In the opening chapter of The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, high school junior Jessica wakes up in the hospital to find that the lower half of her leg is gone, damaged beyond repair in a horrible bus accident that also claimed the life of one of her track teammates. Jessica is devastated. Running meant everything to her, and now she can't even get out of bed. However, her will is strong, and with the help of her loving family and friends, she is quickly on the road to recovery and to walking once again with her new prosthetic leg. But will Jessica ever run again?
As someone who also loves to run and gets what that runner's high feeling is all about, I can't even imagine how crushing it would be to have it taken away. Despite the odds and the setbacks along the way though, Jessica is inspiring, positive, and full of hope. While still recovering and confined to a wheelchair, Jessica ends up befriending a girl with cerebral palsy in her math class named Rosa, and as they become good friends, Jessica makes the connection that like Jessica, Rosa wants to be seen as Rosa, not as the girl with a disability. In the end, you can't help but cheer for Jessica like an excited fan along the track.
While losing a limb would surely be an awful tragedy, this story ends up being a feel-good "best case scenario" of what would happen in the aftermath of such a terrible event, thanks to Jessica's determined spirit and her wonderful support network. Parts of the book are certainly sad, but there are plenty of humorous and heart-warming scenes that keep this from being just another tear-jerker. I also found the bits about Jessica's recovery and prosthesis to be really informative. If you're looking for other inspiring stories like this one, try Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk, or Owning It : Stories About Teens with Disabilities.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of those well-executed stories that has stayed with me since reading it a few years ago. It is an achingly-sad yet touching and beautiful story full of music, love, and loss. Be warned...If you read this book, you will likely cry. Even this typically dry-eyed reader had a hard time holding back the tears during the last few pages (which was awkward considering that I was in the break room at work). But if you are up to the emotional challenge, I encourage you to take it. I'll try not to spoil it too much for you:
Mia is a Portland-area high school senior with a gift for classical cello, dreaming of making it into prestigious Julliard. She has a great relationship with her lovely family, made up of her cool punk rock parents and her little brother. The message that true passion for music transcends genres runs throughout the book, and this is what brings her together with her rocker musician boyfriend Adam, despite their superficial differences.
Unfortunately, it's about to get really, really sad. The book opens with a devastating car accident that leaves the other passengers dead and Mia critically injured in a coma, and the rest of the novel unfolds in out-of-sequence vignettes from Mia's life leading up to the accident. These scenes weave in and out with Mia's out-of-body experience watching her loved ones during the aftermath. Mia has suffered an unimaginable loss, but does she have the strength to stay and endure it? The characters are well-developed and lovable, which makes the emotional connection all the more strong and therefore painful. I absolutely adored her amazing family, and her boyfriend Adam is endearing to astronomical proportions. And yes, the whole post-trauma limbo "Should I stay or should I go?" thing has been done before, but this was done very well.
There's talk that this will be made into a movie, but no info yet about directors or casting now that actress Dakota Fanning has left the project. But guess what? There's a brand new sequel! Again, no spoilers, so I'll just tell you that it's called Where She Went (available now in the catalog), and it's about my dear book-crush Adam.
The City of Ember byJeanne DuPrau describes a strange future Earth where everything possible must be recycled because people are running out of resources. Food supplies are also running low and there are more and more blackouts of total darkness, as the generators begin to fail. Two friends, a young girl and a teen boy, question the wisdom of waiting to be rescued. They have clues to solve and their ingenuity makes them the heroes in this adventure.
Read, watch, or listen to this great story, available at your San Jose Public Libraries.
Dystopian literature is one of the fastest growing trends in teen literature right now. (Vampires? So 2008...) These are fantasy or science fiction stories typically set in the future or in an alternate history that depict a seemingly utopian world that is in fact corrupt and controlling. Brave New World, 1984, and A Clockwork Orange are some classic examples that are still widely enjoyed today, but Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy has emerged as the most recent successful offering for teens within this genre. Plenty more dystopian novels are appearing on the shelves every day, with stories about post-apocalyptic wastelands, constant surveillance, dwindling natural resources, oppressive dictators, mindless conformity, and me-against-the-world heroes that must face it all head on.
But why the recent surge in this thought-provoking yet gloomy genre for teens? This article in The New Yorker examines the recent boom, and this interesting debate in the NY Times includes some well-known dystopian lit authors like Scott Westerfeld (author of the Uglies series) and Paolo Bacigalupi. that Paolo Bacigalupi (recent winner of the 2011 Printz Award). Does the growing trend coincide with rising political, economic, and environmental turmoil in the world? Is it because technology is becoming too invasive in our lives? Or is it simply because this genre speaks to many teens that are approaching adulthood and beginning to critically examine and question the world around them? Perhaps all of the above and more. In any case, the result is some fascinating and engaging literature for us readers to enjoy. Check these out.
It can be heavy stuff, but don't despair. Just remember that these are cautionary tales of what could be, not necessarily where we are headed...One of the most inspiring things about stories like these is recognizing how people can correct history's mistakes and work together to build a better future.
In Philip K. Dick's novel written for young adults, Nick and Glimmung, Nick’s best friend Horace (his cat) is about to be taken by the Anti-Pet Man until Nick’s father decides that they will move to Plowman’s Planet. Upon arrival Nick, Horace, and his parents discover that this planet is not at all like earth and they have in fact moved to a planet that is in a terrible war with many dangerous creatures – fatherthings, wrejes, printers, and worst of all Glimmung.
You shuffle to the library's Information Desk, dragging your feet with dread or perhaps just lack of motivation. "I need to write a book report or essay on a historical fiction novel," you say with an exasperated sigh. What you're probably really asking is, "Do you have any historical fiction that's not going to bore me to tears?"
Fortunately, the answer is YES! Historical fiction does not have to be boring, and there are plenty of books coming out all the time just for teen readers. This is an exciting genre that's all about taking you back to a different place and time, yet you'll undoubtedly find many aspects of the human experience that will always ring true. Here are some new historical fiction titles for teens that you (and your teacher) will hopefully enjoy, whether it's for an assignment or just for fun.
Sphinx’s Princess by Esther Friesner
Nefertiti's dancing abilities, remarkable beauty, and intelligence garner so much attention that her family is summoned to the Egyptian royal court, where Nefertiti becomes a pawn in the power play of her scheming aunt.
Lady Macbeth’s Daughter by Lisa Klein
Ambitious Lady Macbeth tries to win the throne of Scotland for her husband while her banished daughter Albia, who was raised by three weird sisters, falls in love, learns of her parentage, and seeks to free Scotland from tyranny.
18th Century England
Sovay by Celia Rees
In 1794 England, the beautiful Sovay, disguised as a highwayman, acquires papers that could lead to her father's arrest for treason, and soon her political consciousness leads her and a compatriot to France during the Revolution.
19th Century United States
Two Girls of Gettysburg by Lisa Klein
When the Civil War breaks out, two cousins, Lizzie and Rosanna, find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict until the war reunites them in the town of Gettysburg.
The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan
In 1865, fifteen-year-old Aidan and his thirteen-year-old sister Maddy, penniless orphans, leave drought-stricken Kansas on a wagon train hoping for a better life in Seattle, but find there are still many hardships to be faced.
The Letter Writer: A Novel by Ann Rinaldi
Harriet Whitehead, a girl who serves as letter writer for her blind stepmother, is haunted by her unwitting role in Nat Turner's Rebellion, one of the bloodiest slave uprisings in the history of America.
WWII-Era United States
A Troubled Peace by L.M. Elliott
Henry Forrester, an American pilot who crashed in France during World War II, returns to France after the war to find the boy who helped him escape and is traumatized by the war-time destruction and suffering of those who survived the war.
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
In 1940s Chicago, fifteen-year-old Ruby hopes to escape poverty by becoming a taxi dancer in a nightclub, but the work has unforeseen dangers and hiding the truth from her family and friends becomes increasingly difficult.
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
During World War II, a light-skinned African American girl must pass for white in order to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots and fulfill her dream of flying, but she learns that denying her true self is a heavy burden to bear.