Finding and Redefining Yourself: YA Books About Tapping Into Your Inner Strength

YA books are often about change, featuring characters dealing with everything from commonplace life transitions to devastating loss.

Whether you’re going through a tough time yourself or just love to read with a box of tissues by your side, you’ll love these books about tapping inner strength during challenging times and learning to see life in a whole new way.

“This is what I know about loss. It doesn’t get better. You just (somewhat) get used to it.”

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Holding Up the Universe

Holding Up the Universe

By Jennifer Niven

After Libby’s mom dies, she retreats into the comforting havens of home and food. When she’s ready to attend school again, she finds herself judged and bullied for her weight. Jack, a student at Libby’s school, can’t recognize faces and covers by playing it cool. When Libby and Jack are assigned to the same community service program, can they learn to see and accept themselves exactly as they are?

“It is dark outside, and dark in the house, just like it must have been when she died. Dark in her head. Dark in her heart. You feel dark in your heart, too. You feel like that darkness is going to split you apart.”

How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow
How to Make Friends with the Dark

How to Make Friends with the Dark

By Kathleen Glasgow

As if the sudden death of Tiger’s mom wasn’t traumatic enough, Tiger is placed into the foster care system, where she’s moved from home to home, bouncing from one temporary family to another. But after Tiger joins a Grief Group at school, she feels less alone and begins to see a ray of hope shining through the darkness.

“My future has come back to me. . . . My heart has unclenched itself from a fist to an open hand.”

Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum
Hope and Other Punch Lines

Hope and Other Punch Lines

By Julie Buxbaum

Both Abbi and Noah have lived almost their entire lives in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Abbi is “Baby Hope,” the subject of a journalist’s iconic photo from that day, while Noah has his own connection to the tragedy. When the two meet as summer camp counselors, they decide to explore the story behind the famous photo.

“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
The Sun Is Also a Star Movie Tie-in Edition

The Sun Is Also a Star Movie Tie-in Edition

By Nicola Yoon

What would you do if you only had one day to convince someone to fall in love with you? When Daniel meets Natasha he is convinced that it must be fate. Natasha doesn't believe in fate, especially not when her family is 12 hours from being deported. Over the course of one whirlwind day, they can't fight their connection. But what does the universe have in store for them?

“Everything ends. Some things last longer than others, but everything ends.”

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner
Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee

By Jeff Zentner

Best friends Josie and Delia are the hosts of a campy creature feature show on local cable. But when the cameras are off, these two feel a little terrified about the changes that high school graduation will bring. Josie’s parents want her to attend a school away from home, and Delia is afraid of losing the support of her best friend just as she’s trying to reconnect with her absent father. Will the story of their friendship have a happily-ever-after?

“Be brave. Be yourself.”

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Field Notes on Love

Field Notes on Love

By Jennifer E. Smith

While heartbreak can feel like the end of the world, it can also spark a journey of self-discovery. Hugo and his girlfriend Margaret have plans to travel across the United States, but when Hugo gets unexpectedly dumped, he needs a new companion to use the nonrefundable tickets. Enter Margaret #2: Mae, an aspiring filmmaker who needs an idea for a project that will get her into film school. As they travel the country by train, will their growing connection help them get their lives back on track?

“I want someone who loves me because of the way I am. Not in spite of it.”

We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan
We Are the Perfect Girl

We Are the Perfect Girl

By Ariel Kaplan

The pressure to be "perfect" can be overwhelming. Especially when it means changing your identity to impress your crush. When two best friends combine their best features (Aphra's personality and Bethany's good looks) to win over a seemingly perfect guy, what happens when they BOTH develop feelings for him? Can their friendship survive their deception? Will they realize that they each deserve to be loved for who they are?


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