Missing YA Literature

One of the frustrating bits about working in technology rather than in language arts for the last ten months is that I haven’t really had a good reason to keep up on all the great YA literature out there.  I’m not in a position to recommend books to students at the moment – so I’ve gotten a little bit out of touch with the YA world.  I was reminded of this this morning when Phil tweeted that he was headed off to a teen literature conference. I love going into the libraries in our schools and spending time with the displays of new and popular books.

But I really miss book talks with students. Those conversations in front of bookshelves where we try to match their interests with the right book or books are wicked intense and always a fun challenge.  Talk about a rush.

While I can’t necessarily meet my need to talk books with teens at the moment, I can at least catch up on my reading.  I happen to have a book store gift card and a desire to make a donation to a school library (after I read the book, of course).

So, dear readers and teachers of reading, what should I purchase?  I’m looking for something newish – the last six months or so – and I’m aware of Twilight and the Uglies.  I’d love something a little unconventional, perhaps ARG-ish (And I know that the sequel to Cathy’s Book, Cathy’s Key, comes out in May – so I’ll be getting my hands on a copy of that, too, I hope.), or a good graphic novel (I really enjoyed the Invention of Hugo Cabret, as did the students I shared it with.).

Please share your recommendations.  What are you reading with students?  To them? For you?  Can’t keep on the shelves?  Wish you had a copy or two of?  I’ll buy the book that I like the best and tell you how it goes.  Thanks!

26 thoughts on “Missing YA Literature

  1. readerdiane says:

    My 7th grade students are really enjoying The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan. This is the first of the series and 2 others have been published. I have several students anxiously waiting for the 4th one. We study Ancient civilizations so the Greek myth/gods in the modern world is pretty entertaining. Plus it has great stopping places so I can leave them hanging until the next day. We’ve had some interesting discussions.

    The other author my students like, especially the boys is Roland Smith. My low reading group enjoyed Thunder Cave(Africa) and we are onto Cryptid Hunters(Africa/dinosaurs) next. I read Peak(Himalayas) to my classes, I didn’t think it was quite as good. Some of the other classes have enjoyed Zach’s Lie.
    Hope you enjoy reading these.;)

  2. Tamara says:

    Though I teach high school, my students are at that YA level. This semester is the first time I’ve tried lit. circles. I’ve only been teaching 3 years.

    I am currently off track so I don’t have access to all the books I gave them (I teach, for now, at a year round school). Anyway, one title a group of my girls LOVED was “Feed”. It’s a futuristic story of kids who are inserted (I guess) with a feed that gives info. It sounded quite interesting.

  3. Bud!

    Great strand…I can’t wait to see what everyone adds to the list too….Good book conversations with kids are on the money, that’s for sure.

    I just picked up the new Newberry medal: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies: Voices from a Medievel Village.

    It’s a neat historical fiction text that is a collection of twenty monologues from the perspective of different characters you’d find in a Medievel town…..

    The best part: The monologues are designed to be read aloud by students—so the book has an interactive, public reading feel to it….which I think is lost in many classrooms.

    Anyway….thanks for pulling me away from constant ed tech talk too! I have to remind myself sometimes that there is more than just tech to talk about….

    Rock on,

  4. I just brought home Slam by Hornsby, which has been getting rave reviews on young adult lists. The first couple of pages grabbed me, so I think it’ll be good.

    I also got hooked last summer on this sort of “sleeper” series that has taken off with alot of our male readers–the Ranger’s Apprentice series. It’s somewhat like Lord of the Rings, “lite” and although the series starts a little slowly, the books get to be cliffhangers as you get into them. The fourth book just came out recently.

    Happy reading!

  5. Nate Barton says:

    Mal Peet is an author I came across last year. Keeper is set in the rain forests of South America and is a magical story about a young man who breaks free of the logging destiny that everyone is assumed to become a legendary goal keep.

    More recently one of my students who read Keeper, after I had recommended it to him, loaned me another Mal Peet novel called Tamar. This is a book about espionage during the second World War. I have been very surprised at the breadth of Peet’s capabilities, and while Keeper is my favorite, Tamar is well worth a look.


  6. As a member of the Newbery Committee that gave Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! the medal, I was delighted to see it recommended here. I also would suggest checking out the three honor books: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, and Feathers by Jackie Woodson.

  7. Donna Hebert says:

    I loved Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters series.

    Of course, if you haven’t yet read M.T. Anderson’s Feed, then you should. It’s a must for anyone who loves technology.

  8. Bud Hunt says:

    Thanks for the list so far – keep them coming! I’ve read and recommended Feed for a couple of years. Also like M.T. Anderson’s _Burger Wuss_ a great deal – and hear his other books are awesome. Has anyone read his _The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing_? I heard it was quite good.

    Other ideas?

  9. Octavian Nothing is extraordinary.

  10. BTW, if anyone wants to hear some kids doing the readings from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! come by my class blog for a visit: http://blogs.dalton.org/edinger/2008/03/05/our-podcast-of-good-masters-sweet-ladies/

  11. Bud Hunt says:

    Well, Monica – that’s pretty high praise. Thanks. Of course, I just realized that it’s older than six months out – so I’ve violated my own rules by asking about it here. I’ll put it on the list for another time, though.


  12. MarthaQ says:

    So, two of my favorite “adult” authors have recently branched our into the realm of YA Literature.

    Isabel Allende has written a stunning trilogy (which has been published in both English and Spanish) about a boy named Alexander and his grandmother, an eccentric, adventurous journalist. The first book (which is my favorite), City of the Beasts, follows Alexander and his grandmother as they join a group of expolorers to investigate a mysterious and legendary indigenous tribe in the Amazon basin. Its beautifully written (cause its Allende) and very political (also, probably, cause its Allende). All of my thumbs are up.

    Sherman Alexie, another long time favorite of mine, has recently written a book called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Its semi-autobiographical (but I always feel that way with Alexie’s work), funny with a dark-humor edge. All about privilege and what one can do to overcome the oppression they are born into. Also about friendship, but that’s one of Alexie’s favorite themes as well. Love it. Haven’t read it with kids, yet, but I have high hopes.

  13. Matthew says:

    Not a new book, but one of my favorites is The Giver by Lois Lowry. It is the story of a young gifted boy growing up in a dystopian setting. I’m also a fan of ambiguous endings. There are two other related books, Gathering Blue which is also well worth reading, and Messenger which feels more like a short story stretched to fill the space of a novel.

  14. I just finished “Before I Go” by Riley Weston. I know it is a 2006 publication date, but it was a great read for a Mom of daughters. It is a timeless love story based in the world of ice skating, and was the grand prize winner of the 2007 New York Book Festival.

    Right now I am reading “firefly lane” by Kristin Hannah. It is a 2/5/2008 publication and it is taking me back to my high school, college years as it is set in the early 70’s. Only on page 154 of 479 – will let you know, but so far I am enjoying it and wondering if my 15 year old would if I could get her to read it. Perhaps I’ll read it to her . . .

  15. lhuff says:

    Three titles I love dearly (none written in last six months–sorry): Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Nineteen Minutes. Kite Runner is splendid. A complex plot, endearing characters, beautiful language and literary richness. It actually appeared on last year’s AP English Literature exam! Nineteen Minutes is for older, mature students; they won’t be able to put down this page-turner about a school shooting.

    I wrote a post on my blog requesting readers to submit ideas about book projects that integrate technology. I’d love to hear about what you may have tried or ideas you may have: Post them

  16. Benjamin Jackson says:

    Unfortunatly I share a very similar predicament in regards to recent (in the last year) YA reading.
    However, I can recommend a few titles very popular among my students.

    The Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow series I have found really provokes thought among my students, and the later books (Speaker for the Dead, Children of the Mind Xenocide) though higher level reads raise some very intriguing moral issues.

    In the fantasy arena, I would recommend the authors Garth Nix, Philip Pullman, and Terry Goodkind, the principal books among them being the Sabriel series, The Seventh Tower, Shades Children and The Sword of Truth all of which were very popular with many of the seniors in my class.

    also, many of my students enjoy Dan Brown, from his ever popular The Da Vinci Code to Deception Point and Angels and Demons.

    Finally, the one book that seems to have universal appeal is the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy. the entire series by Douglas Adams is one of the most creative, unique and thought provoking stories I can recommend to students… the main reason is the sheer difference between Adams style and those of most authors teenagers encounter in high school. its a refreshing break for many of them from the more serious, heavy novels (such as Night and to Kill a MockingBird) that are a part of the curriculum. I also must admit that I personally get a kick out of his sense of humor, and often retire to his works in times of stress.

    hopefully, though not recent, some of these titles will be new, interesting and thought provoking titles your students will enjoy.

  17. Sara Kajder says:

    Just polled an eighth grade class – they are “tied” between The Book Thief and Nailed. I’d add Three Witches to the list – but they argue that is too much of a “literature” read…

  18. I have a few.
    Buried Onions by Gary Soto
    The Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carmen
    Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

  19. Terry says:

    My favorite YA is “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. Not new, but worthy of a read. Mature subject matter, but intense.

    Also, “Aurora County All Stars” which is a wonderful book about a small town and a big baseball game. Loved it!

  20. Clix says:

    Epic, by Conor Kostick
    Peeps is my favorite Scott Westerfeld book
    Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, is spot-on creepalicious.
    The Last Apprentice (series), by Joseph Delaney

  21. Rachel B. says:

    I just taught Shaun Tan’s The Arrival to my eighth grade students, and they were really moved. It is a graphic novel in the truest sense; there are no words. It gives a real sense of the feelings associated with immigration, and the students were mesmerized. I have created four differentiated instructional assignments to go with the text using Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences if anyone wants them. I can’t say enough about how powerful this book is.

  22. Ben A. says:

    Newer YA books that I recommend are “The Book Thief” and “Tweak”, but I have to admit I am a sucker for the classics, such as “Holes” and “The Outsiders”. One benefit to teaching the classics is that there are plenty of teaching aids and resources on them to be found on the internet. I’ve had good experiences with http://www.dedicatedteacher.com , which has a very large selection of ebooks and is easy to use. Also, you can preview the books before you download them.

  23. Hey Bud,

    Some guys in a Guys Read club I know have been wrestling over their favorite books in an NCAA Bracket Style competition.

    Maybe you’d like their titles:

    It’s been fun to watch them work through their brackets each week.


  24. I’d suggest House of the Scorpion or Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer.

  25. Natalie says:

    Hey Bud, I’ve got to recommend Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series, which several of my students turned me on to. And Ben, thanks for the link to http://www.dedicatedteacher.com. It’s been very helpful to me lately while I’ve been developing a couple more novel units.

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