The Top Ten YA Novels About Domestic/Sexual Violence

Sarah Samel ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and it is important that everyone is informed of this issue. It happens way too often, and young people need to be aware of the different types of domestic violence. These books explain how abuse is not just physical, but also deeply psychological and emotional, too.

1. Bitter End (Jennifer Brown)


Alex meets and falls for the new boy Cole, who is charming, sweet, and seems to understand her. But as the relationship progresses, Alex starts to notice Cole’s jealousy of her male friends and is having increased trouble ignoring his verbal pinches and put-downs. This book really captures how charming abusive partners can be and just how hard it is to leave an abusive relationship, especially when you believe that, underneath the abuse, the person still loves you.

2. Dreamland (Sarah Dessen)


When Caitlin starts dating Rogerson, it is almost “too good to be true.” Rogerson helps Caitlin forget the other hardships in her life: her neglectful mother, her missing sister. Caitlin soon finds herself dependent on Rogerson, and he takes advantage of her weaknesses. This book paints a portrait of a protagonist who knows she is on a destructive path, but can’t stop herself because she feels trapped.

3. Breathe My Name (RA Nelson)

Breathe My Name

Frances seems to have the perfect life: loving adoptive parents, supportive and great friends, and a wonderful new boyfriend. But when she gets a letter from her birth mother, she can no longer bury her past. Once upon a time, she was not Frances, but Shine, and had two sisters. She lived with her lonely mother. One night, her mother smothered her two sisters, and only Frances escaped. Now, her mother is out of prison and is after Frances. This book paints a frightening portrait of how a dark past can catch up to the present, and how it feels to have an abuser come back for you.

4. Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)


Mel no longer has any friends. Her best friend, Rachel, will not talk to her after Mel called the cops at Rachel’s party. But Mel has a secret, a secret she cannot tell Rachel or the other girls who now shun her: she was raped that night. The book follows Mel through her freshman year of high school as she struggles with her classes and the bullying she receives from former friends. The only place she can find solace is in her art class with her quirky art teacher. Anderson narrates with raw and compelling interior dialogue, and shows her audience just how hard it is to speak up.

5. Living Dead Girl (Elizabeth Scott)

Living Dead Girl

When she was ten, Ray stole Alice from an aquarium and kept her. Her name was not Alice back then, and she had a life. Ray is a pedophile that makes “Alice” perform favors and tries to keep her young. He starves her and endeavors to stop puberty. Now “Alice” is fifteen, and Ray is looking for and stalking another little girl. “Alice” is too old for Ray, and he keeps referencing killing her. But “Alice” does not know Ray is planning something worse. This book is extremely honest and unafraid to go into the details of how Ray threatens and abuses “Alice.” It illustrates the struggle “Alice” goes through not to try and escape, and shows just how docile she has become. Living Dead Girl paints a portrait of a girl who has become completely dependent on her abuser, and how repeated and prolonged mistreatment can affect a human being.

6. Beautiful (Amy Reed)


When thirteen-year-old Cassie moves from her small town to a large suburb in Washington state, she is sucked into a world of drugs, violence, and sex. While she tries to ignore the negative parts of her new life, it becomes increasingly difficult for her to dodge the abuse from the person she thought she could trust. Soon she finds herself in over her head, and begins to spiral downward. Soon she finds herself in so deep that nobody, not even people she thought she could trust, will help her. Reed really captures how heavily little decisions we make and don’t make can influence an end result.

7. Stolen: A Letter to My Captor (Lucy Christopher)

Stolen A Letter to My Captor

Sixteen-year-old Gemma is snatched from a Bangkok airport and transported to the Australian outback. Her captor, Ty, is good-looking and charming. He claims to love Gemma, and only have eyes for her. Gemma wonders whether his forcing her can make her love him back. Written from Gemma to Ty, this book is unique in that it captures the cruelty of abuse, but also the motive behind it. Gemma questions herself as to whether she does love Ty, a question many victims of domestic violence ask themselves.

8. The Rules of Survival (Nancy Werlin)

The Rules of Survival

Matt’s mother is physically abusive, and surviving is a daily struggle for him and his sisters. A chance of help comes in the form of Murdoch, a man who heroically rescues another child. When Murdoch starts dating Matt’s mother, things start to get better, but only for a little while. Murdoch ends the relationship with Matt’s mother, and Matt has to make the decision to speak up or not. If he confides in Murdoch, he could save himself and his sisters. But there is a chance that Murdoch may refuse Matt’s plea, and he will have to take matters into his own hands. This book is told in the form of a letter from Matt to his younger sister who was too young to understand what was happening at the time. The ending is bittersweet in that there is resolution, but in order to get there, Matt must go through more pain than he imagined he could take.

9. Because I Am Furniture (Thalia Chaltas)

Because I Am Furniture

Anke has an abusive father that abuses everyone but her. Anke is both grateful and terrified that she is invisible, and wants to disappear. But when she makes the volleyball team, she starts to build her confidence and finds her voice, a voice she didn’t know she had. Soon she is no longer invisible and is planning to make herself heard in order to rescue her siblings at home. This book depicts just how difficult it can be to develop a voice in an abusive household. Even once that voice is developed, it may be even more difficult to use it.

10. Breathing Underwater (Alex Flinn)

Breathing Underwater

Sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas seems to have it all: he’s good-looking, wealthy, smart, and popular. What his friends don’t know is the abuse he has to take from his father. When Nick starts dating a girl named Caitlin, he thinks he finally has a chance at a life. He confides in Caitlin, and things seem to be much better. But as he spirals downward with Caitlin, Nick realizes that he has inherited some of his father’s abusive traits. This book depicts a young man’s struggle to fight against his nature in order to become a better person.

These books depict a variety of domestic violence, from child abuse to abusive relationships that are both physical and psychological. A few books also acknowledge that (and this in no way excuses the behavior of an abuser) an abuser’s mind/brain chemistry is different, and how it is different. It is extremely important to be aware of these issues, on the abuser’s end and the victim’s. Identifying an abuser, or someone who is “not safe” could save a life, and everyone needs to be informed about domestic violence.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *