When I heard that writer Jacqueline Woodson would be giving a book talk at my local library branch, I wanted to be front row center. Unfortunately, I had class that night, so I could not make it. This summer I read her fantastic, but short novel, If You Come Softly.

The novel is split into two different intertwining stories. Two characters, a white Jewish girl and a black boy, from different sides of society fall in love and fight against prejudices. The story is short but poignant. I read the book in about 2 hours; however, the story still stays with me.

These two teenagers meet and fall in love, but society looks down their noses at the couple. I don’t want to give away the incredible, heart-wrenching ending, but it is book that must be read!

Woodson paints a lovely picture that left you wanting more. I recommend this book for middle and high schoolers. Many lessons about tolerance, injustice, and love can be taught and learned.

Such a fantastic book! I read Meyers’s Monster and fell in love with his sharp critique of society. This summer I decided that I would want to pair Eric Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front with several book club/lit circle groups for a unit on War. As a class, we would read All Quiet, but the students would separately read other war books in groups. One of these books I chose was Fallen Angels.

The book is phenomenal. Meyers does not comfort the reader or shield him/her from the horrors of war. The lead character, Richie Perry, is a black teenager who enlists in the army at the beginning of the Vietnam War. The perpetual lie of “it’ll all be over by Christmas” runs throughout the story. The faint glimmer of hope fades as racism, classicism, and the horrors of war color the novel. Perry and his platoon struggle to survive. They deal with loss, loyalty, and survival.

It is a must read for any unit on war. Students in grades 9-12 will appreciate Meyers’s frankness and will be charmed by Richie Perry and his brothers in arms.

Imagine life as you know it stopping all because of a simple piece of paper. One group rules the entire school, and the school obediently follows their directives. The group, known as the Shadow Council, chooses one student each year through a lottery system. That “winner” is a slave to the Shadow Council’s wishes. He/she does every menial task and deed that Shadow Council decrees. The narrator, Sally Hanson, is this year’s winner. She is brought into the inner circle and must comply with the council’s orders.

Beth Goobie does not let her work meander; she lets the story unfold as Sally discovers things on her own. You are with Sally when she must commit heinous acts towards her fellow students. You feel Sally’s isolation when the entire school turns away from her. She is a social pariah for a year, but struggles with her role as the lottery winner. Will she comply to everything the council wants or will she strike out and undermine their plans?

Great read, I highly recommend it for 8th graders and up. Readers will cheer on Sally and ride the rollercoaster of high school and its cruel twists and turns.

For those of you who have dealt with peers, students, or children with anger management issues, Alex Finn’s Breathing Underwater is definitely something you should read. The main character, Nick Andreas, is sentenced to anger management after hitting his girlfriend. The judge also requires him to keep a journal and track what led up to his violent behavior.

Nick’s perspective and journal entries are entrancing. Finn dives into his mind and exposes where anger lies and how, if not handled correctly, it can explode. Throughout the book, the reader gains an interesting look at anger and how teenagers deal with intense emotions.

Because of the violence involved, I would recommend this book for 10th-12th graders. I do think that 9th graders could handle and learn much from the story, but some scenes are intense.

I know, I know! The first time I saw the cover and the author’s name, I immediately thought of the lead singer of Matchbox 20, also. This Rob Thomas, however, does not sing in a world famous indie rock band.

The book is from the perspective of a teenage boy, Steve York. He is the son of a famous astronaut and is expected to follow in his father’s rather large footsteps. His parents are divorced and Steve also has to deal with his younger more popular sister. After the divorce, Steve chooses to live with his mother, but visits his father and sister in the summer. While he lives with his mother, he is a stellar student. He is at the top of his class and has a bright future. Then he moves permanently in with his father for the majority of the book.

The move to his father’s home starts a downward spiral for Steve. He is flunking his classes and his behavior sours towards his peers and school in general. While living with his father, Steve has his first real relationship with a quirky girl, Dub. The ins and outs of that relationship test Steve and push him farther.

I won’t tell you about how the title of the book comes about, though it is pretty funny. Thomas pulls you in from the start and keeps you engage and entertained through Steve’s voice.

I would recommend the book for 9th-12th graders; some themes might not be appropriate for younger students. It’s a quick and enjoyable read.

A classic children’s book that somehow made it onto my reading list! Lois Lowry is one of the best children’s lit writers around. Most Americans can name at least one book by Lowry that they have read in their lifetimes. In previous posts, there are few books of hers that I have reviewed recently. Number the Stars is a heavy-hitter in the world of children’s lit.

I’m not going to write another review expounding the awesomeness of this book. Instead, I’m going to charge my blog readers to go out and read it. If you’ve already read it, read it again. You’ll never be disappointed with a book of such high quality as this. Read it! Read it now! You won’t regret it.

Have you ever looked at the people around you and wondered who didn’t truly belong? What if one of those outsiders decided to disappear completely? Would life go on or would the community begin to crumble under the pressure of its dark secrets? Carol Plum-Ucci puts forth these questions with her novel The Body of Christopher Creed.

The story is told in flashbacks by Torey Adams. Torey is a popular boy in the small town of Steepleton. He and his friends grow up knowing Christopher Creed, a shy and reserved boy. Creed is taunted by more popular peers on a constant basis. One day Creed emails a mysterious letter and disappears. The authorities don’t know if it was either a suicide note or if he was running away. No trace of Christopher is ever found again.

Torey enlists the help of two kids at his school, Ali and Bo. These two teens are not part of Torey’s clique and they choose to be on the outer fringes of high school society. Together, the three teenagers look for clues as to what happened to Creed.

I won’t tell the ending, but the book had me turning the pages in order to discover what truly happened. Because of more adult themes, I would recommend this book for 11th graders and up. As an adult, I was enraptured with the story and moved by the evolution of the characters.

If you are as paranoid about technology taking over as I am, then you’ll enjoy reading Feed by M.T. Anderson. This book is frighteningly close to how society may end up some day in the not-too-distant future. Ironically enough, this book was written in 2002 before Facebook came onto the scene.

The story revolves around Titus, a teenager of the future, and his involvement with a beautiful and strange girl named Violet. It is set in a future where Earth is almost dead, and nearly the entire population has a “feednet” installed in their brains. The “feed” sends a barrage of advertisements and trends into people’s brains and controls their spending habits as well as forms their personalities. Titus and his friends rocket to the Moon for some entertainment and meet Violet. She is a home-schooled teen who has not had the feed since birth. Violet is a little behind the times and wants to experience life outside of her sheltered bubble. Titus falls for Violet instantly and tries to welcome her to life with a “feed.” After an unfortunate run-in with a hacker, Violet’s feed begins to malfunction. Titus must struggle with his feelings for Violet and the only life he knows.

Whether this book is a warning to society about the future or it is mocking the technological advances of today, it is a fascinating look at how materialism and selfishness can slowly bring a planet to its knees. I would recommend this book to readers 9th grade and up. Maybe its cautionary tale will inspire teens to take a second look at the world around them and where it’s going.

I just finished this book today. It was fantastic. I’ve realized that I tend to like books based on psychological and real issues rather than fantasy narratives. Gail Giles’s Shattering Glass is an excellent choice for readers who are interested in seeing the darkness inside human beings.

Shattering Glass is told from the perspective of Young Steward. From the first paragraph, the reader knows that Simon Glass is going to die at the hands of Young and his group of friends. The story begins like Pygmalion and ends like Frankenstein.  A group of popular senior boys, Young included, decide to makeover the school’s number one dweeb, Simon Glass. Simon is the butt of every joke; he is nerdy to an extreme, overweight, and has no social skills. Rob Haynes, the leader of the pack and somewhat new kid himself, pushes his group to make Simon into Mr. Popularity. Of course, Simon lets his new found popularity go to his head and he begins to bite the hand that has trained him. Rob Haynes is not a person to mess with and the whole group of boys have their lives ruined by the end of the book.

I won’t go into major details because the thrall of the book is find out how Simon Glass is “shattered” by this group of boys. I would recommend this book for 9th graders and up, mostly because of the language and the violence. I like Giles’s writing style so much, I’m tempted to pick up one of her other books too.

I recently read two Carol Plum-Ucci books back-to-back. She wrote The Body of Christopher Creed first and then moved onto What Happened to Lani Garver. I read Lani Garver first though, not knowing the order.

The story takes place on an island near Philadelphia. This insular world is filled with dark secrets, violence, and fear. From the first section onwards, the reader knows that Lani Garver has possibly been drowned by the local group of bullies. Books that start this way always intrigue me, I look forward to the author unraveling the story and bringing it back to the present.

Claire, the teenage narrator, befriends the new kid in town, Lani Garver. Before she met him, she endured chemotherapy treatments for Leukemia. After returning to school, Claire is adopted into the pretty and popular group by Macy. Macy rules the roost and Claire always falls into line. Claire appears to be a normal and healthy girl, but she is hiding a darker side. She plays guitar at the island’s coffee shop and writes disturbing lyrics about cutting herself that she hides from her friends. Lani Garver enters the picture and Claire learns more about herself. She questions her friends, her family and her own life. Lani’s gender is unknown and becomes a source of mystery for the local teens. This mystery begins to threaten Claire’s existence with violent results.

Plum-Ucci challenges society’s perspectives about gender roles and sexuality with this book. Readers who are uncomfortable with these issues might not want to read this book should pick it up and gain a new perspective, like Claire. This book has the ability to open some eyes and minds. I recommend this book for 7th graders and up. There are a few passages that could make teens squirm, but the overall message is worth it.