Top Ten Books Dealing With Tough Subjects

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.
Every once in a while I participate in this one when I either
1) Like the theme, and/or 2) Have the time!
This week's topic:
Top Ten Books Dealing With Tough Subjects

When I read contemporary novels, my favorite ones are the ones that resonate, that make me think long after the last page is turned.  They deal with tough subjects. For me, these are the best books in the genre!

Here's a list of the first ten books to come to mind that deal with hard-hitting issues.
In no particular order...

1) PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry
The tough issues are what drove me to this one in the first place.  Both Echo and Noah had so much taken from them and have gone through so much ever since their respective tragedies.  Despite being from different paths in life, they find one another and learn how to heal, how to let go, how to move on, how to embrace the future and leave the past behind.  The journey these two embark on is incredible and by the novel's end, both have come so far.
My Review

2) ROOM by Emma Donoghue
This one was ripped straight from the headlines and reminds me so much of Jaycee Dugard's plight, though the current case dealing with Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight also fits this topic.  It takes a while for this book to get moving, perhaps because it is told from the viewpoint of the child born in captivity, but once he escapes with his mother and learns what it means to live in the real world? Be still my beating heart.
My Review
3) OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper 
I recommend this one all the time.  I think every teacher needs this book in his/her classroom, that every kid needs to read this book.  They need to understand the world through the eyes of their disabled classmates and understand how hard that life becomes when they're treated so unfairly.  Melody is so much more than she appears to be, and this book redefines so many stereotypes.
My Review

4) THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney
I adore Daisy Whitney.  I have a feeling her upcoming release WHEN YOU WERE HERE is going to usurp its older sister for this place in my heart, but until I read it, THE MOCKINGBIRDS still reigns supreme.  I like the unique way Whitney handles the subject of date rape, because she focuses on gray matter, of what does and does not constitute rape.  Too few books deal with this element.
My Review

5) FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma
I almost didn't read this one.  The topic is more touchy than in other books, but it defines the characters and the hard realities that both Lochan and Maya both encounter.  The book has some incredibly harrowing moments, and the characters resonated with me long after I finished reading the novel. Tabitha Suzuma knows how to tear out hearts!
 My Review 

6) NINETEEN MINUTES by Jodi Picoult
So many of Jodi Picoult's books deal with hard-hitting topics that live on in my heart long after the last page is turned.  I chose NINETEEN MINUTES over the others because it's more immediate.  School shootings affect more lives, and we hear about them too frequently on the news.  This wasn't the first book I read on the topic, nor was it the last.  It was, however, the most effective, because it was told from so many different points of view and looked at from multiple angles, which is something that often helps flesh out Picoult's books.

7) IF I STAY by Gayle Forman
This is a story of struggle, one of both life and death.  After a devastating car accident that rips away Mia's family and leaves her comatose, she must decide whether or not life is worth living.  For everyone still in Mia's life, they hope for her to wake up, to come back to them, to be a survivor.  But how can Mia go on without her family?  If you've ever prayed beside a loved one and hoped s/hed wake up, you already understand just how emotional this topic is.

8) RADIATE by Marley Gibson
This isn't necessarily the most gripping, captivating book to deal with cancer, and many will disagree with my choice of choosing RADIATE as my example in this category.  What appeals to me the most about this one is that it's based on truth.  Marley Gibson outlines her own struggle with cancer, albeit in a fictional way.  I didn't know this until the end, and it became even more emotional to me.  This book is so inspirational and uplifting.  So many cancer-related novels are depressing, because the subject of cancer itself is, but Gibson manages to create a poignant book that resonates and lives on. 
My Review
9) TILT by Ellen Hopkins
While TILT may not be Hopkins' best book to choose for this category, it's the only one I've read by her so far.  I have copies of both her adult novel COLLATERAL and her upcoming release SMOKE sitting in my TBR pile, though, so this will change soon.  Her writing is phenomenal and highly quotable.  The subjects encountered in TILT--and surely her other books--are dark, gritty, raw.  You can't help but care even as she rakes you over the coals.
My Review

10) MY LIFE AFTER NOW by Jessica Verdi
To be young and make one stupid mistake that changes your entire life forever is devastating, and one dealt with in this recent release.  Lucy is going through a tough time, has a little too much to drink, and makes one erroneously impaired decision that leads her to deal with the fall-out of whether or not she's contracted HIV. It's not preachy, but it manages to educate.  This is another book that I feel should be in every teacher's library or, at the very least, read in Health Class.  There are too many things that teens wonder about before or after they make various choices in life, but no one ever talks about after.  This book does.
My Review

What are your favorite books dealing with tough subjects? 


  1. Great list! I think all of Picoult's books could fit into this category. It's one of the reasons I like her so much -- she's so good at looking at tough issues from all sides and making the reader feel empathy for ALL of the characters, whether they agree with their views or not.

  2. Good list, I love Tilt as well although far as Ellen Hopkins books go it's actually my least favorite so it just goes to show how great of writer Ellen Hopkins is.

  3. Great list! The only one I've read is If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which is brilliant, but most of the others are on my TBR list. Now I just need more time so I can read them!

    Ann@Blogging Profits

  4. It seems that I tend to read books with "tough subjects" when they are more applicable to something I'm going through or an issue I've heard about recently. Sometimes it make things easier when you can read about others experiences with a similar difficult situation even if it is a fictional character. I have had cancer hit my family recently and I found that solace was hard to find. You hear about cancer constantly but it doesn’t really impact you until you are dealing with it firsthand. I found that reading about it, researching it, and finding forums about it were helpful and inspirational. A tough subject book I read recently that really touched me deeply is a biography about a young revolutionary teacher, Jhumki Basu, who battled breast cancer and fought for change in the inner city school systems written by her father, Dipak Basu. The book is called “Mission to Teach” ( A quote about young Jhumki Basu from renowned British anthropologist Jane Goodall says it all, “Once she was diagnosed with cancer, it seems she gained additional funds of energy and determination with the knowledge that she had to achieve her life’s goals in a short period of time “… I think this book helped with my healing and motivated me. I really hope you will give it a read :)


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