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#SpeakforRAINN15 – Celebrating 15 Years of Speak by Raising Money for RAINN

Fifteen years ago, the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was released. Today, this novel is a classic that still speaks to the heart of teens everywhere. I have teens regularly come in and ask for this book.

Speak is the story of Melinda, who has stopped speaking. As a survivor of a sexual assault, Melinda just can’t find the words to tell others about what has happened to her. It is a story of survival and recovery. It is a story about speaking up and out about horrific truths. It is a story which is tragically all too familiar to sexual assault survivors everywhere.

Laurie Halse Anderson has been a very active spokesperson for RAINN over the years. RAINN is the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, dedicated to working with survivors on recovery, raising awareness, and even recently working with Congress to address the widespread epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses. During the month of April, if you make a donation to RAINN, the publisher, Macmillan, will make a matching contribution. Here is the information from the RAINN donation page:

“In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month and the 15-year anniversary of Speak, Laurie has joined forces with RAINN to create #Speak4RAINN15, a campaign to raise funds and connect survivors with the help they deserve. You can make a difference this April by donating $15 to #Speak4RAINN15. Once you donate, Macmillan, publisher of Speak, will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar! $10 helps one survivor through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE), so combined with support from Macmillan, your $15 will help three survivors of sexual violence!

For over 15 years, Melinda’s story has given thousands of survivors the courage to come forward. Please join Laurie today in showing other survivors that recovery is possible.
Join the conversation on Twitter with @halseanderson and @RAINN01 by using the hashtag #Speak4RAINN15.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, it’s never too late to get help. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected to your sexual assault service provider, or visit online.rainn.org to chat one-on-one with a RAINN staff member. You are not alone.”

As someone who believes in the power of YA literature to raise awareness, promote healing, and change our culture, I made my donation today. Please check out the #SVYALit Project to learn how you can use Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and other YA titles to discuss important issues like sexual violence and consent with teens. And check out this powerful post from author and teacher Eric Devine about teaching Speak in his classroom: LOUD AND CLEAR, A REFLECTION ON TEACHING SPEAKING BY LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON IN THE CLASSROOM.

Loud and Clear: A Reflection on Teaching SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson in the Classroom (a guest post by author Eric Devine)

As part of the #SVYALit project, we reached out to author Eric Devine and asked him to write.  We wanted to make sure that male voices are heard in the discussion. And he is an awesome writer and teacher. Today he shares with us his experiences of teaching Speak in the classroom.  Please note, we want to hear from as many voices as possible on this subject. If you would like to share a book review, create a booklist, or discuss the topics, please email me (email address at the right).
The novel Speak is part of my school’s freshman curriculum. It’s the one book I hold onto until the end of the year, because there’s not much selling I need to do with the story, as I have to with To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, etc. The students read and discuss without much prodding from me, and it is during this discussion, two years ago, when the book went from a perfect end-of-the-year novel to detouring into dangerous and alarming territory.

My classes discuss the novel in four parts, after each of the marking periods. By the end, they understand the symbolism with the seasons and within Melinda’s artwork. They see the root of Melinda’s chapped lips, the strained relationships within the story, and, of course, her inability to speak about what has occurred.

During the discussion after the class had finished the novel, I kept hearing the word responsibility. Now, I had split the class into multiple groups, and it was buzzing through all of them, so I stopped the discussion and said to the class that it sounded as if they were focusing on the responsibility for the rape. They agreed they were. Part of me wishes I had pushed no further, but the majority is glad I asked what I did: “If you had to assign percentages of responsibility for the rape, what would that look like? Create a pie chart for me.”

This picture is from my classroom. The four groups varied, but one point became very clear, Melinda was sharing almost equal responsibility with Andy (IT). Now, you’ll notice in the image that there are more than four pie charts. That’s because there were dissenters within groups regarding what the “group” had indicated. Therefore, there are smaller circles for each group, indicating such. The breakdown of responsibility fell into three categories: Melinda, IT, alcohol/peer-pressure/setting. The analysis of all 10 circles, indicating the percentage of responsibility for the rape, amounts to the following:

Andy (IT): 48%
Melinda: 41%
alcohol/peer-pressure/setting: 11%
To say I was disturbed by what I saw would be a gross understatement. I read Speak when it first came out, while I was in college, and at no point did I ever consider that anyone beyond Andy was to blame. That’s because there isn’t. So, when my class of a roughly equal mix of freshman boys and girls––almost sophomores––looked upon their pie charts as okay, I almost lost my mind. When we next spent a half hour discussing what they had indicated, and they offered justifications for their reasoning, I was sickened. But, at that point, I’d been teaching for a decade, so I knew I couldn’t start screaming or preaching. I needed something greater.
I snapped the picture above and went directly to my school’s social worker. She was equally appalled, and so brainstormed what we could do. By the end of the week, we had formed a panel of upperclassmen who had connections to rape on a personal level. They were also students from various clubs, who were intelligent and articulate. The social worker advised them and then gathered handouts regarding rape statistics and misconceptions, and as a unit, we met my class.
The social worker began by indicating the responsibility percentages the class had assigned were unnerving and that she wanted to educate them a little. She distributed her handouts and talked a bit. There were some students who were visibly uncomfortable, now armed with such knowledge, but there was a collection of the most vocal for Melinda as the primary bearer of responsibility, who kept their eyes lowered and zoned out.
Then I introduced the panel. They discussed their personal connections to rape, and then I opened the floor to Q&A. The class was hesitant at first, but the upperclassman were savvy, and got the ball rolling. Soon enough, as I had hoped, the most adamant of the class started offering their opinions. The social worker and I waited in the wings to moderate, but the discussion ran itself, with a fair amount of point, counter-point argument.
The panel asked excellent questions and supplied spot on analogies for the class to digest. And they did. The boys (primarily) and girls who were the most adamant that Melinda was to blame were quieted and the social worker and I were pleased.
I continued with the rest of the year and all was fine. I felt like I had done a good job, had seized a teachable moment and triumphed.
And then I heard some of the most vocal boys joking. They were laughing about the discussion, about needing to play it safe over the summer, about making sure they stayed away from drunk girls, and to never, ever have sex with them.
The anger I had felt ignited ten-fold, but then came the stark and sobering realization that there was nothing more I could do. To dive deeper would force me to stray from the curriculum and to delve into more character education than I’m sure some parents would have liked. I have no doubt that some of the blame-speech came form home.
I had tried, and I had failed, and I have never been more dejected as a teacher.
It would be wonderful if one of the boys spoke to me after class and expressed his true compassion for the situation, and that he was just playing along, as teens will do. That didn’t happen, though. It would also be nice if I could write that all worked out the next year, that the group I had the previous year was an anomaly. The truth is, I don’t know what last year’s class thought about responsibility, because I didn’t ask. I was too afraid of finding out, of losing again, so I didn’t probe.
And I know how awful that sounds. And I am exceedingly sorry. As a man and as a husband and as a father and as an educator, I do bear a responsibility to have that conversation with my students and with my daughters, but I need help doing so. My one voice does little against a tide of vocal opposition, especially in my position, where the view is that I should be focusing on comprehension and writing skills, not social justice. 
Source: Tumblr
That is why this project is so important. Because if the social dialogue about rape changes, then maybe the misguided youth won’t react to Speak in the way my class did. If more YA books about rape get into the hands of these students, then possibly their perceptions will change. They won’t see victims as other and as responsible.Hopefully they’ll recognize the victims as members of their class, their friends, their family. And hopefully never, themselves.
But the current irony abounds. The voice of the most ignorant resounded over our conversation about rape, the pain of it, and the compounding torture of having to speak about it. There is little doubt in my mind that victims know this, intuitively. Why wouldn’t they? It’s what they hear. And at some point we, as a society, express that this is okay. I don’t know why, but I hope that some time soon we will make it a point to address the scope of this issue. I hope we make it a priority.

Until then, I will do my part to keep the dialogue going in my class, so that when the change comes, I can appreciate it, loud and clear

Eric Devine is a teacher and author of the new young adult novels Tap Out and Dare Me published by Running Press Kids.  His upcoming novel is called PRESS PLAY. You can read more about it at his webpage or at Goodreads. He previously blogged for us after asking his male students if boys like to read in the post SHOW ME HOW TO LIVE.
You can find a variety of resources, statistics and more at the SYYALit Tumblr Archive to help get the conversation going.

Book Review – The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I am sincerely afraid my review will not do justice to this book. Scratch that. I am completely certain that my review will not do justice to this book.

Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have quit their life on the road to return home for her senior year of high school. Their past years were spent traveling – Andy driving long haul trucks, Hayley doing home school. Sort of. Andy is determined that Hayley will spend her senior year of high school establishing a good record so she will have a chance of getting into college. Hayley isn’t sure she wants to go to college. This would be enough conflict for most YA novels, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface. Hayley and Andy are barely hanging on, both of them devastated by Andy’s post traumatic stress disorder, a result of his time spent in the military.

Throughout the story, we watch, impotent, as Haley and Andy’s lives gradually crumble. There are periods of rebuilding, attempts at healing and a fresh start, but everything inexorably falls apart. And it is devastating, though ultimately hopeful.

The thing is, I don’t remember when I first heard about post traumatic stress disorder. I do remember, however, thinking, “Oh! Well that explains a lot of things, especially the lives of all of those Vietnam veterans.” And then I basically cataloged it away as an explanation of the behavior and actions of anyone who had been through a traumatic experience. I never really stopped to consider the impact of PTSD on friends and family members. I live a relatively sheltered life; I never really stopped to consider anything at all. But this book – this book stopped me cold.

Ragged and raw and realistic, but also intimate, personal, and incredibly nuanced, Anderson’s story of one family’s struggle with PTSD is brilliant and moving.

You can learn more about PTSD by visiting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs web site

Karen’s take:
I read this yesterday while driving cross country from Ohio to Texas.  At one point near the end, I completely just started hardcore bawling. My husband and two kids were all, “are you okay?” This was such a moving and realistic portrait of truly broken people.  Not just Hayley and her dad, but the supporting cast as well – including a great boyfriend, Finn, whose family is being torn apart by a drug addicted sister.  And then there is Gracie, a best friend whose family is falling apart.  These are the teens I know, the teens I work with.  This is their story, these are their struggles.

Hayley is trying desperately to keep very dark secrets because where she is – as terrifying as it is – is nothing compared to the unknown of being removed from her father.  She reminds me in ways of the MC in Rotters by Daniel Kraus, also trying to survive a desperate situation and keep it a secret.  Or the MC in Don’t You Dare Read This, Mr. Dunphrey.

And Hayley, she has been burned by life. Abandoned at every turn.  So being in a relationship is hard.  Here is where there is some real nuance to Anderson’s storytelling; Hayley is often an unlikable main character – she even states that she is being a bitch as she is in fact being one – but she can’t get too close or be too honest.  Her life is a tapestry loosely woven and gentling tugging even one string of truth will make it all unravel.  It is such fantastic storytelling and character development.

Also, she made me ugly cry.  It is possible that the only other author who has done that is Gayle Forman in If I Stay.  But when the things that you know must eventually happen do in fact happen, your gut is sliced open and your heart is wrenched out and damn it, you wanted to be wrong for Hayley and her dad.  

Hayley’s dad, so very, very broken.  I loved him.  This is such a beautiful portrayal of what it is to be haunted by memories, to wake up sweating in the night because the blade of memory keeps twisting, to try and self-medicate the memories and heartache away.  This is some A+ storytelling.  And such an important story because so many of our Veterans are coming home damaged, we need to do more for them.

Robin’s Top 10 Books for 2013

So yes, to be honest, this is a somewhat odd list. These are the top 10 books I enjoyed in 2013. A couple of them are children’s books, a couple of them were published before 2013, a couple haven’t come out yet (and one I haven’t finished.) What can I say? Being a librarian is weird.

Let’s start with the children’s books. I have friends with a 4 month old who will go completely still if you read to him (a kindred soul.) My first encounter with Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry was at his house, but I have yet to find a toddler who doesn’t sit still for it. It is the perfect combination of engaging text and illustrations, regularly punctuated by the truck saying “Beep! Beep!” which all toddlers seem to love. This book is a wonder – you should by it for all of your expectant friends. The other children’s book is Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk. I was just excited to find one of his I can read without getting completely freaked out. My twin 5 year old friends loved it, too.

Two of my favorite books from this year haven’t come out yet – Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins and The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. I have to be honest, I would read a washing machine manual written by either of these authors, so when I get my hands on an advanced copy of one of their titles, I can’t resist. I reviewed Rebel Belle for TLT here. I can say with the utmost confidence that IKoM is going to be a very important book for a very long time. Add both to your list for next year.

Sarah Rees Brennan continued last year’s brilliantly funny, gender-swapped gothic fantasy Unspoken with this year’s Untold. Most readers I’ve seen comment on it are overwhelmed by the feels. I’m just along for the ride (it’s a good one.) Also, team Angela.

You can read my review of Meg Rosoff’s Picture Me Gone, which I was unsurprised to find on the National Book Awards shortlist for Young People’s Literature. (I was a bit surprised to find it in the Young Adult category of the NYT Notable Children’s Books of 2013. It belongs in the Middle Grade section. Feel free to argue with me in the comments.)

Jasper Fforde (my favorite author) finally had his sequel to The Last Dragonslayer published in the US this year. You can read my review of Song of the Quarkbeast here.

Holly Black is a certifiable genius. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is just excess evidence in this case. I gush over it here.

What can I say about Eleanor and Park that hasn’t already been said? It has one of the world’s most adorable authors (you should follow her on Twitter.)  It’s beautiful and sweet and charming and completely draws you in to its world. And it’s devastating. I confess that this is the one I haven’t finished. It just hurt too much. I could see where certain things were going and I couldn’t cope. It’s waiting for me, though, right there on my bookshelf for when I am ready. That says a lot, doesn’t it, that it’s on my top 10 list and I haven’t finished it?

And finally, there is Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. I realize that this was published in 2012, but I finally got around to reading it a couple of months ago. I remember there being a rather significant buzz about it when it came out. I also remember there being several books published in that time frame with very similar titles, and getting them all confused. The buzz was sufficient for it to make it onto my (extremely limited) library purchase list, though, and I finally picked it up when I was stuck supervising something extremely boring at work. It is amazing! I was immediately drawn in to the story, and delighted to find that the author had so completely realized her fantasy world. If you missed it as well, I highly recommend it.

Christie’s To Drool For: January 2014 Titles

Oh, January. New year, snow, hot chocolate, and NEW BOOKS!!!!!!

Haley and her father Andy have been on the road for the past five years, always moving, avoiding the demons from her dad’s PTSD. They’ve finally returned to Hayley’s hometown, but will that make things better or worse, and will Hayley finally be able to have a normal life.

The sequel to Better Nate than Never, Nate is finally headed to BROADWAY!  Off to start rehearsals for E.T.: The Musical, nothing turns out to be exactly like he expects. Can his lucky rabbit’s foot save the day, or will he need more than that to see his name in lights?

The second novel of Miss Peregrine’s series, Hollow City starts right in 1940. Jacob and his friends have to journey to London, the Peculiar Capital of the World, discovering new creatures, aliens, and peculiarities along the way.

Book two of the Testing series, Cia is now a freshman in Tosu City- and even though the government has tried to erase the horrors she endured during the Testing, she remembers. Balancing the line between what to reveal to whom, and how far to go can have deadly consequences, and the future of everyone is at stake.
The conclusion to Starters. Someone is after Callie and Michael- Starters, teens who help adults relive their youth in exchange for food, money, and safety. While the body bank is destroyed, the Enders (adults) can still control her while the chip is in her head- including hurting people she loves.
In the sequel to Pantonmime, Micah and Dystran have left the circus behind, and fallen in with the great magician Jasper Maske. However, people are still hunting for Micah based on his past, and Micah is discovering that magic is not all card tricks and illusions.


Sunday Reflections: Imagining Others Complexly (by Robin)

I have to admit, I’ve been really discouraged lately. All of the recent events in Washington DC, with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act website and the government shutdown, with it’s corresponding misinformation and lack of information, bringing our country up to the very brink of default for no particular reason, etc., has really caused me to question the direction our country is taking. I feel like we should be…beyond this? Maybe it’s just me.

In terms of the healthcare ‘debate’, I have a difficult time understanding how people can NOT see how this will benefit everyone. Yes, it might make your insurance costs or your taxes go up (slightly). But, in the long run, it will decrease the amount we pay for healthcare because we wont be subsidizing emergency care for people who are unable to pay. If everyone has access to regular preventative care, fewer people will need to access emergency care. People in general will be healthier, productivity should go up, the amount of people who rely on disability will go down. It’s a win-win.

I feel the same way about education spending, and not just because I work in public education. I look at my own state with it’s recent cuts to education funding, especially to our once flagship More at 4 program and wonder, “Do people not see how a (relatively) small investment now will save us SO MUCH in the future?” Forget the fact that it’s the right thing to do. The simple fact that it is so much more of a drain to our economy to have an undereducated populace, in terms of financial support, lack of productivity, and expenditures on incarceration, should be enough to convince people of the importance of fully funding public education.

And then a couple of things happened. First, there was this simple exchange I had with someone I follow on Twitter:

Once I got over my initial bout of flabbergasted rage over people’s inability to understand the complexities of living in poverty, I began to really think about the problem. What is really at the root of this lack of understanding? In simple terms, it’s generally attributable to a lack of ability to imagine others complexly (a concept I first encountered through one of John Green’s Vlogbrothers videos.) It’s a failing I encounter daily, even within myself, and I make a concerted effort to do it.

Second, there was the widely reported study on the impact of reading (literary) fiction on our capacity for empathy. If you’ve missed it, I would start here with NPR’s coverage. But, you can also find information about it here, or here, or here. Choose your poison.

And what I realized was, “This is how I can make a change.” Because that’s what it really boils down to for me. When I get really discouraged about the state of our world what I really need is a way to make a change. Every time we make an impact, no matter how small, is a force for good in our world. That’s what I have to hold on to on a daily basis.

If you’re looking for a place to start, I highly recommend the novels of A.S. King and Laurie Halse Anderson. I was recently able to procure an electronic advanced reader copy of Anderson’s upcoming The Impossible Knife of Memory, and I have to say it completely blew my mind. I’ve heard, over and over, about the impact of Post Traumatic Stress on military personnel and their families, but this book made it REAL for me. In our efforts to promote literacy in our youth population, we will hopefully also impact their capacity for empathy and their ability to imagine others complexly.

Take 5: Important Books on a Difficult Topic – Sexual Violence in the Lives of Teens

When I lost my baby, I went into a deep, dark hole.  The only thing that helped me claw my way out of the darkness was to read books about other women having a miscarriage.  It helped me know that I wasn’t alone, that what I was feeling was perfectly normal, and that I could once again – one day – find my way into the light.  That is one of the magical powers of books, they hold our hand on a healing journey and they remind us that the world is big and there are others that do in fact understand what we are going through.  And if you haven’t been through it, they can help shed light on the feelings and emotions that those that have may be feeling.

Statistics indicate that by the time they are 18 years old, 1 out of 3 (or 4) girls and 1 out of 5 boys will have experienced some type of sexual violence in their lives. A troubling statistic to be sure. One that needs to change, to zero.  But it also means that there is a need for books written for teens to include these types of horrific acts.  Not for shock value, but to be the books that remind those teens that they can claw their way out of the darkness.  And to remind those of us that work with and care about teens what their lives may be like, and the emotions that come with that.  As the mom of two little girls, my hope is that we will read these types of books, be horrified, and join together to work to make sure that no more children have to experience this type of abuse and the painful emotional after effects, emotions that can plague survivors for the rest of their lives.

These are 5 books that I think we should all read, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.  Please note, if you click after the jump there will be spoilers for a couple of new titles.  Also, please be aware that the discussion of the titles and of course the titles themselves can be triggers.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is one of the classics on this topic.  It is a haunting tale of the emotional after effects of one girls rape at a party.  So traumatized is she by what happens, she literally shuts down and loses her voice.  It is also about her slow journey to find herself again, and to speak up when the moment calls for it.  Laurie Halse Anderson is an advocate for rape victims and works with RAINN. 1999, Highly Recommended

Fault Line by Christa Desir

Although rape affects its victims greatly, it also affects those that love them.  Fault Line is unique in that it looks at how rape can affect those that love its victims, in this case the boyfriend.  Told entirely from the boyfriend’s point of view, we see guilt and the desire to rescue those we love as they spiral into the dark aftermath of rape.  Fault Line is also important because it reminds us that not all who are assaulted become quiet and withdrawn, sometimes they react by becoming promiscuous and trying to take control of their sexuality by having a lot of sexual experiences.  This is emotionally a very hard read, and it is very frank in its depiction of many sexual situations and strong emotions. It is a unique and important perspective. 2013, Recommended

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Callie has spent her life on the road fleeing with her mother, who kidnapped her from her father.  Along the way, her mother has had various men in her life, one of whom did horrible things to her.  Where the Stars Still Shine is a beautiful, moving portrait of the deep emotional effects of childhood abuse.  It is one of the most well developed emotional portraits I have read.  Like in Fault Line, Callie becomes promiscuous as a way to try to take control of her sexuality and to try and find the perfect healing sexual experience; It gives her a power over herself that this man in her past took away.  But unlike Fault Line, this story is told from the victim’s point of view so we get a deep, nuanced look into Callie’s psyche.  There is a scene where she freaks out during a sexual encounter because it triggers her that just rings truer than most scenes I have ever read.  It is also a book that leads Callie into a journey of healing as she finds people who truly love her.  As a side note, it is also a good depiction of mental illness (her mother).  Also, there are some disturbing, very realistic scenes that depict what has happened to Callie; though they are not graphic in their depiction, they are so spot on in capturing the terror and emotions.  2013, Highly Recommended

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

There is a rape that occurs in this book, and it is disturbing.  Very disturbing.  But there are also two scenes of street harassment in this book.  On the surface, they don’t necessarily need to be in the book.  But I am glad that Fama included them because it is a powerful reminder of what life for many can be like, how they can have these totally random and unexpected moments where suddenly they find themselves in a perilous position being harassed and frightened by both people they know and complete strangers.  They are effective reminders of what life is like because they don’t need to be in the story, but they are.  Just as these moments shouldn’t be in the lives of our teens, but they are.  When we have written about street harassment here in the past we get a lot of comments from teens who tell us about how they are harassed while walking to and from school and sometimes even in their school hallways.  They way these scenes are included in Monstrous Beauty is a stark reminder of the reality of street harassment. 2012, Highly Recommended

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Sexual violence doesn’t just happen to girls.  Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a powerful story of the emotional effects of rape and sexual violence on a boy, Leonard.  Leonard sets out on his birthday to kill himself, but only after killing the boy who did something horrible to him.  There is a powerful scene where Leonard tells a teacher what happened and he looks at him and says, “You know that boys can be raped, too, don’t you?” (not an exact quote from the book, I don’t have it sitting in front of me).  In that moment he has put a name to that which Leonard could not. 2013, Highly Recommended

In these books, the teens don’t always seek out help (in fact, they almost never do).  And the adults don’t always do the right thing.  But the power is in how well they capture the emotions.  And these are, of course, not the only titles on the subject; many would argue sometimes not even the best.  However, my goal is to capture a wide range of experiences and emotions to represent a wider view on the topic.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

More on the Topic in Teen Issues:

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
Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talking to teens about consent and rape part 1 and part 2
Should there be sex in YA books? 
Plan B: What Youth Advocates Need to Know 
Because No Always Mean No, a list of books dealing with sexual assault
Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in YA Lit.  A look at consent and respecting boundaries in relationships outside of just sex. 
Incest, the last taboo
This is What Consent Looks Like
Street Harassment

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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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

10 Perks of Being a Wallflower (by Heather B)

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower soon after it was published and was completely taken.  I passed it to my younger brother, still in high school, who said something like, “If they gave us stuff like that to read in school, I might still be reading novels.”  I listened to the audiobook (which I especially love to do with epistolary novels) and have definite opinions on the different narrators that have recorded it.  I am so glad that it’s been made into a movie and especially glad that Chbosky was the screenwriter and director.  It’s a book that I’ve replaced for wear numerous times over the years in every collection I’ve overseen, and was glad when it was finally released in hardcover this summer.  I’m a fan.  I’m betting that you have fans in your library, or you soon will.  What to tide them over with until their copy comes in?  What do you point them toward when they want to go back and see the movie again but are out of cash?  These are not all typically classified as YA, but as Perks is one of the greatest all-time crossover novels, I think that’s fitting.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” 

1.      The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indianby Sherman Alexie

He doesn’t fit in, he’s surprised to suddenly be a veritable celebrity, he knows there’s a tragic past, but he just keeps on going, plus there’s wry humor and books!  Perfect readalike, right?  Aw, heck.  Give them The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven for good measure and they’ll love you forever.  Alexie didn’t begin as a YA author, but his work so clearly brings to life the uneasy, exhilarating, devastating, and ultimately hopeful (in spite of the circumstances) nature of the teen years it will resonate with Perks fans [can we call them Perkies? Is that cool?].

2.      Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

One of Charlie’s most endearing elements is his ability to articulate his introspection.  Readers who enjoyed that about Perkswill love Dante, who comes from a quiet home with secrets, much like Charlie, and who also uncovers some important realities about himself though the help of a friend who is so open and giving and true to himself and his sexuality, Perkies will be certain to be reminded of Patrick.

3.     Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Jason is thirteen in 1982, and like Charlie a decade later, he is befuddled by first love, bullying, his parents, and the world around him as he navigates this time in his life with insight, introspection, and a love for music.  The upcoming release of adaptation of Mitchell’s The Cloud Atlas may encourage more teens to pick this one up, but you’ll likely have to offer it fist.

4.      Fat Kid Rules the World by K L Going

The music, the friendships, the fear of alienation, the risks, the ones who finally pull through for you – these similarities will endear Perkies to this Printz Honor title with a recent indie film that teens can now work to bring to their own home town theater – Sam would be all over that, wouldn’t she? http://www.tuggthefatkid.com/ (The fact that this movie is having a hard time getting distribution was a part of our recent YA Lit and Body Image discussion, check it out.)

5.      Harold and Maude (1971)

Perkies will wonder where this cult classic has been all their lives.  From the darkest of dark humor to the unusual entertainment habits to the off-kilter romance, to the superb blend of tragic and life-affirming hopefulness, this 1971 favorite will find a fast audience if you point them here.

6.      Little Manhattan (2005)

Yes, it’s about a couple of nearly 11 year olds. Just hear me out. The sense of wonder and discovery, heartbreak and recovery that Charlie experiences is so poignant.  The tweens in Little Manhattan experiencing love for the very first time will mirror that feeling for viewers.

7.      Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

Thomas is another author who took his talents to the screen (Chbosky was a screenwriter before he was a novelist; Thomas is well known as the creator of Veronica Mars).  Rats Saw God, though shot through with more anger and ennui than Perks, carries a similar tension with its structure.  Here, high school student Steve is trying to write his way out of failing out of high school with an assignment for his counselor.  In his essay, he looks back on love, betrayal, and his feelings about his parents.

8.      The Rage in Placid Lake (2003)

How does the son of infinitely permissive uber-hippies rebel?  Placid Lake graduates from high school and gets a job in insurance of course.  Ben Lee and Rose Byrne star in this quirky look at conformity and individuality. 

9.      Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is another novel that feels very intimate upon listening to the audiobook.  If you haven’t yet, treat yourself to the experience.  Like Charlie, Melinda in Speak undergoes a trauma she cannot articulate until she undergoes an awakening and transformation.  Many teens will have already read this, but it is a book that, like Perks, bears a reread. 

10.  Rocky Horror Picture Show* (1975)

The rollicking shows Charlie, Patrick, and Sam take part in are such great scenes.  If teens read Perks without having seen Rocky Horror, surely they will be seeking it out, either on the dvd shelf or at an elusive midnight showing. 

*breaking with alpha order here to end with the ultimate next step for Perkies.
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” 
What’s on your list for Perkies? Share in the comments. And tell us your stories about reading Perks or getting a teen to read Perks.  I don’t know about you, but this has always been one of my most stolen titles (along with Rats Saw God).

True Confessions of a Reluctant Historical Fiction Reader That is Obsessed with Epidemics: Top 10 Books about Epidemics

“Bring out your dead.” – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

When I was in the 8th grade, my history teacher was oh so kind as to send a note home to my parents letting them know I was failing history.  As you can imagine, that did not go over well.  And thus began my hate affair with history.  I have a hard time remembering facts, I am more of a concept girl.  Ask me to write an essay and I can knock your socks off, but ask me to remember a date and we suddenly have an issue.  You know those people that can walk around quoting facts and reciting lines from their favorite movies and TV shows? Yeah, that’s not me.  And because I always struggled with history, that might explain why I struggle with historical fiction.  I am not it’s number one fan.  But I read it.  Occasionally.  I mean, you know, once in a blue moon.

But, I am a huge fan of epidemics.  I wouldn’t want to live in one, but like zombie fiction, they make us question who we are and what we will do to survive.  In fact, of all the historical fiction books that I have ever read, hands down my favorite is Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. Here we have a female character, 14-year-old Mattie Cook, fighting to survive an outbreak of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia.  Fever is a great read because it gives you those little historical facts, but with plenty of action and adventure and a fairly kick butt heroine, especially for the time period.  Plus, people die from the fever.  Yes, it is sad and no, I have no idea what my fascination with epidemics is (don’t judge).  I can tell you that The Mr. is sick of watching the movie Contagion, so the other night I mixed it up a bit and kicked it old school and watched Outbreak (based on the book by Robin Cook of course).

“I’m not dead yet.”
“Well, he will be soon, he’s very ill.”
“I’m getting better.”
“No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.” – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

So, now you know, Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson is my favorite Historical Fiction book for teens.  And, here are some other great books that deal with epidemics, only a few of which are historical fiction as many of them are science fiction – it turns out that plagues are a great way to make both vampires and zombies (you know I LOVE the Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry) and bring about the end of the world.  And one of them is even nonfiction.

“He’s only mostly dead.” – The Princess Bride

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro
Deadly is a look at the typhoid outbreak in New York and the lady known to many as “Typhoid Mary”.  Not only a look at science, but an interesting look at the expectations of women in a different time and a young girl named Prudence who wants to be a scientist in a time when women were encouraged to pursue different types of things.
Plague by Jean Ure
Three teens return from a camping trip in the wilderness to find that London has been ravaged by a plague,  Haunting, isolating and chilling, this is one of the earlier plague books.  There is always a sequel called After the Plague.
Code Orange by Caroline B.Cooney
When Mitty Blake is doing a bio project he finds an envelope that contains two scabs.  Suddenly, his project has become a matter of life and death.
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Set on an island where the only way in and out is by boat, The Way We Fall is a chilling tale of what happens when an outbreak of illness hits that island and it is abandoned and quarantined by the outside world.  This is the first book in a trilogy and a tense, slowly building creeper.  You’ll wash your hands a lot and look twice at every person you hear cough.
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
Two thirds of the population is gone, struck down by an outbreak of influenza.  Stephen makes his way to a group of survivors at Settler’s Landing, but a prank gone bad causes a battle that will once again change everything he knows.  This book will make you afraid of flu season.
Quarantine is a high octane story full of violence that will remind you of The Lord of the Flies, but it is set in a high school where all the teens are trapped because they have come in contact with a disease that they carry but kills all the adults.  You can read our review from earlier.  You and your teens will waiting for book two.  It should also be noted that the movie rights to Quarantine have already been sold.
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
In the future, humans are kept by the vampires as cattle.  Allie does all that she can to try and survive and avoid becoming one of “them”.  Can she help find a cure for the disease that turned humans into the rabids, who kill human and vampires alike?  Put this in the hands of your teen vampire fiction readers, it has some interesting twists.
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Peeps is hands down one of my favorite vampire books because it is a very interesting concept.  Vampirism is created by a biological agent, a parasite, and every chapter of the fiction book is accompanied by a chapter that discusses interesting facts about parasites and biology.
Epitaph Road by David Patneaude
In the year 2097, 97 percent of the male population has been wiped out by a plague.  This is a new world in which women rule and men are dominated, an interesting role reversal from some of the historical time periods mentioned above and some fodder for good discussion.
The End is a fun, quick read that looks at the depiction of the end of the world in a variety of different books, TV shows and movies.  It is one of many great Zest Books titles that will fly off your shelves.  These books are quick reads, great for pop culture junkies and reluctant readers.  It is subtitled 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About . . . before it’s too late. 
Be sure to check out my Top 10 Apocalypse Survival Tips I Learned from YA Lit to help prepare yourself for the outbreak, if that should be what bring about the apocalypse.  Also, share your favorite survival tips or epidemic reads in the comments.  I’m always looking for more.
Do you think “the cheese touch” counts as a plague?  Maybe it does for your MG Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans.

Epidemics, Take II