While the word “feminist” for a time seemed to fall in disfavor with younger women, there has been a dramatic shift in recent years—both in the wide world (a significant rise in applications to women’s colleges, for example) and in many of the YA titles crossing my desk. It’s clear that justifiable anger, even rage, is focusing and fueling a sea change.
Unpresidented, by Martha Brockenbrough (2018), a meticulously researched account of the first two years of the presidency of Donald Trump, documents in detail his treatment of women and attitudes toward policies that affect them, pointing to causes behind the rise of the #MeToo movement.
Some nonfiction titles overtly address the concerns of young feminists, such as I Am a Feminist: Claiming the F-Word in Turbulent Times, by Monique Polak (May 7), which is an accessible, comprehensive guide that includes material on intersectionality and advice for feminist boys and men. Unladylike: A Field Guide to Smashing the Patriarchy and Claiming Your Space, by Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin (2018), takes older YA and adult readers through trickle-down feminism, patriarchy taxes, the mommy track, sexual oppression, gender identity, and much more.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s SHOUT (March 12) is a raw, courageous memoir in verse about being raped at age 13 and writing her classic Speak (1999), which, disappointingly, some adults have tried to keep out of the hands of young readers even as many girls and boys have bared their hearts to her about their own sexual assaults. In The Black Coats, by Colleen Oakes (Feb. 1), a group of young women form a secret organization to exact vigilante justice against violent, abusive men who—as is too often the case—escape punishment via conventional channels. It’s an exciting thriller and work of social commentary in one.
Reproductive rights are naturally a topic of focus as well. Intended to inspire dialogue around a critical subject, My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights, by Robin Stevenson (May 7), takes a global, comprehensive approach to a topic that is frequently veiled in shame and secrecy. In Girls on the Verge (Apr. 9), a novel by Sharon Biggs Waller, readers follow a Texas teen as she attempts to have an abortion, meeting with many obstacles along the way. It’s an informative and sympathetic account of the reality far too many young women face.
While these titles are critical contributions, I am still hoping to see more books by and about women from marginalized communities, for example ones like South Asian–Canadian Vivek Shraya’s I’m Afraid of Men (2018), which is a powerful, scathing indictment of toxic masculinity and the daily toll it takes, particularly on women of color and trans women like her, or the superlative 2017 title #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale, which presents a broad range of voices in diverse formats.
Laura Simeon is the young adult editor.