10 Honest Books About Bullying for Teenagers

by Iva-Marie Palmer

Photo credit: Christopher Futcher, E+ Colletion/ Getty Images

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and, though it’s a hard fact to face, our children will be exposed to bullying in one form or another — sometimes as witnesses, but sometimes (though we hope not) as the bullied, or the bully. Today, bullying can take many forms, beyond just name calling or physical intimidation in the halls, and it can be hard for a parent to be vigilant when we don’t know all that goes on in our child’s world, on their phone, and on social media. A good way to start a dialogue is through a book, and this collection of fiction and nonfiction reads on bullying offers a few places to start.

  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

    by Meg Medina

    In Medina’s novel (winner of the 2014 Pura Belpré Author Award), a Latina teen is targeted by a school bully. Piddy Sanchez has no idea why Yaqui Delgado is singling her out as the person whose ass she wants to kick, but that doesn’t make the threat any less scary. Word is, Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, with too-light skin and too-good grades. But Yaqui has no idea what Piddy’s story is (working a part-time job to save for college and trying to find out more about the father she’s never met). Medina’s book is a good one for reminding teens that everyone has a story, and no one’s life is perfect.

  • Some Girls Are

    by Courtney Summers

    A reminder that the worst bullying isn’t even always physical, Summers’s dark novel about climbing up the social ladder is a realistic look at the high school food chain. Centered on Regina Afton, once a member of the popular clique The Fearsome Five, Some Girls Are examines the power of being “frozen out” of a group and how girls use rumors and gossip to harm one of their own.

  • Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories

    by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

    In this anthology, authors including Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, Carolyn Mackler, R.L. Stine, A.S. King, and Jon Scieszka relate their own experiences with bullying. The vignettes reveal some were victims, some were bystanders, and some even the bullies, and should stir empathy on all sides of the issue.

  • It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living

    edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller

    Available from:

    The book is based on columnist Savage’s Internet video with partner Terry Miller to communicate a hopeful message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. It Gets Better compiles essays and testimonials written to teens from celebrities, politicians, and everyday people on how they moved on from the bullying and cruelty suffered in their formative years to lead great lives.

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  • Thirteen Reasons Why

    by Jay Asher

    Available from:

    A bestseller for nine years running, Asher’s devastating novel unfolds like a mystery and reminds teens to learn and remember how to be compassionate. Clay is one of 13 students sent a box by Hannah Baker, a student who’s recently killed herself. As Clay and his classmates try to figure out the reasons for Hannah’s death, they learn the sometimes seemingly little things they said or did that played a part in Hannah’s hurt. The novel is a good one for adults, too, for illuminating that everything we do can and often does matter.

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  • Vicious: True Stories by Teens About Bullying

    edited by Hope Vanderberg

    Covering every form of bullying, from physical and verbal to relational and cyber, the victims’ stories in Vicious win points with teens for their compelling realness. Though some of the stories can be rough to read, the book is an excellent one for younger teens because it not only makes them aware early on of what bullying can look and feel like, but also provides messages about how to feel strong and comfortable in their own skin, a powerful shield against potential trauma.

  • American Born Chinese

    written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang

    Not only do these three interweaving stories that tackle shame, racism, and self-acceptance deliver a great message in an entertaining package, but Yang’s book also proves that, yes, graphic novels are literature, and lit that sticks with you, no less. Recently named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Yang’s book carries a great message of empathy for others, and one of accepting and celebrating your own identity.

  • Crossing Lines

    by Paul Volponi

    Volponi’s novel centers on a jock named Adonis who, along with his teammates, makes a game out of making fun of Alan, a new kid who wears lipstick and is part of the Fashion Club. But when the football team concocts a plan to truly humiliate Alan, Adonis isn’t sure he wants to be a part of it. Volponi, who’s taught teens on Rikers Island how to read and write, asks a big question with this book: Do you want to be the person who fits in with the crowd, or the one who stands up for what’s right?

  • The Girls

    by Amy Goldman Koss

    Available from:

    Though published 16 years ago, Koss’s fast-reading and award-winning novel offers such a realistic and well-plotted portrayal of middle-school bullying that readers won’t think twice about the lack of cell phones, texting, or social media. Following Maya, a girl who’s “let in” to the best table at lunch, only to later find that the queen bee Candace has turned her friends against her — and no major event has caused it. Switching viewpoints among the girls in the clique, readers might cringe at the characters’ behavior, but they’ll also feel like they got the whole picture.

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  • Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman’s Inspirational True Story

    by Jodee Blanco

    Blanco, who speaks across the country as “the voice of America’s bullied,” wrote this book — now featured as required reading in many schools — based on her own experience. She spent years dreading school, where her classmates savagely taunted her, called her names, even spit on her as she walked to class. Worse, her ostracism started because Blanco had defended some deaf students who were being picked on by hearing students. Her story is haunting and either relatable (and inspiring, given Blanco’s current success) or a means for teens to examine their own behavior.

What other books would you recommend to teens dealing with bullying in one form or another?