Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday's Tomes: Young Adult Lit

It seems like ages since I finished The Girl on the Train, but I haven't made much progress with the 2015 Reading Challenge since then. Lest anyone think that I've not been reading, here's quick update on what's been on my reading list lately.

Last Friday, I mentioned that my life has been consumed by the Middle School English Festival. Now, it's time to start planning for next year's, so my reading list has also been consumed by young adult literature. We had an excellent reading list that the kids really connected with this year, so now the pressure's on to have an equally interesting list this year. 

Over the last couple weeks, I've made my way through seven young adult novels and have a few more on the nightstand for the near future.

Asylum by Madeleine Roux. One of the kids' favorite books this year was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Asylum fits into the same category, so when I came across it while browsing at Barnes and Noble, I had to pick up a copy. Roux uses photos of old mental asylums and tells the story of a group of high schoolers who go to a summer camp on a college campus; they find themselves staying in a dorm that used to be an old mental asylum and are haunted by the experiments that used to take place there. They start to learn more about themselves and their families as they start exploring the basement of the building. The pictures help make the story really creepy and I think the characters are ones the kids would respond to well as they come from a variety of backgrounds but still end up forming a strong friendship.

Sanctum by Madeline Roux. We'd never assign a second book in a series for the reading list, but the committee does like series since kids are more likely to keep reading if they get hooked on the series. I was intrigued by Asylum, so when I found out that the sequel was only $4.99 in the Kindle store, I had to download that one, too, and see what happened next. The characters are still haunted by their experiences and return to the campus for a college tour to confront their "ghosts." I don't think the kids would be disappointed if they continued with this series.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold. Amazon recommended this one to me. The summary sounded interesting--and bonus points: the main character was traveling to Cleveland, and the kids always seem to like when the books are set in familiar territory. I really enjoyed reading about Mim's journey and the interesting characters she met on her bus trip. Unfortunately, there was a lot of profanity in the book, so even though it was a good story and I couldn't put it down, I can't recommend it for our list since the parents of 7th & 8th graders might not appreciate the language.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. I do not enjoy dystopian literature, but the kids do. Amazon recommended this one to me, too, and since it was immediately available as an ebook from the local library, I checked it out. I was surprised by how much I loved this one. A kid sees his father killed by an Epic (basically super villains who have come to take over Earth) and spends his whole life plotting revenge on Steelheart until he's 18 and old enough to join the Reckoners who have plans to take down the Epics. It was like a dystopian story + a super hero story and I loved it. I was sad that the second book in the series wasn't immediately available from the library. I've been on the waiting list for about 3 weeks and I've been fighting the urge to buy it--but it seems silly to buy the second book in a series when I don't own the first one.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. I can't remember where I heard about this one, but it sounded like one the kids would really enjoy. A young girl has a traumatic experience--they don't tell you what it is until the middle of the book--and switches to a new school; she doesn't speak at all and all of her new classmates are scared of her. Except for one, who has lost his entire family. They start to help each other heal. I had to rush through this book because I got it through the interlibrary loan through the campus library and they only gave me a week! I enjoyed the story a lot and though the kids would love the characters, but again there was a lot of language and a scene where the characters are at a party and have a conversation about the best way to make a bong--so we'll have to stay away from this one, too.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This is another one that seems to have been recommended by a lot of different sources. It wasn't exactly my style of book--a little more sci-fi than I usually read, but I think it's a great contender for next year's list. It's a retelling of Cinderella where the main character is a Cyborg and treated as less-than-human by her guardian and one of her stepsisters as well as the rest of her city. The world is on the verge of war with the Lunars who live on the moon. I enjoyed it, but I'm not dying to get the next book in the series--the kids would probably be very excited by this book, though.

Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick. The last book I finished was my absolute favorite. It was about Truly, a middle school girl whose father was in the military, so she'd spent her life moving around. Combine that with the fact that she was almost 6-feet tall and you have a character who never felt like she fit in anywhere. Then she moves into a house near her cousin who was her best friend and finally felt like she had everything she ever wanted, but when her dad loses an arm in his last tour, her world is turned upside down. Her dad turns into Silent Man and they move to a small New England town to take over her grandparents' bookstore. Truly finds an unexpected group of friends and a letter she finds in an old used book turns them into sleuths as they try to solve the mystery presented by the letter. I'm not sure the kids will like this one--it's very innocent compared to the others even though it touches on some big issues like bullying, and those books always seem to pale in comparison to the dystopian stuff the kids are so into.

The festival committee and I will probably meet in about 3 weeks to discuss possible books for next year's reading list, so I've got a few more to work through. As good as some of these books have been, I'm very much looking forward to getting back to books I want to read. I'm always open to suggestions of possible festival books, so what are you favorite books from middle school? If you have middle school children, what are they reading now?


  1. When I was a young adult, I really liked fantasy books. My favorite author was Tamora Pierce and my favorite series of hers was The Song of The Lioness (Alanna) books. I still have a lot of her books and re-read them occasionally. :D