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For this year’s Summer Book Study, we are going to do something a little different.
Instead of reading a book about education like we did in 2014, 2015, and 2016, we are going to delve into young adult books.
Three reasons for this: One, I feel so far behind on young adult books. I have three kids all heading into that age group, and I want to know what books they’re reading and what to recommend to them.
Two, I think all teachers of middle and high school—not just language arts teachers—can benefit from reading YA books. These books give us a fantastic way to connect and build relationships with our students. If you teach much younger students, I hope you will also find reason to join us, whether it be to connect with a young adult in your life outside of school or just get familiar with what your current students will be reading in just a few more years.
And three? It’s summer! I love being able to read over the summer without having to take notes or highlight passages. If you’ve spent any time at all on this site, you know I can geek out on theory and methodology like nobody’s business, but I just wanted to try something different this summer.
About the Selections
To choose the books, I got a ton of help this past week from readers over on my Facebook page: You suggested titles (see the full list here) and voted for your favorites. Then I took that list and whittled it down to five.
It was SO HARD to pick just five.
But I think I have a good list here: diverse in more ways than one, representative of lots of different genres and perspectives, and pretty meaty in general. I’m excited to dig in.
- You may not like all of these choices; pick and choose as you like. I hope something on the list appeals to you and you can join us.
- I have not personally read all of these books yet; therefore, there may be some land mines I’m not aware of. At this point, I am not ready to recommend these as books to use in your classroom. We are going to read and talk about them together, as adults, and we’ll talk about how, when, and to which students we might offer the books.
- With the above in mind, some of these books may not be appropriate for your students. Some contain language and situations that might even bother you. It’s always a good idea to pre-screen books when possible (or share this duty with other teachers) before making titles available to students. Amazon reviews and Common Sense Media are two good places to learn more about the books from people who have read them.
How the Book Club Will Work
First of all, you don’t need to do anything to “join.” This is open to anyone; no sign-up, nothing.
Each of the five books is getting its own separate page. Click the “join the discussion” buttons to see these.
To keep things simple, I am going to set five discussion dates; one for each book (the dates are on the buttons below each book). On those dates, I will post my own reflection video on that book’s page. In the comments section, you will be invited share your own thoughts as well. The book pages will stay open for as long as this site exists, so if you don’t finish the book by the “deadline,” no problem; the discussion will be waiting for you whenever you’re ready.
What you should do now:
(1) Get copies of whatever books you’re interested in reading. Click on each book below and you’ll go straight to its Amazon page.
(2) Mark your calendar for the discussion dates and try to have the books read by those dates.
(3) Visit each book’s individual page on the discussion date. When these are ready, I will announce them on my Facebook page, on Twitter, and on Instagram.
The Hate U Give
Join the Conversation on June 14
From the moment I started talking about doing a YA book study, this title was mentioned over and over again. So it came as no surprise when it got the second-highest number of votes. In addition to the high demand for this book, I also chose it because it looks like it will be a challenging, honest look at the racially-charged events of the past few years and how those impact our communities and our students. My hope is that everyone will read this one, especially those who have found themselves feeling conflicted about the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
It should be a good conversation.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Join the Conversation on June 28
This is the only book in the collection that I have actually read before, and even though I loved it, I wanted to pick five books I’d never read. But you changed my mind: This title got more votes than anything else on the list. And since it focuses on a population that doesn’t get a lot of attention in literature, and because the protagonist is male, and because it contains one of my all-time favorite quotes from a book ever, I have decided to include it. I’m excited to read it again and to hear what you think.
Update, July 2018: Since we did this book study, author Sherman Alexie has been accused by a number of women of sexual misconduct. Please visit our page about the book for more information, and some recommendations for other books to read instead.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Join the Conversation on July 12
This book adds brings variety to our list on two levels: First, it is a graphic novel. Anytime I have conversations about graphic novels in the classroom, this book comes up, so I have wanted to read it for a while now. Second, the protagonist is a young Iranian girl who describes her childhood during “years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq.” I’m expecting to learn a whole lot from this book.
Counting by 7s
Holly Goldberg Sloan
Join the Conversation on July 26
With so many of our students struggling to cope with personal challenges and losses, I thought a book that shares how one girl finds joy after grief would be a worthwhile read. As far as I can tell, this one is the least likely to contain objectionable or mature content, and I wanted to make sure I included at least one title that was suitable for upper elementary and middle school students.
Counting by 7s is the story of a highly gifted girl whose adoptive parents are killed in a car accident. These lines from the book’s description definitely grabbed me: “The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.”
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Join the Conversation on August 9
This one came as a complete surprise to me. When I saw it pop up on the list of suggestions, I kind of shrugged and thought it might make an interesting option, but I doubted it would get many votes. Well, it did. It got a lot of them. And although this is not labeled as a young adult book, I got to thinking about how it could be the kind of book that a kid would read and think, Whoa, I never knew books existed about stuff like this! It could seriously turn a non-reader into a reader. Plus, we have no nonfiction here, so this adds another level of variety to our summer offerings.
I can’t wait to get started. I am going to order my books right now. If you have any questions, ask them below. If not, I’ll see you on June 14 for our first discussion. Happy reading!!
See the full list of YA titles recommended by readers, and suggest your own.
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These look like great choices…a couple that were on my TBR list and a few new ones! When you get a chance, please still read Unwind. It’s a great read!
Courtney, this list of 5 is just the tip of the iceberg for me. I’m going to be chipping away at that other list for a long time. Will put Unwind up near the top for sure!! Thank you!!
I am a huge fan of Unwind and of Neal Shusterman. When my students and I had a question about the book, we emailed him through his website and he actually replied with an answer! It was so cool. Anyway, I like the way he handles a controversial, emotional topic with alternating viewpoints. It gives readers something to think about without telling them what to think. This story is a great example of how people can justify and rationalize anything.
The Sherman Alexie novel is fantastic — a bit racy for the younger crowd, but our 8th graders loved it as one of their choice novels. Another fan favorite was “Everyday” by David Levithan. We had lots of great moral discussions.
Super pumped to catch up on my YA reading…especially since I might be teaching English next year!
Although, I don’t think I can make it through a book without highlighters, Flair pens, and post-its.
Absolutely True Diary and Persepolis are AMAZING!
I accidentally hit send before I was finished. As I was saying, I will be away for a few of these, but I’m very excited to join the ones I can. I teach Absolutely True Diary and would love to hear what other people have to say. I have Persepolis and have been putting off reading it until I have the time. Counting by Sevens is one of my all-time favorite books, and I’ve been looking forward to reading the other two. Thank you so much for doing this!
You can read Persepolis in two hours. It is SO good and worth that time! 😊
So happy to see Roach’s Stiff on your list! I jigsaw 7 chapters from this book in my forensic science class every semester. It is a great read! Roach does an incredible job mixing humor and science!
I wish I could work Mary Roach into my curriculum! I LOVE her stuff, and always wonder if we could get in some more non-fiction in the literature classroom! Have you read “Packing For Mars”? A must for science & engineering students!
I loved Persepolis when I read it years ago. I thought it gave a new perspective on growing up in a non-Western environment along with a better understandjng that people all want to be free.
I cannot wait to start!!
As my older kids are entering in 7th and 5th grades, they like to read some mature stuff. They want to read the original Mobby Dick, a real introduction of whales, they have read the kids version a long while ago.
Another one is the classic, The Count of Monte Cristo, it is a show of variety of cultures: Mediterranean, Roman, French, etc.
Have tried unsuccessfully to get on your e mail list with the above address.
Hi Janice! So sorry about that. I will add you myself–check your inbox for a confirmation email in a few minutes!
I was excited to see two books (True Diary and Counting by 7s) on the list that I’ve already read…I must be on the right track. I started teaching middle school science last year after teaching high school for 15 years, so I began a book book in our classroom. I now read many more young adult books than adult ones. Looking forward to checking out the other books on the list!
You know I’m in Jennifer!
Great switcheroo for the summer.
I own one, have heard of two, and not at all familiar with the last two. I look forward to the discussions.
Jennifer, I’m excited to join in the discussions and am thrilled to see two of my favorite titles (Part-Time Indian and Stiff) on the list! Now, I’m dying to know: Which quote from PTI is one of your favorites?
As someone else said on this thread, if I lived near you I’m sure we would be best friends!😍
The Hate U Give is an eye opener. The author brings you with her into a world that few of us know (at least in VT). The contemporary issues are real and dealt with in an honest, messy, deliberate manner. There were a number of moments when I slammed the book shut, only to open it up again to learn what had happened. Great choice!
Love this idea (would love more if we were out of school before it begins), as the first book is very topical right now. As a companion to that text, every adult who hasn’t already read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates should do it NOW. It is the most important book of the decade in my view. Also, let me just suggest that people who can’t get the books from the local library consider buying books from independent booksellers if possible. These institutions really need our support if we want them to remain in our neighborhoods as a resource for us and our students. The cost may be slightly more now, but we get so much more than just the book when we have bookstores to browse in.
Thank you for all of these suggestions, Harriet!
I second Between the World and Me…and if you ever get a chance to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates speak, do it. You will never want him to stop talking!
I’m excited to get the books and read them and join your discussion group. Thank you for picking such great /interesting books.
I am so looking forward to this! Absolutely love YA lit! The Chains series by Laurie Halse Anderson is probably my favorite YA book series of all time. I actually decided to move from teaching 6th grade Core to 8th grade English next year just so I could teach Chains.
I also tried the Whole Novels for the Whole Class (Ariel Sacks) model for teaching class novels this year and loved it! I highly recommend teachers try this new approach to teaching novels.
Can’t wait to participate in The Hate U Give and The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian discussions this summer:)
Chains is SO GOOD. It’s unreal. I haven’t read the others in the series, but we taught that book in our social studies/humanities class the year it was published, and it was life-changing for students!
Love these. I’d add M.T. Anderson’s Feed to your “hard to pin down” list; it might be too mature for middle schoolers, but I don’t think so, and it’s great. His Octavian Nothing books are also fantastic historical fiction–a very different take on the American Revolution.
Love this idea of reading YA books! I am excited. Can you please post a list of the top 20 that kept popping up when you were asking for suggestions?
This is a great list! I really like it and will be engaging in your books clubs this summer. Thank you. I do want to make one small comment: how about some librarian love!?! You state that we can preview books on Amazon and Common Sense Media. True. But don’t forget your school librarian! They really know their YA books and they should be a classroom teacher’s go-to resource for feedback and reviews. They know your community best as they are part of it. I am obviously a school librarian and love discussing particular titles with my faculty. Thanks!
Thank you so much for this reminder, Linda!
Jennifer, I have a feeling if we lived near each other we would be best friends. You are always discussing topics that are on my mind. Just last week I decided one of my profession goals next year will be to read YA literature voraciously (starting this summer). I have been a reading specialist for over 15 years and have drifted away from reading YA books due to lack of time. Just when I decide to get in the groove I find you are already there. On a side note, one of your posts last summer inspired me to change the furniture in my classroom to more of a living room atmosphere. My principal LOVED the idea and the kids are thrilled with the results. Of course, there will be more garage sale shopping in the future to continue the transformation but the ideas you shared have been transformative for my students. I don’t know how you find time to share your passion but I’m so glad you do.
Janet, this made me smile. I love how the Internet helps us connect with like-minded people regardless of where we are!
Trying to get my 9th grader to read To Kill a Mockingbird with me. It is one of my all time favorite books.
I read Stiff over 5 years ago. It was interesting but after reading it many people will never donate their bodies to science, or will want to remember the funeral home treatment of bodies. It is respectful but sort of gross. I have not read the other books before. As a teacher and mom of a teen, it is important to be up to date on YA literature. I wish that Asians had more of a voice in this literature. A great read that takes Hunger Games and Divergent to a higher level is The Woodlands by Lauren Nicole Taylor.
Looking forward to reading (in 2 cases re-reading) these books. When I became a 7th grade middle school English teacher, the first thing I did was go to the school’s library the summer before and asked the librarian for their most circulating books that students check out for leisure reading. Every night before bed to unwind, I read from a YA book. By December, I was having conversations with kids about their books. Jennifer is so right…it really opened doors and helped me build strong relationships. These books were gateways into my kids’ lives. With the help of a couple of eager students, we started a reading club the next year. Happy Reading everyone! You’ll be hooked! Thank you, Jennifer.
Is there a way for us to sign up for email reminders about this?
Just finished THE HATE U BRING. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s and finishing college in early 70’s, I saw, read, and even experienced various things during this tumultuous era. Reading this provides insight and explanations I had not known or thought of. Very thought provoking. I see it as a great discussion tool, but with older students–juniors and up. Graphic language and sex could be an issue for my small, conservative, rural, Caucasian school.
I love all your stuff, Jennifer! Thanks for the idea of this book club which is both exciting and not too overwhelming or high pressure. I’m wondering if there is a space where we can already begin collecting and sharing our thoughts on the various books as we read them. I’m getting the books from our local library, which means sometimes receiving them out of order from your suggested book club dates. I just finished Stiff, for example, and I would like to jot down some ideas while it is all still fresh in my brain. Any suggestions? Thank you for all that you do to help us all with our pedagogy!
Hey Jacqui! This is Debbie, a Customer Experience Manager with CoP. Since we already told everybody the dates, we’d like to avoid making another announcement that they’re open. It could create a lot of confusion if suddenly people could start making comments. We realize it might be less convenient, but our best suggestion would be to maybe take some notes and then just transcribe them when the group does actually open up.
Hello, Jennifer! I’m so fortunate my dear teacher friend recommended The Hate U Give. I’m astounded by Angie Thomas’ book, The Hate U Give, and eternally grateful that it exists. Witness this ignorance coming from a college professor and you’ll see why I’m glad Ms. Thomas’ book must top the list http://www.bet.com/news/national/2017/06/10/this-student-went-off-on-her-professor-for-saying–slave-familie.html
As parents of teenage and young adult students, we’re looking to contact your book club and strongly recommend a young adult fantasy we just read and thoroughly enjoyed, “The Scroll of Suratican” by Vincent James. It is published by Austin-Macauley, Ltd. in London and is on many websites like Amazon, etc., as well as can be ordered through chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
Unlike many others I’ve read in this genre before giving them to my children, it does not shy away from emotion, and is peopled with characters that draw you in and tug at you to care about them. It is rich in detail, painting pictures with words. I saw a couple of reviews on BookDaily.com, who seem to agree with me. It is available in hard cover, soft cover, and on Kindle.
ISBN: Hardcover – 9781784558215 Softcover – 9781784558208
Our four teen and young adult children are now deeply engrossed in reading it. Thank you.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson (Fantasy)
I very rarely recommend a book, but this has the most real young female hero I’ve ever read. She’s insecure, overweight, and socially awkward. But she has a strong core of morality and sense of purpose. And she grows through the books (this is first of a trilogy). I’m not a fan of the style of writing (kind of a first-person, you are there every step of the way and hear every thought) but it was worth it for the story and characters.