Monday, September 2, 2013

Four Must-Read Young Adult Books for Boys

As a secondary teacher, I have found that it can be tough to get boys to read, especially fiction.  I wish I could say that I've unearthed the perfect formula for what makes a book appealing to teen boys.  I haven't.  However, here are a few that I've found almost always engage my male students, especially those who are a little skeptical about reading.

Peak by Roland Smith

This easy-to-read book is perfectly appropriate for middle
school and early high school students.  It follows the story of Peak, a teenaged climbing enthusiast who gets into legal trouble after scaling a high rise building.  Peak is sent to live with his father, a world-class mountain climber.  Prior to his stay with his father, Peak's teacher encourages him to keep a diary in a Moleskine notebook, and the book is comprised of Peak's journal.  Unbeknownst to Peak, his father is hatching a plan to climb Mt. Everest, taking Peak along for the ride.  If Peak succeeds in summitting Everest, he will be the youngest person to achieve this goal; however, a young Sherpa begins to make him see his goal -- and his father -- differently.  Boys will learn the value of friendship, trustworthiness, and honor in this fast-paced page-turner.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book affords readers an up-close and personal look at the life of Junior, a mentally handicapped Native American boy who decides to go to school "off the rez" in order to find a more hopeful future.  In the process, Junior experiences a lot of loss, including losing his best friend, his sister, and grandmother.  However, he also finds new talent as he becomes an excellent student and the star of the high school basketball team.  Junior's musings on race, equality, alcoholism, and hope are interspersed with immensely engaging cartoons depicting his view of himself and his world.  I taught this book last year with a developmental reading class of college freshman, and they couldn't get enough of it.  One student told me, "I haven't finished a book since, like, second grade, and I liked this one so much I read it twice!" With that said, this is the "absolutely true diary" of a teenaged boy, and Junior doesn't hold anything back.  We hear about alcohol abuse and masturbation (can't believe I just typed that, but it's true!).  This is definitely not a book for 6th graders, but older high school students will love it.  I also have a Common Core aligned unit  available for this book on Teachers pay Teachers!

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Ever since I read Slam in junior high, I have been a huge
Walter Dean Myers fan, and this -- in my humble opinion -- is his magnum opus.  In this book, Steve is an aspiring screenplay writer who is on trial for murder because he was the lookout in a robbery gone terribly wrong. Steve tells his story in the form of journal entries and a screenplay he's developing about his trial and his time in jail.  The novel's innovative structural style makes it a fairly quick read; however, some students may have difficulty switching back and forth between journal entries and screenplay. Steve perceives that the rest of the world sees him as a monster, and he thinks they might be right.  Through his diary and screenplay, he tries to rediscover his personal standards and sense of worth.  This is the most stolen (and most frequently given away) book in my classroom library, which I think says a lot about how much it means to the students who have read it. 

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book is the second in a trilogy entitled The Last Survivors.  However, it's not the type of trilogy in which you must read the books in order; they're more "companion" books rather than "series" books, if that makes sense.  At any rate, the story is about Alex Morales, a teenage boy who has an incredibly bright future ahead of him, and his younger sisters.  When an asteroid knocks the moon out of orbit, chaos ensues on earth. Tsunamis wipe out the coast.  Earthquakes ravage the landscape.  Volcanoes erupt, spewing clouds of ash thick enough to blot out the sun.  In all of this, Alex's parents go missing, leaving him to be the caretaker of his sisters in an increasingly desperate New York City.  Alex must learn to negotiate on the black market, deal with the loss of his parents, and try to make the best decisions to benefit himself and his sisters.  Kids love this book, partially -- I believe -- because they like to imagine themselves as survivors in a world without adults. 

I'm teaching an Independent Reading class this semester, and I will be recommending these books to the guys in that class.  I'm sure they will have some suggestions for me, too!  I'll make sure to pass those suggestions along to you as well!

Have a marvelous week!

Katrina, The Teacher Lady

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