The last of five selections for our summer 2017 study of Young Adult books, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach is a deep exploration of all the ways human cadavers are dealt with in the world. Actually, that doesn’t quite cover it. The book basically looks at cadavers from every possible angle: the science of decomposition, the intricacies of medical dissection, how bodies are used in vehicle safety tests, and so on. It’s fascinating. It’s really disgusting in a very specific way. And it is a phenomenally good read.
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Here is my video reflection, followed by a few notes:
- This book would make an excellent mentor text for informational writing. Mary Roach is so incredibly skilled at writing about technical things in a way that is lyrical and hysterically funny. Even if students don’t read this book, I could see a teacher using passages from the book to illustrate outstanding writing.
- I don’t think it would qualify as a young adult book. If you teach students younger than grade 11, I would advise you to read it yourself first before making it available to students. The book doesn’t focus in on many topics that would be considered objectionable, but references occasionally come up; the book was clearly not written with a younger audience in mind, and yet it would be perfectly fine for older teenagers.
- This book would be a great choice for students who don’t mind gross stuff or who aren’t into fiction or fantasy. If you’ve never introduced students to high-quality non-fiction, this would be an awesome place to start.
What did you think about the book? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.