Body Reclamation in YA Books

Bodies. Wowza. What a gift and a burden, am I right? Most people I know struggle forming a compassionate connection with their bodies. We see ourselves as too much or too little; have suffered unspeakable traumas and relentless microaggressions; and vary in physical ability. Everyone has their own story to tell regarding their body.

As we grow older, we learn to better appreciate our body for its gifts. Unfortunately, body trauma and misinformation barrages adolescents, causing a lack of connection and few positive models to look toward. Reclaiming one’s body is radical act: taking it back from patriarchal structures, people who claim it as theirs, or even taking it back from painful parts of ourselves is not only difficult, but against the grain of nearly everything Western society teaches us.

Young adult authors rock at tackling this topic: if you or someone you love (even an adult) needs some help reclaiming their body, here are some places you might start. Of course, all of these warrant a trigger warning. But, if you’re ready to approach these topics, dive right in. You won’t be disappointed.


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This debut novella from El Paso author Rios de la Luz flips white supremacy on its back, defeating rapists, racists, and border wall supporters. Using magical realism, de la Luz chronicles the stories of generations of water witches traversing rites of passage, trauma, and conflicting definitions of home.

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No list of YA books about consent or body reclamation would be complete without Speak.  Laurie Halse Anderson’s landmark novel about a teenager who called the police to break up a party because she was assaulted created waves in schools across America when it was published in 1999. Because the girl called the police, other students isolated and bullied her, though they never understood her motive for doing so. This book illustrates relatable moments of strength and vulnerability, as well as the complex pressures of sharing (or not sharing) one’s trauma.

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I’m a Texan and a zine-lover, so naturally I adore this book about Vivian, an enraged young feminist who’s tired of being harassed by the jocks at her school. By publishing and distributing her own zine in secret, she fights toxic masculinity, finds power in her own body, and defeats sexist policy (like the dress code) and biases on campus.

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Yes. Y-E-S, YES! That’s most of what I have to say about Dreadnought, April Daniel’s debut where ability diversity and  gender realization are portrayed as super powers. Daniel’s transgender protagonist (Danny) inherits the ability to inhabit her ideal body. Though Danny faces bigotry, she overcomes the hate. In the way The Hate U Give approaches racism and social justice through vivid depictions of realistic micro and macroaggressions, Dreadnought does this regarding the transgender experience. Nuanced characterization and a compelling superhero plot make Dreadnought a must-read.

Non Fiction

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Intuitive eating changed my life. As an athlete and young woman who’s struggled with weight most of my life, I was trapped in the diet cycle. I believed to be attractive and pursue athletics, I had to eat a certain way. I counted calories, carbs, sugar, electrolytes, points, meals, and anything else I possibly could. The original Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole examines how tuning in to our body and emotions should dictate how we eat, not a diet plan. Years later, Resch released this workbook that puts those concepts and practices into a digestible (pun intended) and specific format for teens.

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If you are here, you’re probably a feminist. When I first read this book, I was underwhelmed because, like her other books, I expected a tough and detailed narrative to take slowly and ponder. We Should All Be Feminists, and the TED Talk of the same name, instead shares clear, illustrative stories from Adichie’s own life that act as a primer or affirmation for budding feminists. Her stories clearly portray women’s issues from around the world: depictions young people need to observe.

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Kate Bornstein rocks and rocks and rocks and keeps rocking. Heads up: if you couldn’t tell from the title, profanity and candid discussion of difficult topics doesn’t just pepper the pages, but dominates them. Bornstein bluntly (and hilariously) shares stories of her transition from a young Jewish boy into the woman and activist she is today, and the depression, anxiety, and body issues that came with it. As a cis woman, this book was of great benefit to me. Although much of Bornstein’s experience is a result of being a “gender outlaw,” she offers advice and stories relevant to everyone.


If you’ve read a book that’s helped you reclaim your body, please share!

What Meaningful Support Looks Like


When you’re surrounded by negativity, healing and wellness can be hard. I think of times I have tried to heal when phantoms like guilt, bad friends, alcohol, and poor nutrition plagued me. Healing took longer and hurt more, and in the end I had other problems to solve. It took me ages to identify what a strong support network looks like, so I eventually developed a  habit of relying exclusively on myself. Like ridding illness without a doctor, rolling solo through grief, loss, or any other lower qualities simply exacerbates problems in the long term. Building a strong and reliable support network around yourself is crucial for celebrating meaningfully through the good and healing healthily through the bad.

1. Escape the echo chamber. While talking to others who have been through similar hardships can be incredibly helpful, be mindful of why you seek their support. Do you seek healthy affirmation and a helpful ear, or are you looking for an echo chamber to revel in? Wallowing in a problem will hurt more than it helps. When thinking of people and places that are truly supportive, escape situations that feel like an echo chamber.

2. Your network is not your therapist. We all experience symptoms of dysfunction or instability, whether it’s growing pains or atypical neurobiology. Thus, everyone absolutely needs a therapist. Unfortunately, very few can meet this need and attend counseling regularly or even at all. Whether that need can be met or not, your friends cannot be replacements for a therapist. Counselors have graduate-level degrees for a reason: it’s a profession that requires thousands of hours of study and practice! Our friends have other beautiful gifts, but are not apt fits for the professional-level counseling we need. In addition, therapy offers a completely safe space for the exploration of your thoughts that we cannot experience even with our closest friends. Friendships should have boundaries! Especially when we experience turmoil, we cannot strain and abuse friendships by constantly seeking free therapy from them.

3. Support at work is crucial. When I had my first manic episode, I emailed my supervisor at 4:00 in the morning saying I needed to take off and find supervised help. I had already taken 3 personal days that month, which is quite a few for a middle school teacher. However, I definitely needed that day: going to work manic with two sleepless nights under my belt, while suffering a major breakup and family loss was not smart. My supervisor’s response was gracious and supportive. He thanked me for finding help, gave me his cell phone number, prayed for me, and let me know everything would be handled at work. My coworkers pitched in to help my substitute and checked in with me in the days that followed. Coming to work and receiving love, hugs, and check-ins saved me. It gave me 8 stable hours a day where I knew everything would be great. Their response showed me my health and safety is a priority because I am valued by my peers.

Previously, I worked in many positions unlike this where supervisors expected the job to come first. That drove me deeper into depression and exhaustion. I gained weight, I stopped exercising, I didn’t relax, I worked 6-7 days a week. Failing myself meant failing at my job as well. Support at work is crucial, and we aren’t always taught that our jobs should be safe spaces. Make sure you check in with yourself and find a work environment that supports you as much as you support them.

4. True support means open compassion. Find people who understand you and your situation. There is a difference between love and understanding, though in your support network, many folks will do both. Where a therapist may understand you, a friend may love and understand you. Your supporters must also understand your situation, however, and exhibit this open compassion towards the problems that give you grief. Will negative yammering from a friend about your ex ultimately make you feel better? Probably not. You made the decision to be with that person; you don’t want to hear how bad of a choice that was. Seek supporters who exhibit open compassion, and give you mindful understanding with no expectation of gifts in return. You however, could bring compassion to the table as well, and engage in open (not forced) transactions of loving energy.

5. You are a critical link in the support network. Your network can’t heal you alone. Together, however, you will get the job done. What you bring to the table in a supportive relationship equals what you receive. Be sure to bring forth the energy and kindness you ask of others. Whether that’s with a friend, in therapy, or in a group exercise class, be mindful that you serve your full self and gratitude towards them.