Art by Lisa Clongdon:
It’s no secret among my students and anyone that has to listen to me talk about books that Lois Lowry’s The Giver is one of my absolute favorites. There’s just SO MUCH to love about it that I couldn’t process the changes I knew would be necessary for it to be translated from novel to film. As snippets of information rolled in about the movie, from Jeff Bridges being cast as the Giver (Perfect!) to Brenton Thwaites being cast as Jonas (What?! He’s cute and all, but in his mid-20’s and Jonas is supposed to be 12?) to Taylor Swift playing the role of Rosemary (Baffling.), my apprehension about the movie version grew. Even knowing that Lois Lowry herself was involved in the process couldn’t save it for me. And so, though I’m usually first in line at the midnight premier of a good book movie, I couldn’t even bring myself to go see The Giver in theaters.
I was wrong. I wish I’d gone.
There are changes… significant ones. And, if I’m being honest, they DO bother me a little. Overall, though, this movie does a wonderful job of taking The Giver and maintaining the integrity of its themes and the heroism of Jonas as a character. I thought I would hate it, but I don’t. In fact, I kind of love it.
Find the movie here on Amazon or wherever you get your movies from!
I loved For Real, a new title from Alison Cherry in which we get to follow Claire and her older sister, Miranda, on a seriously fun summer adventure. When Miranda’s boyfriend is found out as a cheater right before they’re supposed to move in together, she moves home and struggles to move on… until Claire comes up with an idea for the perfect revenge. Miranda’s ex is going on an around-the-world race reality show, and without him knowing it, the two girls audition to be one of the last minute replacement teams. They go on the show with the intent to bring Miranda’s ex down, but the fun and bonding they get from the experience is worth far more than the revenge. I’m a fan of the positive sister relationship shown in this, and the strength of the two girls on their adventures.
Find For Real here on Amazon or at your favorite local bookseller.
I really, really have come to love Kasie West’s contemporary romance titles. Earlier this year, I read The Distance Between Us and adored it. I can’t even count how many of my students have purchased it based on my recommendation, and I’m happy to see it being read in my classroom. This past weekend, I got my hands on her most recent title, On the Fence, and I was not disappointed.
In this one, Charlotte (who goes by Charlie) is a tomboy who has grown up in a family of all boys – her dad, her three brothers, and even the boy next door who’s been around for as long as she can remember. She plays sports, runs a lot, and acts like one of the guys. When she’s forced to get a job to pay for her speeding tickets, the job she gets is in a girly, frilly boutique where she has to trade in her t-shirts and sneakers for skinny jeans and silk blouses. As she struggles to reconcile her tomboy self with her girly self (which is not all as bad as she thought it would be), she comes to realize that her feelings for the boy next door, Braden, are anything but sisterly.
I so appreciate that West writes a fun, contemporary, relevant story while keeping language, sexual content, and drugs at bay. You don’t HAVE to include all of that to relate to teenagers, but they’re so prevalent in so much of YA that it’s like a breath of fresh air to not have to wade through the crud to find redeeming quality underneath. Kasie’s books are great, and I could not possibly recommend them more!
Find On the Fence here on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore.
I discovered this article when a friend posted it on facebook, and it gives scientific evidence for everything I’ve ever noticed about students who read. If we can just ignite a love of reading books, we end up with generally more emotionally well-rounded students. I’m not a Science person at all, but I hope you’ll find this as interesting as I did!
The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. I can’t say enough good things about these books… I have tons of respect for Roth as a writer, for Tris Prior as an unforgettable and selfless protagonist, and for the fact that Theo James is in the movies (but who wouldn’t love that, right?). This series is intense, but it’s appropriate for middle school readers and up.
The Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis. It’s futuristic and fascinating and well written all the way through. It’ll grab any reader’s attention from the very first chapter, which will stick with you long after you finish reading it. Again, this series is appropriate for middle school readers and up.
On the Fence or The Distance Between Us by Kasie West. Or both of them, because once you read one Kasie West story, you’ll want more and more and more. Both of these titles feature good, healthy relationships and strong female characters who, of course, want love and romance but don’t become weak and brainless in the quest for a boyfriend. These are good for 8th grade and up.
Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg. Told in a unique way using two points of view and a series of flashbacks, Better Off Friends feels like a conversation the reader gets to be a part of, and the effect is nothing short of charming. Also good for 8th grade and up.
Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick. I’ve been a long-time fan of Sonnenblick’s work. This story involves a little time-traveling back to the days of Woodstock, where the main character ends up hanging out with his family members when they were teenagers. It’s a cool book with a positive message. Because of the Woodstock content (which is not nearly as graphic as it could have been), this is a high school and up book.
No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown. This one’s fun and sweet and inspirational as the main character draws on old standards and bluegrass to highlight her sweet NC mountain voice. Highlighted on She Reads earlier this fall, this is perfect for those teenage girls who dream of making it some day.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This story took me so much by surprise! I loved the story and the mystery and the creepiness… and the twist ending left me absolutely speechless. This is one for high school and up.
Golden by Jessi Kirby. I’m a pretty serious fan of Jessi Kirby (the one she has coming out next April is absolutely fantastic – I can’t wait to share it with you guys). In Golden, she weaves Robert Frost poetry into a cleverly written mystery with elements of romance and adventure. Plus, the cover for this is so gorgeous no girl would be able to resist it.
Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson. This is a super sweet and thoroughly enchanting story of a summer in a small town, where a movie is being filmed. A local wholesome local girl is hired to pose as the film’s bad-boy heartthrob’s girlfriend in an effort to clean up his image, but things don’t stay that simple. Good for 8th grade and up.
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. I have so much love for this book, and the cover instantly draws in any reader. It’s also told in a somewhat unconventional way, beginning with a series of e-mails that accidentally go to the wrong person, so it has a fun feel to it. This is perfect for high school and up.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. One universal trait of teenagers is the awkward feeling of not really belonging. This book was written by Hinton when she was a teenager herself, and I have yet to talk to a teenager who didn’t really enjoy it. If you get this one, make sure you grab the movie, too!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. These days, it’s hard to turn on the TV or scroll through your twitter timeline without seeing talk of racism and prejudice related to Ferguson, or to any number of other incidents. To Kill A Mockingbird is all about compassion and love in the face of hatred, making it an essential read for the modern teenager.