Earlier this school year, a reporter from The Solitaire (Fort Zumwalt West High School's newspaper) asked for my opinion regarding what books students should read before they graduate. Since all readers love a good book list, I thought I'd share it with y'all.
Both of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Color Purple feature main characters who have experienced trauma and find a way to persevere, partly through the power of words. Readers SEE Charlie and Celie’s growth through their language in the letters they write and I cannot put into words how much I love that.
Both Soldier Boy and Sold are fictional stories based on horrible practices that are actually happening in our world. Soldier Boy is the story of children being forced to serve in the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa. Sold is the story of young girls being manipulated into becoming sex slaves. Both will make you want to rise up and fight injustice.
Both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hate U Give center around social injustice in America - TKAM, in the 1930s (but written in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement) and THUG in the present day (Black Lives Matter). I know pretty much everyone has read TKAM (as they should) but I FIRMLY believe that THUG is the new Mockingbird. EVERY PERSON ALIVE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK.
Never have I read a book that teaches so much about the power of kindness. Be prepared to have your heart fill up so much that tears will pour from your eyes - even more so if you watch the wonderful movie (WONDERful - see what I did there?).
This quintessential book on rape and rape culture was written by Laurie Halse Anderson over ten years ago, before the Me Too movement and before the term "rape culture" became a part of our daily vocabulary. Speak is the book that has inspired the writing of many other Young Adult novels focusing on the theme of rape culture. The more books written and read on the subject, the more people will discuss the subject, and the more likely the next generation will eradicate toxic masculinity.
On Writing is part memoir, part writing tips. King describes his humble beginnings and traces his path to becoming one of the most popular and prolific authors of all time. He also details the near-fatal accident which changed him forever. His description of the writing process and his words of advice to writers is nothing short of genius. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook, narrated by King, himself. It’s like hanging out with the guy and he’s just chatting with you about his life and about writing. SO. GREAT.
Into Thin Air blew my mind. It’s the true story of the 1996 mountain climbing disaster that left several dead. Krakauer’s description of Mount Everest was so foreign, so unreal to me, I remember thinking he might as well be describing walking on the moon. I had never read about a setting and an experience that was so, so beyond anything I had ever imagined. And it was real! This gripping non-fiction had me researching while I was reading. I literally had a dictionary and two books about Mount Everest by my side as I was reading this book. That was a first-time experience for me. It wasn’t the last, though! I love a challenging read!
Although Beauty Queens is the most clever of satires, it is a shockingly accurate portrayal of the societal expectations put upon women. Author, Libba Bray, explores what would happen if a large group of women (in this case, beauty contestants) were stranded on a deserted island together with no men to attract or expectations to live up to. And it is fascinating. Think Lord of the Flies but more women and less pig's-head-on-a-stick.
What about you? What books would you suggest teens read before they graduate from high school?