Top Ten YA Books Dealing With Tough Subjects

toptentuesssTop Ten Tuesday, as  always, is hosted at my other blog — The Broke & the Bookish

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books That Deal With Tough Topics

On Sunday I did a post about why I read books dealing with loss/grief even though it may seem like I’m a glutton for punishment since it hits so close to home for me. I made a nice little graphic with those books on there and decided I didn’t want to overlap on this list.  Grief/loss of a parent is a personal tough subject to me and I’d love for you to check out that post and those books as most of those could probably have been added to this list here!

Teen Fiction Dealing With Tough Issues -- Suicide, Addiction

 Check out the extremely personal post I did about books dealing with loss/grief that totally would fit this topic but I tried not to overlap since the post was so recent!

1. Live Through This by Mindi Scott: This is without a doubt one of the hardest books I’ve read & it made me feel pretty uncomfortable — which I think is a good thing for a book to do. (My review of Live Through This).

2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: I read this so long ago, way before I even knew what YA was, and this had remained one of the most important and powerful books I’ve ever read. Seriously. I want all teens — boys and girls — to read this.

3. Cut by Patricia McCormick: I read this randomly back in the day and I remember thinking how honest and heartbreaking this book was. Tough to read but really good!

4. Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuenhert: I didn’t know which keyword to give this one honestly because I don’t think “addiction” really encompasses all that it deals with. This one was so gritty and tough to read but I seriously thought it was amazing and haunting and brought ALL THE FEELS. This one also deals with cutting FYI and quite a few other issues. One of those “issuey” books that doesn’t feel like it is all HEY I AM TALKING ABOUT ISSUES. The story is just captivating. (My review of Ballads of Suburbia)

5. Crank by Ellen Hopkins: This one is told in verse and MAN is this hard to read. I think this one, compared to Ballads of Suburbia, definitely deals with the all consuming mind of addiction whereas Ballads is told a little more at a distance in a way making this one a little more intense for me. At least from what I remember because I read this so long ago.

6. Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley: This one was hard to read! It doesn’t deal with just kidnapping but more so the aftermath of it. I didn’t want to give too much away because I went into it not knowing too much but it definitely deals with some psychological issues related to the kidnapping. Intense read! (My review of Pretty Girl-13)

7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This is one of those I read before blogging and I just found it so tough to handle as the main character learns why this girl committed suicide as he has to listen to a recording that this girl has made for all the people she feels “contributed” to her decision. It was definitely a hard read and I found myself ANGRY at the girl and didn’t know how to handle THAT because shouldn’t I feel bad?? WHEW. Love a book that challenges.

8. By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters: This one definitely left me feeling unsettled from start to finish as you really got into the mind of a girl who really was determined to kill herself. (My review of By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead)

9. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepytus: This is one of my favorite books ever. Even if you don’t like historical fiction I always recommend this one because WOW. It was so hard to read about what was happening under Stalin’s reign at the same time as the genocide happening in Germany under Hitler. I think it hit me harder because I honestly didn’t even KNOW about this. Just watching everything she has to go through broke my heart because I know it was real. (My review of Between Shades of Grey)

10. Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf: I won’t say this one was my favorite but I thought it was good and I devoured it very quickly because it was such a page turner! I haven’t read much dealing with an abuse in a relationship but I felt this was done well and did stick with me.  (My review of Breaking Beautiful)


So tell me…have you read any of this? What are some “tougher issues/subjects” books you think I should read? I’m always on the prowl to read more because I like being challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone and to be reminded of these issues others face.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Pretty Girl – 13 was SO good and fascinating. Intense is the perfect description

    My Top Ten

  2. Between Shades of Grey is so unbelievably heartbreaking it tore a piece of my soul. Same with Thirteen Reasons Why. Books like that are so brilliant when you can relate to them but horrifying just the same. PS-Still in awe of your cool formatting skills and ideas. 🙂

  3. Thirteen Reasons Why! You explained exactly how I felt about this book. I wish that Hannah (is that her name?) would have just talked to someone about how she was feeling… but then again she did talk to the guidance counselor and that didn’t really work out. ANYWAYS. Great list!

    My Top Ten

  4. I think you make a good point- it’s okay to sometimes feel uncomfortable (while reading or in life). It helps us grow, heal, and cope.

  5. I think I’m going to have to read some of these books. Especially Crank and Pretty Girl-13. Great list.

  6. I’d really like to read Live Through This at some point. Great list!

  7. Shannon says:

    Yes! I had a hard time with Thirteen Reasons Why too because I was really upset with Hannah. Especially how she dealt with the rape. I was SO angry. And it was hard to write a review about it because I felt like I should have felt more compassionate.

  8. I need to get my hands on a copy of Between Shades Of Grey! This list is so sad, but so good!
    My TTT

  9. Between Shades of Grey was just so sad. I had to study that part of history in depth as part of my major, but Sepetys’ writing was so good that she really brought the story to life. It was all the more sad, even though I wasn’t shocked, simply because I felt so connected to the characters.

  10. You’re another one of those people whose TTTs always add a gazillion books to my TBR list! Sheesh!
    I’ve only read 13 Reasons Why, and that book totally spent me. Probably it was a little close to home. I’m looking forward to reading these! Slowly and one at a time though. With light books interspersed.

  11. I read your review of Live Through This and I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS now haha!

    Other than Pretty Girl 13 and Between Shades of Grey I haven’t heard of any of the books in your list. I haven’t read ANY of them though.

    I liked how you categorised them all so it was a broad range of tough subjects.

  12. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. If you enjoyed Between Shades of Grey I think you’ll enjoy it. Have you read The Book Thief? Another good “issues” book.

  13. Great Post – I’m still working on my list – but surprisingly I haven’t read anything on your list yet – some of them look like tough reads but things I would def want to read.. Thanks for sharing – This was def a difficult Top Ten Tuesday to think through! Happy Tuesday everyone!

  14. I really need to read Between Shades of Grey. I just saw it on another list too. I own it, but it’s been sitting on my shelf.

    My Top Ten

  15. I really enjoyed Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. I agree with what you said about Speak and 13 Reasons Why.

  16. Oooh, I didn’t really know anyone else who had read Breaking Beautiful, but you did. That book was so good! Love. Also, I’ve only read like four of your pics so I need to read more pronto. Only not because they’re not on my review list. Haha.

  17. How, how, how (!?!?!?) did I leave Ballads of Suburbia off my list?!?!?!??!? Sheesh. Brain malfunction or something. lol Great list!!! We have four of the same. 🙂

  18. Is it any surprise that I’ve read almost all of these and the rest are on my tbr list? I think I gravitate towards books with tough subjects more than anything else because of the depth of emotion and they’re the stories I can relate to the best (I still don’t know if this is a good thing or not).

  19. Love Ballads of Suburbia. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. It’s hard to label that one, I agree. It deals with so much, but it’s a book that I think more people need to read. It’s just amazing, you know?

    Your list is great- so many amazing titles, some I still need to read.


  20. SPEAK is on my list, too. I don’t go searching for tough books (I’m a bit of an escapist reader), but I admire that you’re going out of your way to challenge yourself. Best of luck, and thanks for sharing!

    If you’d like, you can check out my list here.

  21. The only book I’ve read off of your list is Speak – and it was a POWERFUL book. I felt extremely moved after reading it, and I also felt like I got a better understanding for people who have ever faced that sort of situation.

  22. Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniels ripped my heart right out of my chest. Such a touching and heart wrenching story.

    Speak is one of my favorites. It helped me through some issues and I will forever be grateful to Laurie Halse Anderson for writing it.

  23. Speak is one of my top favourites. It’s definitely a life-changing experience, reading that one. I suffered from a major reader’s slump after finishing that one because I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

    My TTT 🙂

  24. Oh my gosh, Jamie, I completely FORGOT to put By the Time You Read This on my list this week! FAIL. But yes, agree with that, and all of your list in general.

  25. Got Between Shades of Gray on my list too. Loved that book!! Added a few of your picks to my to read list.

  26. I haven’t read any of these yet but some are on my TBR pile for some other time.

    My TTT

  27. I really, really need to read LIVE THROUGH THIS. Not only is the title from one of my favorite songs, I adored FREEFALL, the author’s first book. Love your list (and the cute and informative graphics for this post! :))

  28. I love this list. Tough books like these are my theme of choice. I also really liked Smack by Melvis Burgess.

  29. Yikes! I haven’t read any of these, but Between Shades of Gray is definitely on my list. I also really need to read an Ellen Hopkins book sometime soon. I just finished Wild Awake which was a fantastic look at hypomania and schizophrenia, within a really great story.

  30. GAH, NEED to read Live Through This. I just added it to my TBR jar so I’ll eventually draw it to finish reading it. I so want to read Speak someday, because all I’ve ever heard is how great it is.

  31. Such emotional, hard books on your list. I have not read any, but I have heard of quite a few.

    My TTT:

  32. I actually just got Between Shades of Grey from the library today and I am so excited to read it. Great list!

    My TTT list

  33. Speechless is a great book that deals with bullying!

  34. “Uncomfortable” is the best word to describe how I felt reading Live Through This, but it was a really good book.

    I keep seeing Between Shades of Gray on people’s lists, so I guess that means I should move it up my TBR!

  35. I really love realistic fiction and especially those which deal with difficult situations or topics! I’ve actually got a whole list of books that I want to read in this area. I guess this post has proved to me how much I need to read them!

    Also, Annabel Pitcher’s new young-adult novel Ketchup Clouds would be perfect for this post. The story is about a young girl who has committed a murder – then forces the blame on an innocent man. Very interesting.

  36. As a teen reader, I have to say that one of my absolute favorite books is Forgive Me Leonard Peacock