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Winger - Andrew  Smith

A hilarious and enjoyable read about freshman Ryan who attends Pine Mountain Academy a boarding school.  His residence is Opportunity Hall, home of the troublemakers. Ryan tries to fit in with his hall mates, and change the way everyone sees him. This book also contains illustrations that allow the readers into the workings of the teenage boy's mind. The characters have real issues and thoughts that it is difficult to believe that they are fictional.  Young adult readers ages 14 and up will certainly relate to this book, it will capture the attention of reluctant readers, and anyone who enjoys reading books where sports and guy friendships are featured.Readers of this book may also enjoy reading John Green's Looking for Alaska as both books have a male lead character at a boarding school, and deals with complex friendships and teen issues 


Smith, A. (2013). Winger. NY: Simon & Schuster. 


Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood - Marjane Satrapi, Mattias Ripa, Blake Ferris

Persepolis is Marjan Sartrapi's memoir written as a graphic novel.  Sartrapi decided to write a book that told how her life was changed from day to night as a child by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. She recounts confusion and disbelief as she was forced to wear a veil, attend a separate school from the boys, and changes in the acceptable ideas that could be taught at school.  She guides the reader life and ideas while growing up in a liberal household and oppressive nation. She grew up admiring her parent's nonconformist views and was even witness to the brutal executions and violence that followed civilian demonstrations. Sartrapi does a magnificent job through her drawings and story of showing the world how the actions of few can affect an entire culture and create unjust stereotypes throughout the world.  


Sartrapi, M. (2004). Persepolis. NY: Pantheon.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the sci-fi trilogy Chaos Walking.  This dystopian society book is set in a town called Prentisstown on New World, a planet that has been colonized by  people who fled Old World (earth).  Todd Hewitt is the only boy left in his colony dying colony, and is about to reach manhood at the age of 13. He was born in New World, but was left orphaned after his mother died from a germ spread by the Spackle (alien life form) which killed all the women in the colony. As a side effect of this disease the men are able to hear each other's thoughts or Noise. Noise is expressed in the book as a series of phrases and words, that vary in size and font to represent the thoughts that emanate from each person. Before Todd turns into a man, he is forced to run away with his companion dog Manchee by his adoptive parents Cillian and Ben. Along the way he discovers a girl who has crash landed in the swamp near by, but their life is threatened by Prentisstown's preacher and villagers.  As both run away from town, Todd discovers that life is much different than what he grew up believing. He must do everything in his power to survive and reach safety as a war unfolds in New World. 


Ness, P. (2008). The knife of never letting go. Boston, MA: Candlewick Press 

It’s Perfectly Normal

It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health (The Family Library) - Michael Emberley, Robie H. Harris

It’s Perfectly Normal is written in a conversational style between a bird and bee who discuss topics about puberty and sexuality. This book is meant to be an informational book written for ages ten and up, but is recommended that a parent or caretaker preview it or share it with their child. Not only is it full of scientific facts, but also contains cartoon style drawings that have caused the book much controversy because of their graphic nature. The book covers the topics with correct anatomical/scientific terms and information in clear language that can easily be understood by older children. This book  promotes an open and sincere conversation between child and adult in an age appropriate way. Ultimately, parents (adult caretaker) should be involved in their child’s reading choices and decide what kind of information their child can be exposed to.  


Harris, R. (2009). It’s perfectly normal. Boston, MA: Candlewick Press. 

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska - John Green

Miles is obsessed with famous last words, and it is Francois Rabelais' last word which inspire him to convince his parents to send him to a boarding school in Alabama; in search of "the Great Perhaps." There Miles quickly makes friends with his new roommate, Colonel, and another group of students including Alaska Young. Miles bonds with his new friends by participating in traditional pranks against another clique in the school. Along the way he is captivated by Alaska's free and wild nature, but their reckless behavior does not come without consequences. 


John Green effectively creates characters that his young adult readers will be able to identify themselves with.  This book provides an excellent opportunity of adults and teens to break down the barriers of communication to discuss teen behaviors, relationships, guilt, and loss. 


Green, J. (2005). Looking for Alaska. NY: Dutton 

The Surrender Tree

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom - Margarita Engle

This book is  free-verse novel based on Cuba’s painful struggle for independence from Spain and the life Rosario Castellanos Castellanos, known as Rosa la Bayamesa. This compelling piece of narrative prose is told from different characters' point of view; mainly Rosa, a freed slave who heals and hides wounded rebels and anyone who needs her help, and Lieutenant Death, a slave catcher who is determined to find Rosa. Both characters provide a look into the daily life, struggles, and consequences that faced those, mostly slaves, who tried to fight for Cuba's freedom.  

Although this book is classified as young adult, it can be enjoyed by anyone wanting to learn more about Cuban history,  treatment of slaves, or who want to enjoy well written narrative prose. 


Engle, M. (2008).The surrender tree. NY: Holt 

The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier

The chocolate war is one of the most banned books among school libraries.  However the book's themes, plot, and insight to the teenage boys' psyche is what has made this book relevant among young adult readers for almost 40 years. Freshman Jerry Renault has accepted his first assignment as part of the Vigils by accepting the task of refusing to participate in the school chocolate sale for 10 days. Every day when his name is called he is expected to announce the number of boxes sold. His classmates' anticipation builds as each day the wait to for his announcement. On the eleventh day, Jerry surprises the Vigils by continuing to refuse the chocolate sale.This upsets Archie, one of the leaders, because Jerry has not complied with the Vigil's assignment. However, Archie does not take immediate action, but he will make sure that Jerry participates in the biggest most successful chocolate sale the school has ever had. Jerry becomes the target of his classmates' bullying and is physically aggravated for his defiance. The book's protagonist is forced to participate in a boxing match, therefore participating in the chocolate sale. As a result Jerry learns that life isn't always fair, and that standing up for your beliefs does not always provide you with the best results.


Cormier, R. (1974). The chocolate war. NY: Delacorte. 

Janis Joplin: Rise up singing

I first heard of Janis Joplin when in high school, my music teacher was a big fan of her music and often exposed us to it.  Reading this book opened my eyes to see beyond just her musical talent, and drug struggles. It allowed me to meet Joplin as an individual through the letters, interviews, and experiences of those who were close to her. It is evident that Angel was through in her research and provides readers a view into Joplin's life from all angels. The photographs included both in color and black and white help complete the biography as well as provide more credibility to the author. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the biography and seeing this brilliant musician for more than just her life's struggles. I can easily see this book being a popular resource used for high school research papers or for anyone wanting to learn more about one of the best female artists Texas has offered.


Angel, A. (2010). Janis Joplin: Rise up singing. NY: Amulet. 


Monster - Walter Dean Myers

Steve Harmon is an African-American teen from Harlem who is on trial for a murder he did not commit. His only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet he is considered a monster among the prosecution. An amateur cinematographer, Steve envisions his trial as a movie as he allows the reader to experience events that lead to the dramatic trial. Although Steve maintains his innocence he struggles with the idea of having to spend his life in prison and being viewed as a monster.   


Young adult books are not usually written in the drama genre, but Myers decision made the book more realistic as the reader experienced the events from Steve's view point. This book could easily be incorporated into a middle or high school classroom to expose students to drama and internal conflict. Because of its realistic style this book can provide an eye opening experience to young readers, and lends itself to discussion. Adolescent readers will able to take a look at the consequences that may arise from being associated with the wrong crowd.  


Myers, W. D. (1999). Monster. NY: Harper. 


Ungifted - Gordon Korman

Donovan Curtis has the best reputation in school that is as the biggest prankster. But his last goof-off will surely land him the worst punishment ever, after all the superintendent will see to it that he gets a fair punishment. However, Donovan is saved when by mistake he is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, a school for the gifted.  And so Donovan must try to adjust to his new school and fit in among his genius classmates, or risk being sent back to his old school.  Donovan makes a lasting impression among his classmates and proves to them that it does not take a genius to be a true friend. Ungifted is told by different narrators, which allows the readers to envision what is happening in the story from multiple view point.  Because of its humor and witty characters this is book would be perfect for older elementary and middle school readers. Boys who are reluctant readers will enjoy this book and will quickly connect to the characters in the book. Because of it being a quick read it is also recommended for readers who are transitioning into reading chapter books.


Korman, G. (2012). Ungifted. New York: Blazer Bray.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle “Ari” is a fourteen year old loner with hardly any friends in school.  He has hardly any relationship with his father, and resents his family for acting as if his older brother who is in prison did not exist. Like many boys his age, Ari is unsure of his own identity and often feels that he has lived his life according to everyone’s rules and expectations. But his life takes an unexpected turn when he meets a peculiar boy who offers to teach him how to swim. Ari is taken aback by Dante’s optimistic view of life and admires the relationship he has with his father.  As their friendship grows, Dante helps Ari discover the mysteries of the universe as each find their true identity. There are several clues that foreshadow the resolution of the story as Ari often refers to his friend as beautiful and their interactions hint to a budding romantic relationship. This book explores the internal struggle among both teens as they try to come to terms with their feelings and worry about their family’s reactions. Saenz writing style correctly portrays not only a teen boy’s emotional state, but also the hate and violence that troubles our society. One of themes this book deals with making the bonds of a family stronger as Ari family learns to speak and share feelings that have long been pushed aside. Saenz does a great job a displaying how a friendship can turn romantic regardless of gender.  


Saenz, B. (2012). Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe. New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR.

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys  - Maggie Stiefvater

Blue is just a normal sixteen year old high school student with a part-time job. Except for the fact that she spends the eve of St. Mark’s Day in the churchyard with her clairvoyant mother waiting for the spirits of those destined to die that year to walk by.  For the first time Blue experiences seeing one of the spirits and is captivated by the young boy, Gansey.  Her life changes completely when days later she meets a group of boys from the Agilonby Academy, known as The Raven Boys and lead by Gansey.  Together they search for the Welsh King Glendower, whoever finds him will be granted a wish.  Blue and her friends explore the ley lines, along the way they discover a magical forest, one of their friends is actually a ghost and their life is threaten when they come across an old ley line explorer and the end up in a dangerous situation. True to it the supernatural young adult genre, Raven Boys has enough supernatural occurrences, romance, and thrill to keep the reader engaged in the book’s plot. I would recommend this book for young adult readers who like supernatural/fantasy genre and books in a series.


Stiefvater, M. (2012). The Raven Boys. New York: Scholastic Press.


Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino begins her freshman year at Merryweather High School friendless. From the beginning it is obvious that Melinda is having not only social anxiety, but also body image problems “I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude.” She is unable to speak of the events that happened that summer night at the party. She cannot tell anyone why she called the police, not even her former best friend. As the days and months progress, Melinda tells how she is bullied by the entire student body and begins to completely shut down. She will not speak to anyone, her grades plummet, and she skips out on her classes to find a hiding place in a janitor’s closet. She also displays physical reactions to her depression; she constantly bites on her lips until the bleed and cannot stand to look at her reflection in the mirror. Readers will be able to empathize with Melinda through her narrative as they learn of the experience that marked her life and shame she feels after the night of the party where she was raped.  Melinda finally finds the courage and terms to come to terms with her assault and speak up against her rapist.  Adolescent readers learn of the importance of speaking about traumatic events and what can happen when someone decides to keep the hurt all to themselves.


Anderson, L. H. (1999). Speak. NY: Penguin

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Jacob has a special relationship with his grandfather.  For most of his childhood Jacob believed the stories his grandfather would tell about his youth in a magical island and looking at the pictures of his special friends. Jacob’s sanity is questioned when he witnesses his grandfather being attacked by a monster. Unable to come to terms with this tragedy and learn more about his grandfather’s life, Jacob travels half way across the world in search for his grandfather’s old island.  When Jacob and his father arrive in this island he quickly learns that his grandfather’s adventures were true.  Jacob travels between realms as he tries to find answers to his grandfather’s murder, and make friends with and protect his grandfather’s old friends.

When I saw the cover photos I was instantly drawn to this book. It reminded me so much of the fantasy books I enjoyed reading during my high school years.  However, I also hesitated to read it because frankly if the plot would be as creepy as the pictures then I would surely have nightmares. I must admit that I did not fancy this book as much as I thought I would. However I would think that middle school students might be more inclined to the plot and attracted to the fantasy found in this book.   


Riggs, R., & McGurk, J. (2011). Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children. Philadelphia: Quirk Books.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Hazel and Augustus meet at a cancer support group. She is a terminally ill lung cancer patient and he is in remission from osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Both teens are instantly attracted to each other, but Hazel is cautious of starting a new friendship since she is a “grenade”.  Needless to say both fall madly in love with each other as they share their thoughts and interests. After becoming obsessed with Hazel’s favorite book, Augustus and Hazel track down the author and Augustus uses his wish to surprise Hazel with a trip to Amsterdam to meet their idol.  Things in Amsterdam are not exactly perfect, in fact Augustus reveals his cancer is back.  As things turn for the worse, Hazel and Augustus learn that they must live life to the fullest and without regrets. The major theme of this book aside from teen age love is being able to come to terms with the inevitable death of a loved one and your own mortality. Even though the reader is aware of the characters’ fate, the book’s finale is heartbreaking. I did not expect to react to this book as I did, or to get attached with the characters. This young adult book will surely have you reaching for a box of tissues, as it did with me. Readers who enjoyed this book may also want to pick up more works by John Green. 


Green, J. (2012). The fault in our stars. New York: Dutton Books.



The Tequila Worm

The Tequila Worm - Viola Canales

Canales draws from her personal experiences and rich Hispanic heritage to write this Pura Belpre Award winning novel.  Growing up as a Latina in the Texas-Mexico border fourteen year old Sofia, a natural born storyteller, engages the reader in her life’s journey to become a good comadre (friend), and remain true to her cultural roots as she decides to take a scholarship to St. Luke’s Episcopal School many miles away from her home and family. The book’s themes of strong family values, friendship, and culture drive the plot of this novel in a unique way. Canales’s life is reflected through the humorous and realistic voice of this strong female main character. This book has been popular among young Hispanic readers because of their ability to connect with Sofia’s culture and stories, like preparing for a Quinceañera or keeping a family altar. Readers who enjoyed The tequila worm may want to consider Sandra Cisneros’s collection of short stories in Woman Hollering Creek and The house on Mango Street sa their next read. Both books share many of the same themes while capturing the essence of growing up Latina and learning to embrace both cultures.


Canales, V. (2005). The tequila worm. NY: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House