* Summer Reading 2015 *
Every Hero has a Story
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Reading List: Ages 13+
Reading lists for other ages? Look right!
All selections and annotations by
WPL Librarian Anna L. Nielsen
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Barnes, John. Tales of the Madman Underground. NY: Viking, Penguin, 2009. Meet Karl Shoemaker, “Prospective Normal Guy.” He’s got a project and he’s on it. See, his dad is dead and his mom is a thief and a drunk. At any given time he’s got three jobs at least, and he has to, because his mom keeps breaking into his hidden stashes, stealing everything he’s got, getting drunk, and writing totally and absolutely useless IOU’s. “Put it on my tab,” she writes. His friends have similarly and seriously cracked situations, and all he wants to be is normal. He wants to break out of the Madman Underground of high school and just be normal. Normal. Except everything, everything gets in the way. And after a lot of drama and a lot of disaster Karl is still himself, only more so, and his friends are similarly and seriously cracked, only more so, and that is a good thing. Because they are changing, too. They are choosing. And that is a very good thing.
Black, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. NY: Hachette Book Group/Little, Brown and Company, 2015. Black does it again, this time returning to her fantasy genre roots with some Faerie magic and two teen siblings in a special small town who dare to dream that he can love a prince and she can be a knight. They can. But dreams are rough and sharp around the edges. Happy endings aren’t always shiny. And sometimes the journey and the prize are filled with injustice and pain, because the world is filled with injustice and pain. Cue the king, the prince, and the changeling. If she and her brother Ben are going to love and live, Hazel is going to fight like a champion. She’s going to be a champion, no matter how dark the woods get, and especially after the glass coffin breaks.
Dowd, Siobhan. Bog Child. NY: A David Fickling Book/Random House Children’s Books, 2008. Irish Dowd was one of the best in the business, and this is arguably her best work. Set in the 1980’s during the time of the Troubles in Ireland, Dowd created a nuanced story that manages to balance hope and darkness with delicacy and despair and even half a chance for a future. Fergus’s brother is in prison on hunger strike, his parents fight all day, and he thinks he’s got a thing for the visiting girl who’s only visiting with her mother the archaeologist because Fergus and his uncle found the centuries old body of a murdered girl in the peat they were illegally digging. Got that? He’s got to change to survive, he knows, but first he’s got to figure out what changing and surviving are. Or aren’t. And who to be. Fergus is one of the good ones.
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. NY: Pantheon, 1974. No list of young adult list is complete without Cormier’s classic, especially not a list pondering heroics. “They murdered him,” is the first line. It starts out just being about football and chocolate, but it all changes fast. The kids are bullies. The adults are in on it. New freshman Jerry Renault takes a line from TS Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” and uses it as inspiration to take a stand and disrupt the amoral and unethical power structure. He loses. The good guys go down. Sometimes life happens that way. Ouch.
Czukas, Liz. Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless. NY: HarperCollins, 2014. Because sometimes we all need clues when we’re clueless. And friends in unexpected places. Six teens work together in GoodFoods. Money disappears from the charity box. Guess who is assumed guilty? And guess who is going to find out who really did it? Six teens work together in GoodFoods. And six teens ends up serious friends. The good kind, who make each other laugh and hold each other’s backs. Six teens solve a mystery at GoodFoods and end up friends. Now that’s a good story.
Demetrious, Heather. I’ll Meet You There. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2015. All Skylar wants is out, out, out of her small town and her doublewide and her mother’s life at the Taco Bell moving from one man and one drink to the next. Skylar is going to college. But then the summer happens. Skylar’s mom loses her job. Josh comes back from Afghanistan without his leg. Skylar still wants out, out, out, but what should she do? Drugs and alcohol and pregnancy abound in this story, but so too do teens who decide they like none of the above, even in the face of job loss and their friends coming back from war with their legs blown off. Demetrious gives us a story of teens who are thinking and trying, hard, about place and what home is, about love and what growing up is, and about forgiveness and compassion, too. Meet Skylar and Josh.
Lipsyte, Robert. The Contender. NY: Harper Trophy, 1967. Another classic of young adult literature – Lipsyte is as big as Cormier. In this story, Alfred is a high-school dropout in Harlem worried he’s going nowhere, fast. And his best friend is slamming into drug addiction even quicker. Alfred starts taking boxing lessons and starts to figure out there are some things worth fighting for, like his life. And like maybe his friend’s life, too. Because Alfred knows the kind of person he wants to be and the kind of world he wants to live in and he’s going to fight for all of it. He’s a contender.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. NY: Warner, 1960. Because Atticus. Everyone must spend time with Atticus. And Scout. And Jem. And Boo. And more Atticus. Sometimes called the American novel, this one is required reading. Required.
Kiernan, Celine. Into the Grey. Somerville MA: Candlewick Press, 2014. Patrick lived with his twin brother Dom, his sister Dee, his parents, and his Nan, who was losing her mind as she got older, a little more losing each day. Then Nan burned the house down. The family moves to a decrepit sea cottage in a seasonal sea town, and a ghost starts to take Dom. A goblin ghost, lost between worlds, desperately looking for his own lost twin. What, in all that is holy and unholy, can Patrick do? Save his brother, of course. What else would a brother do? Kiernan does some of the best writing out there – the sentences are complicated and full, making each moment of the Finnerty clan’s life saturate every level of reader comprehension and imagination. Wow.
Brimner, Larry Dane. Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, An Imprint of Highlights, 2014. One of the most important agricultural and labor strikes in history – farm workers deserve a living wage just like everyone else, and in 1965 they finally began to ask for it. Brimner uses oral histories, FBI files, personal papers, newspapers, photographs, and more to recount the fight. Timeline and resources for further research included. The fight for a living isn’t new, and it isn’t over. Start your information gathering here.
Doeden, Matt. Whistle-blowers: Exposing Crime and Corruption. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, Lerner Publishing Group, 2015. What can be done when a powerful organization or corporation acts unethically, even criminally? Power can be tough to take down, especially corrupt power. This compact book presents an introduction to whistle-blowing and goes over six real case studies. May we all behave ethically.
Frost, Helen. Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War. NY: Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013. A novel in verse told from the alternate points of view of two boys living through the War of 1812, one from a white settler family and the other a member of the Miami nation. When the American and British armies arrive, tensions mount and tempers flare, leaving both boys wondering – what does it mean to be friends in a time of war? And is it possible to be friends when one is the colonizer and the other the colonized? Ages: 13+
Kuklin, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2014. Six teens tell their stories – emotional and physical - of what it is like be in the transgender community. Photographs of their transition process and lives as who they are included, as well as a glossary of terms and resources for further research. There’s nothing easy about transformation. For more in-depth stories, try two recent biographies: Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen (Arin Andrews, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014) and Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition (Katie Rain Hill, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014).
McCully, Emily Arnold. Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business – and Won! NY: Clarion Books, 2014. At the turn of the last century, Tarbell was a journalist. And if that wasn’t unusual enough, she dared to write articles revealing unethical business practices by none other than John D. Rockefeller and the powerful corporation Standard Oil Trust, among others. This biography shares how Tarbell came to do what she did, and fills in the contextual background of politics, freedom of information and press, the women’s suffrage movement, and the connection of big businesses to government. Make this one a top pick.
Ahonen, Lauri & Jaako; trans. Lauri Anohen. Jaybird. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2014. A dark and seriously fantastic Finnish import. And creepy. Creepy because it’s real. Or real-ish, considering it’s a metaphor for the horrors of isolationism and xenophobia and uneven distribution of wealth told through the story of a young bird hiding in his mansion with his seriously twisted mother and a gilded cache of weapons. A seriously gilded cache of weapons. The inks are dark and broody and the eyes of the young bird are lost and sad and a little confused until they aren’t. Creepy excellence.
Cunningham, Darryl. How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial. NY: Abrams, 2013. Darwin, Galileo, what do they have in common? As Andrew Revkin reminds us in his introduction, they were both scientists in whom the world avoided believing. This book is about good science that is “testable, reproducible, and stands the test of time.” It’s about “fostering critical thinking.” It’s about looking at scientific truths even when we’re not quite ready for them. As author Cunningham says, it’s about good science. Because “science isn’t a matter of faith or just another point of view.” It’s science. Topics range from the insistence that man never landed on the moon to the idea that fracking is safe. Enjoy the scientific process at work! Sources for continued research provided.
MarxMaier, Corinne; illus. Anne Simon. Freud (2014) and Marx (2013). London: Nobrow Ltd. This pair of graphic biographies provides introductions to two major figures of western thought. The laws of psychology and capitalism explained, in pictures. Why not?
Wilson, G. Willow; artist Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal (2014) and Vol. 2: Generation Why (2015). NY: Marvel Worldwide Inc. Kamala Khan is an everyday normal girl from Jersey City – a teenager, a Muslim, a girl – all these are parts to Kamala. And then one day she gets powers – crazy, cool powers – with which she can do crazy, cool things. Like saving the world. Like instead of thinking about the greater good actually being an active part of the greater good. Or at least saving the people she sees in trouble. Her trouble is her parents just don’t understand. They keep grounding her for being late and not saying why, and being disappointed by her when she makes no explanations, and she can’t tell them what she’s really doing so there’s no way they can ever understand and she hates hurting them because they really love her and she really loves them but she has to use her powers to save people, right? Right? No matter how much trouble she gets in? It’s not easy being super.
Oliver, Mary. New and Selected Poems. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992. Especially the poem The Summer Day, whose last lines read, “Tell me, what is it your plan to do / with you one wild and precious life?” Well?