The Power of Teen Anger

By Elise Damasco

Although the emotional turbulence of adolescence is often written off as "teen angst," these books celebrate the power of anger and its capacity to change people and communities.

  • Anger Is a Gift

    2018 by Oshiro, Mark

    Anger is a gift when it serves as the catalyst for change. Difficult and harrowing, this book cracks open the pain marginalized communities face under the weight of racism and discrimination. I loved how it explores the power of strong emotions and I appreciated the diverse cast of characters.

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  • Sadie

    2018 by Summers, Courtney

    For fans of true crime, this book is partially written in the style of a podcast. Although at times I found it difficult to read due to the heavy subjects, the author carefully highlights the violence so many women and girls are forced to endure.

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  • The Mirror Season

    2021 by McLemore, Anna-Marie

    A beautiful blend of rage and tenderness, this book follows Ciela and Lock, who become friends after discovering they were both sexually assaulted at the same party. This powerful portrayal of the complexities of healing left me both aching and hopeful. It is full of gorgeous metaphors and descriptions without trivializing the heavy topics it explores.

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  • Punching the Air

    2020 by Zoboi, Ibi Aanu

    Cowritten by Yusef Salaam, who was wrongfully convicted in the Central Park jogger case, this novel in verse about race and injustice is the epitome of “less is more.” There are very few words per page, but each word is loud and bubbling with anger.

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  • The Other Side of Perfect

    2021 by Turk, Mariko

    Hard-hitting and honest, this book highlights the ugly sides of perfectionism and dedication. For those set on success, sometimes unpreventable setbacks can trigger bitterness, jealousy, and rage. I loved how Turk doesn’t shy away from showing us how anger can turn us cruel–and also inspire us to change.

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  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

    2013 by Quick, Matthew

    Shocking, dramatic, and personal, Leonard Peacock’s internal dialogue often becomes uncomfortable and concerning. However, this book captures what it’s like to feel misunderstood and hurt. The unique, unlikely friendships and patient conversations offer some much needed hope in an otherwise dire situation.

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  • Summer Bird Blue

    2018 by Bowman, Akemi Dawn

    Struggling to cope with her sister’s death and her mother’s abandonment, Rumi has plenty to be angry about as she’s sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. This slow but memorable book delves into the pain of loneliness and grief while also finding meaning in unlikely friendships.

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  • You Know I'm No Good

    2020 by Foley, Jessie Ann

    Mia, labeled a "troubled teen," is sent to a boarding school by her parents to fix her behavior. In this gritty and down-to-earth book, the author addresses double standards, feminism, sexuality and sexual assault, mental health, and family and friendships. The angry, messy tone challenges the reader to look under the surface and understand the harm of demonizing girls who don’t fit the mold.

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  • Broken Things

    2018 by Oliver, Lauren

    After a teenage girl is brutally murdered in the woods, all eyes turn toward her two best friends. Seething with rage, jealousy, and loneliness, this novel dives into the dangerous waters of obsession and complex friendships. Despite the bloody context, I think those who struggled to fit in as a kid (especially anyone who had a favorite book they wished they could disappear into!) will find sympathy for this messy friendship trio.

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  • Shout: A Poetry Memoir

    2019 by Anderson, Laurie Halse

    A unique memoir written in verse format, Laurie Halse Anderson shares her experiences and thoughts on abuse, empowerment, and censorship two decades after her popular novel Speak (1999). This book unabashedly readdresses issues–and brings up new ones–that were met with resistance when Speak was published.

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  • What Girls Are Made Of

    2017 by Arnold, Elana K

    Far from sweet and simple, this book pushes boundaries as it celebrates the rage that comes with growing up. Hurt and lost, 16-year-old Nina teeters back and forth on the line between being a child and an adult as she explores love, sexuality, autonomy, and the rigid societal expectations of being a young woman.

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  • Far from the Tree

    2017 by Benway, Robin

    Following three biological siblings who grew up separately, this book beautifully delves into the intricacies of love and loss. Even though it's laced with confusion, frustration, and hurt, I loved the glimpse of hope from the strong connections that develop over time.

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