To kick off Teen Read Week, a nationwide initiative encouraging teens to read and visit libraries more, here are seven teen titles recommended for all ages (one for each day of the week, and an extra title in case you run out) featuring enterprising, unconventional, and interesting young people, who hopefully will inspire you to stand up, to speak up, to be unafraid of change, to be yourself.
If you enjoyed Looking For Alaska (or any John Green book for that matter), you’ll like at least one of these titles. Especially since one of them is by John Green! See what I did there?
The Carrie Diaries, by Candace Bushnell, follows the high school exploits of a teenage Carrie Bradshaw, and serves as an engaging and tantalizingly familiar origin story for Bushnell’s popular character of broadcast fame. Beginning her senior year of high school, Carrie is at a crossroads (as all teens find themselves), conflicted between the future her father has planned for her or following her dreams of living in the Big Apple as a writer. At a time when everyone else around her seems obsessed with more trivial pursuits, Carrie is determined to rise above that. If only those trivial pursuits didn’t come wrapped up as cute boys, needy friends, and high school arch-nemeses.
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, is one of my all-time favorite coming of age stories, one that I think just about anyone would enjoy. Wonderfully written, it’s filled with clever humor, real heart and the surprising thoughtfulness of all great novels for young people. Holling Hoodhood is convinced that Mrs. Baker hates him, not the least because he’s the lone Presbyterian in a school filled with Catholic and Jewish students, his Wednesday afternoons spent in manual labor under her supervision while everyone else is off learning religion. After particular incidents spark Mrs. Baker's realization that Holling isn’t quite the hoodlum he appears to be, those labors, with the help of Shakespeare, become lessons on life, love, family, and the intricacies of human folly, both antique and modern.
And check out the sort-of sequel called Okay For Now, which follows one of Holling’s friends, another boy of surprising contrasts named Doug Swieteck, who discovers his own strengths and talents when his family moves to a new city.
What if you didn’t like who you’d become? What if you regretted the choices you’d made leading up to where you are now, like your eating habits (or lack thereof), your dating choices (great-looking but shallow), and your plans for your future (ew, really?). Then one day, you wake up in an ambulance and your memories of the past few years pretty much cut off right before you hit puberty? Welcome to the life of Naomi Porter, high school junior and teenage amnesiac. Enjoyably insightful, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac examines the choices of a teen who is given a second chance, but one with all the consequences those kinds of second beginnings rarely explore. Like how to deal with the discovery that your parents are now divorced AND remarried, you’re one of the popular mean girls at school, AND you dress like one, too! Naomi has a lot of catching up to do, and maybe…. a lot of changes to make.
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green, follows Colin Singleton, anagram aficionado, mathematical prodigy and aspiring genius, whose nineteenth endeavor in love has ended unhappily, with a girl named (same as the eighteen girls before her) Katherine. At the urgings of his best friend, the funny and Judge Judy-obsessed Hasan, the teens take to the road, in part to help Colin get over his break-up with Katherine XIX a.k.a. Katherine the Great, and to help Colin find his Eureka moment, that thing that will help him finally achieve genius-hood, in particular his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Probability, which will predict the future of a relationship between two people. His calculations become a tiny bit more complicated with the introduction of non-Katherine variable, Lindsey, and her boyfriend, Colin, or as our protagonist and his friend dub him, TOC, “The other Colin.”
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is just as curious and evocative as the title, with a main character who is as interesting and endearing as he is odd and true-to-life. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Bone is a true fan of master observer Sherlock Holmes, an expert mathematician who can calculate prime numbers up to 7, 057, and he doesn’t like to be touched. And colors, those affect him like physical stimuli (don’t even get started with the color yellow). When his neighbor’s dog is found, dead in the garden with a kitchen utensil sticking out of it, and Christopher is initially blamed for it, he takes it upon himself to find the true culprit, a mystery case that will test not only his social skills (what few he has), but any skills really concerning the big world beyond his front door, leading him to uncover things, both terrifying and wonderful, that he never would have otherwise.
For a more comprehensive review, click here.
And another related read that I found particularly stellar, with a character similar to, yet very different from, Christopher, is Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork, whose main character, Marcelo (of course), a teen who hears music that no one else can hear, finds how he fits into the world that everyone else expects him to be a part of, the one that he has such a hard time relating to.
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, is another one of those books that I think should be a classic in young adult literature. Seen through the eyes of a high school boy named Leo, we’re introduced to newcomer Susan Caraway, or Stargirl, as she introduces herself, as delightfully unconventional and quirky as her self-given name. The entire school, steadfast conformists all, are taken aback at Stargirl’s enthusiastic disregard for popular opinion: she wears the unlikeliest clothes (from kimonos to buckskin to flapper-era wear), she sings Happy Birthday for people she doesn’t know (accompanied by an ukulele), and she cheers for both teams at sporting events, among many other things. First Leo, then the rest of the school body, find themselves enamored of this lone-drum marcher, and not a little changed, while Stargirl herself begins shifting polarities, but none of those things come without their own consequences, good and bad.
Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website to reserve a copy today!
For more information on Teen Read Week, visit the official site here. Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).