Overcoming Social Challenges

We read these realistic fiction titles to build empathy, create deeper understanding of the social challenge, and sometimes cope with challenges in our own lives. “Bibliotherapy” is a great way to cope! If there are topics you're passionate about or sensitive to, talk to Ms. Rieger or a teacher for a personalized recommendation.

Bullies & Upstanders

Protagonist is perpetually bullied, or takes action against peer bullying. Choose to be an Upstander!

Alabama Moon - Watt Key*

Better Nate Than Ever - Tim Federle

Bystander - James Preller*

Calli Be Gold - Michele Weber Hurwitz

Eight Keys - Suzanne LaFleur

The First Rule of Punk - Celia C. Perez

The Girl in the Well is Me - Karen Rivers

The Girls - Amy Goldman Koss

Just Like Jackie - Amy Stoddard

The Misfits - James Howe

My Cousin’s Keeper - Simon French*

Poison Ivy - Amy Goldman Koss

Posted - John David Anderson

Rhyme Schemer - K.A. Holt

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade - Jordan Sonnenblick

The 6th Grade Nickname Game - Gordon Korman

Tangerine - Edward Bloor*

The Truth about Truman School - Dori Hillestad Butler

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle - Leslie Connor

33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt - Todd Hasak-Lowy

Ungifted - Gordon Korman


Conflict Between Friends & Social Anxiety

Protagonist struggles with making friends, or resolves a serious conflict with a friend.

Allie, First at Last - Angela Cervantes

Awkward - Svetlana Chmakova [graphic novel]

Blackbird Fly - Erin Entrada Kelly

Connect the Stars - Marisa de los Santos & David Teague

Counting By 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

The First Rule of Punk - Celia C. Perez

Granny Torelli Makes Soup - Sharon Creech

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley - April Stevens

I Emma Freke - Elizabeth Atkinson

Ida B - Katherine Hannigan

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth - E.L. Konigsburg

Nothing But Trouble - Jacqueline Davies

Posted - John David Anderson

Real Friends - Shannon Hale [graphic novel]

Roller Girl - Victoria Jamieson [graphic novel]

Shug - Jenny Han

The Swift Boys & Me - Kody Keplinger

33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt - Todd Hasak-Lowy

Well, That Was Awkward - Rachel Vail


Crime, Punishment, & Incarceration

Protagonist copes with consequences of a crime - or with parent, peer, or self in prison.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook - Leslie Connor

Do Not Pass Go - Kirkpatrick Hill*

House Arrest - K.A. Holt

Scar Island - Dan Gemeinhart*

The Seventh Most Important Thing - Shelley Pearsall

Silent to the Bone - E.L. Konigsburg

Touching Spirit Bear - Ben Mikkelson

With a Name Like Love - Tess Hilmo


Cultural Conflict & Understanding

Protagonist(s) learn to appreciate their own identity, or a culture they previously misunderstood.

Benny & Omar - Eoin Colfer

Blackbird Fly - Erin Entrada Kelly

Born Confused - Tanuja Desai Hidier

Dancing Home - Alma Flor Ada

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora - Pabla Cartaya

Full Cicada Moon - Marilyn Hilton

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu - Wendy Wan-Long Shang

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel - Firoozeh Dumas

It All Comes Down to This - Karen English

Kimchi & Calamari - Rose Kent

Kira-Kira - Cynthia Kadohata

Lily and Dunkin - Donna Gephart*

Listen, Slowly - Thanhha Lai

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah - Paula J. Freedman

My Name is Not Easy - Debby Dahl Edwardson

Same Sun Here - Silas House & Neela Vaswani

So Much for Democracy - Kari Jones

For a historical perspective on these issues, visit our Historical Fiction list!


Subtopic: Migrants & Refugees

Titles showing migrant worker struggles, refugees from war-torn countries, or adapting to a new life after migrating.

Crossing the Wire - Will Hobbs

Dancing Home - Alma Flor Ada

Gaby, Lost and Found - Angela Cervantes

Hidden - Miriam Halahmy*

Home of the Brave - Katherine Applegate

The Night Diary - Veera Hiranandani

For more ideas, try our Multicultural Fiction list!

Death & Grief

Protagonist copes with illness, traumatic injury, or death of a loved one.

Alabama Moon - Watt Key*

Another Kind of Hurricane - Tamara Ellis Smith

Ashes to Asheville - Sarah Dooley

Counting By 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

Death By Toilet Paper - Donna Gephart

The Ethan I Was Before - Ali Standish

The Great Wide Sea - M.H. Herlong

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley - April Stevens

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life - Wendy Mass

Keeper of the Night - Kimberly Willis Holt [parent suicide]*

Laugh with the Moon - Shana Burg

Lost in the Sun - Lisa Graff

Love, Aubrey - Suzanne LaFleur

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day - John David Anderson

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness

The Other Side of Summer - Emily Gale

Paper Things - Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Silent to the Bone - E.L. Konigsburg

Speed of Life - Carol Weston

The Stars Beneath Our Feet - David Barclay Moore*

Train I Ride - Paul Mosier

Waiting for Augusta - Jessica Lawson


Disability & Illness Challenges

Check out our Dis/Ability list for a detailed perspective!


Establishing Identity

Protagonist struggles with establishing their identity, or sharing their identity with others. Features characters who are LGBTQ, nonconforming gender, multiracial, etc. Some are humorous, some are serious.

Born Confused - Tanuja Desai Hidier

The First Rule of Punk - Celia C. Perez

Full Cicada Moon - Marilyn Hilton

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World - Ashley Herring Blake

Lily and Dunkin - Donna Gephart


Family Conflict & Divorce

Protagonist copes with difficult family member or changes at home.

The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini - Peter Johnson

Courage for Beginners - Karen Harrington

Eggs Over Evie - Alison Jackson

Forget Me Not - Ellie Terry

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley - April Stevens

The Normal Kid - Elizabeth Holmes

Once You Know This - Emily Blejwas

Pop - Gordon Korman

Raymie Nightingale - Kate DiCamillo

Searching for Candlestick Park - Peg Kehret

The Swift Boys & Me - Kody Keplinger

Tangerine - Edward Bloor*

Watch the Sky - Kirsten Hubbard [abuse]*


Subtopic: Addiction

Protagonist copes with family member or peer with addiction.

Do Not Pass Go - Kirkpatrick Hill [drug addiction + incarceration]*

Rules for Stealing Stars - Corey Ann Haydu [alcohol addiction]


Foster Living & Adoption

Protagonist navigates foster system after being abandoned by, taken from, or losing a parent.

Alabama Moon - Watt Key*

Almost Home - Joan Bauer

Counting by 7’s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

Forever, or a Long, Long Time - Caela Carter

The Great Gilly Hopkins - Katherine Paterson

Half a World Away - Cynthia Kadohata

Just Like Jackie - Lindsey Stoddard

The Land of Forgotten Girls - Erin Entrada Kelly

One for the Murphys - Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Orphan Train Girl - Christina Baker Kline

Paper Things - Jennifer Richard Jacobson*

Soar - Joan Bauer

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth - Frank Cottrell Boyce


Homelessness & Poverty

Protagonist struggles with poverty or wants to help.

Alabama Moon - Watt Key*

Almost Home - Joan Bauer

Crenshaw - Katherine Applegate

Crossing the Wire - Will Hobbs

Death By Toilet Paper - Donna Gephart

Deliver Us From Normal - Kate Klise

Hold Fast - Blue Balliett

The Land of Forgotten Girls - Erin Entrada Kelly

Ninth Ward - Jewell Parker Rhodes

Once You Know This - Emily Blejwas

The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton*

Paper Things - Jennifer Richard Jacobson*

The Perfect Place - Teresa E. Harris

Train I Ride - Paul Mosier


Upstanders Who Pay it Forward

Protagonist leads the way in social change!

Better Nate Than Ever - Tim Federle

Calli Be Gold - Michele Weber Hurwitz

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee - Barry Jonsberg

Midnight Without a Moon - Linda Williams Jackson

Once You Know This - Emily Blejwas

Pay It Forward - Catherine Ryan Hyde

Soar - Joan Bauer

Train I Ride - Paul Mosier