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Try Independent Minds free for 1 month See the options. You can form your own view. Subscribe now. Shape Created with Sketch. It is a fact universally acknowledged that every list of great books must include Pride and Prejudice.
For every lucky Elizabeth, who tames the haughty, handsome Mr. No-one has lampooned the self-absorption, delusions of grandeur and sexual frustration of adolescence as brilliantly as Susan Townsend, and no one ever will. War is the ultimate dead-end for logic, and this novel explores all its absurdities as we follow US bombardier pilot Captain John Yossarian. A good years before metoo, Thomas Hardy skewered the sexual hypocrisy of the Victorian age in this melodramatic but immensely moving novel. Read this if you want to understand the rotten culture at the root of victim-blaming.
The main character, warrior-like Okonkwo, embodies the traditional values that are ultimately doomed. By the time Achebe was born in , missionaries had been settled in his village for decades. He wrote in English and took the title of his novel from a Yeats poem, but wove Igbo proverbs throughout this lyrical work. Orwell was interested in the mechanics of totalitarianism, imagining a society that took the paranoid surveillance of the Soviets to chilling conclusions.
Our hero, Winston, tries to resist a grey world where a screen watches your every move, but bravery is ultimately futile when the state worms its way inside your mind. Her device was simple but incendiary: look at the world through the eyes of a six-year-old, in this case, Jean Louise Finch, whose father is a lawyer defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Great Expectations is the roiling tale of the orphaned Pip, the lovely Estella, and the thwarted Miss Havisham.
In an astonishing act of literary ventriloquism, Mantel inhabits a fictionalised version of Thomas Cromwell, a working-class boy who rose through his own fierce intelligence to be a key player in the treacherous world of Tudor politics. Historical fiction so immersive you can smell the fear and ambition. Wallow in this sublimely silly tale of the ultimate comic double act: bumbling aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his omniscient butler, Jeeves. A sheer joy to read that also manages to satirise British fascist leader Oswald Mosley as a querulous grump in black shorts.
Shelley was just 18 when she wrote Frankenstein as part of a challenge with her future husband, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron, to concoct the best horror story. Some years after it was first published, the gothic tale feels more relevant than ever as genetic science pushes the boundaries of what it means to create life. His theory is this: maroon a bunch of schoolboys on an island, and watch how quickly the trappings of decent behaviour fall away. Never has a broken pair of spectacles seemed so sinister, or civilisation so fragile.
Not many love stories take in a mad woman in the attic and a spot of therapeutic disfigurement, but this one somehow carries it off with mythic aplomb. This is a richly satisfying slow burn of a novel that follows the lives and loves of the inhabitants of a small town in England through the years — The acerbic wit and timeless truth of its observations mark this out as a work of genius; but at the time the author, Mary Anne Evans, had to turn to a male pen name to be taken seriously. Stick another log on the fire and curl up with this dark, peculiar and quite brilliant literary murder tale.
A group of classics students become entranced by Greek mythology - and then take it up a level. Remember, kids: never try your own delirious Dionysian ritual at home.
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A subtle and engrossing look at racial identity, through the story of a charismatic young Nigerian woman who leaves her comfortable Lagos home for a world of struggles in the United States. Capturing both the hard-scrabble life of US immigrants and the brash divisions of a rising Nigeria, Adichie crosses continents with all her usual depth of feeling and lightness of touch.
An absolute unadulterated comic joy of a novel. Stella Gibbons neatly pokes fun at sentimental navel-gazing with her zesty heroine Flora, who is more interested in basic hygiene than histrionics. Morrison was inspired by the real-life story of an enslaved woman who killed her own daughter rather than see her return to slavery.
Evelyn Waugh bottles the intoxicating vapour of a vanished era in this novel about middle-class Charles Ryder, who meets upper-class Sebastian Flyte at Oxford University in the s. Rarely has a fictional world been so completely realised.
Will there ever be a novel that burns with more passionate intensity than Wuthering Heights? My sin, my soul. A fun and useful book on sandwiches of every kind, with recipes! The Babe Ruth Story. By Babe Ruth. What kid doesn't love transportation? Vehicles of all kinds abound in this wonderfully attractive book, produced by the Smithsonian. In fact, I find them complicated and distracting to read. That being said, there are many readers who find the graphic novel reading process easier for the same reason it's difficult for me.
Readers with attention issues, for example, can dive deeply into one picture at a time, or one page at a time, and find the experience to be more authentic to everyday life, less constricting than one-line-at-a-time. The dialogue, while economical, presents enough of the stories to do justice to them, while the art is brash and colorful enough to create exciting worlds. These are classic, engaging tales of life and death, power and repression, siblings and loyalty, ancient prophecies and legendary battles.
The Viking myths of Thor, Loki, Odin, Asgard and Baldur are told honestly here in all their action, so adventure-seekers will be pleased. This is sure to please all but the most hard-boiled of graphic novel fans, and will teach the Norse myths as an intended consequence. Absolutely worth trying! Football aficionados, casual sports fans and people who couldn't care less about sports will equally find something captivating about this fine biography of perhaps America's finest athlete of all time.
It's a brilliantly written book! Carlisle students were not so much students as they were prisoners taken from their families, forced to speak English and otherwise behave like white Americans. But from to , Warner, Thorpe and Carlisle transformed football by creating, among other things, the forward pass, the wide receiver or and the tight end. In those years, they went , defeating the powerhouse schools of their time in ways that dwarf the upset stories of today. Will to Live: Dispatches from the Edge of Survival. The only person of this genre to go into survival situations entirely alone, he shot his own series and dealt with true life-or-death situations.
He was also a true survivalist, so he taught watchers the right way to handle themselves in such situations. As such, Stroud earned a kind of street cred that no others on TV can match. In between he includes some of his own most harrowing experiences. Naval officer George Washington De Long was at heart an explorer.
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After the Civil War ended, America had become obsessed with the idea of reaching the North Pole, and, not one to back down from a challenge, De Long made that his next goal. Nobody had succeeded at reaching the area, thought to house a sea teeming with organic riches, but De Long took off in with his hand-selected crew of the USS Jeannette to become the first. Within months, however, the ship became icebound. It drifted for two years before it was finally crushed, sending the crew off on foot. By Richard Benson. Middle-school boys in particular love NF and humor, and this is both.
No, that's not exactly true; kids of any type or age can enjoy this book. Real laugh-out-loud-funny quips that also teach puns and show that sometimes the way teachers ask questions leaves some room for interpretation. By Elizabeth Levy. Who says American history has to be boring? Social studies textbooks tend to be, as the saying goes, "a mile wide and an inch deep. Levy finds the stories—the quirkier the better—and weaves them into a memorable collection of weird but true facts that kids will remember long after they've forgotten why they had to memorize the name Crispus Attucks and the date It doesn't seem like a sexy book, but utilitarianism is much more important to boys than sexy.
This training manual serves every level of outdoosperson with step-by-step instructions and pictures. In fact, there are going to be many readers who have little intention to sleep outdoors at all who will nonetheless enjoy the knowledge they will get to "be prepared" for any situation. One version comes with a leather cover, and don't underestimate the "sexy" value of that. In an age where those words are often considered an immediate turnoff, Anderson keeps writing books that get people to fall in love with reading, and thinking.
Music, which is being cut from so many educational programs around the country, is essential to our human existence, and this book is one of those that confirms that fact. In , the Germans began a campaign to lay absolute waste to the Russian city of Leningrad. A million deaths and almost three years later, the city was overwhelmed with more corpses than people to bury them. Food was nonexistent and people turned to anything—anything! What could a composer—Dmitri Shostakovich— do in the face of such absolute misery?
If I told you the answer was write a symphony, you might argue that that was at best a foolhardy act, at worst a waste of time. Dare I say, this is a page-turner? Go ahead, look through all my reviews, I rarely use the phrase. It's best saved for books like Anderson's. Anyone who loves a true story, a layered mystery, a wartime thriller, an underdog victory, or believes in the power of an individual to change the world will love the effort of diving into this Pulitzer Prize-worthy account.
Man, can M. Anderson write! John Adams a Boy Book of the Month award-winner. That couldn't be further than the truth. What McCullough does best in general, and especially here, is tell stories. In the process, historical myths fall by the wayside as his readers grow to become a part of the era. No biographer understands the importance of stories in bringing a person or era to life like McCullough does.
He's a storyteller first and foremost, and those with an interest in any of his many nonfiction topics should seek his tales out before reading any others. Also as a result, young Americans probably know his name and a factoid or two. But the complete story probably continues to elude most, except those who trekked through Ron Chernow's comprehensive biography. From the outset, Brockenbrough proceeds from the belief that her characters do not hold intrinsic interest and instead need to come to life first. So, she introduces a young Hamilton from the outset who is imminently interesting and likable.
From here, however, Brockenbrough rarely takes her foot off the interest pedal, never forgetting that story is the root of history. We are just getting to an era where we are learning that the lessons of history must be contained in their stories and not merely extracted from them into mile-wide, inch-deep texts. This is also, by the way, a text intelligent enough for most adults who have been daunted by Chernow's, to tackle and enjoy. To that end, it has inaugurated its series with exquisite and insightful texts focused on the most iconic photographs in history.
It is a mistake to think young boys of any age do not care about history. It's simply a matter of making history interesting, pertinent and less long-winded than school curricula often make it. These brief texts, each at 64 pages, will only ignite interest in younger readers and make them hungry to learn more about the world around them. One Sunday morning before church, when Welles Crowther was a young boy, his father gave him a red handkerchief for his back pocket. He cherished the necessity and the camaraderie. In the days that followed, they came to accept that he would never come home.
After leading them down, the young man turned around. With sympathy and tenderness, Rinaldi's sensitive interviews reveal the life of a man whose actions we hold up as ideals for everyman and everywoman. It is an inspiring and fair tribute. There are two versions of this book, by the way: the original, written for a general audience, and one revised for middle-schoolers.
Buy both. Great American Warriors. By Sal Tomasi. Ghost Soldiers. By Hampton Sides. The story of an heroic World War II rescue mission. By Jon Krakauer. True story of the Mount Everest climbing expedition that ended in disaster. Eleven expedition members began the hike, but only six came back alive. Krakauer was one of them, and he relates the harrowing experiences both of heroism and cowardice, selfishness and selflessness he endured. Band of Brothers. By Steven Ambrose. Direct commentary by the men who survived makes this saga even more meaningful. By Alfred Lansing. Another superb survival story.
In , Ernest Shackleton commanded an expedition of 27 men to cross the South Pole. Starvation, battles with sea monsters and bouts with gangrene follow. Disturbing moments such as eating their sled dogs and amputation are necessary parts of this intense nonfiction story. Then the German army invaded. Pederson and his friends knew better.
Their King Christian X, acquiesced, allowing the Germans free access to their country. Denmark would spend the next several years occupied by the Germans. But Pederson and his friends did not approve. Inspired by the resistance of their Norwegian cousins, and by British bravery, Knud and a collection of friends created the RAF Club, and, when his family moved to Aalborg, the Churchill Club. Their mission: to perform acts of sabotage against their occupiers. This is a compelling, important story that illustrates just how much a dozen or so determined boys with bicycles can accomplish.
Ship Breaker a Boy Book of the Month award-winner. The crew here isn't generally a fan of futuristic dystopias, but with that genre being so popular these days, it's hard to ignore them. And a few are really quite good. Bacigalupi's writing is hard-hitting and dispassionate, as he traces the miserable lives of waif-like kids as they scavenge the beached iron ships of Gulf Coast America for meager pay. This is a post-global-warming world, where city-killer storms regularly ravage an American coastline now buried under the continually encroaching seas.
Young teen Nailer has a life-changing experience early on that pits the concept of loyalty against that of "every one for himself," and when he finds a beached yacht with a rich teenage girl aboard, he must decide whether to scavenge the ship and become rich, or follow his newly reborn instinct for compassion. A tough book to put down. By Suzanne Collins. I'm honestly not sure this is a book for boys. They're going to have to get past the first pages of explication, history and "girl-narrative.
An absolutely haunting book, exceedingly well written. This is one that will make most readers uncomfortable, and keep them thinking about the book throughout the day. What if one of your peripheral friends, a girl you went out with once, committed suicide? What if she left a series of tapes behind to explain who was partly responsible, and why? What if you were one of the people to receive those partially secret tapes, shared only with those she chose because of their role in her life, and death? The story of a tragedy is told in poignant style by Asher, who also reveals how important the simplest acts of meanness and kindness can affect a life.
By Susan Vaught. A challenging YA book for certain. Del is a seventeen-year-old who was convicted of something really, really bad. Something so awful that it has branded him for life, made him ineligible to attend college, have friends or date. Or at least that's what the law says, and the district attorney who made an example out of him for the rest of the world to see. But what did Del really do that was so awful? Vaught handles the always-difficult subject matter sex with a deft hand, revealing a human touch that is often forgotten when the subjects of teens and sex mix.
She knows what it feels like to have a first crush, to feel attracted to someone for the first time, to fall in love with music for the first time, and to fall in love the first time. Del is eye-openingly real, and though boys don't often reveal themselves as eloquently as Del does, they would if they had someone like Vaught to translate their conflicting thoughts. An alternatingly wonderful and disturbing book, often both at the same time.
Susan Vaught repeatedly creates realistic worlds and spot-on characterization of kids few writers would be able to portray with such insight and compassion. She has tackled boys who have attempted suicide, been convicted of sex crimes, and now, her most difficult task of all, three absolutely compelling characters who will quickly become your favorite people in the world. First there's Jason, a. Freak, whose voice the novel is filtered through. Or I should say, voices, because Jason is a schizophrenic who, despite his medication, still hears many of them quite well.
When Sunshine disappears after school one Monday, the mystery begins, and Jason can't even be sure he's not responsible, because his voices insist he is. You won't believe you can identify with these characters at the outset, but before long, due to Vaught's deft writing, you understand them intimately. Freak and Drip race against the clock with an unlikely FBI agent to discover clues to Sunshine's whereabouts, if she is alive at all.
I'd like to say it's a heart-thumping mystery, which it is, but it's also an amazing story of kids like you've never seen before, and a story of friendship and love and redemption. Like everything Vaught has written before, this is an important book that will make you a better person for having read it.
Be ready to be amazed. By Michael Grant. Clearly not for younger kids, it's a great pair to Lord of the Flies. Kids suddenly find that everyone over 15 in their small town has suddenly disappeared! How do the kids vie for power? How do they protect the littlest ones? What happens when the food runs out. THEN they discover that as each of them turns 15, they too will "disappear.
The Chocolate War. By Robert Cormier. A provocative, sometimes dark, thriller. By Orson Scott Card. An imaginative sci-fi stunner! Earth has barely survived two alien invasions. The military command is preparing to invade the alien world in space before they can attack Earth again. But he first has to survive intense mental and physical battle exercises, attacks by jealous rivals, and psychological attacks by the military command. By Walter Dean Myers. A compelling story, masterfully written, grippingly told.
One of the few books you can call a masterpiece. If you don't know about John Green yet, you're in for a treat. If you do, you don't need me to tell you anything. By Benjamin Alire Saenz. Here's one that breaks just about all the Boy Book rules. It's quiet, very quiet. Character-driven rather than plot-driven. It takes place in a forgotten era of the early 's. And its characters don't speak like any other boys you know.
But it is beautifully written and poetic, a story about self-discovery that transcends the primary lessons. It's intensely personal and internal, and poignant from word one. And if the characters talk too perfectly, that is intentional. And as such, the language and ideas ring spot-on true. This is a book for everyone who thinks they're different from the rest of the world, which means most teenage boys.
But they have to be willing to confront those differences, because Dante and Aristotle have to make tough decisions in accepting who they are. Mesmerizing writing about friendship, self-discovery, and addiction.
Hard to pick up, but harder to put down. In it, Salvatore, adopted son of Vincente, deals with similar qualms that Aristotle did There are traumas small and large throughout the novel, but not one conflict around which the narrative revolves. Instead, the book explores the various kinds of love that heal us when trauma strikes. Sam's mother, for example, is an addict, but that fact is merely part of her existence. When her mother dies, however, guilt streams in. It's one thing to wish she were dead, but when it happens There, however, is her surrogate father Vincente and ipso facto brother Sal, however, to take her in and make her part of the family.
Healing, we learn, can only happen in an environment of caring, as inexplicable as love can be, because, after all, none of these characters is enduring a perfect life. They are each healing themselves as they heal each other. Sal, for example, has just discovered that his long-missing biological father had written him a letter, but does Sal have room for a new person in his life?
He is consumed with anger lately and relies on his fists to deal with his emotions. When he starts to address the root of his angst, he finds himself asking questions about his past. He knows his present is rich with strong relationships, but there is another father out there waiting for him.
Does he even need another father? He's worried enough about the only father he has known, Vincente. Growing to adulthood, Sal is just starting to realize the sacrifices the man has made for him. He loves Vincente all the more for his devotion and selflessness, but there is that guilt popping up again. And when Vincente's former boyfriend suddenly returns to their lives, Sal has a new source of anger and mistrust. Does he have to defend his father, too? And what about Fito? The more Sal learns about his troubled friend, the more he admires Fito's own attempts to make something of his life.
Thrown out of his house when his family discovers he is gay, he, too, becomes a member of Vincente's extended family, adding his pain and his love to the mix. Finally, and the backdrop for all this drama, is Mima, Sal's dying grandmother. The most loving woman he knows, Sal realizes Mima has much left to share, but Sal fears there will never be enough time left to learn it all.
As is true in life, the troubles to float in and out of these characters' lives in Saenz' rich prose. The book is staunchly realistic even as the prose itself is beautifully romantic. Those looking for a pat novel about a teenager obsessed with overcoming a single conflict in pages need not look here. Instead, what Saenz has created is a book, perhaps, for someone who has endured enough troubles, thank you, and needs to be reassured, reminded that there is beauty to be found in every life.
We can find hat beauty, Saenz reminds us, in our relationships. I can think of few books that can do this as well as Saenz does here. This is his love letter to the world, and to himself. Just read the book! King It's not a secret that I love A. King's novels. They reward thinkers--people who don't simply skate through life accepting society's rules and regulations, and people who understand suffering and try their best to come to grips with it.
This one goes into her back catalogue, and boy is the journey worth it. One of the few King books with a male protagonist, this is also one of her most easily accessible. It's easy to fall in love with Lucky Linderman. Bullied ruthlessly at the town pool, learning to deal with new feelings for some of the girls in his life, feeling so utterly alone, Lucky is enduring what every boy has experienced at one point or another.
Only he's experiencing it all at once. King brings her brand of magic realism to this party, too: in Lucky's dreams he visits his grandfather, long missing in Vietnam, and brings items back with him when he awakes. He's trying to save his grandfather, and in doing so also attempts to save his own powerless father, and finally himself. When his mother brings him across the country to her brother's family, Lucky learns the valuable lesson that he's not the only one who's screwed up, and that's the most important lesson of all. I have always said that A.
King's characters are, like real girls, deeper, more complex, more thoughtful and more complicated than most writers limn them as being. But that's only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. She meets versions of herself on the bus at various moments in her life, and has the chance to communicate with each of them, to ask questions, find answers. Like her protagonist Sarah, A. King tells the truth carafully.
Sarah repeats in some form, "I am a human being. I am sixteen years old. That should be enough. But for her and so many other teenagers, it isn't. Secrets of older brothers who go away and do not return. Secrets of parents who despise each other. Secrets of classmates who steal what's most precious to her.
Secrets of teachers who Sarah spies kissing one of her teenage friends. The most I can tell you about this book is: this is nothing like the world you know, and everything like the world you know. Their school is immersed in relentless standardized multiple-choice testing; bomb- and shooting-threats take place regularly, and may be the work of any or all of the above; and a mysterious man in the bushes sells letters and lemonade to teenagers for a fee with and without drugs.
For those who want something less powerful, less literary or less intimate, it is not. It is, however, another game-changer from King on the YA scene. That's why I contend King's girls are more real than most characters in contemporary YA--or at least should be. There's such substance to them; it's hard to come to grips when you're done reading King's work that Vera Dietz isn't actually out there in Pennsylvania still delivering pizzas.
She is, isn't she? In this case, Vera's crisis is due in large part to her best friend's betrayal of her no spoiler alert here. Vera has been falling in love with Charlie through the years. But Charlie Kahn has had more than his share of issues growing up. Still, he has always had Vera to rely on as best friend and soulmate. Until high school, that is. Like so many teens, Charlie's homelife catches up to him and leads him to doubting everything about himself—including Vera.
Why should someone as wonderful as her care about someone as damaged as he is? So, what is a boy to do, if not self-destruct and push Vera away… so far and so completely that she has no choice but to abandon him? Yes, it's easy to use the word heartbreaking in book reviews, but heartbreaking is when characters don't simply suffer from a stroke of luck or a single bad occurrence. Heartbreaking is a fully fleshed out set of lives that intersect, weave together, and touch each other but not enough to save each other. Heartbreaking is when one of those characters is left alone to pick up the pieces and reconstruct her life anew.
King's characters don't avoid loss at the last minute… as in life, they suffer loss and must learn to go on, forever damaged but forever strengthened. Rats and Pigman! A fast-moving narrative about—well, rats. Not the nice ones, either. The ones that eat everything, including humans. Throughout the gore, Michael and his sister Sarah struggle to barely escape being dinner. Highly illogical Behavior a Boy Book of the Month award-winner. That plan involves finding Solomon Reed, the boy who went crazy one day several years ago, took his clothes off and jumped into the school fountain.
Once she finds him, Lisa's going to "fix" him and write an essay about her genius methodology. That should easily earn her collegiate placement. If she sounds like the kind of girl most boys can't stand because of her hubris, self-assuredness and manipulative nature, she is. And most boys will immediate dislike Lisa. But that's alright, because Solomon is half of this narrative, as well. Sensitive, thoughtful, kind and damaged, he's someone everyone likes to root for. On the one hand, the reader knows exactly where this is going: Solomon will be as much the teacher as the student, and Lisa will be forced to confront her own highly illogical behavior.
The dilemma the reader faces, however, is how to root for Solomon to overcome his fears while hoping at the same time that Lisa gets her comeuppance. When she brings her boyfriend into the mix and inadvertently causes a love triangle, that conflict is heightened. What do we want to happen, after all? And in doing so, are we not as guilty as Lisa for wanting to manipulate her world at the cost of people's lives? What John Corey Whaley does so well, however, is navigate the unlikelinesses in his fiction and make them flow like reality.
After all, this is a man who wrote a magnificent novel about a boy who has a head transplant and none of it was ironic, cheeky or funny. Whaley's writing is so smooth, so compelling, so easy that the reader willingly accepts every unique situation Whaley presents. Simply put, what he understands as well as any YA writer alive, is the psyche of the 21st century teenage boy. As such, his books have an uncanny ability to stay with you long after you've read them. Thanks for the Trouble a Boy Book of the Month award-winner.
Successful writers of young adult books are usually successful for one reason above all others: voice. With Thanks for the Trouble, his publishers have recognized a chance for readers to find communion and have released a box set perfectly titled Less Alone in the World. Wallach is a Romantic in the literary sense: someone who understands the loneliness of the human condition. Even as his characters find communion with each other, such unity is temporary.
They have insightful conversations at almost every turn and find something in common with most of their peers at one point or another.
The Book of Spies (Judd Ryder & Eva Blake, #1) by Gayle Lynds
Yes, he lost his father in a car accident five years ago, a motif readers are tiring of. He lets him be flawed and multi-faceted, someone we sometimes root for and sometimes not. In this way, Wallach approaches the master of such characterization, Andrew Smith. Parker is a decent guy, but not a nice guy, or vice-versa. One day while scoping out victims in a San Francisco hotel, he meets a girl with silver hair who, he subsequently learns, claims to be his age and goes by the name Zelda.
She is planning, meanwhile, to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge to end her year life. As a spoiler alert: someone looking for an ending that satisfies completely will be disappointed. The goal of fiction is to tell stories, celebrate stories and reveal the power of stories. Wallach succeeds on all three counts here. His parents instead send him to the private school. His life is transformed. He becomes a superstar, friendships are going well, and does great in school, until….
The Battle of Jericho. By Sharon Draper. The Warriors of Distinction club at Douglass HS enables boys to date the best girls, go to the best parties, and even have an easier time with grades. When year-old Jericho is selected as a pledge, he is suddenly respected.
But becoming a Warrior involves making risky choices. Heart of a Champion. An intense baseball book that addresses themes of alcohol, loss, competition, friendships and family. Not a simple read, or for everyone, but for a kid who knows about the intensity of competition in high school, an important book. Music of the Swamp. Delightful writing overflowing with imagery and similes.
Great Falls a Boy Book of the Month award-winner. Jeremy spends much of his freetime drunk and angry, while Shane spends most of his time substituting for Jeremy as husband and father. Whether they are moving toward something or away, all Shane knows is that the longer the trek continues, the less likely there will be a way out. It also makes it that much more heartbreaking. I'm a sucker for teenage angst stories and Shaun David Hutchinson's opening chapter alone has it in spades. Yeah, he's right, to a degree: what's the purpose in making up our faces, plucking hairs, purchasing products to make us look pretty, especially when there are deeper issues confronting us.
Take Henry, for example. His mom copes with her own existential crisis of keeping her family from splintering by chain smoking. This realistic set of issues is juxtaposed with a fantastic background: aliens abduct him regularly since he was 13, and have made it clear that the world is going to end and have given him the opportunity to change that fate. He has days to decide, and all he has to do is press a big red button. But is Earth worth saving? We all have our big red button, and need to learn how to like ourselves enough to press it.
It only makes sense that the best middle grade writers are becoming the best young adult authors. Keeping with his practice of providing responsible ecology as a thematic backdrop, Hiaasen introduces fourteen year old Richard as a protagonist whose trouble-finding cousin Malley disappears with a mysterious man she met on the internet. Did she run off with him, or was she kidnapped? Her few phone calls home are the only clues Richard has, but there's something in her voice, something in her word choices that make him believe she is no longer with the mysterious man by choice.
Richard decides that if anyone can find her, it will be him. Though it sounds intense and at times is , the book is more engaging adventure than it is cautionary tale, and that is because of the delightful senior citizen called Skink readers of Hiaasen's adult novels will recognize him from many previous novels. The homeless but resourceful former Governor of Florida Skink aids Richard in his quest to find his cousin, and he does so with fearless flair. Yes, there are a lot of unrealistic events here that require a readerly suspension of disbelief, but I say this as a compliment: only a writer like Hiaasen could pull it off.
The unlikely occurrences are not only acceptable, they're enchanting: Skink burying himself in sand and breathing through a straw to catch a turtle egg poacher; Skink wrestling alligators and winning; Skink surviving gun battles armed with only his hands. In case you haven't guessed, it is Skink aka Clinton Tyree who steals the show here. Perhaps we are we going to see fewer YA novels where teens mysteriously live lives devoid of human contact and solve everything that comes their way by banding together in a utopian realm of sub-adults.
Great writers like Lubar, Bacigalupi, Spinelli and Hiaasen don't need to absent adults from teenagers' lives to write their stories, and as a result, books like theirs bring much more satisfaction. In most cases, young adults don't live on islands, and adults often cause and help alleviate many of the troubles in their lives. I, for one, am hoping to see Skink encounter many more young adults in future novels and those who have followed my reviews know that I'm not generally a fan of series.
David Lubar is America's finest short story writer for middle schoolers. Darned if it doesn't show yet another side to his talent! Self-proclaimed as "too dark, too heartless" for younger readers, the collection seems to get better and better with each subsequent story. And these, Lubar claims, are stories he just had lying around the house. Though the opening story of teenage girls getting revenge on their gym teacher is standard fare please, keep reading if you don't love it , everything else in the book is superb.
Lubar's stories here read less like contemporary fiction and more like classic Harlan Ellison, Rod Serling or Ray Bradbury—just enough mystery, just enough suspense, just enough horror, just enough sci-fi. Character, Driven a Boy Book of the Month award-winner. In fact, saying much at all about it risks altering the reader's intended voyage.
Suffice it to say that amid Lubar's long career, his latest novel is his finest foray into the Young Adult genre. In it, seventeen-year-old Cliff provides the perfect unreliable narrator. Cliff begins with a riveting first-person tale and keeps the throttle going throughout. Cliff is, like many Lubar protagonists, all personality, the kind of kid most readers love because he is, like them, struggling to make his life what he desperately wishes it were.
Within a few days of meeting him, we experience Cliff falling in love with Jillian, the new girl in school. Despite his contention that all he wants to do his senior year of high school is lose his virginity, he's a much richer, deeper character than he paints himself out to be. As such, we're often frustrated by him, because we want to know him deeper, yet he continually keeps us at arm's length, using humor as his shield.
We laugh at him, sometimes with him, but we want the relationship to be stronger, and that makes us want to read deeper Genius writing, Lubar, just genius! Like most of his novels, Lubar populates this one with a supporting cast that is as wonderful and engaging as his main characters. There is Mr. Piccaro, an English teacher who slips novels wrapped in brown paper to Cliff at opportune moments. And even more perfect is Ms. If I haven't satisfied your appetite for information about the novel, well, go back to my opening statement.
It also has the most realistic, graphic, yet tasteful sex scene I've read in YA to date. Make no mistake about it: Lubar gives us a unique novel here, one that defies description. And like that book, this one will not please everyone, but it will change many people's lives. That is the best kind of novel. Chris Crutcher has done it again. His work has never been for the faint hearted, but always honest and insightful. As such, sometimes his work can be too provocative for some readers at some times.
Notice the use of "some! He gives them what they need to hear. This is no cute miracle story, though. Instead, it's about doing what you can with what little time you have left. Only for Ben, there is no way out. As real life is likely to have, Crutcher's novel faces sex, romance, sports, religion, incest, racism head-on with intelligent respect. I'd like to say this is a life-changing book for the right reader, but then again, all Crutcher's books can be. Do yourself a favor and check out the Crutcher section at your independent bookseller. Odds are, it's in the shelves with the words "highly recommended" written by the people who work there.
They're not afraid of superb books that don't conform to easy trends. Shy works aboard a cruise ship when he discovers the girl of his dreams… and like the girl of his dreams, she isn't one of the kids that he's used to spending his time with—you know, working-class kids who know the value of a hard-earned dollar. Then the earthquake hits, and tsunamis toss their boat. The various battles have just begun. Gritty urban stories that explore real life, blending street life, sports and the search for self-identity. By Yvonne Ventresca. More proof that a book can be written by a woman, with a female protagonist, and still have great appeal for both genders!
Books for Boys (& girls): A Reading List
Lily hides a secret from most of the world that involves a teacher who everyone else loves but she knows better. But she's got more pressing problems: a new, deadly flu epidemic has struck Washington, DC, and is spreading quickly. Within days, it hits New Jersey and claims her closest friend, the only one who believes her story. With her parents quarantined away from home, Lily is more alone than ever, and after months of insulating herself from the pain of her devastating experience with her teacher, she's going to have to go into a world that is deadlier than ever, to reclaim her life.
Ventresca writes with an intelligence that respects her readers. Instead, the brilliance of this book lies in its simplicity, its crispness, its economy of detail, its characterization, and especially in its mastery of psychological horror. This book scares so well because it lets your brain wander, like Lily's does, to places that it doesn't want to go. By Laurie Halse Anderson. What I said about women writing books with girls as protagonists that boys can love? Well, double it here. Of course, it's Laurie Halse Anderson, who writes like most people breathe: she makes it seem so damn easy.
The minute you step into her world, you realize you're reading a master, and that's enough to recommend any of her books. But if you need more convincing, just look at the superlatives listed on the back cover, for heaven's sake. A story about both adults and teens that recognizes their worlds are not always so separate as YA novels portray them, it also adds a romantic twist with a boy named Finn who has his own secrets, something Hayley has grown too used to.
Pick it up and read a page. I doubt you'll want to put it back down. Snow Bound. Stubborn year-old Tony Laporte has a fight with his parents, and drives off in one of his their cars. He picks up a hitchhiker named Cindy, in comes a blinding snowstorm, Tony wrecks the car, and they have to battle the blizzard, injuries and wild dog attacks. A classic story of learning interdependence for survival sake. The Last Mission. When his plane is shot down, he and his crewmates are taken prisoner, where the book becomes ultra-disturbing, yet ultra-thoughtful.
Jim Piersall was an up-and-coming minor league ballplayer in the 50's. From an early age, his father trained him to be just that, the best all-around outfielder the Major Leagues would ever see. After two agonizing years in the minors Dad would not accept Jimmy's floundering down there when he was "the best.
Instead, it only brought more stress. Piersall's early career with the Red Sox was marred by antics both humorous and frightening: arguments with teammates and umpires, behavior that got him suspended by his own team. Fans tended to love the antics, but underneath, Piersall was raging. Then one day, Piersall snapped, and it landed him in a psychiatric institution. Through the help of a considerate doctor whose attempts to cure also included the popular-at-the-time electro-shock therapy and a patient, loving wife, Piersall made the gradual trip toward self-awareness and understanding.
This book was written at a time when sports autobiographies were not a popular genre, and neither was the confessional genre, so the frankness and honesty that Piersall shares is truly eye-opening. For those who have seen the decent film with Anthony Perkins and Karl Malden, this is far superior, but in any case, it will be eye-opening for sports fans, and kids whose parents try to live vicariously through their sporting successes.
By Jennifer A. On the night of August 13, , the East German government blockaded the Western half of Berlin from the territory controlled by the Soviet Union. It began as a neutral zone with barricades and chain-link barbed-wire fencing before eventually becoming the brick-and-mortar wall of infamy.
Eight-year-old Gerta remembers it as the day she, her mother and older brother Fritz were separated from her father and oldest brother Dominic. The latter pair was in West Berlin when the barrier went up. There would be no crossing from either side. The Grenzers—East German border police—would threaten with weapons and public abductions of suspected Western sympathizers.
Four years later, walking to school, Greta sees Dominic signaling across the border to her. The next day, her father appears, pantomiming a digging motion from a childhood song. Then a note arrives with a picture of a building. Greta is sure she understands: her father wants her to dig a passageway under the building to escape with her mother and Fritz into West German territory. In crisp, intelligent prose, Nielsen tells of an extraordinary—occasionally too extraordinary—twelve-year-old Gerta, who masterminds and, with brother Fritz, undertakes the daring escape.
Obstacles repeatedly fall in her path, but Gerta is determined to reunite her family. History buffs will drool over the magnificently told tale, but even reluctant readers will become immersed in the tension-filled exploits. In the frantic concluding chapters, just when freedom seems in their grasp, one complication after another arises, but Nielsen deftly makes the incredible story seem believable. Snow Treasure.
By Marie McSwigan. Twelve year old Peter Lundstrom enjoys sledding down the mountains of Norway with his friends in They devise a plan to smuggle the gold out of Norway, but Peter and his friends must do it. By John Corey Whaley. If I were to tell you there was this book about a boy whose head is transplanted onto someone else's body after being cryogenically frozen for five years, you'd probably anticipate a horror novel of sorts, or perhaps an ultra-quirky comedy.
But in the hands of wildly rule-breaking Whaley, the novel moves into the territory of realism. Indeed, what would happen if you fell asleep for five years and tried to rekindle your friendships, your romance, your family life? On the surface, it might seem easy, but when all the significant people in your life have lived through five years of change and you've just awakened from a nap, picking up where you left off isn't as simple as it seems.
By Jason Reynolds. Two things:. On the inside back cover of the dust jacket, there are big words, "Jason Reynolds is crazy about stories. Whew: really good stories make you write really long sentences to describe them! This entire book exudes a love of storytelling, and as a result, every page exhibits a narrator absolutely engaged in the moment. Ali is unafraid to shine the light of his imagination upon his whole world, and as a result, he realizes that everything he knows about his mother, his father, his friends, his neighborhood and the people he idolizes has been built on faulty foundations.
As a result, this novel shows how subtle and profound moments of epiphany are in a teenager's life. Ultimately, Reynolds reaffirms the value of family, in whatever form it takes. In fact, you could argue that every main character here is part of one big family, and everyone is at least a little better off by the novel's end. It conveys a sense of violence that, while present, is not the focus of the book. Furthermore, while crocheting does figure largely in the novel, guns do not; parents, teachers and librarians who might automatically resist the book because it screams gun violence would be missing a story about family dynamics: a love for and by mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends.
While the book opens, thoughtful and humorous narrator Ali thinks he knows everything about his world in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. He lives in a modest apartment with his mother, little sister Jazz and friends Noodles and Needles next door. While his mother holds down two jobs, she does her best to be a concerned, loving parent, and her children respect her for that. As a result, they act as parental figures to each other and the essentially abandoned Noodles and Needles.
In fact, it is because Noodles and Needles are left to their own devices that the plot takes form. Ali and Noodles get themselves invited to a block party that they probably shouldn't go to. Forced to bring the Tourette's-inflicted, constantly crocheting Needles along, the party turns violent when Needles says the wrong thing to the wrong person. The drama unfolds quickly from there, but this is a book to savor from the outset, not merely to "see what happens" though as for that, the conclusion is excellent.
This might not be the book that makes Jason Reynolds a household name and the cover it partly to blame for that , but mark my words, you will hear from him in the future. I, for one, am looking forward to it. Jason Reynolds could rewrite a textbook and make it interesting. But here he brings us another Brooklyn story that could speak for anyone from any number of American cities. That's even better. Matt is a year-old from the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, and his mother has just died from breast cancer.
School has been in session for a couple months, but getting back into the swing of things is impossible. All the usual high school drama is pointless now that he's seen more real drama up close. Without his mom's income, he knows he has to get a job to help make ends meet.
Rumor has it the Cluck Bucket fried chicken restaurant pays well, so he heads there to fill out an application. First, he meets a girl at the counter who he later learns is named Love.
Love's good looks are only matched by her maturity and strength. Maybe working here will be good. But then, halfway through the application, a vomiting episode occurs. Matt hates vomit. Maybe that offer to work with Mr. Ray, the funeral home director, might be a good idea after all. Matt takes out his only black suit—the one he wore to his mother's funeral—and it soon defines his identity as he seeks to find himself and overcome his overwhelming sense of loss.
One of the impressive things about Reynolds' characters is how they meet the realities of working-class life with such believable maturity. But there's a lot more—and a lot less—to the story, and Jason Reynolds' masterful storytelling reveals it in a way that it feels as much like memoir as fiction—loose and real, full of details that seem superfluous yet are vital. The accidental, the unimportant—that's what make up our lives, and Reynolds transforms that which seems matter-of-fact into deep characterization and setting.
Against the backdrop of different funerals that Matt attends, Matt's father, drunk with depression, is hit by a car and forced to spend November and December in the hospital. Matt's going to have to make his way through the holidays on his own. Or maybe he won't.
Reynolds is one of those writers who recognizes that adults do play a part in teens' lives, and Mr. Ray is a delightful character that I only wish we heard more from. Love, meanwhile, has a parallel story to Matt's, and their lives intertwine in ways that are more than simply mutual attraction. In his second novel, Reynolds again paints women as inspiring and intelligent, and his self-proclaimed "mama's boys" are all the richer for it.
Reynolds also excels at the sense of interiority that many boys this age have. With the world going on around them, boys often live so much in t heir own heads, out of step with their environment even as they are enmeshed in it. Reynolds reveals that so well. He also writes love into each one of his relationships, and he does it in just the right amounts, too.
Like his first book, When I Was the Greatest, it's a study in character and place more than plot. This is a good thing, because Matt, Love, and Mr. Ray command attention with every word they say, every thought they have. American boys need more Bed-Stuy stories, but thankfully Jason Reynolds has given us his second in two years.
By Cal Armistead. A "real" boy book here. What do I mean by that? A year-old boy awakens in New York's Penn station with no idea who he is. First, he endures, then escapes, the horrors of New York's streets, then decides his sole possession—the Thoreau book—must have some clues as to his past. Thus, he ventures to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, with the hope of unraveling his personal mystery. Both understand that "Hank" is troubled, but they quickly accept him. Thomas draws out the Thoreau parallels nicely and provides the intertextual depth one would hope for in such a book.
He also gives Hank the room literally and figuratively to determine who he is. Hailey, meanwhile, attracts Hank toward a simpler, more typical teenage life, and a potential escape route from everything he has been. The problem is, as Hank begins to recall his past, he also realizes he's been running from a horrible secret. Ultimately, as Hank unravels the mystery of his past, he realizes he has to accept what he has done, or continue to run away, even from this place that has accepted him as just another teen in the melodrama of adolescence.
This is a remarkably thoughtful debut novel from Cal Armistead, who—What? This is an author who understands how boys think, what they want in male role models the Thoreauvian Thomas is excellent , and how they read. By Emil Ostrovski. But then here I am, recommending it, right? Is this book for everyone? But no book is.