October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month where we acknowledge domestic violence survivors and recognize stories that offer opportunities to discuss complex topics. Browse the books below for titles you can confidently recommend to young readers on this sensitive subject. For more resources on this topic, please visit the Domestic Violence Awareness Hotline or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233.
A Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese
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After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they’ve never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father’s anger.
When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called “A Game of Fox & Squirrels,” Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.
But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn’t prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she’d ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she’ll lose far more than just a game. Perfect for fans of Barbara O’Connor, Lauren Wolk, and Ali Benjamin, A Game of Fox & Squirrels is a stunning, heartbreaking novel about a girl who finds the light in the darkness… and ultimately discovers the true meaning of home.
All You Knead Is Love by Tanya Guerrero
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Tanya Guerrero’s All You Knead Is Love is a contemporary middle grade coming-of-age novel about a twelve-year-old multiracial Filipino and Spanish girl who goes to live with her grandmother for the summer, gaining confidence through a newly discovered passion for baking, perfect for fans of Hello, Universe and Merci Suarez Changes Gears.
Sometimes you find home where you least expect it.
Twelve-year-old Alba doesn’t want to live with her estranged grandmother in Barcelona. She wants to stay with her mom, even if that means enduring her dad’s cutting comments to them both.
But in her new home, Alba forms a close relationship with her grandmother, gains a supportive father figure and new friends, and even discovers a passion and talent for baking. And through getting to know the city her mother used to call home, Alba starts to understand her mother better—and may just be able to make their family whole again.
Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman
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Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman is a heartwarming, fish-out-of-water own voices story about an eleven-year-old Japanese-American girl who finds her true friends—through the power of J-Pop!
Millie is attending a real school for the first time, and she dreams of finally having friends and a little bit of freedom. She finds her chance when she joins an imitation band of her favorite J-Pop group, where she’s thrilled to meet a group of misfits who quickly become a tightknit group of friends that are like family.
But Millie soon realizes that one of them is dealing with problems bigger than what notes to hit when it comes time for their performance. Can Millie help her friend, even when their problem feels too big to say out loud?
Jawbreaker by Christina Wyman
On Sale October 24th
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a refreshingly honest middle-grade debut novel about toxic sibling rivalry, socioeconomic disparity, and dental drama.
Max Plink’s life is complicated. Her parents aren’t getting along. The school bullies are relentless—and her own sister is the cruelest of them. Worst of all, her mouth is a mess. With a mismatched puzzle of a jaw, Max has a Class II malocclusion, otherwise known as a severe overbite. She already has braces, which means she lives on Advil and soft foods after each orthodontist appointment. But now Max has to wear painful (and totally awkward) orthodontic headgear nicknamed “the jawbreaker.” Could things get any worse?
Yes. The journalism competition Max wants to enter has a video component. But being on camera means showing her face not just to her junior high classmates, but possibly the whole city. Going viral is the last thing Max needs, but winning this competition is what she wants most. Turns out, following her dreams is complicated, too.
Inspired by Christina Wyman’s own experience with a Class II malocclusion, Jawbreaker is a humorous, heartfelt, and refreshingly relatable story.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
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From 2023 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate Laurie Halse Anderson, the groundbreaking modern classic Speak is a bestselling National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature with more than 3.5 million copies sold.
“Speak up for yourself—we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.
In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
Speak is also available as a Graphic Novel and Habla the Spanish edition releasing on October 31st!
Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love by Various Authors edited by Heather Demetrios
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In this powerful collection, well-known YA authors answer real letters from teens all over the world about the dark side of love: dating violence, break-ups, cheating, betrayals, and loneliness. This book contains a no-holds-barred, raw outpouring of the wisdom these authors have culled from mining their own hearts for the fiction they write. Their responses are autobiographical, unflinching, and filled with love and hope for the anonymous teen writers.
With contributors Becky Albertalli, Adi Alsaid, Libba Bray, Mike Curato, Heather Demetrios, Amy Ewing, Zach Fehst, Gayle Forman, Corey Ann Haydu, Varian Johnson, A.S. King, Nina LaCour, Kim Liggett, Kekla Magoon, Sarah McCarry, Sandhya Menon, Cristina Moracho, Jasmine Warga, and Ibi Zoboi.
A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen
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For fans of Girl in Pieces, All the Bright Places, and Girl, Interrupted comes a haunting and breathtaking YA contemporary debut novel that packs a powerful message: hope can be found in the darkness.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.
But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. And Ellie’s determined to find out why a piece of her was left behind.Told in epistolary-like style, Rocky Callen’s deeply moving A Breath Too Late sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places. Perfect for fans of the critically-acclaimed Speak, I’ll Give You the Sun, and If I Stay.
The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
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Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, Marie Rutkoski’s The Midnight Lie is an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves.
Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.
Nirrim keeps her head down, and a dangerous secret close to her chest.
But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away, who whispers rumors that the High Kith possess magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.
Don’t Look Back: A Memoir of War, Survival, and My Journey from Sudan to America by Achut Deng and Keely Hutton
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In this propulsive memoir from Achut Deng and Keely Hutton, inspired by a harrowing New York Times article, Don’t Look Back tells a powerful story showing both the ugliness and the beauty of humanity, and the power of not giving up.
I want life.
After a deadly attack in South Sudan left six-year-old Achut Deng without a family, she lived in refugee camps for ten years, until a refugee relocation program gave her the opportunity to move to the United States. When asked why she should be given a chance to leave the camp, Achut simply told the interviewer: I want life.
But the chance at starting a new life in a new country came with a different set of challenges. Some of them equally deadly. Taught by the strong women in her life not to look back, Achut kept moving forward, overcoming one obstacle after another, facing each day with hope and faith in her future. Yet, just as Achut began to think of the US as her home, a tie to her old life resurfaced, and for the first time, she had no choice but to remember her past.
The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta
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A lush, immersive debut fantasy about a group of women whose way of life is threatened by a new king; a fierce celebration of community, sisterhood, and finding our power.
Indir is a Dreamer, descended from a long line of seers; able to see beyond reality, she carries the rare gift of Dreaming truth. But when the beloved king dies, his son has no respect for this time-honored tradition. King Alcan wants an opportunity to bring the Dreamers to a permanent end—an opportunity Indir will give him if he discovers the two secrets she is struggling to keep. As violent change shakes Indir’s world to its core, she is forced to make an impossible choice: fight for her home or fight to survive.
Saya is a seer, but not a Dreamer—she has never been formally trained. Her mother exploits her daughter’s gift, passing it off as her own as they travel from village to village, never staying in one place too long. Almost as if they’re running from something. Almost as if they’re being hunted. When Saya loses the necklace she’s worn since birth, she discovers that seeing isn’t her only gift—and begins to suspect that everything she knows about her life has been a carefully-constructed lie. As she comes to distrust the only family she’s ever known, Saya will do what she’s never done before, go where she’s never been, and risk it all in the search of answers.
With a detailed, supernaturally-charged setting and topical themes of patriarchal power and female strength, Lizz Huerta’s The Lost Dreamer brings an ancient world to life, mirroring the challenges of our modern one.
Saints of the Household by Ari Tison
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Saints of the Household is a haunting contemporary YA about an act of violence in a small-town–beautifully told by a debut Indigenous Costa Rican-American writer–that will take your breath away.
Max and Jay have always depended on one another for their survival. Growing up with a physically abusive father, the two Bribri American brothers have learned that the only way to protect themselves and their mother is to stick to a schedule and keep their heads down.
But when they hear a classmate in trouble in the woods, instinct takes over and they intervene, breaking up a fight and beating their high school’s star soccer player to a pulp. This act of violence threatens the brothers’ dreams for the future and their beliefs about who they are. As the true details of that fateful afternoon unfold over the course of the novel, Max and Jay grapple with the weight of their actions, their shifting relationship as brothers, and the realization that they may be more like their father than they thought. They’ll have to reach back to their Bribri roots to find their way forward.
Told in alternating points of view using vignettes and poems, debut author Ari Tison crafts an emotional, slow-burning drama about brotherhood, abuse, recovery, and doing the right thing.
Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy by Faith Erin Hicks
On Sale October 3rd
New York Times bestseller Faith Erin Hicks is back with Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy, a young adult graphic novel romance about a hotheaded hockey player who asks for temper management lessons from the cool, calm boy in drama club.
It should have been a night of triumph for Alix’s hockey team. But her mean teammate Lindsay decided to start up with her usual rude comments and today Alix, who usually tries to control her anger, let it finally run free. Alix lashes out and before she knows it, her coach is dragging her off Lindsay, and the invitation to the Canada National Women’s U18 Team’s summer camp is on the line.
She needs to learn how to control this anger, and she is sure Ezra, the popular and poised theater kid from her grade is the answer. So she asks for his help. But as they hang out and start get closer, Alix learns that there is more to Ezra than the cool front he puts on. And that maybe this friendship could become something more….
So Much for Love: How I Survived a Toxic Relationship by Sophie Lambda
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Part memoir, part self-help book, So Much For Love offers hilarious and empathetic advice on how to survive a relationship with a master manipulator.
Sophie had always been cynical about love—until she meets Marcus. His affection and doting praise melt away her defenses. The beginning of their relationship was a whirlwind romance, but over time she finds herself on uneven footing. Marcus lies. He’s violently angry and bewilderingly inconsistent. Yet somehow he always manages to explain away his behavior and to convince Sophie that it’s all in her head.
The whiplash of this toxic relationship has Sophie’s head spinning. When she hits rock bottom, she fights her way out with fierce honesty, irreverent humor, and the help of Chocolat, a wisecracking, booze-drinking bear.