Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

Holes by Louis Sachar

Title: Holes

Author: Louis Sachar

Publisher: Yearling Books   Year: 2000 edition

ISBN-13: 978-9990833089

Genre: Fiction

Age: 10 and up

Awards: 1998 New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year and the winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the 1999 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Fiction and the 1999 Newbery Medal.

Themes / Subjects: Adventure, Boys, Teens, Camp, Juvenile delinquents, Friendship, Social Situations, Family Life, Survival

Plot Summary:

Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, “You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.

And so, it would seem that Stanley would be serving an easy sentence for a crime that he had not committed. Yet fate has other things in store for Stanley. Camp Green Lake is not the kind of camp that you look forward to going to during the summer. In the heart of Texas, Camp Green Lake is a bizarre, other worldly place without a lake and absolutely nothing green, although it once boasted to have held “the largest lake in Texas.”

Every day the warden makes the boys “build character” by digging holes five feet deep and five feet wide. Soon Stanley realizes there is more to the character building than simply digging holes but that the warden is actually looking for something lost a long time ago and it isn’t long before Stanley begins to do some searching of his own – for the truth.

My Take:

First off, how cool would it be to have a first name that was your last name backwards and to have that name passed down for generations? It’s pretty neat once you get past the confusing part of understanding what I just said.

Holes is an action filled story full of characters with strong voices, funny scenes and tons of twists and turns that will keep any reader engaged from cover to cover. This is an excellent read for young boys because the characters are so relatable. The beginning is a bit depressing with its bleak descriptions yet the ending is definitely worth the emotional journey. One of my favorite things about this book is how Sachar is able to interweave characters and stories throughout the main story. There were many times I felt myself having an “Oh my gosh!” moment and rushing off to share what I had just read. A good read for in the classroom or book clubs.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and definitely check out the movie (after you have read the book of course!)

 

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Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Title: Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: MTV Books          Year: 1999

ISBN -13: 978-0671027346

Age: 14 and up

Genre: Fiction

Subjects / Themes: coming of age, high school, young adult, teen

Awards: Bluegrass Award, Garden State Teen Book Award, Volunteer State Book Award

Plot Summary:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a beautiful and painful story about 15-year-old Charlie and his experiences through his freshman year of high school. Unlike most diary novels, Charlie writes his accounts in the form of a letter to an unknown friend and within those letters he is brutally and unabashedly honest. The year before freshman year his one and only friend committed suicide and when he was six, his favorite aunt passed away in a car accident, both of which he holds himself accountable. Charlie is a wallflower who blends in with his surroundings but observes everything in incredible detail. It isn’t until he befriends seniors Patrick and Samantha that he even begins to come out of his shell and “experience” high school.

My Take:

The reason I read this book was because it cause quite a stir at the middle school where I work. There are some pretty detailed scenes about teens talking about rumors they heard of other teens having sex and drug use. There is also a teen pregnancy which results in an abortion without the parents knowing. This book is truly a great read and deals with the not so pretty side of growing up that unfortunately some teens face. My biggest advice is to know your teen and what they are capable of reading, understanding and handling. As for those details? Don’t jump around and look for all the “dirty” parts because if you read them out of context that is all you are going to get out of it … “dirty parts.” Read the whole book and take it for what the author intends it to be.

Charlie is a wallflower because he observes people and feels very deeply for the experiences around him. He must deal with the intensity of a first crush, the excitement around a new-found “private” activity, beer parties, bad trips, and sex. Charlie encounters and deals with everything that is prevalent in high schools today. My favorite part of the book is when Charlie, Samantha, and Patrick are driving around listening to music. Samantha and Patrick ask Charlie if he is ok because he has gotten silent and he looks at them and says, “I feel infinite … and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” What a powerful moment! At that moment in the book I was reminded of the nights spent driving my convertible with my girlfriends and music blaring. I too, truly believed those nights would go on forever.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … I wasn’t very happy with the ending 😦

Similar read: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Soul Eater, Volume 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Title: Soul Eater

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press    Year: 2009

ISBN -13: 978-0759530010

Genre: Manga

Age: 14 and up

Themes / subjects: Science fiction, fantasy, comics & graphic novels, manga, weapons, school, death

 

Plot Summary:

Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA) is a school run by Shanigami Death where students (meisters) are partnered with living weapons and trained to battle and absorb evil souls. The goal of  meisters and weapons are to absorb the souls of 99 evil humans and 1 witch, greatly increasing the weapon’s power and transforming them into death scythes which can be used by Shanigami Death. Volume 1 of Soul Eater follows the individual adventures of Meister Maka Albarn and her weapon partner Soul Eater, Black Star and his weapon partner Tsubaki Nakatsukasa, and Death the Kid with his weapon partners Liz and Patty Thompson. The biggest issue is not the evil minions they face, but their own “quirky” personalities!

My Take:

This was my first Manga read and came highly recommended from one of my students who actually let me borrow her copy. A word to the wise, figure out how to read the book first! Soul Eater is a Japanese manga which is read right to left or “backwards” to the American reader. I didn’t realize this at first and was very confused because the story didn’t seem to flow right but a couple pages into it, I got it.

With that said, I am hooked on this series! I found the complexity of the meisters relationship with their weapons to be very intriging. Maka is a young, cute schoolgirl yet her weapon Soul is obnoxiously brash. Assassin Black Star considers himself a big show-off while his weapon Tsubaki is sweet and tries to keep him in line. Death’s kid is completely nuts about symmetry to the point he can’t continue his task if he thinks the toilet paper at home is not folded correctly. His twin weapons Patty and Liz don’t understand his problem but they still love him anyway. Despite the characters obvious personality differences, they work extremely well together and in fact make excellent teams. This goes to show that the most unexpected persons can make great partners.

Manga is a very unique and distinctive art style that is specific to Japanese graphic novels, typically intended for adults. Ohkubo’s chiaroscuro panels, askew close-ups, and quirky style blend to create supernatural worlds with a Halloween feel.

Soul Eater is a dark comedy/action series meaning it contains violence and some sexual content. I think it’s important to note that this book and its characters are not violent for the sake of violence, but rather they are battling demons and evil souls in an effort to save their world and mankind. Know your teen and what they can handle!

** Soul Eater is also an anime series (available through youtube) which I found to closely follow the book in both design and dialogue. Here is a link to the first episode http://youtu.be/apzgClzK-7w

Rating: 5/5 stars … this book left me wanting more!

Similar Read: One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

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