Holiday Giving – Part 7

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Today’s holiday giving post is in response to several friends with the same question: “I want to buy a book for my teenage son/daughter/niece/nephew, but they say they don’t like to read. I know there are books they would love, but what are they?”   I thought about it a little, consulted a teenage boy (who lives with me) and a teenage girl (a friend) and have a few ideas.  Here are eleven books that if they give them a chance (“just try one chapter”) may open that window a little bit.

One other thing  – a friend told me that her teenage daughter likes to listen to a book before she goes to sleep, and many of these books are available on Audio CD.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Read it before the movie comes out!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – My son says this is the best book he’s ever read – and a few adults I know would put it in their list of all-time favorites!

Monster by Walter Dean Myers – A good choice for reluctant readers because it’s written like a screenplay and can be read in short chunks. The story is about sixteeen-year-old Steve Harmon who is in prison on murder charges, but there are multiple questions about his role in a convenience store robbery that resulted in the murder of the store’s owner.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – A difficult subject (teen suicide) but a compelling read that delivers the message you would want your child to read.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – The classic novel about “disturbing the universe.”

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson (“Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox awakens after more than a year in a coma to find herself in a life—and a body—that she doesn’t quite recognize. Her parents tell her that she’s been in an accident, but much of her past identity and current situation remain a mystery to her: Why has her family abruptly moved from Boston to California, leaving all of her personal belongings behind? As she watches family videos of her childhood, strange memories begin to surface, and she slowly realizes that a terrible secret is being kept from her.” – excerpt from School Library Journal)

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (“After Amy’s father dies in a car crash, everything that this California girl took for granted changes overnight. Her twin brother Charlie is shipped off to rehab in North Carolina. Her mother accepts a teaching position in Connecticut, leaving Amy home alone to finish her junior year of high school. Then her mom arranges to get Amy to Connecticut via a cross-country drive with a family friend, 19-year-old Roger. The pair quickly ditches the pre-planned itinerary in favor of more spontaneous detours to Yosemite, Colorado, and Graceland. The theme of her emotional journey meshes well with the realistically rendered physical journey across the U.S. Playlists, pages from a travel scrapbook, well-drawn supporting characters, and unique regional details enhance the narrative. Flashback chapters shed light on Amy’s life before her father’s death, without breaking the steady pacing. One sexual situation is discreetly described. Overall, this is an emotionally rewarding road novel with a satisfying, if not totally surprising, conclusion.”  excerpt from School Library Journal)

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (The beach, friends, first love – you get the idea! There’s a sequel now too…)

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff  (” “This word COLLEGE is in my house,/ and you have to walk around it in the rooms/ like furniture.” So LaVaughn, an urban 14-year-old, tries to earn the money she needs to make college a reality. She and her mother are a solid two-person family. When LaVaughn takes a job babysitting for Jolly, an abused, 17-year-old single parent who lives with her two children in squalor, her mother is not sure it’s a good idea. How the girl’s steady support helps Jolly to bootstrap herself into better times and how Jolly, in turn, helps her young friend to clarify her own values are the subjects of this complex, powerful narrative…The poetic form emphasizes the flow of the teenager’s language and thought. The form invites readers to drop some preconceptions about novels, and they will find the plot and characters riveting. Make Lemonade is a triumphant, outstanding story.” excerpt from School Library Journal)

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (“Over the course of one summer, Frankie Landau-Banks, a somewhat geeky girl with an unassuming nature, has developed into a 15-year-old with an attention-grabbing figure, a new attitude, and sights set on making changes at her elite boarding school in this novel. The teenager also has a new boyfriend, a gorgeous senior who belongs to a long-standing secret society on campus—The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, known mostly for silly pranks and a history of male-only membership. With a witty, sharp, and intelligently scheming mind, Frankie manipulates the Loyal Order to do her bidding with pranks meant to make a political statement about the male-dominated and classist nature of the school.” excerpt from School Library Journal)

What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell  (“In this sophisticated thriller, 15-year-old Evie grows up quickly when she discovers her adored parents are not the people she thought they were. While on vacation in Palm Beach in 1947, Evie’s parents, Joe and Bev, get involved in a shady business deal with the Graysons, another couple on holiday. Meanwhile, Evie begins a flirtation with Peter, a handsome ex-GI who served with Joe and just happens to be staying at their hotel. Evie soon learns that Peter’s presence is no coincidence and that he threatens to uncover a terrible secret that Joe has kept since the war. Then Bev, Joe, and Peter go boating, but only two of them return. Evie must sort through secrets, lies, and her own grief to find the truth. Using pitch-perfect dialogue and short sentences filled with meaning, Blundell has crafted a suspenseful, historical mystery that not only subtly explores issues of post–WWII racism, sexism, and socioeconomic class, but also realistically captures the headiness of first love and the crushing realization that adults are not all-powerful.” Booklist)

Note: I compiled this list for teenage readers. There are mature subject matters in many of these novels, but they are addressed in an age appropriate way for teenagers – not for a 6th grade student.

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A Decade of Reading

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I began keeping a list of every book I read since 1999, so I’m taking advantage of yet another snowy afternoon to look back on what I’ve read over the past decade.  This is the first time I’ve read through the lists since I began keeping them, and what is most striking is that they reflect the events of the year.  For example, during the years I was in graduate school, I read nearly 100 books per year, but almost all of them were assigned reading.  Many, read in the wee hours of the morning, I barely remember.  After graduation, I’ve settled back into a pattern of about half of that; between 40 and 50 books per year seems to be the average.  Even on those lists, there are books I would be hard pressed to tell someone about.  I remember really enjoying Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (December 2002), but I don’t recall any details.  After 2005, things become a little clearer.

Based on the past five years, these are the books (adult and young adult’s) that still make my heart jump in recollection of how much I love—and remember—them:

Adults:

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak  (I know this is considered a young adult book as well.  I put it here because it’s cross-marketed, and because it is the first book on my list regardless of where it’s shelved.)

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Atonement (and Saturday) by Ian McEwan

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Young Adults:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Hunger Games and Firecatcher by Suzanne Collins

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Just add a blanket and a steaming mug of hot cocoa…

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Today’s topic: books for girls.  I know.  There’s no such thing as books for girls.  Books are books, right?  But…let’s be honest.  You just reach a time in your life when you have questions and there’s nothing like a good book to remind you that this road to adulthood is well traveled.  Here are ten books that I recommend to middle school girls when they need to remember that they are not alone:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow…10 Books for Middle School Boys