Friday 15 February 2019

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Why We Need YA that Features Sexual Violence

Why We Need YA that Features Sexual Violence

This post contains affiliate links.

Titles marked with an asterisk (*) were gifted to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger Warning: This post discusses sexual violence.

Girls Made of Paper and Fire by Natasha NganAt the beginning of the year, author of Girls of Paper and Fire, Natasha Ngan, wrote a thread on Twitter on parents saying that sexual abuse and abusive relationships are inappropriate content for teens. Her thread is really important, and I urge you to read it, but I wanted to give my thoughts on this, too.

I can't tell you how important it is for us to have YA books that deal with sexual violence in all it's forms. It should never be used as a plot point, but we need them. As Ngan points out, books that feature sexual violence are not for everyone, possibly they'll be triggering, or maybe it's just not something the reader is comfortable with reading. And that's absolutely fine. But there will be those who do need these books. Those who have experienced things they never should have. Those who are experiencing things right now. Those who are suffering, surviving, and need to know they're not alone, that they have nothing to be ashamed of, that there is help out there. Those who need to understand that these things happen, and not just down an alley by a stranger. Those who don't yet understand boundaries and consent, or what is even considered sexual assault. Teens are seriously clever, and if they are not ready for these kinds of books, they will avoid them. But you can't give a blanket no on these books when there are teens who need them. I needed them.

When I was 11 years old, I was followed home from school and sexually assaulted. I won't go into the details, but it was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced - and that fear never really went away. I'm doing ok now, but as a teen, I was deeply affected by what happened, for years. I didn't leave the house on my own unless it was to go to school, go to my Nan's, whose house I could see from my own, literally five minutes away, or go to the shops for my parents - their way of trying to get me out of the house (I want to point out here that I was a very shy child, and my parents didn't realise just how scared I was, they thought it was my shyness. I have had conversations with my mum as an adult which upset her, because she didn't know how I felt back then). Otherwise, I went with an adult. I never had a boyfriend, because boys can hurt you. I didn't have a social life at all until my late teens really. I spent years living in fear of what happened could happen again - or worse.

I didn't have books like we have now then. To be honest, if we did, I probably wouldn't have read most of them. I was a huge high fantasy fan, and pretty much all of them were adult. Only a few featured sexual violence of any kind, but there was never any focus on how the character felt and struggled, it was more about enduring until they didn't have to any more. Had it been available then, Girls of Paper and Fire is a book I probably would have picked up. It would have been the first book I read that looked at sexual violence where I would have felt less alone, where I could have seen there is help available, where I could have got that help. But it wasn't available then. Nor were any of the other books I've read since. The first time I read a book where I actually felt seen was when I was in my 20s. That is a long time to wait. These books helped me as an adult, but if there were more books like these available when I was a teenager, my life could have been so different.

These books are important. They are powerful, and so very much needed. They can make all the difference. Don't keep these books from teens because it's not what you want them to read. You're not protecting them; the world is a scary place, and they'll already know that. These books could help them deal with that.

Here is a list of, YA novels that deals with sexual violence (covers go to the book's Goodreads page):

Girls Made of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan Easy by Tammara Webber Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Girls Made of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan*: Book Depository | Wordery
Easy by Tammara Webber*: Book Depository
Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen: Book Depository | Wordery

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill*: Wordery
Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar*: Book Depository | Wordery
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler: Book Depository | Wordery
All the Rage by Courtney Summers*: Book Depository | Wordery

Sadie by Courtney Summers The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed I Stop Somewhere by T. E. Carter The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita Kalhan

Sadie by Courtney Summers: Book Depository | Wordery
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed*: Book Depository | Wordery
I Stop Somewhere by T. E. Carter*: Book Depository | Wordery
The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita Kalhan*: Book Depository | Wordery

Pointe by Brandy Colbert Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake Don't Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Pointe by Brandy Colbert: Book Depository | Wordery
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake: Book Depository | Wordery
Don't Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble: Book Depository | Wordery
You Against Me by Jenny Downham*: Book Depository | Wordery

Over to you graphic

What are your thoughts on YA novels that deal with sexual violence? Are you for or against? Do you have any more recommendations to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. this is amazing post and I'm so grateful you share your thoughts and experiences with everyone 💛 I totally agree. Like as I was reading Girls of Paper And Fire, my first thoughts were "wow isn't this too dark for YA" but's not. It's ridiculous for us to think teens need to be sheltered and coddled. And I LOVED the author's note when she says books are a safe place to talk about this, and readers have control (finish it, stop and discuss it, DNF it, etc) and I think that's important too.

    Also maybe teens who have dealt with sexual assault don't want/can't read these books. But I think it's also super important to note that their friends/family AROUND them can read these books and maybe know how to help better. Like as a teen I would've had zero ideas of what to do if I'd had a friend who'd been sexually assaulted. Now, after reading these books, you get an idea of what to say and how to help and how to be a support. So I think that's super important too.

  2. I agree that sexual assault can be a difficult topic, but when it's done right it can be a lifeline for teens who need it. I'm sorry that it took you so many years to feel seen, but I'm glad that you're sharing your wisdom with us today.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  3. I think books which cover this topic are important, because there are things people automatically label sexual violence, but other acts of sexual violence are often overlooked or swept under the carpet. Brining awareness to this is important in order to help people recognize it and also remove some of the shame and stigma associated with it. I read several of the books up there, and I thought the issue was handled quite well in the books I read. I am happy to hear you found books like this helpful ❤️