Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Title: One Crazy Summer

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Publisher: Amistad    Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0060760908

Genre: Fiction

Age: 9 and up

Awards: 2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner, 2011 Newbery Honor Book, 2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, 2010 National Book Award Finalist, Junior Library Guild Selection, Texas Library Association Best Book for 2010

Themes / Subjects: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prejudice & Racism, Family Life, Travel & Culture, African American, Black Panther Party, 20th century issues, Civil Rights Movement

Plot Summary:

It’s the summer of 1968 and sisters, 11-year-old Delphine, 9-year-old Vonetta, and 7-year-old Fern embark on an adventure that takes them from Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California to meet the mother that abandoned them many years ago. The girls have no idea what to expect, but they certainly didn’t expect to participate in a day camp run by members of the Black Panther Party. Cecile Johnson, their mother, “mammal birth giver,” is secretive about her work behind the closed kitchen doors and wants nothing to do with them. Set during one of the most tumultuous years in American history, One Crazy Summer explores the civil rights movement through the eyes of children.

My Take:

I actually walked away from this book with a better knowledge of the civil rights movement and Black Panther Party. The reader sees the historical changes through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister. Although she is just 11 going on 12, Delphine is extremely wise for her age and carries the added weight of being responsible for her sisters. I love how conscious she is of the differences between blacks and whites, yet she doesn’t allow her views or opinions to be mandated by others especially the Black Panther party.

Throughout the book, I kept hoping for Cecile Johnson to change and finally become the mother the little girls so desperately wanted/needed. However, through Delphine’s, Vonetta’s, and Fern’s journey I grew to feel sorry for Cecile and had a better understanding of her relationship with her children (or lack of one). This book is both excellent for teens and adults because the impact of that summer continues to affect us today.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: The Watson’s Go to Birmingham1963  by Christopher Paul Curtis

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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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Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

Title: Gym Candy

Author: Carl Deuker

Publisher: Perfection Learning          Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1606863763

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allen Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, High School, Family Life, Sports, Health – Steroids, Friendships, Coming of Age

Plot Summary:

Check out my booktalk trailer I created with goanimate.com!

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker http://goanimate.com/videos/0vXZkYLbVR68

My Take:

I am not a football person at all. When I was in high school marching band and had to go to all the football games, I would hide books in my uniform and read when I wasn’t playing. I watch the Super Bowl every year and even then I fast forward during the game to watch the commercials and half time show. Did I mention I strongly dislike football?

With that said and off my chest, I loved this book! All the football jargon confused me a little bit but honestly it wasn’t overwhelming. The best part was getting to see the darker side of sports. I’ve always heard about professional athletes using steroids on the news and never thought that it would begin as young as freshman in high school. This book in no way encourages the use of steroids and really goes to great length and detail to show just how screwed up Mick’s life became all because he wanted to be the best. Parents who push their children to be star athletes need to read this because I don’t think they realize the consequences their actions can have on their kids. And all kids whether they are pressured to be the best or not should read this book because it will cause them to think twice about trying any sort of drugs.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars … while I can’t say it has turned me on to being a football fan, this book has caused me to really examine the pressures we put our young athletes under.

Similar read: Boost by Kathryn Mackel. Whereas Deuker explores the use of steroids in male athlets, Mackel takes the readers into the girls locker room for a change.

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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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Drought by Pam Bachorz

Title: Drought

Author: Pam Bachorz

Publisher: EgmontUSA         Year: 2011

ISBN -13: 978-1606840160

Age: 12 and up

Genre: Fiction

Subjects / Themes: Young Adult, Slavery, Science Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fiction, Cult, Dystopian, Social Drama, Forbidden Romance, Friendship, Family, Coming of Age

Summary:

For the past 200 years, Ruby and the Congregation have been enslaved by Darwin West and forced to collect “blessed” water for a mysterious visitor. Brutally beaten and starved, the Congregation waits and endures for their savior, Otto to arrive and deliver them from their hell. Few people know that the secret to the water is Ruby’s blood which gives it healing and life-sustaining properties. When Ruby falls in love with an overseer she is greatly conflicted with the desire to escape oppression and live in the modern world, and the obligation to endure and sustain with the Congregation.

My Take:

BORING! Not only did the Congregants have to wait and endure until Otto arrived, but I spent the whole book waiting and enduring a poor storyline for something to happen. This book just seemed to drag on and on with very little action and not enough description. Based on how this book ended, I have a very bad feeling that Pam Bachorz is planning on releasing a sequel, gosh I hope not. Although, maybe it will be one of those rare cases where the sequel is actually better than the original but I doubt it. I guess we’ll just have to wait some more to find out. There just wasn’t enough information and back story to truly understand the Congregants plight. And what little action there was lasted no more than a couple pages.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars … I didn’t absolutely hate the book and the concept of it is interesting, I was just so bored.

Similar Read: I’m not sure what to recommend because I would hate for it to be another dud.

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Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Title: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

Author: James L. Swanson

Publisher: Scholastic Press    Year: 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0545204705

Genre: Non-Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: YALSA Best Book for Young Adults

Themes / Subjects: Biography, memoir, president, Abraham Lincoln, education & reference, American history, John Wilkes Booth, Civil War, manhunt,

Plot Summary:

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer is an account of Lincoln’s assassination and the 12-day manhunt for his killer, the famous (now infamous) actor John Wilkes Booth. Although nonfiction, this book will read like a historical thriller, as Swanson uses dialogue and text from original sources adding to the authenticity and chilliness of the story. The sentences are short and the chapters condensed yet full of excellent black and white illustrations to compliment the text.

My Take:

Usually when tweens/teens hear the word nonfiction they automatically think boring books about facts. I used to think that too and relied only on the nonfiction section for research. So when student after student suggested I read James Swanson’s book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer I did so reluctantly.

This is how learning about history should be! Swanson is an absolute magician when it comes to weaving together pieces of history and testimony to recreate the manhunt for the infamous John Wilkes Booth beginning with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and ending with Booth’s capture twelve days later. I love history and thought I knew everything about Lincoln’s assassination but this book proved there was still so much more to learn. Swanson at times goes into gruesome, in-depth detail which only serves to captivate the reader and motivate them to keep reading. I was absolutely blown away to learn how many people helped Booth escape and the number of close calls he had with getting caught. My favorite part was seeing pictures and reproductions of all the conspirators, locations, and newspapers/cartoons surrounding this event in history.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. The reason I can’t give this book a full five stars, is that many times I felt like I was rereading certain pages. The author can be a bit repetitive at the beginning of the book but by the end I was more focused on John Wilkes Booth then whether or not I had already read a certain piece of information.

Similar read: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Delacorte Press      Year: 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0385737951

Genre: Science Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2011

Themes / Subjects: dystopian society, young adult, fantasy adventure, science fiction, relationships

Plot Summary:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name everything else is a complete blank. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them open and every night they are closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

My Take:

If you are looking for a great series to read after finishing Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games Trilogy then this is exactly what you are looking for.

From the very beginning and until the finish, author James Dashner provides barely enough information to answer the questions that form in the reader’s mind but what information he gives does promote one to keep reading. I found myself reading the book in one sitting because I just had to know what was going on and how the story was going to end.

I felt the characters weren’t as well developed as they could have been. Teresa is an extremely important character yet she is just so flat. Thomas was a bit of a disappointment as well and his character really doesn’t develop until almost the end of the book. On the other hand certain secondary characters were so deeply created that they at times had a larger impact on me than the main character.

By the end of the book I was wondering, what was the point of all that? The characters themselves don’t understand why they were put through the horrors they were and one can only hope this is because the author will develop the story I the next two books. The reason I liked this book was because the suspense kept me intrigued. I just had to know why the boys were in the maze and how they were going to escape. I just with it had been more thought provoking and detailed.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … The plot seemed to drag which dragged out the suspense and not always in a good way. Still a great read.

Similar read: Divergent by Veronica Roth

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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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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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