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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They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: They Never Came Back

Author: Caroline B. Cooney

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers      Year: 2010

ISBN-10: 0385738080

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense, Convicts, Family Life

Plot Summary:

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

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney http://goanimate.com/videos/0-1DbRFgc0yA

My Take:

Imagine having the world at your fingertips: a rich family, mansion, any type of lessons you could want, new clothes and accessories, vacations out of the country, etc.. Now imagine that in one day everything is flipped upside down and you are told your parents are criminals that have fled the country and have left you behind to answer the questions of dozens of people with initials like FBI and NASD. All this and you are ten years old. I could not begin to imagine what young Murielle must have felt.

My heart goes out to Tommy and his family because they so badly want to believe that Cathy Ferris is their missing niece/cousin, Murielle Lyman. The whole book I kept wanting to read ahead to see if Murielle’s parents would ever come back or if they were truly just in love with the money. At the head of each chapter is either Murielle or Cathy’s name which tells the reader not who is talking but what year it is … the present is Cathy and five years back at the time of the incident is Murielle. This was a pretty neat way to not only tell the current story but provide the reader enough of the backstory.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … I didn’t like finding out so quickly about Cathy Ferris and felt that should have been drawn out more.

Similar read: The Face on the Milk Cartoon by Caroline B. Cooney … after reading They Never Came Back, I had a strong urge to reread The Face on the Milk Cartoon. I remember that book giving me the chills.

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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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Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Title: Little House on the Prairie

Author:  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Publisher: HarperCollins (75th Anniversary Edition)            Year: 2010

ISBN -13: 978-0061958274

Age: 8 and up

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Subjects / Themes: Juvenile Fiction, Family Life, Frontier, Pioneer Life, 19th Century United States, Farm & Ranch Life, Historical Fiction, Classic

Plot Summary:

Pa Ingalls is tired of how crowded the big woods are getting. So he decides to sell the house and move west with his family. Just before the ice breaks, the family loads up their wagon and heads out. They cross the Mississippi River and then head south, settling two days away from Independence, Missouri. Now they have to build a new house and survive the wilderness. Meanwhile, Laura is anxious to see a papoose. And with all the Indians in the area, she may get her chance.

My take:

Little House on the Prairie is a true classic that is not only enjoyed by children but adults as well. The writing is simple yet the story is captivating. It is a wonderfully enthralling educational adventure story that captivates its readers from the very first page. Although it is categorized as a fictional story, I consider this book non-fiction since it provides us with a pretty accurate view of the relationship between settlers and Indians and between pioneers and the government. This book and series is a great way to introduce students to the 19th century westward movement in the United States.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Similar Read: The Headless Horseman by Mayne Reed

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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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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 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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Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Title: Maniac Magee

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers      Year: 1990

ISBN-10: 0316807222

Genre: Fiction

Age: 9 and up

Awards: Newbery Medal (1991), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1993), Nene Award (1996), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1993), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1992), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1992), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (1992), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award (1993), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1993)

Themes / Subjects: Social issues, prejudice & racism, runaways, orphans, relationships, family relationships

Plot Summary:

All Maniac Magee wants is an address with numbers that he can tell people is where he lives and a loving family to come home to. Before he became Maniac Magee, Jeffrey Magee was orphaned as a baby when his parents died in a trolley accident. Sent to live with an unloving/feuding aunt and uncle who refuse to divorce because they are Catholic, Jeffrey finally decides to run away at age 8. Eventually he makes his way to the highly segregated town of Two Mills where through his amazing feats, Maniac (as the townspeople will call him) transforms the town forever.

My Take:

I love action and stories that don’t spend too much time building the story up. Within the first three pages, Maniac is orphaned and living with his feuding Catholic aunt and uncle. This is going to be good!

Maniac Magee is a truly wonderful character and young hero. Although much of the time he is sleeping on the streets or with other down-and-outs like himself, he continues to amaze everyone he meets with his friendly nature, athletic feats, and complete color-blindness. This book is part of the 6th grade curriculum at the school where I work. Although the targeted audience of this book is ages 9-12, a few of the teachers agree with me that older kids would benefit from reading (or re-reading) this book. The issues or prejudice & racism and how Maniac handles the situations would make for an awesome in-depth discussion and debate.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t give it a full 5 stars because there were a couple scenes that made me feel a little weird. Why didn’t anyone call the authorities when this kid wouldn’t go to school or go home? Then again it was a different time when this book was written.

Similar read: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

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Matched by Ally Condie

Title: Matched

Author: Ally Condie

Publisher: Speak      Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0142419779

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: Chosen as one of YALSA’S 2011 Teens’ Top Ten,  Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010,  #1 Pick on the Winter 2010/2011 Kid’s Indie Next List,  YALSA 2011 Best Fiction for Young Readers,  YALSA 2011 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers,  Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010,  Winner of the 2010 Whitney Award for Best Youth Fiction: Speculative

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Dystopia, Fantasy Fiction, Action & Adventure, Love & Romance, Survival, Social Situations, Relationships, Coming of Age

Plot Summary:

17-year-old Cassia has always trusted the officials and their choices. She lives in the future society of Oria where every decision and action is decided by the officials. Meals are specifically tailored to each individual, occupations are chosen based on the data collected throughout ones early years, and everyone is matched with their genetic and perfect mate. So when Cassia’s best friend Xander appears on the screen as her perfect Match, she knows with complete certainty that he is the one for her … that is until she decides to view Xander’s microcard and his image fades out and is replaced with another. Now Cassia must decide whether to follow the official’s perfect plan or rebel and follow her heart.

My Take:

As soon as I started reading Ally Condie’s book Matched I immediately thought about Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games and immediately felt the same emotional tug at my gut. How could mankind allow our society to become a place where government officials dictate everything about our lives from who we love and where we work to when we die? Within a couple chapters, however, those intense feelings/emotions were replaced when I realized the focus of Condie’s book wasn’t the dystopian society but the crazy obsession of 17-year-old Cassia for a boy other than her match.

Don’t get me wrong. The whole love triangle, going against the rules set in place by the officials definitely moves the story along. However, I found Cassia’s obsession to be long, drawn-out and at times boring. When I really like a book I will devour it, yet with this book it was okay if I didn’t read a little bit each day. I wanted the author to, as my high school honors English teacher would tell the class, “go beneath the iceberg.” There are so many details about society that Condie introduces the reader to yet fails to fully develop them. Hopefully we see more in the sequel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. While I like a book about crushes and falling in love, I really wish there had been more about the dystopian society.

Similar read: The Giver by Lois Lowry. Like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Matched by Ally Condie, Lowry’s The Giver provides readers a snapshot of a society where decisions are handled by officials and of course there will be someone who will rebel.

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