Middle School Boys… UGH!

Aren’t middle school boys the worst? I mean they are almost as bad as middle school girls! LOL! But really… you know the type: they come in to the library with their arms crossed, telling everyone how much they hate to read. When they are asked to check out a book, they wander around the library (usually in groups of 3 or 4) and by the end of the class period they have blindly chosen a book off the shelf with absolutely no intent of actually read it.

challenge

However, these students are not a lost cause! When I have a student (boy or girl) inform me that they hate to read, I see it as a challenge! I usually start by asking the student about their hobbies or favorite TV shows. I try to get an idea of what the student’s interests are before suggesting books, and I always suggest more than one! Give them three options, allow them to pick a favorite. If you hand a kid one book and tell them to check it out, what happens if the kid doesn’t want that book, or ends up not liking it; your credibility has just gone down the drain and they will never ask you for another book recommendation again. I always give them a few choices and if they don’t like the one they picked then it is back on them. I also make sure the students understands it is a “no pressure” choice. If they aren’t hooked by the first thirty pages then bring it back and I can help them find a different book. I tell my students over and over the worst mistake a reader can make is forcing themselves to finish a book. If you aren’t enjoying the book you have, then you need to abandon it, get rid of it, turn it in and find a new one. Now, there are always those situations when a student thinks they can abandon every book they check out because they just don’t want to read, and that is a whole other conversation!

Now if you have accepted the challenge to help these reluctant readers find a book then I’m here to help with a few of my favorite recommendations for those boys who hate to read. These books are popular with my junior high boys and always my first go-to when it comes to recommending a book. If you know of any other books that are popular with the middle school boys, let me know and I will make sure to add them to my library collection!

Ghost (Track, #1)

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

cover_image

Zom-B series by Darren Shan
From Darren Shan, the Master of Horror, comes the first book in the Zom-B series that will have you on the edge of your seat and questioning what it means to be a human or a monster.

cover_image

I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis
History’s most exciting and terrifying events are brought to life in this fictional series. Readers will be transported by stories of amazing children and how they survived!

cover_image

Vietnam and World War II series by Chris Lynch
Best friends Morris, Rudi, Ivan, and Beck, having been either drafted or enlisted in the military during the Vietnam War, pledge they will come home together, and Morris, a sailor on the USS “Boston,” relies on that promise to stay strong while his courage and resolve are tested under attack.

cover_image

Shadow Squadron by Carol Bowen
Shadow Squadron hits the ground running in their first mission, operation SEA DEMON. When well-organized Somali pirates kidnap several V.I.Ps at sea, Lt. Commander Ryan Cross and his men are called upon to put these pirates down before innocent blood is shed.

Football Genius (Football Genius, #1)

Football Genius and Baseball Great series by Tim Green
Troy, a sixth-grader with an unusual gift for predicting football plays before they occur, attempts to use his ability to help his favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, but he must first prove himself to the coach and players.

cover_image

Kwame Alexander’s novels in verse (The Crossover, Rebound, Booked)
Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.

Phase One: Marvel's The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers series by Alex Irvine
Gathered together by S.H.I.E.L.D, Captain America, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye must protect the world from ultimate destruction. Join the action as these Super Heroes battle against Loki and his army for the fate of mankind as told in Marvel’s The Avengers.

Maximum Ride, Vol. 1 (Maximum Ride: The Manga, #1)

Maximum Ride: The Manga by James Patterson
Fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it’s like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the “flock”—Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel—are just like ordinary kids—only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time.

One State, Two VERY Different Stories…

Coincidence is an anomaly people don’t really know what to do with, but it happens all of the time.  Sometimes, it’s a good thing, while other times it isn’t as good.  Luckily, my coincidence happened to fall on the good side of things.  I finished reading Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman when I picked up The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman.  Coincidentally, both books take place in California, and they are both about current issues relevant in teen’s lives today.  Everything else about these books are on two very separate spectrums.  Here are short reviews for both:

 

38355098Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman   2018, Simon & Schuster

Alyssa and her family, including her little brother Garrett understand the drought conditions California is having.  They also know about the restrictions the “Tap-Out” has had on their lives.  But that all changes the day she turns on the tap and nothing comes out.  Day One isn’t so bad, but then Day Two happens and panic begins to set in.  By Day Five, people are turning into water zombies….

Rumors of desalination plants along the beach prompt Alyssa’s parents to seek it out, but they never return home.  Now, Alyssa and Garrett go in search of them and their lives, and those of others they are with become deadly.

Alyssa’s neighbors, including their son Kelton, are survivalists and Kelton’s dad has been waiting for the end to happen.  While others around them are literally wasting away, Kelton and his family are doing quite well, until word gets out they have water….

The lives of these teens and her kid brother go from bad to worse, especially when they find themselves entangled with two other strangers, both with quirks in their thinking and personality, which could prove to become more dangerous than they imagined.  The only way to survive it all just have one more sip.

If they can….

Told in various voices, the reader gets to see everything that happens to these characters, including the good and the ugly, and can only wish to help them when all the reader can do is turn to the page to see who lives.  Shusterman (both Neal and son Jarrod) take us straight to the beginning of a dystopic piece of our nation (while in other news, hurricanes are devastating others at the same time).  More than that, he takes the reader into the forefront of current social issues and the possibility of what could happen.  Yes, this is a dark read.  Yes there is horror, but there is also redemption.  And yes…you will re-think your thoughts about potable water, one of the most precious commodities in the world.

 

 

35795898The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman    2018, Swoon Reads

Elise’s mother has just told her they are moving.  What makes it worse is that they’re moving her senior year.  Elise is devastated by this news, but at the same time, she also knows it’s for the best.  They’ll be living in the same town as her adorable niece she loves and her sister-in-law.  But there’s one person who’s missing and always will.

Elise’s brother joined the armed forces and during his time in Afghanistan, he was killed.  No one really know how or why, but that’s something Elise really doesn’t want to know.  She has enough to deal with in real life, including her distant mother and now, this trip.  No friends, an empty summer.  The only thing that is making her summer bearable is the new puppy her mom got her.

And one day on the beach, she sees a stranger step into the cold water of the Pacific and doesn’t stop.  Without thinking twice, Elise jumps in to rescue this person, whose name it Mati.  When they start talking to each other, Elise recoils when she finds out he’s from Afghanistan, the same country…the same people, who killed her brother.

Since moving to this small seaside town, he and his family haven’t been shown a lot of kindness from the community.  Stereotypes, prejudices and anger make his family’s life difficult and Mati is both confused and depressed by it.  Until he meets Elise.  Has has to make her realize that stereotypes are often wrong, and all it takes is a handful of sand.

Together, they make each other’s lives fuller and richer but they still have many  obstacles to overcome on both sides.  Mati’s family is very traditional, and Elise isn’t welcomed with open arms. Because of Mati’s heritage, Elise’s family don’t want to have anything to do with him.  Can they make a difference, even within their own personal circles?

This book is more than just a summer romance. It’s a snapshot of real life, real prejudices, and being able to see the world through two perspectives. Upperman stitches together a girl who has lost her brother t the war in Afghanistan with a young man living in the US from Afghanistan. Elise’s voice is written in prose and shows the gutsy person she is. Mati’s voice is written in narrative poetry and reflects the person he is. LOVED this book about love, prejudice, and racism of two families and how these teens transcend it.

A Slice of Life: Great Realistic Fiction

I’ve been reading quite a bit and sometimes a quick review of great books from the same genres can help.  Here are a few recent ones that are excellent reads for young adults who enjoy reading realistic fiction:

Whole thing togetherThe Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares    2017, Delcorte Press

Sasha and Ray have never met, even though they live in the same house.  How can that be?  Ray’s mother and father’s ugly divorce left his mom with himself and his sisters, Emma (the oldest and most responsible); Mattie (the spoiled one); and Quinn (the calm middle child).  They live in the city, but always come back to the beach house every summer, every other weekend.  Ray’s father eventually remarried a woman who already had a daughter, Sasha.  And she and her family come to the beach house every summer, every other weekend.

Ray’s parents never, ever cross paths, although his sisters do spend time with both mom and dad.  Ray prefers the quiet life and stays with his mother, but on accidental meeting in the city with Sasha changes his entire perspective.  In the beach house both of them sleep between the same sheets, but never together.  They even work the same job every other week they’re there.  And even though they really don’t know each other, their lives are becoming more enmeshed…

Then comes the big news – Emma is getting married and wants both of her parents at a party her sisters are throwing for her.  She knows tensions and arguments always escalate with them, but for once, she’s hoping they’ll be civil.  One can always hope…

And at the end of the party, tragedy strikes is so many different ways, with one leaving the entire family reeling…  Words and actions regretted, time forever lost, and families torn apart.  Can what has become undone ever be put back together again?

This book is an excellent example of the reader connecting personally to so many of the characters.  Each one of the girls, Ray, and Sasha equally share the main character position where reader’s can read (or listen…excellent audiobook!) to their voices, experiences, and love for their family happen.  The beautiful setting lends itself to the plot of their lives.  You can’t help but begin reading this to experience it with them.  A step away from young adult lit to new adult lit, Brashares writes about a blended family with emotional detail that makes the novel all that more believable.  Excellent addition for grades 9-12.

 

All we can do is waitAll We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson            2018, Razorbill

Jason, Alexa, Scott, Skyler don’t know each other, but throughout the rest of this one day, their lives will intersect with both good and disastrous results.

Jason and Alexa come from a wealthy family in Boston.  While Jason is currently on his last boarding school admission (after going through quite a few already) his sister Alexa is getting ready to graduate from a prestigious one she’s attended for quite awhile.  That particular day, she goes to the office with some news and comes out with different news that alters her and her brother’s paths….

Scott is from a solid Irish family who has worked hard to get where they are.  One day, his life changes when he meets the girl he knows is his true love.  But with any relationship, it comes with bumpy roads.  His parents have plans for him to stay close to home and work in the business while Aimee, his girlfriend, is making plans to attend excellent schools to pursue her passion in theater.  Realizing his girlfriend will be leaving without, he tries his hardest to stay close, even to the point of smothering her.

Skyler lives with her older sister and her grandparents, who are currently visiting family in Cambodia.  Both sisters love each other, but sometimes Skyler hides things from Kate because she doesn’t want to hinder her sister’s life, full of college courses and a job.  But when one secret becomes too hard to hide, Kate steps in to protect and save her.  Now, Skyler’s protective sister has been taken from her and she feels a divide she thought she wanted but desperately wants back.

All of them are waiting in a hospital waiting room.  A bridge collapse has occurred and Jason and Alexa’s parents were on it.  So was Aimee and her friends, and Kate, coming back from work.  And as the teens wait, their conversations and actions create a comfort they’re searching for.  One by one they leave, but are they leaving someone they love behind?

An mazing book with details of each character’s lives that will leave the reader understanding not only more about what motivates them, but also what it was that altered their paths that day.  Coming from different life experiences and backgrounds, readers are sure to empathize with any or all of them, from the privileged to the working class, from a family of immigrants to even a surprise character that eventually gets caught up in the tragedy and story.  A beautiful story, all with different consequences.  Highly recommended for grades 9-12

Trell by Dick Lehr

Trell2017, Candlewick Press

Trell only has one family picture with both of her parents in it.  It was taken on her 13th birthday.  Before that, it was always just one of them because the other had to take the picture.  It can get tough when your daddy, Romero Taylor, is in prison.
Trell was just a few months old when her father was sentenced for murder of an innocent girl who was shot down during a gang shooting.  It’s something the district attorney pursued heavily and it’s now being brought up again because the DA is now running for mayor.  No one can forget poor Ruby and the senseless loss of life…
Except Trell is as certain as her father that he didn’t commit the crime.
Trell knows about gangs, shootings and drug dealers.  She lives in an area of Boston riddled with them and more but she is trying to get away from it.  With the encouragement of her mother, she now attends the Weld, a private school in another area known for their academics.  People like Thumper Parrish, the local drug lord, scare her and she wants nothing to do with that type of life.
But it’s one visit and visitor that will change Trell’s life.  Her father’s case catches the attention of a new lawyer, one who is willing to fight for an appeal for Romero.  But it’ll be an uphill battle to find evidence.  It’ll also be a battle to stay one step ahead of those trying to hide the truth with threats, bullets, and brutality.
Dick Lehr write a gripping YA novel set in today’s urban landscape not only about the struggles of the main character, but also the fight for justice where system are flawed.  This is also a novel based on real life events of a murder that actually happened in Boston when Lehr was part of the Spotlight team of the Boston Globe. Urban realism is deftly written about in this novel and is one that should be on the shelves for those who live it and those who live vicariously through it.  Highly recommended.  JH/HS