11 Brutally Honest Works of YA Literature

Just because a book is written for young readers doesn't mean it can't tackle serious subject matter. Teenagers in the real world have to put up with a lot of issues that are typically thought of as "mature," from homelessness to addiction and abuse. The books listed here cover these topics and more in a way that is both honest and accessible. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Young Adult Realistic Fiction: Our 11 Picks

Title Author
1. The Earthquake Machine Mary Pauline Lowry
2. My Friends Are All Strange Margaret Lesh
3. Flight Season Marie Marquardt
4. Where I Live Brenda Rufener
5. The Packing House G. Donald Cribbs, MA
6. The Other Side of Freedom Cynthia T. Toney
7. Don't Breathe a Word Holly Cupala
8. After the Fall Kate Hart
9. The Girl Who Fell S.M. Parker
10. Dreamland Burning Jennifer Latham
11. Aftermath Clara Kensie

8 Great Films Based on YA Novels

  1. The Fault in Our Stars based on the book by John Green
  2. Divergent based on the book by Veronica Roth
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone based on the book by J.K. Rowling
  4. The Princess Diaries based on the book by Meg Cabot
  5. Holes based on the book by Louis Sachar
  6. The Hunger Games based on the book by Suzanne Collins
  7. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist based on the book by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
  8. Bridge to Terabithia based on the book by Katherine Paterson

Literary Charities

If you want to spread your love of YA literature with those in need, then you should consider looking into these non-profit organizations that help kids and teens get access to books and high-quality education.

How To Deal With Obstacles

In Depth

Sweetness can be valuable in young adult literature, but sometimes it's best to strip away the sugarcoating and explore the more uncomfortable aspects of life. The books on this list take on everything from domestic violence to drug use and mental illness. In no particular order, here are eleven Y.A. titles that don't pull any punches.

First up, at #1, is "The Earthquake Machine" by Mary Pauline Lowry. Fourteen-year-old Rhonda endures a painful home life with her mentally ill mom and manipulative dad. Her only source of comfort is their Mexican gardener Jesus, who is her closest ally. When Jesus is deported, Rhonda runs away to search for him. Her adventure takes her across the Rio Grande to Mexico, where she disguises herself as a local boy named Angel to avoid harassment. As she travels by donkey across the desert, she learns about the borders that divide countries as well as people.

For #2 we have "My Friends Are All Strange" by Margaret Lesh. Overwhelmed by both the recent loss of her father and the pressure of being a high school senior, Becca has a nervous breakdown. Admitted to a psychiatric facility designed for young adults with mental health problems, she finds herself growing unexpectedly close with the other patients. Her perspective on what qualifies as "normal" is challenged as she and her new friends work through their disorders.

Overwhelmed by both the recent loss of her father and the pressure of being a high school senior, Becca has a nervous breakdown.

Coming in at #3 is "Flight Season" by Marie Marquardt. Home for the summer following a particularly difficult first year at college, Vivi lands an internship at a hospital. She is assigned to the heart ward, where she encounters a familiar face from her past: T.J. Carvalho, who once witnessed her having an epic meltdown. The pair must spend the next three months together as they care for Angel, an irascible Guatemalan patient who has a lot to teach them about love and friendship.

At #4 we get "Where I Live" by Brenda Rufener. Linden might look like any ordinary high school student, but in reality she's a homeless kid who's living in the halls of the building. Thanks to her best friends and her job as school news editor, she's able to keep this fact hidden... for a while, anyway. When she starts investigating popular girl Bea, who seems to be suffering from domestic abuse, Linden's desire to expose the violence might end up putting her in danger.

Arriving at #5 is "The Packing House" by G. Donald Cribbs. Plagued by the resurfaced trauma of his past and the bullies who have exploited it, sixteen-year-old Joel escapes into the woods. But instead of finding release there, he struggles to survive as a runaway while coping with the nightmares that keep haunting him. As he musters enough strength to piece together the broken shards of his memory, Joel wonders if those back home, including his crush Amber Walker, will ever be able to accept him as he is.

But instead of finding release there, he struggles to survive as a runaway while coping with the nightmares that keep haunting him.

For #6 we find "The Other Side of Freedom" by Cynthia T. Toney. In a small farming town in Prohibition-era Louisiana, thirteen-year-old Sal watches in horror as mobsters coerce members of his Italian immigrant family into bootlegging. When their crimes result in a man's death, Sal's father is blamed, and growing hostilities from the community put everyone's lives at risk. Difficult moral choices must be made as Sal goes up against the corruption and bigotry pervading his town.

At #7 is "Don't Breathe a Word" by Holly Cupala. In addition to her life-threatening asthma, Joy is dealing with parents who smother her and a boyfriend whose behavior has turned abusive. Tired of suffering, she abandons her domestic life and sets out to find Creed, a homeless boy who once offered her his help. Living with him and his two pals on the streets of Seattle, Joy learns the harsh realities of surviving without a home. She also discovers that her new friends might be able to help her find the peace she's been looking for.

For #8 we have "After the Fall" by Kate Hart. Despite the fact that seventeen-year-old Raychel has snuck into her best friend Matt's bedroom at night, their relationship is purely platonic. Matt wants to take things further, but Raychel is only interested in the emotional support he can provide her while she recovers from family issues and a recent sexual assault. When she begins a secret affair with Matt's lackadaisical younger brother Andrew, the tenuous dynamic between the three teens reaches a tipping point.

Matt wants to take things further, but Raychel is only interested in the emotional support he can provide her while she recovers from family issues and a recent sexual assault.

Coming in at #9 is "The Girl Who Fell" by S.M. Parker. Zephyr is a tenacious high school senior focused on going to college and leading her hockey team to victory. Then comes Alec, a winsome goaltender who throws her completely off course. What begins as a genial relationship between the two turns into something intense and unwieldy as Zephyr finds her life spinning out of control. To reclaim her agency, she'll have to see her new boyfriend for the threat he really is.

For #10 we have "Dreamland Burning" by Jennifer Latham. Alternating between the perspectives of two mixed-race teens living one hundred years apart, this poignant page-turner illuminates the legacy of U.S. race relations. In present-day Oklahoma, Rowan is drawn into the painful Jim Crow past when she investigates a skeleton she discovers on her family's property. Nearly a century earlier, Will Tillman is caught up in the violence of the 1921 Tulsa race riots. In connected ways, both teens learn about the social and historical consequences of racism in America.

Finally, showing up at #11 is "Aftermath" by Clara Kensie. As a child, Charlotte was kidnapped and held captive for four years. During that time, she kept her spirits up by thinking about reuniting with her loving family. But when she is finally rescued, the people she returns to are hardly the loved ones she remembers. Her parents are now divorced due to the stress of the tragedy, and her sister is a drug addict. In addition, Charlotte claims there was another girl she was being held captive with, but no one believes her. As she vows to find the girl by whatever means necessary, she and her family struggle to readjust to a normal life together.