious of what you’re bringing to a larger conversation; I took the long way around trying to figure out the plot–I’d think I had it, I’d draft it, and then I’d realize I didn’t have it at all. Each time I started over, I felt like I was failing, which wasn’t the right way to look at it, but the dent in my confidence slowed things down a little. Finally, All the Rage was the first book I sold after my father died–it was just a few months following his passing–and I, naively, didn’t anticipate how much it would affect my writing. I was a different person than I was before he died and it changed my process. I pretty much had to relearn it.
Q: What do you say to someone who says “Stop writing teen rape books, please!”?
No. And I say no because when someone says, “Stop writing teen rape books, please!” what they’re telling me to do is stop talking about rape culture, about the consequences of rape culture, about victim-blaming, about consent, about the ways we fail victims and survivors of sexual violence. I won’t stop talking about that. Silence perpetuates rape culture. Talking about it raises awareness and makes demands on us to to do better. We need to do better.
Q: You’ve talked before about likability and I know I am tired as hell of people who can’t sympathize with my character because she is a bitch/slut/bad daughter. Where do you think this whole notion of unlikeable characters being unworthy of sympathy comes from? What makes society believe only “good” people deserve justice?
When I talk about likability, I’m specifically talking about it as it relates to female characters and how their gender might affect reader perceptions of their likability. (Which is not to say male characters aren’t judged and deemed unworthy of sympathy, as well.) We have so many gender-related expectations of how girls should be–they must always be nice, reserved, non-violent, polite, and on and on–that as soon as a girl starts operating outside of those parameters, we becomes very hard on them. I feel the more a female character challenges those expectations, the higher the chance they will come across as unlikable to people. I think when girls challenge those expectations, we become uncomfortable. When we’re uncomfortable, often our first instinct is to punish and reject the source of that discomfort. Now, the source is really our culture–we need to take a hard look at why we box girls in this way–but not everyone recognizes that or wants to. So our first response is to deny these girls our understanding, or feel less obligated to try to understand them.
Q: I love the idea of Romy using nail polish and lipstick as armor. Was that an early choice or did it germinate as you were writing?
Thank you! I went through so many drafts of All the Rage, it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when the lipstick started coming into play. I think it was relatively early on. It germinated as I was writing. As other pieces started falling into place, Romy’s make-up ritual became more and more a direct response to everything happening around her.
Q: I don’t think a book has ever made me so angry with society and the rape culture. Did you deliberately set out to piss people off or was that just the pleasant result?
Thank you so much! As soon as a book is published, reader response is totally out of my hands–but I really do hope when people finish All the Rage, they’re angry about rape culture.
Q: Now that we are all really pissed off, what would you hope your readers do about that anger?
I hope they channel that anger into keeping the conversation about rape culture going, into advocating for victims and survivors, into educating themselves and others.

The Giveaway

Want to read All the Rage? Of course you do! Trish is giving away a HB copy. Just enter the Rafflecopter thingy below by Midnight on Monday, April 20th to be entered. Open to U.S. residents only please. We really want to get this book out into the world so we tried to come up with as many easy ways to enter as possible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Meet the Authors

About Courtney Summers

Courtney Summers was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. To date, she has authored five novels. Her first novel, Cracked Up to Be, was published when she was 22 and went on to win the 2009 CYBIL award in YA fiction. Since then, she’s published four more books–Some Girls AreFall for AnythingThis is Not a Test and her newest novel, All the Rage.

About Trish Doller

I was born in Germany, grew up in Ohio, and graduated with a degree in journalism from Ohio State University. Married someone really awesome and moved around with him a bit from Maine to Michigan and back to Ohio. I’ve worked as a radio personality and as a staff writer for my hometown newspaper. I also had a couple of kids along the way who have become two of the most interesting adults I’ve ever met.

These days I live, work, and sail in Florida with a relentlessly optimistic border collie and a pirate.

Trish is the author of Where the Stars Still Shine and Something Like Normal, out now. In June she will be releasing The Devil You Know (which I’ve read and it is a seriously wicked good thriller).

To learn more about The Sexual Violence in YA Lit Project, please visit our index with all the links and book discussions.