By Teachers, For Teachers
Ok, I’ll admit it. I spend a lot of time during summer vacation – probably too much time – planning for the upcoming school year. Updating lesson plans, creating new materials, looking for fresh, exciting ideas to try out next year … I just can’t seem to keep my mind from wandering back to my classroom and how I want to do things better next year.
That being said, I’m very aware of the fact that in order to remain dedicated, caring educators we need to use the summer months to relax and recharge. Spending some time not thinking about teaching is good for us! So when I find a way to do something that makes me happy and refreshed, while still doing something that will help me and my students later, I consider it to be very serendipitous. Not much sounds more relaxing and restorative to me than sitting someplace comfortable while reading a good book – and if that good book happens to be an incredibly engaging work of young adult fiction that I can use next school year to engage my unmotivated readers and encourage my students to develop their love of literature, well what could be better than that?
Here are several young adult fiction books I’ll be cozying up with this summer that I think you should check out too!
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
This novel was recently recommended to me by a friend from high school. A very serious sort, he is a radiologist and fitness-nut and I would have never guessed him to be the sort who would consider reading young adult literature. I didn’t believe he was talking about Roth’s young adult trilogy when he said, “I’m reading the greatest book, you have to check out Divergent.” When he told me he was - I knew it was a novel I should check out. Set in a dystopian future where 16-year olds have to choose a faction that they live and work with for the rest of their lives based on virtues: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent), the female protagonist, Beatrice encounters conflict when she discovers that she does not fit neatly into one faction but is instead, Divergent – a person who could fit equally well in several factions. Sure to be a hit with students who liked The Hunger Games series, this series also is currently being made into a move – a fact which might encourage some of your non-motivated readers to give it a chance. Students who enjoy Divergent might be motivated to look into the other two novels in the series, Insurgent, and Allegiant, which is set to be released in October 2013.
Between, by Jessica Warman
In the 90’s, I read Remember Me, a novel by the prolific author, Christopher Pike. The story, about a young girl who had recently died, coming to grips with her death, watching her friends cope with her death, and trying to solve her murder was one that has stuck with me to this day. Maybe it was the idea of the young protagonist’s loss of life at a time when I was so sure of my own immortality or maybe I simply loved the idea of being able to learn what my friends really thought of me – but to this day I recall Pike’s tale fondly. Remember Me was re-released in 2007, but rather than add it to my list, I am intrigued by Jessica Warman’s recent novel that sounds like it could be a sister-novel of sorts. The protagonist, Liz, is a popular, pretty teen who wakes up after a party on her family’s yacht and discovers that the noise she hears outside is a body brushing up against the side of the boat. If that were not horrific enough, Liz discovers that the body is hers. With no memory of how she died, she embarks on a quest to understand what had happened and in the process, learns that perhaps she was not as perfect as she once thought.
Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry
Ok, I won’t lie to you. This novel isn’t on my summer reading list. It isn’t on my summer reading list because I’ve already read it. The second novel in the series, Flesh and Bone, however, is on my list because this novel was so great. A perfect choice for your male students – especially those who love the zombie craze that seems to be so popular now, or who love dystopian literature but like reading novels with male protagonists, Rot and Ruin, introduces the reader to Benny Imura, a young man living in a fence-surrounded town fourteen years after the zombie apocalypse. Faced with having to choose a profession in order to earn his food, Benny debates becoming a “closure specialist,” aka a zombie-killer, like his older brother, Tom, but isn’t sure that the job is one that he truly wants. Your students will love the action and suspense (and yes, the zombies). You will love the author’s addition of what many zombie novels lack – a sense of conscience. As Benny learns that Tom considers his job a way to pay respect to the dead instead of a macho-way to make a living, your young readers will be asked to consider issues like respect, compassion, empathy, and conscience. Not bad for a gory zombie book!
Back, by Norah McClintock
This is a very quick, very high-interest read. The story of a young many returning to his neighborhood after serving a prison sentence for a horrible crime, it grips the reader from the beginning and does not let go until its sad conclusion. I’ve included it not simply because it’s a fast, compelling story, but because the publishing company that released it, Orca, has many, many novels just like it. Dealing with a diverse range of topics ranging from gang violence, suicide, drug abuse to adventure stories involving scuba diving, snowboarding, and urban exploration, they are high-interest novels with low reading levels. Take some time this summer to check out these novels – your struggling readers will thank you for it.
Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
This novel was another that was recommended recently by a friend. With all of the elements so many of our students look for in their reading – action, adventure, suspense, romance, magic, and danger all in one neat package, it has the makings of a great way to spend a few hours this summer. The story of a young man who realizes that the mysterious girl he has been dreaming about has moved into his small town and is far more interesting than he ever imagined she could be was recently made into a movie – which brings up the possibility of novel study using the movie for compare/contrast and other extended thinking activities. This novel is also part of a large series that will encourage more reading after your students finish this book, which is never a bad thing.
One of my goals for this summer is to make a concerted effort to spend more time enjoying all the aspects of my life that don’t have to do with education, but I know I’d be fooling myself if I said that planning for the upcoming school year won’t be a large part of how I spend my summer vacation. With that in mind, it’s nice to know that I can mix business with pleasure, so to speak, by getting some great ideas for how to motivate my students to read while enjoying my break with some excellent young adult literature. Hopefully this list will inspire you to do the same!
Now you tell us: what Young Adult Fiction are you planning to add to your summer reading list? Leave your response in the comments section, below.