I’ve been reading a lot of Young Adult fiction lately. I guess that’s what happens when you’re an eighth grade English teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Some of the best books in recent years have been classified in the YA category–John Green’s bestselling The Fault in Our Stars, for example, set right here in Indianapolis. The following is a list of books I selected for my eighth grade Literature Circles. (Shout out to Sam Moody, teacher extraordinaire, for his super helpful guidance on this!)
So what’s a Lit Circle? It’s like a book club with less wine and more worksheets. But you feel free to read these however you like.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
To my surprise, not enough of my students selected this book to form a complete Lit Circle, though many are reading it on their own and loving it as they do so. I selected Life of Pi because my own ninth grade English teacher chose it for us way back when. Plus, timing was right, as the film Life of Pi just picked up a number of academy awards and received positive acclamation all-around.
If you read this book, you’ll be amazed at Martel’s commitment to Pi’s narration. It’s so believable you wonder if Martel himself was never lost at sea with a hungry tiger named Richard Parker.
I Am The Messenger, Markus Zusak
Chances are you’ve read, or at least heard of, Markus Zusak’s more popular novel, The Book Thief. If you haven’t read it, don’t worry, because neither have I. I’m sure it’s awesome, and it’s on my list, but I’m not sure any YA novel could be more of a page-turner than this one. It’s best read in one full swoop so make sure you have a few hours to spare before you dig in.
The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer
Futuristic dystopia sci-fi nightmare sort of novel. The kind that twelve-year-old boys read and actually enjoy! A miracle in and of itself. The novel is set in a place called Opium, a strip of land on the present-day U.S./Mexican border. There’s all kinds of underlying messages about government and science and society that readers can pick up on in a way that’s accessible for kids but not overly obvious for the adults.
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
Another good one courtesy of my ninth grade English teacher. This is by far the most mature of the books selected for my classes Lit Circles, maybe because it’s not technically a YA novel. I only have one small group of three students reading this book together, and when they finished it yesterday, I think they all shed a tear or two. It’s a heart-wrenching story, but the best ones always are. Read it.
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
Another favorite among the boys. Although I was impressed by the number of girls who signed up to read this one all about life inside the OASIS – a virtual reality video game from the future. Ready Player One is a cautionary tale, asking us to examine our sense of reality. Are you really who your online-self claims to be?
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
Another book that’s not specifically YA, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, chronicles the story of Christopher–a young boy intent on solving the mystery behind the sudden death of his neighbor’s dog. Christopher is not your typical narrator, or your typical young boy for that matter. He describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties” if that gives you an idea of who you’re dealing with. But just like with Charlie in Flowers for Algernon, you’ll fall in love with Christopher and cheer him on page after page as he solves both the mystery of the dog, and the more stirring mysteries within his family.
Other great reads:
Catalyst, Laurie Halse Anderson
Paper Towns, John Green
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
Have you read any of these titles?
What book(s) are you currently reading? Any recommendations?
Happy reading y’all