I teach literature and writing to 7th- and 8th-graders, and this has introduced me to a whole world of reading I’d ignored before – young adult books. So in the spirit of the day, I wanted to share my favorite YA and middle school reads that I’ve discovered over the past six years. These books can be enjoyed by readers of any age.
Dairy Queen trilogy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock – I cannot say enough good things about these books. D.J. Schwenk is such a relatable heroine – smart and tough, but self-deprecating and humble. And for someone who doesn't live in the Midwest, Murdock really nailed all that is great and wonderful about Wisconsin.
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – Again, I cannot say enough good things about these books. I read the series aloud to my classes, and though there were times I couldn’t read because I was so choked up, they were some of my best teaching moments. I never thought I'd find a heroine who could engage boys so well.
Airborn trilogy by Kenneth Oppel – Again, I read these aloud and had so much fun doing so. They’re steampunk (so I guess I actually do like steampunk!) and follow Matt Cruse, a cabin boy on an airship. These books are so fun and intense, and they would make fabulous movies.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers – Disturbing, but thought-provoking. I have yet to find a kid who doesn’t love Myers, and this book is arguably his best. Told in screenplay format, Monster follows the trial of Steve Harmon, a 16-year-old involved in a robbery-homicide.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – I listened to this one on audio and it’s one of the best audio books I’ve ever heard. Gaiman reads the story of Bod, a human boy who lives in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts. The book is alternately funny, touching, and scary, and it shouldn’t be missed.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko – Moose Flanagan and his family move to Alcatraz so his dad can get a job as a guard and his autistic sister can go to a special school. Not only does this book get kids to like historical fiction, it’s a great read for anyone.
These are just a sampling of the fabulous YA and middle school-age books I’ve read over the past years. Special mentions go to the following authors: J.K. Rowling, Gail Carson Levine, Rick Riordan, Laurie Halse Anderson, Rodman Philbrick, Gordon Korman, and Alex Flinn. They helped my kids learn to love reading, and I think that’s the best thing that can be said about any author.
On a side note, if my job hadn't been so stressful, I would never have thrown away Tolstoy and Trollope in favor of Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and then there would be no Brazen Bookworm. Just goes to show that everything truly happens for a reason. Cheers, and happy reading!