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    Updated on Apr 22, 2019. Posted on Apr 21, 2019

    18 Young Adult Books About Serious Issues That Really Stuck With You

    For everyone who grew up in the young adult section of Barnes & Noble.

    1. Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks

    Prentice Hall

    What it's about: Go Ask Alice is a fictional story in the format of diary entries from a 15-year-old girl named Alice. After unknowingly drinking a cola laced with LSD at a party — and enjoying the experience — she goes down a dark path of drug addiction and runs away from home.

    Why it stuck with you: The speed in which Alice's entire life changed after trying drugs for the first time was extremely haunting. It really hammered home all of the scary anti-drug messaging you got in high school health class.

    Get it from Amazon for $7.98, Barnes and Noble for $9.26, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

    Viking

    What it's about: Lia and Cassie are best friends and they both have severe eating disorders. Eventually, this leads to toxicity in their relationship and Cassie breaks off their friendship before their senior year of high school. Months later, Lia ignores 33 calls from Cassie one night out of anger. The next day, she discovers that Cassie died that night, alone in a motel room, as a result of her bulimia. Lia is immediately filled with guilt, leading to a downward spiral in both her physical and mental health.

    Why it stuck with you: The death of Cassie is devastating, as well as the idea of Lia feeling at fault for it. Friendships are of utmost importance as a teenager, and this book felt like a worst nightmare coming to life.

    Get it from Amazon for $8.98, Barnes & Noble for $9.89, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    3. Cut by Patricia McCormick

    Scholastic Corporation

    What it's about: After her parents and doctor discover that she cuts herself, Callie McPherson is sent to a residential treatment facility. At first, she refuses to speak to anyone. Slowly she begins to open up to the other people and explores the reasons why she self-harms.

    What stuck with you: The graphic imagery of Callie's cutting is poignant. For some, this was a first introduction to the concept of self-harm, an undeniably difficult topic.

    Get it from Amazon for $8.66, Barnes & Noble for $8.99, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    4. Burned by Ellen Hopkins

    Margaret K. McElderry Books

    What it's about: Burned follows a girl named Pattyn, the oldest of seven sisters in a Mormon family with an abusive alcoholic father. After Pattyn begins to defy her parents, she's sent away to live with her Aunt Jeanette. During the time at her aunt's, she falls in love with a boy named Ethan and learns that there can be more to life for her than religion. But eventually she has to return home, where trouble ensues.

    What stuck with you: You want so badly for Pattyn to escape her father and live out a happily ever after with Ethan, but the ending takes all of your hopes and stomps them into smithereens.

    Get it from Amazon for $9.09, Barnes & Noble for $12.59, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    5. Perfect by Natasha Friend

    Milkweed Editions

    What it's about: Following the death of her father, Isabelle Lee develops a coping mechanism of bingeing and purging. Once her mother finds out about it, she's sent to group therapy, where she realizes that the most popular girl in school, Ashley Barnum, also attends. They become close friends, and Isabelle starts to realize that no one is "perfect."

    Why it stuck with you: At first you're excited by the friendship between "popular girl" and "unpopular girl," but it takes a dark turn when their bonding turns dangerous, and you wonder if they should even be friends at all.

    Get it from Amazon for $3.45, Barnes & Noble for $7.49, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    6. Skinny by Donna Cooner

    Scholastic

    What it's about: The main character, Ever, is a teenager who rapidly gains weight after her mother's death. She has a voice in her head named "Skinny" that's constantly telling her she's not thin enough or good enough. With the help of her best friend, she begins to focus on another voice — her beautiful singing voice — and eventually realizes that she needs to confront "Skinny" once and for all.

    Why it stuck with you: The persistence of the "Skinny" voice, even after Ever gets gastric bypass surgery and starts losing weight, is haunting and truly emphasizes the idea that you can be your own worst enemy.

    Get it from Amazon for $9.99, Barnes & Noble for $9.99, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    7. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

    Atria Publishing Group

    What it's about: Nineteen Minutes is a novel that focuses on the events leading up to a school shooting that changed the small town of Sterling, New Hampshire forever. It intertwines the stories of the shooter, Peter; the key witness to the shooting, Josie; the judge of the case, Josie's mom; and several other characters.

    Why it stuck with you: The shooting scene is unforgettable, as well as the detailed instances of bullying and abuse. Nineteen Minutes really highlights some of the evils in high school settings that are less discussed.

    Get it from Amazon for $14.75, Barnes & Noble for $16.05, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    8. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    What it's about: After something terrible happens to Melinda Sordino at a high school party, she calls the police and the party gets busted. Her peers are infuriated, but she's unable to tell them what happened. Eventually, she hardly speaks at all. Through an art class, she learns how to express herself in a different way, and gradually embarks on a journey of processing her trauma and finding her voice again.

    Why it stuck with you: Melinda's feelings of isolation are communicated so well that as a reader you truly feel like it's just the two of you in a room.

    Get it from Amazon for $6.99, Barnes & Noble for $7.14, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    9. It Happened to Nancy (edited by Beatrice Sparks)

    HarperCollins

    What it's about: 14-year-old Nancy meets an 18-year-old named Collin at a concert and quickly falls for him. One night, Collin gets Nancy drunk then rapes her in her own home. Eventually she finds out that she contracted HIV from him, which then turns into AIDS. The book is in the form of diary entries and chronicles her emotional rollercoaster ride while dealing with the illness, processing the loving support of those close to her, and fearing what's to come.

    Why it stuck with you: Collin's actions bring on a fury that you cannot shake both during and after reading.

    Get it from Amazon for $6.48, Barnes & Noble for $8.99, or a local bookstore though Indiebound here.

    10. Tweak: by Nic Sheff

    Simon & Schuster

    What it's about: Tweak is a memoir by Nic Sheff and the inspiration behind his father's famed book, Beautiful Boy. It details Nic's dark descent into crystal meth and heroin addiction, and his journey to recovery.

    Why it stuck with you: At various points you truly feel like Nic might be able to shake his addiction, but each time he relapses you can't help but feel the hope for his recovery slipping further and further away.

    Get it from Amazon for $13.28, Barnes & Noble for $16.99, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    11. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

    Dutton

    What it's about: After Mia Hall is in a tragic car accident involving her family, she realizes that she's in a coma and having an out-of-body experience. While she's in the hospital, she's able to see and hear her friends and family around her, and finds out both her parents and brother didn't survive the crash. She also realizes that she now has an option; to stay alive with her boyfriend and grandparents, or move on to avoid the pain of living without the rest of her family.

    Why it stuck with you: Mia literally has to choose between life or death, and if she lives, it's without her entire immediate family. Enough said.

    Get it from Amazon for $9.81, Barnes & Noble for $7.99, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    12. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    What it's about: The Virgin Suicides chronicles the lives of five sisters through the perspective of a group of young boys who live in their neighborhood. After the youngest sister Cecilia kills herself, the parents of the Catholic family keep a tight watch on their remaining four daughters, and the boys become further fascinated with the mysterious family.

    Why it stuck with you: The ending of the book leaves you completely slack-jawed.

    Get it from Amazon for $13.98, Barnes & Noble for $15.59, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    13. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

    HarperCollins

    What it's about: In Before I Fall, mean girl Sam Kingston dies in a car crash, experiencing each vivid feeling of physical and emotional pain as she passes away, only to realize that the day has started over again. Sam has to relive the same day until she makes things right with the people she has hurt.

    Why it stuck with you: Sam's experience is the worst bad karma scenario imaginable and it can't help but make you think twice about every negative interaction you've ever had.

    Get it from Amazon for $9.89, Barnes & Noble for $9.89, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    14. Crank by Ellen Hopkins

    Simon & Schuster

    What it's about: Written in the form of poems, Crank tells the story of a straight-A high school student named Kristina. When Kristina goes to visit her dad in Albuquerque, she meets a boy named Adam who convinces her to try crank, AKA crystal meth. By the time she returns to her mom's place in Reno, Nevada, she's fully addicted and quickly finds herself in some menacing situations.

    Why it stuck with you: The free verse format of the book cuts right to the chase in a way that leaves no room for comfort.

    Get it from Amazon for $9.09, Barnes & Noble for $11.89, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    15. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

    Simon & Schuster

    What it's about: Kate Fitzgerald has acute promyelocytic leukemia. Her little sister, Anna, was conceived through in vitro fertilization to be a savior sister in case Kate needed blood or organ donations. When Kate needs a kidney transplant — a surgery that would be high risk for both sisters — Anna decides to petition for medical emancipation from her parents.

    Why it stuck with you: Your conflicting desires for Kate to survive and Anna to have control over her own body create an emotional tug-of-war from the first to last page.

    Get it from Amazon for $12.91, Barnes & Noble for $8.99, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

    16. Model: A Memoir by Cheryl Diamond

    Simon & Schuster

    What it's about: In Model, Cheryl Diamond shares her story of moving to New York City when she was just 14 years old to become a model. She details her day-to-day life on open calls, shoots and runway shows, and gives readers a window into the harsh inner workings of the modeling industry.

    Why it stuck with you: It was shocking to see how people in the industry ignored the fact that Cheryl was essentially a child as she made her way through the cutthroat world of modeling.

    Get it from Amazon for $7.49, or at Barnes & Noble for $10.79.

    17. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    Dutton Books

    What it's about: The Fault in Our Stars follows a 16-year-old named Hazel Grace Lancaster who's cancer has spread to her lungs. Her mom encourages her to go to a cancer patient support group, where she meets 17-year-old Augustus who lost his right leg to bone cancer. They begin to bond outside of the group, and feelings quickly develop between them. Augustus surprises her with a trip to Amsterdam, where he's determined to find the author of Hazel's favorite novel to ask him a question about the book's ending.

    Why it stuck with you: It's unlikely that any other book has ever made you cry this hard.

    Get it from Amazon for $7.59, Barnes & Noble for $9.11, or a local bookstore though Indiebound here.

    18. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

    Viking

    What it's about: Annabel Greene is entering her junior year of high school, and she's not excited about it. She doesn't know how to tell her mom that she wants to quit modeling, or about the traumatic secret she's been keeping to herself. But her family is extremely stressed about her sister Whitney, who's struggling with an eating disorder, and she doesn't want to add any more pressure. On top of everything, Annabel and her former best friend Sophie aren't speaking anymore, leaving her feeling friendless and alone. Things start to change when she forms a close bond with Owen, a music-obsessed classmate trying to get over his anger issues.

    Why it stuck with you: It's really hard to see how poorly Annabel's former best friend Sophie treats her — and her blatant lack of trust in her — with everything she's going through.

    Get it from Amazon for $7.87, Barnes & Noble for $9.89, or a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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