Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Title: The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books            Year: 2002

ISBN-13: 9780440237686

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: 1994 Newbery Medal, 1996 William Allen White Award,  American Library Association listings for “Best Book for Young Adults”, “ALA Notable Children’s Book“, and “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000”,  A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, Winner of the Regina Medal, Booklist Editors’ Choice, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Coming of Age, Classics, Dystopia, Survival, Social Situations

Plot Summary:

Jonas lives with no pain or worry, a place where our world’s issues have been eliminated. Everything in his community is orderly and perfect, but there is no love, until The Giver shares it with Jonas. Then life’s pleasure and pain become part of his own life, his truth. Jonas begins to question the perfection of the community and it is here that the story begins to unfold. Angered and confused by his imperfect and very intriguing past, Jonas must save himself and his community from the fantasy life that has been thrust upon them.

My Take:

Back before parents were complaining about Twilight, Harry Potter, or the Hunger Games, parents had issues with Lois Lowry’s The Giver. There are some pretty disturbing situations that Joans must go through to test his courage, strength, and heart in the story but it is not without reason. Like The Hunger Games this book brings up a multitude of emotions such as joy, anger, horror, love and desire. This read is an excellent part of a student’s curriculum because in the classroom there is an opportunity for discussion and further understanding. Parents should encourage their teens to discuss the consequences of the book and how that might look in our own society.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Matched by Ally Condie

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Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Title: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster

Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Publisher: Scholastic Press    Year: 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0545116749

Genre: Non-Fiction

Age: 8 and up (according to the publisher)

Themes / Subjects: Shipwrecks, Titanic (Steamship), North Atlantic Ocean, History

Plot Summary:

The voices and stories of real TITANIC survivors and witnesses to the disaster are weaved together in a heart stopping action, nail biting drama filled with fascinating historical details, archival photographs on nearly every page and quotes from primary sources. Hopkinson’s book follows the stories of nine-year-old Frankie Goldsmith; Violet Jessop, a young stewardess; Jack Thayer, an American high school senior; Colonel Archibald Gracie, a well-to-do gentleman; William Murdoch, a brave seaman; Charlotte Collyer, a young mother on her way to start a new life; and many others.

My Take:

We recently put this book into our library system and with the recent re-release of James Cameron’s Titanic (the movie) and upcoming anniversary of the event, I thought it would be an interesting read.

Deborah Hopkinson’s style of writing is very similar to James Swanson (I just reviewed his book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer below) in that she takes factual information and weaves it into a historical retelling of that fateful night. It is absolutely heart-wrenching to read first-hand accounts of families having to make the most difficult decisions of their lives. When the women and children boarded the life boats, little did they know that they would never see their husbands/fathers again. This book really made me think about how I would have reacted had I been on the Titanic.

The publisher of this book suggests kids ages 8 and up to read the book, but because of the chilling nature I would suggest at least 12 years old. I seriously had nightmares where I was stuck on a sinking ship, had the potential to be rescued but was told I couldn’t bring my babies. On a happier note, this book is a wealth of information and I learned a lot about the Titanic in a non-boring way.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I just could not put this book down! I would be reading until the wee hours of the morning and fall asleep with the book on my chest. Then when I would wake up in the morning I would be rushing off (usually late) to work because I tried to squeeze in just one more chapter, or two, or three …

Similar read: Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York, 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson … I am seriously looking forward to reading more nonfiction books by Deborah Hopkinson and James Swanson.

Just for fun: The release of this book was actually planned to coincide with the 100th anniversay of the sinking of the Titanic!

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.      Year: 2010

ISBN-13: 9780439023528

Genre: Science Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: #1 New York Times Bestseller, #1 USA Today Bestseller, Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Publishers Weekly Bestseller, Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2008: Children’s Fiction, New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2008, An American Library Association Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults Selection, An ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2009 ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List, #1 on Winter ’08/’09 Children’s Indie Next List, Indies Choice–Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book Honor, 2008 Cybil Award–Fantasy & Science Fiction, 2009 Children’s Choice Book Award, Teen Choice Book of the Year Finalist, YALSA’S Teens’ Top Ten 2009, NYPL “Stuff for the Teen Age” List 2009, CCBC Choices 2009, A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, A Kirkus Best Book of 2008, A Horn Book Fanfare, School Library Journal Best Books of 2008, A Booklist Editors’ Choice 2008, LA Times Favorite Children’s Books 2008, Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2008 for Teens and Kids, Borders Best Books of 2008: Teens, Amazon Best Books of 2008: Top 100 Editors’ Pick, Top 10 Books: Teens

Themes / Subjects: Science Fiction & fantasy, dystopia, morality, obedience, oppression, rebellion, redemption, sacrifice, survival

Plot Summary:

In the ruins of North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capital is a cruel and harsh government, forcing each district to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games. Winning the games means fame and glory while losing means certain death and there can be only one winner. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 with her mother and younger sister. On Reaping Day, when the tributes from each district are selected, Katniss makes the ultimate sacrifice, shocking the districts by volunteering to take her sister’s place.

My Take:

I’ve put off writing a review about The Hunger Games because it is such a fantastically well written book that I don’t think my thoughts on it would do it justice. You just have to read this book to fully appreciate its awesomeness.

I can’t think of any other book, and I’ve read a lot, that has invoked such strong and personal emotions. The whole time I was reading my emotions were on a crazy roller coaster ride: I was angry at the citizens of Panem for allowing such cruelty to happen, I loathed the Capitol, my heart was shattered throughout the story beginning with the very concept of the Hunger Games to the gut wrenching ending. And all I could keep thinking in my head was that these were children forced to kill one another. These were children who were around the age of the kids reading the books. These were children.

The violence was pretty graphic and conjured some unsettling images in my mind. Kids are speared, mauled by animals, stabbed, heads are smashed, necks are broken, burned and all in realistic detail. Yet it is Collins mix of current reality shows (Survivor and American Gladiator) and inference to current political and social trends that makes The Hunger Games a terrific discussion starter for teens where they can make connections to our own society.

And finally Katniss is such a strong role model for boys and girls alike. She takes on the responsibility of caring for her family by hunting, although illegal, to bring in extra food, sacrifices herself to save her sister, and faces certain death with unimaginable courage.

When you read this book make sure to have a box of tissues nearby because I guarantee you are going to need it. Then pop in a super happy, cheesy movie to lift your spirits back up.

Rating: 5+ stars out of 5 … just thinking about this book brings shivers down my spine and goose bumps on my arms

Similar read: Matched by Ally Condie … I just started reading this book last night and I immediately could make comparisons to The Hunger Games

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Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It

Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Publisher: Graphia      Year: 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0152061548

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Young Adult Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults in 2007, shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Science Fiction or Fantasy Book of 2007, Booklist Editor’s Choice Award for Books for Youth (Older Reader’s Category) in 2006,  nominated for the 2009 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award and the Truman Readers Award of 2008-2009, CCBC Choice, Junior Library Guild Premier selection, Listening Library selection, Amazon.com Best Book of the Year, 2011 ALA Popular Paperback, winner of six state awards

Themes / Subjects: Post-apocalyptic, young adult, survival, catastrophe, science fiction, dystopia, family life

Plot Summary:

I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald’s still would be open.

Miranda thought that the asteroid hitting the moon was just an excuse for her high school teachers to pile on more homework. So at 9:30pm on Wednesday, May 18th, Miranda joins her mom, brother Jonny and the rest of the world outside to watch this event. Disbelief suddenly turns to fear, as the moon is knocked out of orbit and suddenly much closer to the Earth. The result is catastrophic. Tsunamis begin wiping out the coastlines and islands, earthquakes shake the nation causing fires and destruction, sleepy volcanoes begin to erupt and the ash blocks out the sun. As summer turns to fall and fall into winter, Miranda’s family retreats into the sunroom of their home with only a woodstove for heat and a stockpile of food to survive. Everyone keeps saying it’s going to get better; it has to get better, but will it?

My Take:

I just finished this book today and am extremely sad that it ended! BUT while looking up more information about this book and author I am so proud to announce that the story doesn’t stop here, but is only the beginning of a trilogy! Three cheers for Susan Pfeffer! Hip-hip hooray! Hip-hip hooray! Hip-hip hooray!

Everyone at some point in their life has wondered about the end of the world, even more so recently with most of History channel’s programs telling us all about the Mayan Calendar and underground bunkers. But how much serious thought have you given it? Would you know to ration your food or to start chopping firewood at the beginning of summer? How would you take a bath? Wash your clothes? Cook food? We’ve all been taught that sharing is caring but what if sharing meant less for your own family?

This is the latest book cover for Life As We Knew It. It's much less girly but still contains a fabulous read for both boys and girls.

What I love most about this book is that Susan Pfeffer doesn’t hold back ANYTHING. The drama and action begins immediately with the reader learning that Miranda’s father and stepmother are about to have a baby and want her to be the godmother. Really?! We meet her friends; boy-crazy Sammi, religious-fanatic Megean, cute boy crush Dan from swim team. Then right when we are starting to feel comfortable with Miranda and her seemingly normal/teen drama filled life BOOM! An asteroid hits the moon knocking it closer to Earth and catastrophe strikes. All this within the first fifty pages, whew!I would love to read this book with a group of tween/teens, friends, and/or family because I think there is so much room for discussion. This book definitely opened my eyes and made me realize how vulnerable I would be should I live post-apocalypse.

Rating: 5/5 stars … This book deserves a bajillion stars! It left me with goose bumps and wanting more. Kids and their parents should read this together because you will definitely want someone to talk to about it.

Similar read: The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer … I try really hard to suggest similar reads not just the next book in the series, but this book was so good all I can think about is getting my hands on the next book!

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