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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Teen Books That I Love

I am an avid children and YA reader when it comes to the national market. I will very rarely venture into the adult fiction section because I know that I can’t trust 95% of what’s over there not to cause my eyeballs to burn right out of their sockets. In contrast, I can trust about 50% of the stuff I pull from the kid and teen sections of the library. It used to be a lot higher than that but the teen stuff has really gone downhill in recent years.

For me, walking into the children’s and teen sections of a library or bookstore is a truly drool worthy exercise in euphoria. Some day I’m going to devise the ultimate scheme which will let me park myself in front of those shelves and never move again.

Ok, I could figure out a way to buy them or check them out, but then I’d have to lug them home. I’m running out of room for books as it is.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that this is one of my favorite places to be. It can only be trumped by my Utah and Arizona trips that find me walking through the door of an LDS bookstore. That’s only because it is a more decadent treat that I can’t get my hands on every day.

So, today I’d like to tell you about a set of thought provoking titles I love. While not LDS, these books manage to deal with serious issues in real world ways without being crude or offensive. Some of these are considered younger than YA, but I’m grouping all teen reads together here. (They’re not in any particular order, I’m just rambling) ;)

Rules by Cynthia Lord

This book deals with autism from the perspective of a teenage sibling rather than the parent. It’s fun, realistic, enlightening and uplifting.

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Another autism title from the sibling’s perspective, this one occurs in an era when autism was not understood or even remotely socially acceptable.

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

This has a little bit of language in it but it’s definitely controllable with your trusty marker. It tells the story of teen pregnancy and parenthood from the teenage father’s perspective. Aside from the obvious, it deals with very serious natural consequences. You get to see how the father mourns for the loss of his carefree life while still stepping up to the plate and sacrificing his desires to give his child the best he can. Yes, most boys never reach that marker of responsibility. This boy didn’t want to either, but he did.

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

What a sweet look at the mourning process.

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

A heartwarming look at the grief and challenges of leukemia from the older brother’s view point.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

This one does carry a black marker alert (for occasional use only) but if you’ve ever needed to understand the self-esteem issues associated with being overweight this is a good place to start. There is another issue going on here that is pretty serious as well—the older brother is accused of date rape. Unfortunately, both are far more common than my heart wants to admit but this book handles each with more tact and maturity than most of the very worldly YA books on the subject.

Other YA titles with lighter, but still great messages

Deliver Us from Normal by Kate Klise

Ah, bunnies and trying to figure out how to fit in. Kids can be very hard on each other, even cruel. Don’t we all wish we could fix (or escape) that sometimes?

It’s a Mall World After All by Janette Rallison.

Though most would consider this a lighter title, I have to include it because of the main character. Ok, she’s a bit of a flake (most teenagers are) but her basic personality is one who truly loves people. She wants to help and serve them any way she can, even when it’s not popular with her classmates.

The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg

Here are four children who honor their handicapped teacher by winning academic contest.

Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher

Donuthead is one extremely serious and seriously funny little kid who learns to open his heart to an outcast and misunderstood classmate.

Death by Eggplant by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe.

I fell in love with this 8th grade boy who has eccentric parents and wants to be a chef. But, he’s is afraid of the criticism and alienation that might cause among his classmates.

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan.

The epitome of eccentricities surround this unschooling family as they invite a wayward and “troubled” teen to join their family and find his way into belonging. Their daughter also learns that unique and different can be a good thing and that everybody has value and a place in a family.

So there you have it, a completely random list of books for older children that I’ve loved reading. I’ll do a list for younger children on down the line, I promise. Right now I think it might be time for another run to the library. . . .

Return to the Neighborhood

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