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Forever, Judy Blume

Forever - Judy Blume

Katherine and Michael's love feels like it will be "forever", until she is forced to spend the summer at camp, separated from him. Her world is shaken up when she begins to have feelings for someone else, despite still loving Michael. This piece of realistic fiction addressed first love and sex through the eyes of a teenager.

 

Lexile: HL590
Recommended for: teens
*sexual content

Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, Gail Giles

Dead Girls Don't Write Letters - Gail Giles

The mystery starts when Sunny gets a letter in the mail from her older sister, Jazz... her sister who was presumed dead when her apartment building burned down months ago. Sunny's family has had a difficult time since Jazz's death-- her father is drinking more and her mother can barely get out of bed. A visit from Jazz could be just what is needed to pull the family back together. While Sunny has always been a bit jealous of Jazz, she knows immediately that something is wrong when a "too perfect" Jazz shows up at the door. Taller and maybe a little too well rehearsed. Who is this girl really, and why is she there?

 

AR BL: 4.0 UG

Lexile: 550

Recommended for: Teens 

Dead Girls Don't Write Letters, Gail Giles

Dead Girls Don't Write Letters - Gail Giles

The mystery starts when Sunny gets a letter in the mail from her older sister, Jazz... her sister who was presumed dead when her apartment building burned down months ago. Sunny's family has had a difficult time since Jazz's death-- her father is drinking more and her mother can barely get out of bed. A visit from Jazz could be just what is needed to pull the family back together. While Sunny has always been a bit jealous of Jazz, she knows immediately that something is wrong when a "too perfect" Jazz shows up at the door. Taller and maybe a little too well rehearsed. Who is this girl really, and why is she there?

 

AR BL: 4.0 UG

Lexile: 550

Recommended for: Teens 

American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang

This trifold story illuminates the struggle of Chinese Americans in the face of adjusting to and being accepted within the American culture, but also staying true to self. The Monkey King, high schooler Jin Wang, and high schooler Danny (popular but embarrassed by visits from his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee), each have engaging stories that intertwine in the end.

 

Lexile: 530
AR BL: 3.3 MG+
Recommended for: teens

Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer

This novel gives account to the worldwide catastrophe that begins after a meteor hits the moon. Miranda and her family in rural Pennsylvania are struggling, as everyone is, for survival. Written in the form of Miranda's diary, the book details the family's struggles with staying warm, fed, and alive through the natural disasters, sickness, and other trials faced. Loyalty to family is one thing they have; will it be enough?

Lexile: 770
AR BL: 4.7 MG+
Recommended for: teens, tweens

Coaltown Jesus, Ronald Koertge

Coaltown Jesus - Ron Koertge

Walker, a teenager grieving his brother's death, gets a visit from Jesus after praying for help. He and his mother, who live above the nursing home she runs, have been struggling to deal with Noah's death. This modern day Jesus spends some time with Walker and helps him come to terms with his loss.

This is a very quick read, written in verse, and in a lighthearted, humorous manner despite the heavier content. Good pick for reluctant readers.

 

Lexile: 390
AR BL: 3.1 UG
Recommended for: teens/tweens

I am the Messenger, Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak

Ed is the "epitome of ordinariness". He never went to college, lied his way into a job as a taxi driver, spends most of his free time playing cards with his friends, and has no vision of making more of his life. When he becomes caught in the middle of a bank holdup and is dubbed a hero, subsequently receiving a mysterious Ace in the mail with messages to deliver to strangers in need, he takes the role. This story follows Ed through his receipt of all four Aces, and the delivery of the messages on each. Even when he doesn't understand exactly what he is doing or why, he knows he has a mission and his life will never be the same again. 

 

I found this title's storyline to flow well throughout and found it a fairly easy read. Many readers will be touched by the relationships that Ed makes and the sense of purpose that he gains as we are shown that the smallest acts of kindness can make all the difference in the world. Humorous scenes are thrown into the mix of mystery and character-building.

 

I, personally, was unimpressed with many of Ed's messages-whether seemingly insignificant or morally questionable, and found it disconcerting how little he questioned "why?" while using violence and making decisions affecting others' lives. The delivery of many of the messages as well as the language were rough, and in my opinion, the tone was more depressing than hopeful and the main characters weren't terribly likable. It did make me think about ethics and may motivate teen readers to push for purposeful lives.

If you read this book, be ready to be thrown by the ending. 

 

Lexile: 640

AR BL: 3.9 UG

Recommended for: older teens

*language, violent and sexual content