Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Reproductive Rights in YA Lit

Today Christie and I are talking about Reproductive Rights and Abortion in YA literature.  Here is a list of 5 books where teens acknowledge that abortion exists in their world.  Some of them consider it and decide it is not the right option for them, and others do make the choice to terminate their pregnancy.  It is important that a wide variety of discussions and choices and reactions be represented because it reflects the real world, the world teens are living in and allows them to make more informed opinions and choices because it helps them develop a more complete picture.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

“You can’t just plan a moment when things get back on track, just as you can’t plan the moment you lose your way in the first place.” 

Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she’s carrying his baby, she’s devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it’ll never break–because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever. (Goodreads)

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

“I stretch my fingers across my belly and glide my hand back and forth, waving softly. Sometimes I think I feel a hand reaching out for mine. Or it could be a foot, kicking my hand away. I wish I could tell the difference.” 

Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their “one-time thing” is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind. (Goodreads)

Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti

 “A lot of life is just surviving what happens.” 

Scarlett Hughes is overly involved in the lives of everyone around her, and exceptionally interested in the habits of her neighbors. But Scarlett is thrust solidly into her own life when her sister, Juliet, returns home from school—pregnant and surprisingly married to a sweet, handsome man whom she seems to have no interest in, but who is hopelessly in love with her. Forced to take a look inward for the first time, Scarlett discovers the necessity of dreams, as well as the necessity of facing reality and speaking the truth. (Goodreads)

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

“In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive. (Goodreads)

Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein

 “Words aren’t magic,” Rawe said, “but talking, opening up can be.”

There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about. (Goodreads)

Do you know of other titles where the issues are discussed? Share with us in the comments.


  1. Twitter recommendations: Love and Haight by Susan Carlton & In Trouble by Ellen Levine. (from Kellye Crocker)

  2. Hurray for Ellen Levine's In Trouble. Ellen is much missed and that book was very important to her.

  3. danielle says:

    Article 5 by Kristen Simmons deals with a US where having a child out of wedlock is illegal and the children are considered property of the state.

  4. Another recommendation via Yalsa-bk:Varian Johnson's My Life as a Rhombus

  5. Oh that is interesting, thank you. I think Christie has maybe recently read that and was going to write a review. I'll have to ask her about it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Have a look at Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Every Little Thing in the World Nina de Gramont

  8. Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally tells the story of how a (very religious Christian) girl who just graduated from high school feels incredible guilt over helping her friend get an abortion.

  9. It's not exactly discussed, but in Rita William's Garcia's Like Sisters on the Homefront, the young girl is forced to have an abortion by her mother.

  10. I'll have to look into it. Thank you.

  11. I will, thank you.

  12. Thank you

  13. This sounds like an interesting take on the subject, thank you for the recommendation

  14. Thank you for adding to the list. I have read some by Garcia, but not this title. I'll have to look into it.

  15. Bumped by Megan McCafferty is an interesting take on teen pregnancy. It is set in an alternate future where a virus has sterilized all adults, leaving teens as the only people who can conceive. It doesn't cover abortion though.

  16. UNSAID by Anika Cassidy takes place in the Midwest in a typical small city. The main character, sixteen-year-old Janice, is a quiet, responsible kid who tells her story in journal format. VOYA calls it “a good read” and also says, “Abortion is treated in a realistic, noninflammatory, straightforward manner. . . the author does not preach or provide easy answers. Teen readers definitely will want to discuss the book.”

    This one was published in 2005, but the world hasn't changed as much as we might think.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Small Damages by Beth Kephart – the main character has been sent to Spain by her mother because she refused to have an abortion.
    How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr – I feel like the option of abortion is discussed here as well.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Oh and OF COURSE in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie goes with his sister for her abortion and it has a huge positive effect on their relationship. He is the only person who knows and supports her. They cut this scene from the movie but you can watch it in the deleted scenes on the DVD. Very poignant.

  19. I liked both SMALL DAMAGES & HOW TO SAVE A LIFE. Both beautifully written books.

    I highly recommend ME, HIM, THEM, & IT by Caela Carter. Here is what I wrote on Goodreads:

    I couldn't put this book down because I could not imagine how Evie would find her way through the horrible choices that lay before her. Until the last fifty pages I had no idea how the book would end. Evie really had to find courage and grow up in order for this book to have a satisfying ending which was not too good to be true. Caela put her main character through the wringer and brought her out the other side whole.

Speak Your Mind