While almost everything I could say about bibliotherapy for teens is written up very nicely in this School Library Journal article from November, 2014, I will highlight some of the most important points here. I will also list books, published within the past 2 years, that I feel have particularly therapeutic qualities for teen readers.
The concept of bibliotherapy is not a new one to those who work with youth and teens. While teens may turn to music, movies, or other media for comfort, solace, and hope, many also look for books. A book can give a teen hope, it can make them feel like they are not alone. Finding a story a teen can relate to, that will speak to them, can make all the difference. This is bibliotherapy, and it is so important.
In my experience, books about kids and teens with issues work well for the reader with issues. The specifics of the issues don’t necessarily have to match – just because a teen doesn’t have a family member addicted to drugs doesn’t mean he won’t find meaning in Carrie Arcos’ Out of Reach. However, a teen going through an abusive relationship with her first boyfriend will probably find comfort in Ellen Hopkins’ Tricks or Christa Desir’s Bleed Like Me.
Here are some of the most important books in my bibliotherapy arsenal – contemporary books about teens with tough issues like mental illness, addiction, abuse, coming out as LGBT+, trauma, bullying, and discrimination.
Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir
Take Me On by Katie McGarry
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Caged Warrior by Alan Sitomer
Winger by Andrew Smith
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Books to look for in 2015:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Invincible by Amy Reed
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Teen Librarian Toolbox – Students and Low-Income Households
Teen Librarian Toolbox – Teens and Poverty Booklist
Eden Grey’s “YA Issues Books” booklist