Tuesday, February 23, 2010

See You Later, Vampires...I Want My Demons To Be Real

Every semester I start my new classes by giving my students independent reading books. We ease into reading by selecting something they enjoy (before I give them a whole bunch of books/stories that I pick!).

We're nearing the end of our independent book unit right now, and I'm sorry to put an end to it, because my second semester students are racing through their young adult books right now. I can't get them to put the books down and many of them are finishing multiple books (instead of the required one book). There are times in class where I have to take away their books, so they can get other classwork done. I've also had other teachers comment that all their students are doing is reading books.


What's my secret?

I think it's the secret that's been in bookstores for the last year or two. My librarian extraordinaire and I have been keeping them fed with an endless supply of honest, raw and sometimes heart breaking young adult literature. Books that aren't full of rainbows and butterflies, but instead, mimic real life show some truths about what it means to be a teenager.

The favorites I have been passing on are Wintergirls/Speak (Anderson), If I Stay (Forman), Break (Moskowitz), Some Girls Are/Cracked Up to Be (Summers), The Hate List (Brown), 13 Reasons Why (Asher) The Secret Year (Hubbard) andThe Hunger Games (Collins), among others. My students are loving these books and some are getting their parents to take them to the bookstore to buy more books to read (yay!).

The Wall Street Journal published a great article last spring about the rise of these novels (which they classify as edgy), which is great news on my part because Canary deals with some tough situations. If you have a minute to read it, please check it out. I think the author does a good job trying to explain the allure of books like this.

Kids want the truth. They want books about life, mistakes and redemption. They don't always want an author to sugar coat things, and as a writer, I make sure I am always honest with my readers. While I love a good fantasy, I'm ecstatic that books like this are pushing their way forward and into the hands of my readers.

What about you? Do you like these novels? What are some of your favorites? Any good recommendations? Please share!

And....today is the last day for my contest! You have until midnight to enter! I'll choose a winner tomorrow...woo-hoo!


Kristan said...

Dude, HUNGER GAMES is incredible! And I've heard really good things about Wintergirls/Speak, 13 Reasons Why, and The Secret Year. I'll have to add those to my (way too long) list.

Also, can you believe Moskowitz is only a teenager?!?! Gah. She's living my dream. I'd be jealous if I didn't think it was so dang cool. (Or maybe I'm a little jealous AND I think it's really dang cool... :P)

I do like edgy novels when they're done well. I agree that real life "monsters" can be much more compelling -- but also harder to take, and in some cases I just want to escape reality, you know?

But LUCKY is an excellent "edgy" memoir (about rape -- more for adults than kids, I would think) and NAME ALL THE ANIMALS is another (memoir for adults). I'm not usually into non-fiction but both of those are really well written and moving.

Christina Lee said...

How flippin' awesome is that? I am proud to say I have read most of those books and as an adult I can't get enough either (probably why I write YA books as well). Hey btw, what school district are you in? I taught in Cleveland (spec. ed.) util I quit two years ago (before I slit my wrists), but second grade.

Rachele Alpine said...


"Lucky" is a great book (although hard to read. I love "The Lovely Bones" too, but her last book "The Almost Moon" creeped me out. Seriously, it gave me nightmares!

I ordered three more "edgy" books that I can't wait to get...I got "Beautiful" (Reed), "Love You, Hate You, Miss You" (Scott), "Before I Die" (Downham). I've heard nothing but good things about all three!

Mina Carlisle said...

I love your book recommendations for your students!

I am a year and a half away from graduating with a teaching degree (English is my focus) and I've been lucky enough to read tons of YA books and recommend them to the teens that I am student teaching too.

I agree, they want the truth, and what's wonderful about YA is that a lot of the books share the same themes as the high school classics canon, so they are excellent things to pair with required reading!

Lisa and Laura said...

Love this list! If these books were available when I was a young adult, I would have been beside myself. Instead, I devoured Judith McNaught. Either way, I loved to read, but I think the books available to teenagers today can actually help them in some ways. I wish I would have read Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen.

Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

I did a stint as the guardian of the book depository in a high school and I remember there being a class set of SPEAK. When I read the jacket copy I was really impressed that they were assigning it in class. It's really amazing to see what happens when you get books like that into the hands of the right students.

But as for me ... I like my demons fangy or furry. ;) lol I haven't read Twilight but I plan to after my class on Jane Austen because I read an article that theorized that the appeal was that the Vampire (whatever his name is) is a comedy of manners hero. I was intrigued.

Krista Ashe said...

Hey girlie! I gave you a Sunshine Award on my blog!!!

Lisa Nowak said...

I love books that have truth to them. On the other hand, I don't know if a novel has to be edgy to have truth, which is something that some agents seem to think.