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Top 13 YA Books for Talking to Teens About Tough Stuff

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Young Adult literature is more than vampires, thank goodness.

Some of the most powerful YA books being written today are what I call "resilience literature:" stories about tough issues that teens deal with every day.

But it's not just teens. Adults are flocking to these books, too, maybe because adult life has its share of tough issues, and everyone enjoys well-written stories about hardship and triumph.


1. Mexican White Boy - Matt de la Peña
de la Peña deftly takes readers on Danny's journey growing up half-Mexican in San Diego. Danny is often judged before he even opens his mouth and he struggles with identity. Travel along with him as he spends the summer with his father in Mexico.









2. Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is a two-hanky story of the magnetic power of first love.













3. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
Acclaimed author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist who leaves the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. This heartbreaking coming-of-age story relies on Alexie's own troubling experiences.







4. Please Ignore Vera Dietz - A. S. King
In this tumultuous YA novel, Vera has always been in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. When Charlie dies under mysterious circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone, even the police. She must decide whether to share what she knows to clear Charlie's name.









5. Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
When an unlikely friendship forms between Aristotle, an angry teen with a brother in prison, and Dante, a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world, the two learn the important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.









6. Beneath a Meth Moon - Jacqueline Woodson
Three time Newbery Honor-winning author Jacqueline Woodson writes the story of a young girl carving a new life for herself after Hurricane Katrina kills her beloved mother and grandmother. When Laurel Daneau's haunting past catches up with her, she must battle addiction to come out on top.









7. American-Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang
Yang deftly mixes three stories together, blending together the tales of modern day Chinese American kids and classic Chinese fables. The result is poignant and action-packed.











8. The Rules of Survival - Nancy Werlin
National Book Award Finalist Nancy Werlin pens this thought-provoking exploration of emotional abuse, self-reliance and the nature of evil. A heart-wrenching portrait of a family in crisis.











9. The Fault In Our Stars - John Green
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.









10. Bronxwood - Coe Booth
When Tyrell's father gets out of jail he seems to have plans of his own, and he doesn't seem to care whether they're good for Tyrell. Tyrell can see the crash that's coming -- with his dad, with the rest of his family, with the girls he's seeing -- but he's not sure he can stop it. Or if he even wants to.









11. Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
This cult classic has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, spent over six months at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and inspired a major motion picture. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it's like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.





12. Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
Lina is just like any other 15-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941, until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Lina must come of age in Siberia within Stalin's brutal work camps.









13. The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta
The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family's hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.












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Laurie Halse Anderson is the author of SPEAK and CHAINS, among many others (she was nominated for the National Book Award for both titles). Her newest book, THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY, is out now.