1. Many Stones by Carolyn Coman ( Front Street, 2000)
Genre: Contemporary, Politics
Honors: Michael L. Printz Honor book
Review: Stones are heavy and sixteen year-old Berry places them on her chest every evening in hopes she will not float away. After her sister is murdered in South Africa and her parents’ divorce, the only thing that keeps Berry grounded are the stones. But when Berry and her father travel to Africa for her sister’s memorial, the stones may not be able to work their magic.
Opinion: Coupled with racial division and bitter grief, South Africa’s landscape and culture meld together social and emotional conflict of the true meaning of forgiveness. Although the story itself is believable, it is choppy and hard to find compassion for any of the characters. However, it does offer a glimpse into the politics of apartheid which is seldom find in fictional books.
Ideas: This book offers insight into the politics of South Africa, apartheid and the culture of its people. It could be used for political discussions, segregation policies or in the context of death and forgiveness.
2. Season of Ice by Diane Les Becquets (Bloomsbury USA, 2008)
Genre: Mystery, Action
Honors: 2008 Blue Ribbons, Lupine Award
Review: After her mother left 10 years ago, Genesis’ father had given her a life filled with fishing, ice-car racing and a love for nature. At the beginning of winter, her father goes missing and rumors spread. Is her father lost on one of the many islands in Maine? Did he leave her and her half-brothers for another woman? Or worse, is he stuck forever under the 4 feet of ice that cover the lake?
Opinion: This story reaches out of the pages to draw in the reader and does not let go until the end. Genesis’ escape of her grief through her ice drag racing eventually leads her to investigate what really happened to her father. Les Becquets allows Genesis to find her way through the maze of adolescence to adulthood with remarkable grace and clarity. I would recommend for both girls and boys due to the mystery, racing and even romantic aspects.
Ideas: Could be used to highlight women’s ability to compete in traditional male sports. Consider the effect of gossip and speculation on other’s people’s lives.
3.You don’t know me by David Klass (HarperTempest, 2001)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Humor
Honors: ALA Best Books for Young Adults; IRA Young Adult Choices; IRA-CBC Children's Choices; Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library; Texas Lone Star Reading List, SLT starred review
Review: Fourteen year old John thinks that no one knows him. They don’t know what it means to watch a tuba morph into a frog during a solo that the man who is not his father is his greatest source of torture and they surely do not know the secrets that he has kept well-hidden. But soon everyone will know and John’s life will never be the same, if he survives!
Opinion: This book is one of the BEST books I have ever read in forty years. Not only do we know John, we become his innermost thoughts and feelings. Klass has the incredible ability to introduce magical realism to save the life of a young man who might otherwise have had a more tragic outcome. Granted the ending is a tear-jerker but it will touch the hearts of anyone of any gender who is lucky to come across this book.
Ideas: Great reading material for reluctant readers, group essays, and recommended reads
4. No More Secrets by Nina Weinstein (Seal Press, 1990)
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Honors: 1st Place winner, Santa Barbara’s Writer Festival, Best Book by New York Public Library
Review: Sixteen year old Mandy has carried a secret for eight years that now will test the relationships with her mother, her best friend and boys. Battling secrets that begged to be told, Mandy is forced to confront her family, her therapist and everyone who knows her.
Opinion: An intense portrayal of the effects of childhood abuse, this novel does a wonderful job of introducing the complexities of rape without the graphic detail. More importantly in delves into the emotional and psychological effects on the victim and her family without being overly dramatic. Instead Weinstein uses metaphors and visuals to make Mandy an endearing survivor.
Ideas: Suggested for library displays on abuse, disorders, date-rape etc.
5. ttyl by Lauren Myracle (Amulet Books, 2006)
Review: Told entirely in phone message texts, this book tells the story of Zoe, Maddie and Angela who have been friends forever. Entering 10th grade, they vow to stay friends but peer pressures intervene tossing the friendships into chaos. Will the girls survive 10th grade and each other?
Opinion: There has been quite a bit of controversy over the material in the book as there are some sexual references. However, what teenage girl doesn’t make sexual references. There is are the typical popular girls, boyfriends etc but the introduction of a stalking teacher is a bit creepy. Recommended more for high school than middle school girls.
Ideas: Many librarians have selected this book as a “should read” with special displays but I am not sure why. I suppose it could be used to highlight the use of text messaging over conventional phone calls.
6. The She by Carol Plum-Ucci (Harcourt, 2005)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy
Honors: Booklist top ten,
Review: After Evan and Emmett’s parents are supposedly lost to sea, both brothers are left with the aftermath. Trying to put the past behind them, Evan is slipped a hit of LSD in a drink and all memories of that fateful night come rushing back. Practical Emmet is ready to leave the past behind but Evan is convinced something more sinister is behind the disappearance.
Opinion: The character and plot detail are well developed but the story line becomes complicated with side stories that often distract the reader from The She, the mythical creature who figures so prominently in the storyline. Plum-Ucci’s often uses damaged characters and fantasy fiction to reach her conclusion and here she does not fail.
Ideas: Recommend as a display on sea stories, fantasy/reality, or books for reluctant teens.
7. Godless by Pete Hautman (Simon Pulse, 2004)
Honors: National Book Award Winner, ALA Best Book for the Teen Age, Best Book New York Public Library, Minnesota Book Award Winner
Genre: Religion, Fiction, Adventure
Review: When Jason Bock is punched to the ground under the water tower, he sees a bright light and declares the town’s water tower is God (better known as the Ten-Legged One). As a self-avowed agnostic leaning atheist, Jason sees nothing wrong with creating a new religion. Yet after recruiting a few followers and making some disastrous decisions, Jason finds creating new religions is harder than he thought.
Opinion: I thought this book was fantastic especially for those of any age who are seeking an understanding of religion or God. Without being preachy or opinionated, the dialogue contained in the book was laugh out loud funny and many of the one-liners will not soon be forgotten.
Ideas: Great book for religious, spiritual or deity conversations. Good read for reluctant readers and teens.
8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones (First Simon Pulse, 2001)
Honors: ALA 2002 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; ALA 2002 Best Book for Young Adults; Booklist Editor’s Choice
Review: Sophie likes Dylan a lot until she starts paying more attention to the differences than the similarities. But while dating Dylan, and chatting online with Chaz (who is turns out to be a library pervert), Sophie realizes that Murphy the geek is the only one she thinks about! What’s a girl to do?
Opinion: Love this book! Each page is a poem unto itself and bears reading and rereading. Sones is a great poet with a great knack of storytelling that will have girls of all ages relating to Sophie, friends, first loves and unexpected crushes.
Ideas: Great book for reluctant readers, chick lit displays, poetry/prose and fun reads!
9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Vintage, 2004)
Genre: Mystery, Action, Adventure
Honors: Book Sense Book of the Year
Reviews: When 15 year old Christopher finds his neighbor’s dead dog on the front lawn, he begins a search for the dog’s killer. The facts that Christopher is autistic, a mathematical genius and cannot stand to be touched, makes his journey of discovery even more adventurous.
Opinion: I thought Haddon was able to show his readers how Christopher’s mind worked but did little to make the character likeable. Most of the principle characters, including is parents, were broken people struggling to get through to their son and their own lives with the least resistance. Fascinating read, but lacking warmth and compassion, Haddon barely misses the mark.
Ideas: Could be used to offer insight into high functioning autistic teens for teachers, aides and parents.
10.The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 1996)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Honors: Publishers Weekly Book of the Year, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 1998 Newberry Medalist
Review: When a teenage girl is spotted near an island between Cuba and the United States, it is later discovered to be a feral girl raised by dolphins after a plane carrying her mother and brother crashed. Named Mila for a miracle, Mila is secluded in a home with only doctors, therapists and another feral child. As Mila learns what it is to be a human she also remembers what means to be a dolphin and that the two are worlds apart.
Opinion: The book was written in a manner similar to the path of Mila. At first the fonts were very large and sentences were five words or less. As Mila became more human, the font became smaller and the paragraphs longer. As Mila became aware of her choices in life, the fonts receded back to large type. A very significant story on what exactly being human and good really means as well as the power of choice.
Ideas: Great book for psychology, the development of language, the power of choices and what makes a family.
11. The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney (Scholastic, 1999)
Genre: Mystery, Action/Adventure
Honors: ALA 1998 Quick Pick, 2000 Texas Lonestar Award Nominee
Review: Sixteen year old Laura and her eleven year old brother Billy had lived their whole life in a suburb of Boston until their father’s job took them to London. When Billy is handed a package on a subway, it is too late when he realizes it’s a bomb and Laura’s vows to find those responsible for killing her brother. Was this personal towards Laura’s father for closing down factories or was Billy chosen because of Laura?
Opinion: This fast paced book examines how life can turn upside down in a moment and what terror truly means. Written before 9/11, this book offers a first-hand look at terrorism and the effects on one small family from America. Cooney’s roller coaster ride will keep even the most bored reader alert. The climax of the book will keep readers on the edge of their chair.
Ideas: Good read for multicultural issues, terrorism discussions, and family relationships.
12. I Can’t Tell You by Hillary Frank (Graphia, 2005)
Reviews: When college freshman Jake and his best friend Sean have a huge fight, Jake says things that he can’t take back. So begins his journey into a self-imposed silence. Writing conversations on napkins, white boards and legal pads, Jake discovers new ways to express himself. But will Jakes new found expressions prevent him from telling the girl how he really feels?
Opinion: Much like life itself, Frank’s characters are messy, vulnerable and likeable. Somehow she manages a way to get inside the mind of the male and captures thoughts and emotions that are seldom expressed. Jake’s choices and humor keep the book real and refreshing and wanting to know how things work out!
Ideas: Great coming of age book that shows that some friendships can’t be saved and words carry a greater responsibility. I would recommend this book for older teens of any gender and reluctant readers.
13. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Listening Audio, 2009)
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Review: Cameron is a loser, or was until he was diagnosed with the human version of Mad Cow disease. And while his popularity flourishes, his brain goes on one wacky road trip with the help of a punk rock angel named Dulcie, a dwarf named Gonzo and one very strange yard gnome. While searching for the mysterious Dr. X, Cameron’s journey takes him on the ride of his short life. Will Cameron find Dr. X in time to cure his disease and save the world?
Opinion: I haven’t read the book but the audio version kept me so entertained on my commute, time flew by. Bray’s ability to interject Cameron’s past experiences with his present journey was amazing. I can’t wait to buy the book and reread it over and over!
Ideas: Great for a summer reading list, English literature class and recommended for all but especially for the older male teens that will “get” the innuendos. Hint: pay close attention to the stoner’s conversation about Schrodinger’s cat!
14. Day of Tears by Julius Lester (Hyperion, 2003)
Genre: History, Suspense, Adventure
Honors: Coretta Scott King Award,]New York Public Library 100 Best Books for Sharing, Kirkus starred review
Review: This narrative told in past, present and future by everyone involved in the largest one day slave auction in history. On the day of the auction a “rain like there had never been seen before” lasted three days until the auction had ended. The narratives include the auctioneer, the slaves, the masters, the children and those who sought the freedom of the slaves.
Opinion: The narratives in this book are forthright, honest and heartbreaking. The language is true to the period and offers an insight into the mannerisms and demeanor of both the slaves and the “owners”. The disparity between the slaves over freedom barely compare to those who seek to own other humans.
Ideas: Recommended reading for Black History month, language usage in early 18th century America and women’s history month.
15. The Car by Gary Paulsen (Harcourt, 1994)
Genre: Action, Adventure, History
Honors: ABA’s Pick of the Lists, ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
Review: When Terry’s parents decided to leave each other, they also left Terry. Alone, for several days not sure what to do, Terry finds an old Bearcat kit car in the garage and puts it together. A natural at driving, Terry takes off for Oregon but on the way meets a cast of characters straight out of a history book. From cynical to teachable, Terry finds that growing up doesn’t have to do with an age but more of a state of mind.
Opinion: A coming of age story that lends itself to Jack Kerouk’s On the Road for young adults. The people Terry meets on his journey teach him more in a few weeks than his parents did in 15 years. While the story is incredulous at times, it no doubt will leave a yearning in teens for uncles like Waylon and Wayne and of course the Car.
Ideas: Great book for the reluctant reader, required summer reading list, top picks for teenage boys and group discussions on historical recollections mentioned in the book, especially the Indian Wars and Vietnam.
16. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks (Penguin Books, 2001)
Honors: National Bestseller
Review: Anna is only fifteen years old in 1666 when she marries Sam, a miner in the village of North of London. Three years and three sons later, Sam is one of the first to come down with the fever, carried to the village on an infected bolt of cloth. Before long the village is quarantined as inhabitants fall victim to the fast moving bubonic plague. When villagers turn from faith to witch-hunting, who will fall to the plague and who be branded the heretic.
Opinion: Geraldine March transports the reader to the 1600’s with such detail and lyrical writing it is easy to forget where you are. The writing is suspenseful, and shows how hatred, mistrust and fear can turn religious people into murderous villains.
Ideas: Suggested for older teens on similarities and differences between beliefs of the 1600s and today.
17. Sees Behind Trees by Michael Dorris (Scholastic, 1999)
Genre: History, Adventure
Honors: 1996 School Library Journal Best Book, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1996, A Book Links Best Book of 1996
Review: Fifteen year-old Walnut cannot earn his adult name as the other boys do. He cannot see well enough to hit a target with a bow and arrow. But he does have other senses that serve him well. After passing a series of tests, he is given the name Sees Behind Trees but to live up to his name, he must journey with Grey Fire to another land to seek what cannot be seen.
Opinion: Coming into adulthood in the 17th century was a rite of passage, no more so for the Plains Indians. However, Dorris credited his work on the Powhatan Indians of Virginia which did not have such naming ceremonies. Nevertheless it is a good coming of age story that is probably more suited to middle school teens rather than older teens.
Ideas: Uses would include essays on historical youth, indigenous names and rites of passage.
18. Riot by Walter Dean Myers (Egmont, 2009)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review: In 1863, President Lincoln desperate for more Union soldiers instituted a draft. However for a $300 dollar waiver, men could opt out of the service. Many of the newly arrived Irish had no money and as frustration builds, one of the worst riots on American soil breaks out in New York City. Fifteen year old Claire whose father is Black and mother is Irish is caught in the middle. Will Claire survive the turmoil and how will this riot change how she views herself and her world?
Opinion: This historical fiction dramatizes the race riots in 1863 but is written in a screenplay format. This is great for plays but the reading is broken up and may be difficult for many students to follow. The storyline is believable and accurately describes race relations for newly freed slaves and newly arrived immigrants who find they are vying for the same resources.
Ideas: Great for theatrical productions, in-class assignment readings and essays on race relation comparisons between the years of 1863 and 2010.
19. Kids on Strike by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin, 1999)
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Review: A fascinating look at child labor laws from the 1800’s through the early 1930’s. Firsthand accounts of working conditions for children as young as 8 and 9 who often worked 11 hours a day, tells a horrifying story of child labor. Often children would run away from poor conditions only to be used as cheap labor for manufacturing, mining and newspapers. Once children started organizing and striking some of the conditions began to change. However it wasn’t until the 1930’s that child labor laws actually prohibited children under the age of 14.
Opinion: This book is a must read for every classroom and even community college. No book has gone so far as to show in photographs, news articles and personal interviews what child labor consisted of in the turn of the century. Each article delves into the personal lives of those who were most affected, the children and teens.
Ideas: Classroom discussion on labor laws, employment, treatment of children as slave labor, working conditions and history of industrial development by children.
20. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation Vol.1 by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2006)
Genre: History, Gothic, Mystery, Adventure
Honors: National Book Award, Michael L. Printz Honor, Boston Globe-Horn Book, New York Times Bestseller
Review: Octavian Nothing has known only fine clothes, rich food and being surrounded by poets, philosophers and artists all bearing numbers for names at the Novanglian College of Lucidity. Every moment of his life has been observed and recorded, is Octavian a mortal experiment? What horrors lie behind the locked door bearing his likeness? Do Africans have the same capacities as the whites? Once it is discovered that plantation owners are funding experiments, Octavian’s world comes crashing down around him. Amid small pox, riots, and the Revolutionary War, will he too be a victim or will he rise up to his chosen destiny?
Opinion: I am surprised that this book was recommended for young adults. Although the story is fascinating and replete with the entire history of early America, much of the language is beyond that of 9th and 10th graders. That being said, once the reader becomes accustomed to the language, a story unfolds that will horrify, stupefy and amaze! Octavian is like no other character introduced in young adult literature and will no doubt leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads this book.
21. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation Vol.2 by M.T. Anderson (Candlewyck, 2008)
Genre: History, Mystery, Adventure
Honors/Awards: National Book Award, Michael L. Printz Honor Book, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Editor’s Choice – Kirkus Review, Booklist Editors’ Choice, Horn Book Fanfare, Parents’ Choice Awards Silver Honor
Review: In this 2nd installment, Octavian has once again escaped when he enlists in the army of Lord Dunmore’ Ethiopian regiment. Believing that fighting with the Crown will win the freedom of the slaves, Octavian finds duplicity reigns supreme and that his whole life was premised on a lie. It is now up to him on how to proceed with the rest of his life.
Review: There is no skimming through this book! Each chapter was small but the information was overwhelming. I read this book as well as listened to the audio version and found the book more satisfying. The audio was too rushed and chaotic and this book deserves to be savored page by page.
Ideas: History projects/class discussion on slavery, war, changing society, and disease.
22. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2007)
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, History
Honors/Awards: National Book Award Finalist
Review: This fascinating story is of a boy named Hugo, an orphan living in a Paris train station. Apprenticing as a clock keeper with his uncle, Hugo becomes mesmerized by a painting that leads to a key, which leads to automatons that leads to one spectacular mysterious journey with a climatic conclusion.
Opinion: Having never been a fan of graphic novels or picture books, this book was astounding! The illustrations were incredible and the storyline of the photograph that led to the first films were remarkable. I wanted to get to know every character in this book and I was ecstatic when Hugo and Isabelle’s identities were discovered.
23. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks (Random House Audio, 2006)
Genre: Horror, History, Non-Fiction
Honors: Audie Awards
Review: This survival manual goes into great detail about the virus that causes zombies and explicit step by step guidelines to not only survive zombie attacks but also how to defend oneself against a Class-3 and Class-4 outbreak. Remarkably technical in nature, the appendix includes a history timeline of zombies, best places to relocate and the sample outbreak journal.
Opinion: I thought this was a joke at first, but the more I read the more paranoid I became. Not only do I suspect some people of being zombies, I actually live in a high zombie area with plans to relocate as soon as possible (an oil rig or arctic circle), I have learned how to defend myself against infestations and how best to defend myself. I also am fully armed with a machete, a samurai katana and of course my survival guide! Not for the weak or those with low immune systems! The audio is a must-have!
Ideas: Halloween reads, cultural differences, weaponry and class discussions on biases towards zombies
24. The Indigo Notebook, by Laura Resau, ( Listening Library, 2009)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy
Honors: Colorado Book Award; ALA Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults; Cybils Award nominee; ALA Best Book for Young Adults nominee
Review: Zeeta and her mother Layla are free spirits who travel from country to country learning about people and cultures. Zeeta’s greatest wish is to have a normal life while her mother is content to quote Rumi and discover adventures. After befriending a young man looking for his birth parents, Zeeta encounters healers, smugglers and even a mystical waterfall. In the end, Zeeta and Layla find that what looks like normal may not always be so.
Opinion: Reader Justine Eyre brings the magic of Zeeta and her mother to life as well as each of the different characters. The use of the Indigo notebook to detail the beliefs of the people she meets intertwines the characters into a wonderful web of mystery, intrigue and wishes.
Ideas: The audio version would be good for reluctant readers or group discussions on multicultural issues.
25. Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater (Llewellyn, 2008)
Honors: YALSA’s 2010 Best Book nominee; 2010 Popular Paperbacks; 2008 Cybil Award nominee
Review: This enchanting tale will take the reader on a trip where both mythology and the world of Faerie meet. Sixteen year-old Deirdre, a musical prodigy discovers she can see fairies but what she doesn’t know is that could be a bad thing. When Luke, another musical prodigy mysteriously arrives and fixes his attention on Deirdre, she can’t figure him out and he can’t talk about who he is or where he came from. Unfortunately for Deirdre, her best friend James and Luke, the journey of discovery is filled with horrors.
Opinion: I thought the story was weak in some areas and was much scarier than I thought it would be. I would’ve liked more character development for the aunt from hell and I thought the mother was a bit obsessed with Deirdre. Overall, I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the sequel.
Ideas: Great for faerie lovers especially the wicked ones! Also good for fantasy lovers of horror.
26. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (Random House/Delacorte, 2009)
Honors: A New York Times Best Seller, A Junior Library Guild selection, An ALA Best Books for Young Adults selection
Review: With the Sisterhood, the Guardians and well guarded secrets, Mary is safe in the village. But just outside the chain link fence, lie the Forest of Hands and Teeth where the zombies are waiting and possibly her father. When the secrets begin to crumble, so does Mary belief that their village is the only one that has survived.
Opinion: This book was addictive, seductive, and very hard to put down. It was like Twilight meets the Night of the Living Dead only more action packed. The characters including Mary, Travis and the stranger Gabrielle bring the book alive and longing for more!
Ideas: Suggested for reluctant readers, horror reads and summer reading lists.
27. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Edition by Tim Hamilton (Hill & Wang. 2009)
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction
Review: In the not so distant future, books and knowledge are banned. Any books are immediately confiscated, burned and the ashes burned and chief among the fireman is Montag. When fireman Montag’s life begins to unravel, he begins to confiscate the books instead of burning with the intent purpose of spreading knowledge.
Opinion: Hamilton’s graphic novel not only stays true to the original but tells the story in much more detail than the book could. This message of the dangers in book banning deserves to remain alive and Hamilton has done a fantastic job of doing just this. Keeping with the original format, Hamilton uses minimal impact and color so as not to distract from the message.
Ideas: Great discussion on effects of book banning or what dangers lie in repressing information.
28. Mythos Volumes 1-6 by Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera (Marvel, 2008)
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic
Review: Want to know the beginnings of some the best-known superheroes? Learn the beginnings of the Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, the Hulk, X-Men and their nemesis Magneto, and Captain America.
Opinion: The Mythos is a great throwback for the comics and the story line has changed especially with the Fantastic Four. Thankfully Jenkins and Rivera did not cave in to the movie versions and stayed true to the originals. It was good to see the mansion of the FF but updated thanks to the pen of Rivera. I think that young adults will find these collections fun to read, especially for the reluctant reader.
Ideas: Great reading for reluctant readers, slow readers, graphic novel/comics readers and displays for teen reads.
29. Enemy by Charlie Higson (Hyperion Books for Children. 2010)
Honors: Berkshire Book Award 2010 Shortlist Review; Best Adventure Stories for Kids;
Review: It’s adults versus the kids in this fast action zombie novel. All the adults in London have become flesh-eating monsters seeking out children to destroy. But the kids are not giving in so easily as they build their arsenal, but are the adults the only monsters?
Opinion: The book was typical zombie faire and not that well written in my opinion. Although it was recommended for older teens, the sentences were short, repetitive and the fright factor was not as apparent in books such as The Zombie Guide or Forest of Hands and Teeth. Not bad but not that great.
Ideas: Could be used for reluctant readers, Halloween displays, zombie readlist.
30. Dead Poets Society (Touchstone Pictures 1989)
Honors: Oscar; Golden Globe; Writer’s Guild; ASCAP
Review: The four defining principles of Welton Academy prep school are tradition, honor, discipline and excellence. When John Keating, an English teacher, applies unorthodox teachings, seven senior classmen reexamine their goals and ambitions. When one of the students commits suicide, the other students are forced to blame Keating who is subsequently fired.
Opinion: I think the acting was superb and the writing was very deserving of the Oscar. Taken from the screenwriter’s memoirs, it highlights the extreme pressure placed on young people by parent to succeed at any costs but only for the “right” profession. The movie’s most quoted line of “Carpe diem – Seize the day boys. Make your life extraordinary” remains one of movie’s most famous quotes. I believe that many young people, especially males will relate to the film on a personal level.
Ideas: Recommended for discussions on rebellion, parental/social pressures, group think and the role of an institution in deciding an individual’s choices.
31. Edward Scissorhands (Twentieth Century Fox, 1990)
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Mystery
Honors: Saturn Award; BAFTA Award; HUGO Award
Review: This haunting love story is at once tragic and surreal. Living in a gothic castle on the outskirts of a suburban town, Edward (played by Johnny Depp) is man created by an eccentric scientist who has scissors for hands. The scientist dies and Edward lives alone until an Avon woman convinces him to move with her family in the suburbs. Edward falls in love with the daughter but after a series of events, Edward realizes that fairytales often don’t come true.
Opinion: Tim Burton has created a masterpiece that is comedic, tragic, and heartbreaking in its cinematography, the acting is superb. I recommended this for its content of alienation, the love story, how mistakes can change people’s perceptions and how fallible human nature can be. One of the most haunting aspects is the contrast between colors and sounds which make this movie an instant classic.
Ideas: I would recommend this for a sociology/humanities class for its strong content of inclusion/exclusion. Another idea would be group discussions on human frailty, identity, and conformity.
32. Heathers (New World Entertainment 1988)
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Romance and Humor
Honors: Edgar Allan Poe Award; Independent Spirit Award; Sundance Grand Jury Prize
Review: The most popular clic at Westerfield High School are the Heathers, three pretty, hateful, petty girls all named Heather. Veronica is right on the fringe of being one of the Heathers until she meets up with new guy J.D. and being bad takes on a whole different meaning. When J.D. shows Veronica how to right some wrongs in high school, things go very bad for everyone including J.D..
Opinion: This very black comedy would have a very difficult time being made today due to Columbine and teenage suicide epidemics. However, it is a great satire on what it means to be popular and how that popularity could be used for good or bad. Filled with incredible one-liners there are many twists and turns but a definite representation of bullying, high school drama and begs the question “Are you a Veronica or a Heather?”
Ideas: Class discussion/essay on bullying, teenage suicide, Columbine and being an individual.
33. Pleasantville (New Line Home Video, 1998)
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Honors: Broadcast Film Critics Award; Numerous Awards
Review: David’s life is boring. He’s single, unpopular and to escape he watches reruns of a 1950’s sitcom called Pleasantville. In the sitcom everything is perfect, all the teams win, everyone gets along, the weather is nice and people are friendly. His sister Jennifer is the exact opposite of David in everything and after fighting over a remote control; both of them are transported into the sitcom. David and Jennifer soon become Bud and Mary-Sue Parker and there may be no way out, until a red rose begins to bloom.
Opinion: This movie is filled with metaphors on race, politics, and social innocence. As “Bud and Mary Sue” bring their knowledge and personality into the 1950’s, color begins to appear when innocence begins to fade. Great acting and believable characters make this a must-see movie.
Ideas: The film should be able to generate discussion about the metaphors included in the film, how 1950’s sitcoms accurately depict life in that era.
34. Love*Com. 100 min. Viz Pictures (manga) CHANGE
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Review: Risa and Atushi make a very odd couple. Risa is 5'8" and Atushi is 5'1", although they are only friends, everyone at their school consider them a very odd couple due to their friendship. When their love interest changes during the beginning of fall, it turns out that they have lots more in common than they thought and perhaps who they are looking for is right in front of them.
Opinion: This original manga series ran for 7 years and in that time, there was also a television series, 17 original volumes all before making this movie. The characters are lovable, the story is well told and it has a broad range appeal for all audiences regardless of language.
35. Osama (MGM Home Entertainment, 2004)
Honors: 2004 Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film
Review: Osama is the title character of a 12 year-old girl who is forced to dress as a boy to help support her female family. The Taliban in Afghanistan has prohibited women from working including Osama’s mother who was once a doctor. Taken in as a shop worker, Osama is then forced to join the Taliban, the very group that has tortured her father. Tragically, Osama’s truth is discovered while climbing a tree but the outcome will stay with the viewer for a long time.
Opinion: It is obvious that there was little money to make this docudrama but the story is so compelling and the actors are not professional, which lend more authenticity to the film. It is bleak, harrowing and disturbing but it also shows the impact the Taliban has had on the Afghan people. It also demonstrates the willingness and fortitude to not give up on change.
Ideas: Should be viewed by older teens in a discussion like setting. Some of the material is graphic but should raise awareness on other cultures and religious factions.
36. Love and Basketball (New Line Cinema, 2000)
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Honors: BET Award; Image Award; Independent Spirit Award;
Review: Monica and Quincy meet as pre-teens when Monica moves next door to Quincy. They both have a love for basketball and eventually each other. Their lives run parallel as their stories progress all through college. They are both fiercely competitive and the demands of playing college basketball at UCLA bring more challenges than they face on the court. The playoff against each other near the ending is one of the best playoffs in any sports basketball.
Opinion: This movie highlights that basketball is also a woman’s sport and is actually based on the documentary Breaking the Glass Ceiling - The Rise and Acceptance of Women Competitor. I thought the relationship between each other and basketball showed depth and allowed the connection between Monica and Quincy shine!
Ideas: Great sports movie, could be used for essays on competitive sports, women in sports and achievement of goals.
37. Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad, 2010)
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy
Honors: ALA Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Review: When Jeremy (J), a 17-year old boy is running from the police for shooting an undercover officer, he hides in an abandoned building. Realizing he is not alone, he finds a homeless man (Kelly) watching a strange television. Kelly asks if J could do anything over, what would he change. In a series of playbacks on the television, J’s life unfolds and he gets the opportunity to do things different. Will he figure out in time what he has to do over before the police find him?
Opinion: Since reading young adult literature, Walter Dean Myers has become one of my favorite writers. This short book (288 pages) holds the attention of the reader and doesn’t let go for a moment. This story highlights what paths we take and what decisions we make can lead us. The flashbacks are well written and the ending is one I did not expect. Great read
Idea: I think this book should be required reading especially by guys. I would definitely place the book in a prominent shelf in the library and recommend for reluctant readers. Hopefully they would be engaged enough to read more of Myers books.
38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press, 2008)
Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Honors: Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of the Year in 2008; New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2008; 2009 winner of the Golden Duck Award in Young Adult Fiction; 2008 Cybil Winner Booklist Editors’ Choice 2008
Review: Every move you make is being recorded, the new world of Panem is being run by a cruel dictating government and most every citizen is poor, hungry and struggling for survival. And then there are the hunger games where one girl and one boy from each district (state) must meet 24 others in a fight to the death televised show called the hunger games. Part apocalyptic, part gladiator and a lot of fighting goes into this don’t stop until you finish book.
Opinion: Whatever ideas I may have harbored about teenage science fiction being mediocre was completely annihilated after reading this book and the ones following. (Had to read them all!) This coming of age story had all the ingredients for one of the best books I have ever read. Sure the premise that adults were so beaten down they would allow children to fight to death is overlooked because the story is so fascinating. The gamemakers were sadistic, the violence was mostly implied but it was a brutal, fast paced roller coaster ride.Great read!
Ideas: Great for girls and guys as there is something for everyone. Very graphic but definitely a must read for library picks of best books!
39.Wild hearts Can’t Be Broken (Walt Disney Pictures, 1991)
Genre: Comedy, Action/Adventure, Romance
Review: Based on true-life event during the depression, 14 year-old orphan Sonora runs away with one aim in mind, to be famous in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Starting as a stable hand, she soon goes into training as a girl and horse high diving act. When tragedy strikes, will Sonora realize her dreams? Despite overcoming a life-changing event, Sonora never gives up her dream of being a real diving girl!
Opinion: This heartwarming tale of courage and redemption will delight those over fourteen. The content can be a bit too suspenseful for younger children due to action content. This movie highlights the desperate times of the depression throughout the country yet somehow things are not so bad in Atlantic City. Thankfully, most of the story focuses on Sonora’s ability to overcome many challenges to meet her goals.
Ideas: Good for discussions on depression era topics and overcoming challenges.
40. The Breakfast Club (Universal, 1985)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Review: A brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse have nothing in common except having to spend a Saturday in detention. Before the day is over, lives are revealed, secrets are shared, alliances formed and none of them will ever forget this Saturday before they return to their regular lives.
Opinion: This groundbreaking movie exposed stereotypes in high school and the effects their actions had on different groups and individuals. Going into detention it was unlikely their similarities would override their differences but this soul bearing movie opened up a dialogue that was often ignored on class differences in school.
Ideas: This movie is still significant in discussing differences in school populations and how certain groups and individuals are misunderstood and overlooked.
41. Donnie Darko (Pandora, 2001)
Genre: Science Fiction
Honors: Numerous awards and nominations
Review: Donnie Darko is a very troubled 15 year-old boy who sleepwalks and has the belief that we are all going to die anyway. When he is visited by Frank, a very evil type Harvey rabbit, and is told the world will end on Halloween (28 days), what follows is nothing short of amazing. One hint, while sleepwalking a jet engine falls in his bedroom. The journey through darkness and apocalyptic scenario’s could be real or could be all in Donnie’s mind.
Opinion: This script is well written and great acting by Jake Gyllenhaal adds to the overall feel of the movie. It is easy to understand why Donnie is having the problems he does given the parents he has but the presence of Frank is downright chilling. One of the best aspects is the philosophical meanings behind each of the actions Frank commands. See this movie!
Ideas: Suggested for science fiction, end of the world fans. Would also make for a good discussion on aspects of how loneliness and families play a part in the social well-being of a teenager.
42. Eclipse (Summit Entertainment, 2010)
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Action
Review: Newly created vampires are leaving bloodless bodies all over Seattle and the Volture, vampire’s ruling class, will not allow the humans to discover that vampires exist. The Cullens and their human pet Bella and some hungry angry werewolves prepare to battle the out of control vampires in this latest installment of the Twilight series.
Opinion: Having watched and disliked the previous two movies, I was very surprised and thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Bella wasn’t sulking and sighing and Edward was more like, well a vampire? Team Jacob and his wolves were spectacular and the action was well needed to add some life to the tiresome previous movies.
Ideas: Great for the twilight fans and I think some of the guys will find the fighting and action in this movie enjoyable.
43. Hate List by Jennifer Brown (Little Brown, 2010)
Honors: YALSA 2010 Best Books for Young Adults
Review: Valerie and her boyfriend Nick live on the fringes of school, home and society. Out of anger, fun or boredom, Nick and Valerie create a hate list of schoolmates. When Nick carries out an attack at school killing and injuring students before killing himself, Valerie finds herself not only a survivor but an outcast. Blamed by the community for her supposed involvement, Valerie’s journey is difficult and told in past and present as she attempts to mentally heal.
Opinion: This book is very reminiscent of Columbine only Valerie is one of the survivors. This is a very heartbreaking book and does call into question whether Valerie knew how far Nick would go after remarking how much she wanted to kill Christie. Even Valerie questioned the depth of her knowledge and involvement. This is a very hard difficult read but definitely worth reading.
Ideas: Group discussion on school violence, bullying, isolation and mental illness
44. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Razorbill, 2007)
Review: Clay Jensen had a crush, well, a huge crush on Hannah Baker. Needless to say he is very surprised when he finds a package addressed to him and inside is cassette tapes with Hannah’s voice. Only problem is that Hannah is dead, she committed suicide and the tapes may hold the only clues to why she did what she did. Clay becomes not only obsessive about listening to the tapes but realizes that he may have contributed to Hannah’s death.
Opinion: This book is an honest look at suicide and its effects on those left behind. It is heartbreaking in its narrative and makes the reader want to question their motives in every action and thought they have. A must read by parents, teachers and teens about this topic and how the effects affect everyone directly and indirectly involved.
Ideas: I would recommend this book for group/class discussions on communication, suicide, rape and the responsibility we carry in our words, thoughts and actions.
45. Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A by Luis J. Rodriquez (Touchstone, 2005)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Honors: Michael L. Printz Award; National Book Award
Review: Very few people who join gangs live to tell about their experiences. After Luis is imprisoned for the murder of another man, he was able to turn his life around through writing and painting. After his release, he found his son, being abandoned as he was, had also joined a gang. Through a tumultuous time he was able to free his son from the gang but not without repercussions.
Opinion: This book paints a vivid picture of the L.A. gangs in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Although it paints a cautionary tale of ignored children, poverty and violence, it does little to provide any viable solutions. The writing was not perfect but neither was the person writing the story. I would still recommend the book for any teacher, counselor or student who wants a vivid picture of gang life and how easy it is to lose a child to a gang.
Ideas: Would make for a class essay on gang violence, gang involvement and repercussions of gang involvement.
46. Walking on Glass by Alma Fullerton (Harper Collins, 2007)
Genre: Contemporary, Prose
Review: Is it murder to pull the plug on your mother after her failed attempt at suicide? This short unnerving book tells the story of a young man’s battle between love, acceptance, denial and anger. His father believes the machines keeping her alive will make her well and his best friend is headed down a road of no return. His journals reflect the torture of his decisions that he must make since no one else will.
Opinion: Do not let this little book fool you.. it is remarkable how much emotional courage it takes to make decisions no child should have to make. This story brings up issues of suicide, anger, depression, denial and other demons that infiltrate the mind of this boy. Powerful book!
Ideas: Strongly suggested for counselors, teachers, and students who have emotional issues to deal with.
47. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Penguin /Dial, 2010)
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Honors: The Times Children Book of the Year
Review: Seventeen year-old Finn finds himself surrounded by all the world’s criminals in a living city-prison called Incarceron. Surrounded by mechanical animals, climate-controlled weather and dark walls that climb up forever, the only way to escape is with help from the outside. Also seeking answers and help is the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter Claudia who lives outside of Incarceron which everyone believes to be Utopia. When Claudia finds a crystal key it might be her way inside. When Finn finds a crystal key with an eagle in the middle that matches his tattoo, he thinks he might have found a way out.
Opinion: I was fascinated with Incarceron especially since it was a living entity surviving on the prisoners. I really wanted to care more about Claudia but my interest was more with Finn and those who lived inside. I am hoping the sequel will provide more details about Incareron and why it has been passed off as Utopia to the outside but I also want to see how Claudia’s character develops as well.
Ideas: Good for a display for science fiction, and perhaps essays on utopian ideals and motives.
48. Mistwood by Leah Cypess (HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books. 2010)
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Honors: Kirkus Best of 2010 for Teens
Review: Isabel is an immortal shifter, she protects, she guards but her retreat into Mistwood has wiped out her memory. Now that Prince Rokan needs her, she must seek out the help of a sorcerer to regain her memory. But why does Isabel have a feeling that everyone is keeping a vital secret from her? Will the memory come in time to save the kingdom?
Opinion: I thought the plot was a bit contrived but the twists and turns were okay for the most part. I really wanted Isabel and Rokan’s characters to be more defined but instead it was hard to define their relationship. Overall a decent book read but not sure if I want to continue with more in this series.
Ideas: Recommended for readers seeking strong female characters in fantasy novels.
49. IMDb (imdb.com)
Review: Great website for anything concerning movies including actors, films, directors, reviews etc. The search capabilities offer keyword, title, artist, company, biographies, plots, and even characters. Other goodies include creating and sharing your favorites, news, videos and trailers from your favorite movies as well as upcoming releases.
Opinion: Even better than google and Wikipedia, IMBd offers the most comprehensive searching capabilities for movies and television. Recommended for parents, teens and anyone else with an interest in movies, plots etc. Great site!
Ideas: Would be a good use for finding movies for classroom use, subject documentaries, student sharing of favorite movies and personal interests.
50. Blessing's Bead by Debby Dahl Edwardson (Farrar Straus Giroux/Melanie Kroups Books, 2009)
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Review: Blessing's life in Anchorage is a mess and decides it's best to move back to the Artic village of her grandmother Nutaaq. She knows very little of her grandmother and nearly nothing about where she is going but strange tales and some beautiful cobalt beads begin to tell a story even more shattering than Blessing's life. As events unfold of her grandmothers childhood, Blessing realizes the beads may hold the power of healing.
Opinion: Life is more circular than linear and this fascinating story of a girl between two worlds shows how life comes full circle in one's journey. As the story moves back and forth in time, it becomes evident how powerful the magic of oral history can be.
Ideas: Great teaching tool about life near the Artic Circle replete with clothing, food and customs. Would also be great used as general discussion about oral history perhaps suggesting stories from class members own family.