In general, I hate the books assigned to high school teenagers. Yes, classics are great and have their place, but packed into the high school curriculum isn't necessarily that place. I despise Dickens...and The Great Gatsby may be one of my least favorite books...next to Watership Down.
Yes, this is coming from a former high school English teacher.
It's during the high school years that too many kids lose their joy of reading. They're rarely, if ever, given an opportunity to choose a book of their own interest- that doesn't involve heavy annotation or analyzing the damn book to death.
There's something to be said for for relating to a book on your own terms.
I hear too many kids (and adults) tell me that they hate to read. I don't really know if that's truly the case, more likely they just haven't found the right book yet.
Looking for a book your teenager might like? Take a hint from the tv shows and movies that they watch.
If you have a reluctant reader- or even a kid who loves to read- these books may spark their interest. And, don't think you won't love these "teen lit" books too.
Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell. While you can't go wrong with any of Rainbow Rowell's books, this one is one of my favorites. Set in 1986 it includes everything you'd expect: indie music, mix tapes, and a less than desirable home situation. Less about young love and more about two outcasts finding comfort and strength together.
Tell Me Three Things, Julie Buxbaum. I've recommended this one before. Transferring to a new high school is never easy; transferring from middle class Midwest to affluent California is like moving to a different planet. The difficulty of finding one's way and navigating the past/home and a new step-family reality is relatable, even if you haven't moved across the country. "Tell Me Three Things" stems from an anonymous email- as a parent though- it's a great way to reconnect with your teens.
Restart, Gordon Korman. Imagine you're the high school football star that "runs" the school. Now imagine a traumatic brain injury that makes you forget everything about that life. That's the reality for Chase when he suffers amnesia after falling off a roof. Although he's lost his memory, classmates haven't forgotten the way he treated them. So, what happens when you discover that the person you were may not be the person you want to be?
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie. Not a new book, and it always seems to make it to the banned book list because there is a paragraph about masturbation. What they somehow missed in the other 229 pages is an incredible story of a teenager battling the odds to escape the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and alcoholism within his family and environment.
Gym Candy, Carl Deuker. Ok, have to be honest, I didn't read this one. But...I suggested it to my son (freshman) when his class was assigned a "free reading" book. It wasn't on the list, but another book by the same author was. My son definitely falls into the category of a great reader who rarely reads outside of school assignments. Apparently, though, the pull of a high school football player wanting to up his speed & strength with supplements...then moving on to steroids was strong enough for my son to stay up late, turn off other distractions (seriously, how do kids read with earbuds in?!), and come home from school and tell me twist ending.
The Winner, David Baldacci. Though not part of the "teen lit" genre (though he does have a few great books for jr high kids), it's hooked many reluctant readers. Baldacci is great for those that love action & adventure movies, but The Winner centers on a idea many have considered...what if you were guaranteed to win the lottery. Would you accept the stipulations if it meant becoming an instant multi-millionaire?
Stress Intelligence: 365+ Ways to Smooth the Stress Flow, Serena Wadhwa. Sometimes it's easy, as adults, to forget that teens have very real stress. And, as we trudge through dealing with our own stressors, we forget that most teens have no idea how to actually COPE with stress...we just view it as a fact of life. Initially I bought Stress Intelligence to support a co-ChicagoNow writer, but it has become a daily read for the entire family. Think 365 day tear off calendar, but in book form. Each date has a short (4-5 sentences) theme for dealing with stress. It helps kids, and adults, understand that there are multiple methods for coping with stress and anxiety. It's not about setting aside an hour for meditating or interrupting your lifestyle, but discovering the importance of setting boundaries and increasing awareness. You don't have to read from page one, just pick up on today's date and begin.
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Tags: absolutely true diary of a part time indian, books about bullying, books about football, books about highschool, books for boys, books for teens, coping with stress, eleanor and park, gym candy, helping kids with anxiety, restart, sports books, stress intelligence, teens and stress, tell me three things, the winner