Literature for Adolescents (Last update: January 7, 2011) Table of contents



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Family Life and Problems

Adoff, Jaime. The Death of Jayson Porter. NY: Hyperion, 2008. Sixteen-year-old Jayson lives with his abusive mother and yearns for a strong relationship with his drug-addicted father. Despite those issues, he tries his best to make it an school and keep out of trouble in his predominantly white school. But as he realizes more and more often that he can’t count on his parents, Jayson slips into a depression from which he decides the only relief is suicide. But when his attempt fails, Jayson finds that in a different environment and with different relatives involved in his life, he can get a grip on his life. A strong story of a teen who wants to succeed despite everything that works against him. High school.


Bauer, Joan. Backwater. G.P Putnam’s Sons/Puffin, 1999. Born into a family of lawyers, Ivy Breedlove longs to connect with someone in her family who won’t expect her to become one. By accident, she learns of a mysterious aunt who no one in the family wants to discuss—mainly because she’s not a lawyer! Ivy determines that she will find her aunt Jo, for herself, her father, and her family, and the ensuing adventure is one of delight and enlightenment. Middle/high school.
Bauer, Joan. Rules of the Road. G.P Putnam’s Sons, 1998. 16-year-old Jenna gets a job driving the elderly owner of a chian of successful shoe stores from Chicago to Texas so that she can confront the son who is trying to force her to retire. Along the way, Jenna hones her talents as a sales representative even as she finds the strength to confront her alcoholic father. High school.
Beale, Fleur, I Am Not Esther. Hyperion, 2002. Kirby and her mother have always had each other and that’s it. So when Ellen announces that she is going to Africa and that Kirby must spend the next three months or so with Ellen’s brother, Kirby is dumbfounded. Strongly resistant, Kirby is left, literally, with her uncle Caleb, who announces to the teenager that she will join his family of eight (with a ninth on the way) and will go by the name Esther from this point on. As Esther, Kirby is forced to follow the extremely narrow religious convictions of Uncle Caleb’s family and in doing so, slowly unravels the mystery of her cousin Miriam’s “death” even as she begins to lose her own focus on her identity. An excellent read for middle/high school students.
Brooks, Bruce. Midnight Hour Encore. New York: Harper Trophy, 1986. A talented 16-year-old cellist uses a trip to audition for a famous teacher to meet her mother. But it is the trip to the audition with her father that proves to be the real learning experience. High School.
Brooks, Kevin. Kissing the Rain. 2004. NY: The Chicken House. “Moo” Nelson, overweight and the object of much ridicule at school, has one place where he feels safe: the bridge down the road from his house. But one night on the bridge, he becomes the only witness to an apparent road-rage murder, only to realize later that an overzealous police officer actually set up a gangster to take the fall for the murder. Used by both sides to get what they want, Moo finds himself torn between telling the truth and getting the horrible Keith Vine off the hook or lying in order to keep his father out of jail, put Vine away, and know forever that he told a lie. An interesting dilemma for older readers to consider.
Casanova, Mary. When Eagles Fall. NY: Hyperion Books for Children, 2002. Alexis Castille-Reed, reacting badly to her parents’ separation, gets drunk and almost drowns. At her wits end, her mother sends her to spend the summer with her biologist father who happens to be working in Minnesota studying bald eagles. Unable to talk honestly to each other since the separation, Alex grudgingly spends time with her father. Finally, determined to prove to him that she is capable, Alex decides to rescue an eaglet on her own, but when she and the young eagle are stranded on an island during a storm, Alex learns that her father is not the only one she needs to prove something to. A female version of Hatchet, although on a smaller scale. A solid upper elementary/middle school read.
Cohn, Rachel. Gingerbread. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Cyd Charisse, a sixteen-year-old rebel without a clue, returns home to California after getting kicked out of boarding school for having sex with her boyfriend in a closet. When her mom and stepfather can’t control her to their satisfaction, they send Cyd to New York to meet and stay with her biological father. Although her relationship with him is neutral at best, she gains a brother and sister who give her a sense of place and identity, necessary ammunition when the former boyfriend shows up and confronts Cyd about the abortion she had. A high school read.
Cohn, Rachel. Shrimp. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006. In this sequel, we rejoin Cyd Charisse, who has returned home to California after getting to know her bio dad and half siblings. She gets back together with former boyfriend, Shrimp, but faces many of the same issues with him that doomed their relationship the first time: can she trust him, will he be there for her. And then there’s Cyd’s mom, who seems to want to trust her daughter but isn’t quite sure how. Girls will identify with Cyd’s issues with both the boyfriend and the mom issues. A high school read.
Cooney, Caroline. The Face on the Milk Carton. New York: Bantam, 1990. During a school lunch, Janie

recognizes the face on the milk carton as her own. The book follows her attempts to find out the truth about her kidnapping and the family from whom she was stolen. Middle school.


Cooney, Caroline. What Happened to Janie. New York: Bantam, 1993. The saga of Janie continues as she moves

in with her real family and tries to adjust to a new life without the family and friends she grew up with. Middle school.


Cooney, Caroline. Voice on the Radio. New York: Bantam, 1997. In the third installment of the Janie story, Reese finds himself a college DJ with nothing interesting to share with his listening audience…until he gives them the story of Janie…without telling Janie. Middle school/high school.
Corrigan, Eireann. Splintering. Scholastic Press, 2004. Told in alternating poetic verse by Paulie and her brother Jeremy, this is the story of a random act of violence against a family in their own home and the repercussions of that attack on each member. As Paulie comes to terms with her heroics and Jeremy with his sense of guilt that he wasn’t able to protect his mother or sisters, the family must also face its own demons in how each member has treated the others, both before and after the attack. Solid high school read.
Sarah Dessen. Lock and Key. NY: Viking, 2008. After Ruby's mother abandons her, she is surprised when her sister, Cora, who she hasn't seen for ten years, shows up to take custody of her. Confused, Ruby looks for a way out of her suddenly wonderful situation: she goes from a run-down abandoned rental to a fabulous house in the suburbs where she can actually be part of a family with Cora and her husband, Jamie. With the help of Nate, her neighbor and might-be friend, Ruby begins to accept her situation. But can she be there for Cora, Jamie and Nate when they need her? Solid high school read.
Dessen, Sarah. The Truth About Forever. NY: Speak, 2004. Macy is trying to help herself and her mother deal with the unexpected death of Macy’s dad, but doesn’t find herself coming to terms until she takes a catering job with “Wish,” and meets the zany group of people who make up the group. As she finds herself relying more on Delia, her boss, for support and falls for Wes, Macy realizes that she can take greater control of her life, but at what cost to her relationship with her mom. Good high school read.
Dessen, Sarah. Keeping the Moon. NY: Puffin, 1999. Colie, the daughter of fitness guru Kiki Sparks, wonders how much longer she’ll have to be an outcast. First overweight, then misjudged by a girl at her school after she loses weight, Colie gets her lip pierced, dyes her hair, and generally decides to BE the delinquent so many consider her to be. But the summer spent with her eccentric aunt and her job at the Last Chance Bar and Grill helps Colie come to terms with herself and those who once made her feel inferior. Middle/high school.
Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland. NY: Puffin, 2000. Caitlin’s family is thrown into trauma when older sister Cass runs away from home on Caitlin’s 16th birthday. Unconsciously, Caitlin tries to make life for her parents better by doing the types of things Cass would have: become a cheerleader, take a photography class with her mom, date. But Rogerson, Caitlin’s boyfriend, begins using Caitlin as a punching bag, and in her confusion and despair over Cass and her parents, Caitlin tells no one. Excellent read for middle/high school.
Dessen, Sarah. Someone Like You. NY: Puffin, 2000. Halley and Scarlett are the best of friends, but their loyalty to each other is put to the test after Scarlett finds out that she is pregnant days after her boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle accident and as Halley begins dating Macon. Facing pressure to have sex with the unpredictable Macon and worried that Scarlett’s mother will never be able to offer her daughter the support she needs, Halley questions her own relationship with her mother and her own sense of identity as she struggles to “be everything to everyone.” Finally deciding that she has to be true to herself, Halley emerges in a new role that better fits the important relationships in her life. Good middle/high school read.
Dessen, Sarah. This Lullaby. NY: Speak, 2002. Remy is a champion dater…and breaker-upper. Never wanting to get too serious about anyone—after all, she’s witnessed her mother through five weddings—Remy only wants one thing: to go away to college and leave her relationship-impaired mother behind. But when Remy meets Dexter, she finds that all the things about relationships that she has taken for granted in the past don’t seem to make sense when she’s with Dexter. Not about to let a summer relationship ruin her plans, Remy determines that she must get rid of him. But doing so may be a great deal harder than she thinks. Good high school read.
Dessen, Sarah. That Summer. NY: Puffin, 1998. Haven’s summer is being ruined by two weddings: the first is her father’s to local weather girl Lorna Queen—for whom he dumped Haven’s mother—and the second is her sister Ashley’s to boring Lewis Warsher. As Haven tries to understand these relationships, she meets up again with Sumner Lee, one of Ashley’s former boyfriends and the one Haven thinks Ashley should have married and finds out that love and relationships are not always what they seem. Good middle school read.
Fink, Mark. The Summer I Got A Life. Lodi, NJ: WestSide Books, 2009. When Andy and his older brother, Brad, find out that they’ll be spending the summer in Wisconsin with their wacky aunt and uncle instead of in Hawaii with their parents, they are ticked. But Wisconsin proves to have benefits neither could have even guessed, especially for Andy when he meets Laura. A local celebrity for her amazing piano-playing skills, Laura also has to deal with the fact that she’s in a wheelchair. Andy and Brad end up with a summer neither of them will forget. Middle/High School.
Friedman, Aimee. The Year My Sister Got Lucky. Point, 2008. Katya has always looked up to her beautiful sister Michaela, wanting to be as good a ballerina, as comfortable with their mother, and as confident in her choices as Michaela. But when their mother gets a new job at a university in upstate New York, Katie and Michaela’s lives are turned upside down, and Katie watches Michael turn into the popular girl at their new school while she fails to fit in, mourning her lost life in New York. Can Katie make peace with herself, her sister, and Fir Lake, NY’s inhabitants? Middle/high school read.
Glenn, Mel. Split Image. NY: HarperTempest, 2000. Laura Li is the most popular girl at Tower High School, but no one can quite pinpoint why. Laura’s story, told through various voices in poetic forms, outlines Laura’s school life and her home life, a home life that fills Laura with despair. Will Laura be able to break free of the claustrophic hold of her family on who she is and who she wants to be, or will she give in to her darker fears? A solid high school read.
Grant, Cynthia. The White Horse. New York: Atheneum, 1998. Raina spends most of her life on the street with her drugged out boyfriend; the only sane moments of her life come at school, where she elicits the positive attention of her teacher, Ms Johnson through the journal writing she hands in. When Raina finds out she is pregnant and that she will get no support from either her family or her late boyfriend’s, she turns to Ms Johnson. But can Ms Johnson save anyone as far gone as Raina? Definitely a high school read.
Harmon, Michael. The Last Exit to Normal. NY: Knopf, 2008. Ben Campbell’s dad “came out” when he was fourteen, throwing Ben’s life as he knew it into chaos: his mom leaves and his dad brings home, Edward, his boyfriend and Ben’s soon-to-be stepdad. When his dads decide that he’s gotten into one scrape too many, they move the three of them to Eastern Montana, where Edward grew up. Not only does Ben have to deal with a new town where everyone knows what his fathers are, he also has to figure out how he moves forward with a possible girlfriend and the kid next door who Ben knows is being beaten by his father. Strong read for high school.
Holt, Kimberly Willis. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. NY: Dell, 1999. During Toby’s 13th summer, everything changes. VietNam claims the brother of his best friend, his mom leaves him and his dad for a more exciting life in Nashville, and Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world, gets dumped in the parking lot of the local bowling alley. Upper elementary/Middle school.
Kephart, Beth. House of Dance. Harper Teen, 2008. Rosie’s dad left them years ago and her mother is too focused on her own life to pay much attention to Rosie’s, so when Rosie decides to help her grandfather organize his life, she begins to find things out about her mother and grandparents that she had never known. The further she organizes, the more she comes to understand the importance of music and dance in her grandfather’s life, leading her to the “House of Dance,” dance lessons, and a new outlook on her life. A warm and wonderful story for middle and high school.

Kinsey, Warnock, Natalie. Gifts from the Sea. Knopf, 2003. After the death of her mother, Quila MacFarlane, who lives with her father in the lighthouse on Devil’s Rock, knows that she’s looking for something to make her life meaningful again. That moment comes when she rescues a baby from a horrific shipwreck which kills everyone else on the boat. Naming the baby Cecelia and making her a member of their family, Quila and her father begin to reconstruct the happy family life they had lost. But when Margaret Malone comes to visit the grave of her sister, one of the people killed in the shipwreck, she threatens the happy life Quila has created for herself, Celia, and her father. An excellent quick read for upper elementary and middle school.


Korman, Gordon. Son of the Mob. NY: Hyperion, 2002. Vince Luca just wants to be a normal teenager; no easy feet when your dad is a mob boss and your mother thinks she’s June Cleaver. Then Vince finds himself in a steamy clutch with Kendra Bightly and decides to just ignore his family situation and enjoy the romance. But when Kendra reveals that her father is an FBI agent, Vince puts two and two together and realizes that Kendra’s dad is the agent sent to put his dad away. Middle/lower high school read.
Korman, Gordon. Son of the Mob: Hollywood Hustle. NY: Hyperion, 2004. Vince’s adventures in attempted normalcy continue as he heads off for college in California with Kendra and Alex in tow. But when he gets to Santa Monica, he finds that his new roommate is the son of a well-known politician and that he’s landed the girl beyond any of their dreams: Willow. Vince and Kendra begin to have problems, Tommy shows up—apparently taking a vacation from Mob life—as do the Uncles, and Vince suddenly finds himself on the fringes of a union kidnapping. Great fun for all involved. Middle/lower high school read.
Les Becquets, Diane. Season of Ice. NY: Bloomsbury, 2008. When Genesis’s father fails to return from his shift at a lumber company and a desperate search fails to reveal a body or her father, Genesis’s family is plunged into a daily nightmare as they struggle first with his disappearance, then with the reality that because there is no body, there is also no insurance settlement. Genesis takes on more responsibility at home and work, but these interactions lead her to rumors concerning her father: that he faked his death, that he ran off with a secret love. Desperate for answers, Genesis embarks on her own search to find her father and who he really was. Solid high school read.
Levitan, Sonia. Strange Relations. NY: Knopf, 2007. Marne is desperate to show her parents that she is a young adult capable of taking care of herself; her parents have, understandable, kept close tabs on Marne in the wake of the kidnap of their younger daughter, Jody (whose fate is uncertain). So when her aunt in Hawaii expresses a willingness to have Marne come and stay with her family on Oahu, Marne jumps at it. Marne is surprised, though, by her Aunt Chaya and Uncle Yitz’s very conservative take on being Jewish and is shocked by how naïve her cousins, especially Becca, are about life outside the religion. Marne must try to balance her interest in her aunt’s work at a day care and her desire to be independent; her confidence in her ability to do so is shaken when her friend Kim arrives with her party-girl sisters and Marne finds herself in a situation that challenges her control. Solid book for middle/younger high school readers.
Mack, Tracy. Birdland. NY: Scholastic, 2003. When Jed’s teacher assigns his class to create “something” that captures the New York City sub-community in which they class, Jed and his buddy Flyer decide to make a video documentary. But when Flyer drops out to deal with his own confusion at his mother’s desertion of his family, Jed is left to make sense of his own life against the backdrop of his brother’s death (diabetes) and the seeming estrangement of his own family as they individually try to make sense of Zeke’s death. Jed finds a book of poetry that Zeke had written in the year before his death, and using the poetry and the videocam, begins to see New York through Zeke’s eyes, opening up possibilities and issues Jed had never considered previously. An excellent book for middle and high school students.
Martin, Ann. M. A Corner of the Universe. NY: Scholastic, 2002. When 12-year-old Hattie’s Uncle Adam returns home after spending most of his adult life in a “school”—an institution for the mental disabled, Hattie learns things about her family that both surprise and disappoint her. She also learns a great deal about her own ability to emphathize with others as she works to help Adam adjust to life on the outside. A wonderful read for middle school aged students.
McCormick, Patricia. My Brother’s Keeper. NY: Hyperion Books for Children, 2005. Toby Malone is doing his best to keep everything at home on an equal keel: he doesn’t tell his mother that his brother, Jake, is taking acid; he covers for Jake even when Jake doesn’t seem to want that. But when Jake starts stealing from both Toby and his mom, Toby realizes that there are things he can’t control, for good or for bad. An interesting story of family dynamics. Middle school.
Nelson, R. A. Breathe My Name. NY: Razorbill, 2007. When Frances Jelks was a child, her mother murdered three of her children and attempted to kill Frances. In the years since, Frances was adopted by a family who strove to make her life as peaceful and normal as possible. But now, as an eighteen-year-old, she decides that she has to understand what drove her mother to murder. With the help of her boyfriend, Nix, Frances retraces her life, finding her father and reconnecting with the adults who saw Afton, Frances’ mother, slide further and further into depression. A powerful book about family and mental illness. High school.
Reinhardt, Dana. How to Build a House. NY: Wendy Lamb Books, 2008. Harper knows that she can’t stand staying home for the summer with her dead in the immediate aftermath of his divorce from her stepmom. Joining a volunteer program set to build houses for family’s who have lost their homes to a tornado, Harper finds that new friends and a stronger understanding of what it means to be part of a family, whether that family is your by chance or by choice. Harper also comes to terms with her own trust issues when she falls in love for the first time. Hgh school readers.
Reinhardt, Dana. A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life. NY: Wendy Lamb Books, 2006. Simone has known that she was adopted, but has never been very curious about her birth parents. The Rivka calls, wanting to meet the daughter she gave up sixteen years before. As Simone struggles with her parents’ desire to have her meet Rivka and her own ambivalence, she gradually begins to realize that she needs to know Rivka and understand the circumstances around her birth. Rivka is not at all what Simone expects, but becomes an integral part of her life in a short time. But can this happiness last in the face of Rivka’s cancer? An extraordinary book about identity and adoption. Middle and high school readers.
Salisbury, Graham. Lord of the Deep. (2001). NY: Delacorte. Mikey Donovan wants to be just like his stepfather, Bill Monks. The captain of his own ship and a devoted father to Mikey and Mike’s brother Billy-Jay, Bill represents everything Mikey’s biological dad never was. Mike is thrilled to be Bill’s deckhand, and proudly works alongside Bill as they take out customer-fisherman to fish for marlin in Hawaii’s blue waters. But Mikey’s feelings about Bill are tested when, in desperation after a fishing trip has delivered no trophy fish for the unappreciative customers, Bill allows the fishermen to take credit for the landing of a record-size mahi mahi when Mikey was really the one to strike the fish. An excellent read for middle/high school students, especially those interested in deep-sea fishing.
Sones, Sonya. Stop Pretending: What happened when my big sister went crazy. NY: HarperTempest, 1999. In poem form, Cookie tells the story of her sister’s mental breakdown and its impact on her family. A pheonomenal read with great humor and great pathos. Middle/high school.
Sonnenblick, Jordan. Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie. Scholastic, 2004. Steven is a great drummer and class clown, neither of which prepare him to deal with finding out that his five year old brother has leukemia. At first, Steven doesn’t think that he’s responding all that badly to the family’s new focus on Jeffrey’s illness. But when he starts failing his courses at school and breaking down emotionally, he and his family realize that while Jeffrey has the illness, it’s impact on the rest of the family is toxic, too. This book is full of great humor and pathos, making it a wonderful upper elementary, middle school read.
Williams, Lori Aurelia. Shayla’s Double Brown Baby Blues. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Shayla’s 13th birthday is marred by the birth of her little sister, who seems to be set to take over Shayla’s shaky place in her father’s heart. On top of this, Shayla, known as a “fixer” to all, tries to help her friend, Kambia, come to terms with the physical and sexual abuse dealt her at the hands of her mother’s various boyfriends. A powerful book about a young woman coming to terms with finding her identity and understanding how she can help others about whom she cares. Middle and high school readers.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush. NY: Putnam, 2001. The life of the Green family is disrupted when Toswiah’s father, one of the few African-American police officers in Denver, witnesses who white policemen kill a young African-American teen without provocation. Their arrest forces the Green’s to leave Denver for a large mid-western town where they assume new names and new lives. But can their family hold up under the strain…This is a wonderful book for teacher’s looking to deal with issues surrounding ethics and racism. Middle/high school.
Wyeth, Sharon Dennis. A Piece of Heaven. NY: Dell Yearling, 2001. When Haley’s mom has a nervous breakdown on Haley’s birthday, Haley and her brother, Otis, find themselves on their own with very little money and sporadic support from their neighbor. Haley finds a job helping a music teacher clear out his backyard and “revision” it, and it is this opportunity that provides Haley the support to deal with the uncertainties of her life, especially after Otis is arrested for selling stolen goods. Great middle school read.
Zarr, Sara. Once was Lost. NY: Little, Brown. Sam is a pastor’s kid, and as such, is used to coming in second to her dad’s congregation and job requirements. However, she’s always been able to count on her mom to “fill in.” All of that changes when Sam’s mom ends up in rehab after being caught DUI. Compounding the situation is the disappearance of a local girl. Confused about her responsibilities and somewhat distrustful about how the various adults are behaving, Sam not only questions her dad’s concern about her but her faith in God as well. Middle school.

Physical and Emotional Journeys

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. NY: Puffin Books, 2001. Told through the grading periods of the school year, this is the story of a young woman traumatized by an event that took place at a party between her 8th and 9th grade years of school. Outcast because she called the police to come and break up the party, Melinda finds it’s easier not to explain herself to anyone than to deal with the pain of the truth of the summer incident. An excellent middle/high school read, although very blunt in some ways for middle school.


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. NY: Viking, 2009. When Lia’s former best friend Cassie dies by herself in a motel room, Lia is left to puzzle out why. . . especially since Cassie left message after message on Lia’s cell phone the night she died. At the same time, Lia is dealing with coming home after her second stint in rehabilitation due to her anorexia. Unwilling to share her insecurities with her parents, counselor, or friends, Lia uses her journal to track her eating/calorie consumption and her life problems. A strong book focused on the day to day struggle of a teenager confronting eating and emotional disorders. Middle/high school.
Baskin, Nora Raleigh. Anything But Typical. NY: Simon and Schuster, 2009. Twelve year old Jason is an a talented writer who also happens to be autistic. School is tough, as are relationships with others. But on-line, Jason can be himself, and when he meets Phoenixbird at an on-line sit for kids who like to share their writing, he knows he has found a friend. Jason is invited to attend a conference for young writers and is excited to go until he finds out that Rebecca/Phoenixbird has also been invited. What will she think when she meets him and comes face to face with Jason’s autism? This is a wonderful book for kids and parents alike who deal with autism on a regular basis or for friends who want a better sense of what an autistic person goes through on a daily basis. Upper elementary/middle school.
Bennett, Cherie. Did Your Hear About Amber? NY: Puffin Books, 1993. Amber Harkin is one of those girls who commands attention because of her beauty and athleticism. As head of the popular dance group, Sizzle, she seems to have everything going for her. Then she begins experiencing strange pains in her joints. How will this impact her plans for the future? Good middle school read.
Bennett, Cherie. Life in the Fat Lane NY: Delacorte Press, 1998. Lara Ardeche is one of those nice popular girls who seems a shoe-in for a future Miss America. But after taking medication for allergies, she finds herself gaining weight at an alarming rate, even though she is eating less and exercising more than ever. Great middle/high school book.
Brothers, Meagan. Debbie Harry Sings in French. NY: Henry Holt, 2008. Johnny’s normal life disappeared the night his dad was killed in a car accident, and his new life became one of drinking, questionable friends, and an unaware mother. When Johnny accidentally OD’s on ecstasy, his mother sends him off to live with his uncle in North Carolina. His new friend, Maria supports him when he says that Debbie Harry of Blondie has “saved” him at one level; she even encourages him to try on a dress that reminds both of them of a Debbie Harry costume. Johnny feels totally together in the dress, which makes him wonder if he might not be gay after all. An interesting book about sexual ambivalence. High school.
Chayil, Eishes. Hush. NY: Walker and Company, 2010. Gittel lives in Brooklyn’s Chassidim community—a closed community of Jews who follow a strict adherence to the Torah and to protecting those within the community. As a child, Gittel witnesses a horrible act of violence against her best friend, Devory. Devory’s death a short time later confuses Gittel, and it is not until she is older that she is able to start putting into words what really happened to Devory. Gittel eventually realizes that she must figure out exactly what happened to Devory and come to terms with it if she is to move on with her life. High school.
Cormier, Robert. We All Fall Down. New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1991. Buddy, one of the thrashers of a home,

sees the incident as a lark until his friends throw Karen, a teen-aged girl, down the stairs, causing her to go into a coma. Buddy then falls in love with Karen’s sister and agonizes over how to come clean about his role in Karen’s accident. Great high school read.


Cormier, Robert. The Rag and Bone Shop. (2001). NY: Delacorte. In Cormier’s last novel, 12-year-old Jason is accused of the murder of his 7-year-old neighbor girl. Detective Trent, a master at getting confessions from the most unwilling and vicious of murderers, is called in to work his magic on Jason. The conclusion of this book will shock and horrify all readers. A short masterpiece from one of our greatest. High school read.
Creech, Sharon. The Wanderer. (2000). NY: Scholastic. 13-year-old Sophie is the only female crewmate on board the Wanderer. Along with her three uncles and two male cousins, Sophie traverses the Atlantic, learning about her cousins, what it means to be part of a family, and how to deal with her own past, one filled with loss. A Newberry Honor Book. Middle school read.
Crutcher, Chris. Chinese Handcuffs. New York: Greenwillow, 1989. Jennifer and Dillon, intense athletes, help each

other fight the pain of their personal lives as they search to discover their own identities. But this is not an easy quest, especially after Dillon finds out that Jennifer is being sexually molested by her own father. A fabulous high school read.


De Vries, Anke. Bruises. NY: Front Street Books, 1995. Judith’s mother blames her for everything, and when she’s drunk, beats on her daughter mercilessly. Judith won’t tell, though, not to Michael who she trusts more than anyone or to Mr. Beekman, who suspects something but can’t prove it. However, through Judith’s growing relationship with Michael, who has his own parent issues, but teens come to find that adults don’t always know best but that teens have responsibility, too, in taking charge of certain aspects of their life. A strong read for high school students.
Deaver, Julie. Say Goodnight, Gracie. New York: Harper and Row, 1992. Morgan and Jimmy have been friends

forever. But when Jimmy is killed in a car accident, Morgan finds that many of her feelings about him are unresolved and coming to terms with his death takes the support of her family and friends in ways she had not envisioned. Middle/high school read.


Deaver, Julie Reece. The Night I Disappeared. NY: NY: Simon Pulse, 2002. Jamie’s boyfriend is spending the summer in Europe and her mother is the lead lawyer defending a teen-aged girl who has, supposedly, killed her stepfather because of his continued sexual and physical abuse. Moved to Chicago for the summer to be with her mother—at least for the occasional meal—Jamie begins to have daydreams that last for long pieces of time. When the daydreams cause her to have a number of accidents that actually threaten her life, Jamie’s new friend Morgan (of Deaver’s Say Goodnight, Gracie) forces Jamie to get help from Morgan’s aunt, a noted psychologist. A strong high school read.)
Delaney, Mark. Pepperland. (2004). Atlanta: Peachtree. When Star loses her mom to cancer, she sinks into a depression that frightens her stepfather; his insistence that she talk to a psychologist about her mother and their life together is framed within her mother’s devotion to John Lennon and a letter she wrote to him when SHE was a rebellious high school student. Star comes to know her mother and herself through her conversations with those around her. Middle and high school.
Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen. NY: Puffin, 2006. Annabel seems to have the perfect life; she and both her sisters have been models and Annabel’s recent shoot for Kopf’s Department Store shows her as “popular high school girl.” But in reality, her older sisters are fighting over one’s eating disorder and Annabel’s former best friend Sophie is telling everyone that Annabel put the moves on Sophie’s boy friend. Alone at school, she meets Owen, master of music, and begins a friendship that might lead to romance: IF Annabel can be honest with Owen and her family about what she really wants out of life. Excellent read for middle/high school.
Dessen, Sarah. Keeping the Moon. NY: Puffin, 1999. Colie, the daughter of fitness guru Kiki Sparks, wonders how much longer she’ll have to be an outcast. First overweight, then misjudged by a girl at her school after she loses weight, Colie gets her lip pierced, dyes her hair, and generally decides to BE the delinquent so many consider her to be. But the summer spent with her eccentric aunt and her job at the Last Chance Bar and Grill helps Colie come to terms with herself and those who once made her feel inferior. Middle/high school.
Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland. NY: Puffin, 2000. Caitlin’s family is thrown into trauma when older sister Cass runs away from home on Caitlin’s 16th birthday. Unconsciously, Caitlin tries to make life for her parents better by doing the types of things Cass would have: become a cheerleader, take a photography class with her mom, date. But Rogerson, Caitlin’s boyfriend, begins using Caitlin as a punching bag, and in her confusion and despair over Cass and her parents, Caitlin tells no one. Excellent read for middle/high school.
Dessen, Sarah. Someone Like You. NY: Puffin, 2000. Halley and Scarlett are the best of friends, but their loyalty to each other is put to the test after Scarlett finds out that she is pregnant days after her boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle accident and as Halley begins dating Macon. Facing pressure to have sex with the unpredictable Macon and worried that Scarlett’s mother will never be able to offer her daughter the support she needs, Halley questions her own relationship with her mother and her own sense of identity as she struggles to “be everything to everyone.” Finally deciding that she has to be true to herself, Halley emerges in a new role that better fits the important relationships in her life.
Dickinson, Peter. Eva. New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1988. After a 13-year-old girl’s body is destroyed in a car

accident, her brain is transferred to the body of a chimpanzee. The novel provides a thought-provoking look at animal treatment, experimentation, zoos, and other topics as the girl must deal with a mind that thinks in human terms and a body that reacts with the instincts of an animal. Primarily a high school read.


Ferris, Jean. Of Sound Mind. NY: Ferrar, Straus, Giroux, 2001. Theo is the only “hearie” in his family. His mother and brother were both born deaf; his father lost his hearing after an illness when he was eight. Theo typically finds himself in the uncomfortable situation of being translator to the world for his family and has unconsciously accepted it until he meets Ivy, and begins to consider what life could be like for him as a person, not as the person whose sole use to his family is a protective one. A wonderful read for high school students.
Fleischman, Paul. Whirligig. Henry Holt and Company, 1998. As he travels each corner of the country building a whirligig in memory of the girl who death he caused, sixteen-year-old Brent enriches the lives of four diverse people while finding for himself forgiveness and atonement. Great middle and high school read.
Fleischman, Paul. Mind’s Eye. Henry Holt and Company, 1999. Courtney, recently paralyzed in a riding accident, finds herself stuck in a convalescent home where her only company is the elderly Elva. But when Elva asks Courtney to take a “trip” with her to Italy using a 1910 edition of Baedeker’s Italy, Courtney is transported to another time where she can once again walk and dance. High school.
Flinn, Alex. Breathing Underwater. NY: HarperTempest, 2002. Nick Andreas seems to have everything: money, looks, the adoration of a beautiful girlfriend. But Nick’s father hits him, regularly, and Nick begins to take his frustrations out on Caitlin, his girlfriend. At first, Cat takes his abuse, but when he hits her repeatedly after unfairly accusing her of double-crossing him, Cat goes to the police and obtains a restraining order against him. As part of his punishment for hitting Cat, Nick also has to attend a class for men who abuse their girlfriends/wives. At first resistance, Nick begins to see his own actions more clearly and begins the road to creating the type of man he wants to be. An excellent high school read.
Flinn, Alex. (2005). Nothing to Lose. NY: HarperTempest. Michael Daye left his home in Miami to escape the abuse his stepfather dished out to his mother. However, after spending the year with the carnival, Michael finds himself back in Miami looking at news articles about his beautiful mother and the husband she killed. Can Michael find the courage in himself to face his past and possible help his mother, or will his stepfather’s abuse continue to overshadow all the good he has managed to accomplish for himself. An excellent novel about family and responsibility. High School.
Friesen, Jonathan. Jerk California. NY: Speak, 2008. Sam Carrier has Tourette’s Syndrome, and that has made his life miserable; his stepfather’s constant verbal abuse pushes life to almost unbearable. But when Sam is befriended by George, a former friend of his father’s, and he begins to find out about who his dad really was, life takes a turn. When George dies, his will suggests to Sam that he needs to take a trip to Jerk, California and that he’ll find many of the answers to his questions about his parents and himself on the journey. High School.
Gallo, Don, ed. On the Fringe. (2001). NY: PenguinPutnam. Fabulous collection of short stories about kids on the “fringe”, kids who don’t make the popular groups, kids ostracized because of poverty, sexual identity, etc. Of special import are the short stories by Ron Koertge (popular girl who finds that she isn’t so different than those kids on the edges), Jack Gantos (student who talks about being on Prozac), and Chris Crutcher (the original storyline from Whale Talk about a student who brings a gun to school and kills three classmates before being brought done by the narrator of the story and his brother TJ and then how everyone deals with the murders). A strong collection for high school.
George, Madeleine. Looks. NY: Viking, 2008. Meghan often feels like no one sees her at school, which seems odd since she’s extremely large physically; however, because of her bulk, no one seems to consider her important enough to consider. On the flip side is Aimee, thin and obsessive about her eating, who becomes too visible when Cara becomes aware of Aimee’s amazing poems. Aimee and Meghan are brought together because Cara has used them both, and as a team, they work on a way to get back at Cara. But will their plans for public humiliation for Cara actually give them the satisfaction they both seek? Middle/high school read.
Giles, Gail. Right Behind You. NY: Little, Brown, 2007. When he was nine, Kip McFarland set a 7-year-old fire, killing the boy and putting himself into a psych ward where he would live for four years. When he’s finally released, after dealing with what he did and why he did it, Kip changes his name and moves with his father and stepmother to the Midwest. While he initially moves into the new world of school and friendship fairly easily, he sabotages himself during his junior year, forcing his family to move to Texas. Kip understands that his guilt undermines him, but is he really at a place where he can trust people with his secret? Great read. High School.
Going, K. L. Fat Kid Rules the World. (2004). NY: Speak. When we meet 300 pound Troy Billings, he’s on the edge of the subway track, seriously considering jumping in front of the next train. Pulled out of his reverie by Curt MacCrae, semi-homeless high school guitar legend, Troy finds his life changed by his unlikely friendship with Curt. Curt insists that Troy has a soul for punk and decides that Troy will be his new drummer. Pulled along by Curt’s enthusiasm and restless energy, Troy finds himself taking up drumming, hanging out at a local club learning to be punk, and reassessing his relationships with his dad and brother. A remarkable novel of a young man struggling to find himself. High school.
Green, John. Paper Towns. NY: Penguin, 2008. Quentin Jacobsen, nicknamed Q, is in love and has been forever with his neighbor, the beautiful and unpredictable Margo Roth Spiegelman. However, he’s never done anything that would let her know that; in fact, he’s pretty sure that she’s forgotten that he even exists. When she enlists him to take part in a night time adventure during which she takes revenge on pretty much everyone who has wronged her in the previous three months, Q is in heaven. When she disappears the morning after their adventure, though, Q takes it upon himself to find her, and in doing so, finds that Margo the person who a mystery to more people than he could have ever guessed. High School.
Halpin, Brendan. Forever Changes. NY: Brianna should be focused on her senior year of high school and her college plans, but the cystic fibrosis that has made her life difficult for her entire eighteen years seems to be gaining ground and forcing Brianna to face the fact that she may not make nineteen. But just as Brianna finds herself overly focusing on her possible death, a very smart teacher and her devoted dad help her realize that life can’t be lived for the “what mights” but needs to be focused on the “what cans.” Solid high school read.
Hartnett, Sonya. Surrender. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Books, 2006. Gabriel is dying, and as he is, he relives his life with his parents, brother, and friend/enemy Finnigan. Through back and forth narratives from Finnigan and Gabriel, the reader gets to see a young Gabriel victimized by a psychotic mother who can’t get over the fact that her eldest son is brain-damaged and a distant father who refuses to deal with any of the messy details of life. When Gabriel meets Finnigan shortly after Gabriel has accidentally killed his brother, Finnigan offers to become the sinner to Gabriel’s saint. But when Finnigan begins an arson campaign against the town and Gabriel’s father, how will Gabriel respond. This is a taut psychological thriller with a difficult ending. Definitely a high school read.
Hemphill, Stephanie. Things Left Unsaid: A novel in poems. NY: Hyperion, 2005. Sarah is one of those girls who gets the good grades, doesn’t need a curfew because her parents trust her, and already has her life after high school mapped out. But when Robin begins to take an interest in Sarah, Sarah finds herself intrigued by this girl who seems totally untouched by society’s expectations. Letting Robin lead her into a world of class-cutting, hard-partying, and no-limits, Sarah is, at first, overjoyed by her new freedoms. But when Robin tries to commit suicide, Sarah is forced to come to terms with her friendship with Robin and what it means to her own self-definitions. An important book on friendship and its impact on teens. High School.
Hesse, Karen. The Music of Dolphins. Scholastic, 1996. When teen-aged girl is rescued from an unpopulated island off the coast of Florida, she is found to be a feral or “wild child.” Raised by dolphins, Mila has little memory of her life in Cuba with her parents or of the airplane accident that killed her mother and sister and left Mila stranded in the ocean. When Dr. Beck is given the charge to turn Mila back into Olivia, Mila is forced to learn English and begin interacting with other teens. But can she really forget her life with the dolphins? Middle school.
Heuston, Kimberly. The Book of Jude. NY: Front Street, 2008. Jude’s mother, an academic, wins a Fulbright to study in the Czech Republic during 1989. Jude has always been sensitive to change, but this move absolutely puts her over the edge, and under the shadow of the repressive Czech regime, she finds herself making decisions that puts her into danger. After a car accident following another impulsive act, Jude’s family takes her to Germany for a psychological exam, and Jude is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Jude’s road “back” allows her to understand what made her react in the first place. High school.
Hopkins, Ellen. Identical. NY: Margaret McElderry Books, 2008. Told in the alternating voices of Kaeleigh and Raeanne, this is the story of sexual and emotional abuse stemming from a car accident that injures their politician mother to the point that she has little to do with the family, especially her husband, the alcoholic judge that caused the accident in the first place. Keileigh is sexually abused by their father but hides it; Raeanne is the sexually promiscuous twin who sees what’s happening to the family but can’t figure out how to make the situation public. A strong but difficult read at times about the destructive forces of incest and a family’s emotional breakdown. High School
Hoban, Julie. Willow. NY: Dial, 2009. Convinced that she is responsible for the death of her parents, Willow tries to cover her emotional pain through cutting herself. Thinking that she’s successfully keeping it from her brother and sister-in-law and from the students and teachers at her new school, she’s stunned when she realizes that new classmate Guy knows her secret. As she and Guy become closer, Willow is faced with the decision to stop her cutting or lose Guy and possibly David forever. But can she really give up the only thing she feels in control of in her life? High School
Ingold, Jeanette. The Window. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996. After her mother is killed and she is blinded in a car accident, 16-year-old Mandy finds herself taken in by relatives she has never met. Although her aunts and uncles are kind, Mandy senses that all is not right, and it is through her bedroom window that Mandy sees—in her mind? In reality?—the history of these aunts and the woman Mandy realizes will one day be her grandmother. Middle/ high school.
Irwin, Hadley. Abby, My Love. New York: Antheneum, 1985. Abby shares the secret of her father’s sexual abuse

with her friend, Chip, leaving him to decide how to best help the girl he cares about as a girlfriend. The first YA book to deal with incest. A YA classic for middle/high school readers.


Knowles, Jo. Lessons from a dead girl. Candlewick Press, 2007. When Leah chose Laine as her “friend forever,” Laine is thrilled. But Leah wants to “practice” kissing and touching with Laine, and Laine is often confused by the act itself and the violence Leah enacts on the person who is supposedly her friend. Laine realizes at some level tha Leah is being sexually abused by family friend Sam, but is too young and insecure to help Leah. Realizing this, Leah turns on Laine and makes her life miserable to the point that Laine wishes that Leah would just go away or die. When Leah does just that, Laine has to deal with a new kind of quilt. High school.

Konigsburg, E. L. Silent to the Bone. NY: Simon Pulse, 2004. Connor’s best friend, Branwell, has been accused of hurting his baby sister, but Connor doesn’t believe it. However, Branwell refuses to speak—about anything—and so Connor is forced to become a detective of sorts to figure out what really happened in the house the day Nikki was hurt. In the course of this tightly written story, Connor learns a great deal about human nature, love, and friendship. Good middle school read.


Lubar, David. Dunk. NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Chad is enthralled by the “Bozo” at the boardwalk who eggs people on through back-handed humor to buy balls in order to knock him off his perch. Chad knows he’d be perfect, but he can’t convince his mother to let him take a job. But when he finds out that the Bozo is his family’s new tenant, he begins to understand that the bozo is just a role, and that he needs to figure out why being the Bozo is so attractive to him. An interesting book about using humor for good and “evil,” about figuring out one’s identity against the backdrop of myriad friend and family issues. Middle/High school.
Lynch, Chris. Whitechurch. HarperCollins, 1999. In a series of short stories and prose poems, we see the relationships between Pauly the incorrigible troublemaker, the enigmatic Lilly, and the usually stable narrator Oakley as they deal with each other and with their own inner problems. High school.
Mayfield, Sue. Drowning Anna. Hyperion, 2002. Anna Goldsmith is smart, pretty, and athletic. But when she moves from London to a new school in a small Yorkshire town, she falls prey to popular Hayley Parkin, a girl who can “make or break” others reputations, and, thus, their lives. Anna attempts suicide early in the book, and it is through her diary that her mother begins to see how her beloved daughter’s life self-destructed, so subtly that no one noticed. An excellent read for high school girls.
Mazer, Norma Fox. Out of Control. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1993. Three young men sexually harass a 16-year-old girl at their school. The strength of the story comes from hearing how the girl and one of her attackers—a young man who later begins to question how he even got pulled into the situation—deal with what has happened to each of them as a result. The story is somewhat dated as the reaction by the associate principal would not be legal in any state today, but the character development still makes it a worthwhile read. Middle/high school.
McCormick, Patricia. Purple Heart. NY: Balzer and Bray, 2009. Young soldier Matt Duffy has been in Iraq long enough to understand how “grey” war is when one is considering issues of loyalty, guilt, revenge, and duty. As he deals with the loss of memory that comes with the head injury he received after a skirmish with “the enemy,” he remembers a young boy who was killed shortly before he, Matt, was injured. But what is their connection? Plagued by his own doubts and fears, Matt has to come to terms with his role in the boy’s death and how he will move on from that point. High school.

Neufeld, John. Boys Lie. New York: DK, Ink, 1999. Assaulted in a pool in New York, Gina must contend with not only her loss of self both physically and emotionally, but, when her family moves to California to start over, deal with a new set of classmates who make assumptions about her because of her body—“she’s stacked”—and the rumors swirling about the reasons she left New York. High school.


Nolan, Han. A Face in Every Window. NY: Harcourt Brace, 1999. JP O’Brien’s life begins unraveling with the death of his grandmother, quickly followed by his mother’s winning of a farmhouse. Mam’s good fortune is extended to all manner of societal outcasts, and JP finds himself and his father being pushed from his mother’s life. JP’s ability to accept and the situation provides the impetus for his eventual understanding of life and his place in it. High school.
Peters, Julie Anne. Define “Normal.” MT Books, 2003. When Antonia joins the new peer counseling program at school, she never dreams that she’ll be chosen to help Jazz, who Antonia perceives as a punked-out druggie gang hanger. But Jazz isn’t what Antonia thought, and the opposite is also true as Jazz begins to find out that Antonia doesn’t have the perfect life she tries to fool people into thinking she has. As the two girls get to know each other, they begin to realize that where their parents can’t help them, the other can. A wonderful ready for middle and high school readers.
Philbrick, Rodman. Freak the Mighty. New York: Scholastic, 1993. A “giant” and a “midget” pair up in a middle

school to show others that they can survive together. A great adventure leads to grief, but the learning is well worth the effort for both characters. A fabulous book, much better than the movie, and one that will certain provide a great deal of discussion in class. A wonderful middle school read.


Plummer, Louise. A Dance for Three. NY: Laurel-Leaf, 2000. Told in three voices, this is the story of Hannah, who gets pregnant and is then summarily rejected by her boyfriend, Milo, who is much too rich and good-looking to deal with a 15-year-old pregnant girlfriend. When Milo’s rejection turns physical, Hannah loses control and ends up in the psych ward of the local hospital. Hannah’s self-discovery during this time helps her to understand why she turned to Milo in the first place, why her mother has been unable to help her in her time of need, and how she will deal with her child after he is born. A solid read for middle and high school students.
Reynolds, Marilyn. No More Sad Goodbyes. NY: Buena Park, CA, 2008. Autumn thinks her life is pretty good; she’s an all-star volleyball player with close friends and a great father and grandmother. But when Autumn gets pregnant after one mistaken encounter with her best male friend and her father and grandmother are killed in a car accident, Autumn is thrust into chaos. Forced to live in the county home, Autumn realizes quickly that she is turning into someone she never wanted to be. Aided by her volleyball coach, Autumn is able to come to terms with her pregnancy and her future. A strong book about decision-making and pregnancy. High School.
Roe, Monica. Thaw. NY: Front Street, 2008. Talented Nordic skier Dane thinks that he can handle anything and push through to victory. But when he’s stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and faces paralysis, he has plenty of time to reconsider his choices and his relationships with his family, friends, and girlfriend. When his parents eventually send him to a neurological treatment center for physical therapy, Dane is condescending to everyone who tries to help him; he knows the prognosis for GB and that in 75% of cases, the person can make a full recovery. What Dane doesn’t realize is that he can’t make that recovery happen on his own, and it is through what he considers first the humiliation of having to be helped by others and then the realization of how he hasn’t “seen” the people around him very clearly that helps him to make both a physical and emotional recovering. High School.
Rorby, Ginny. Hurt Go Happy. NY: Starscape, 2006. Joey Willis is deaf and generally unable to communicate with anyone but her mother as her mother has refused to let her learn sign language. This changes when Joey meets Dr. Mansell and his baby chimp, Sukari--who use sign language to communicate with each other—and who offer to teach and communicate with Joey in this manner. Even though her ability to communicate helps Joey experience more of the world and have greater success in school, she still has to fight her mother’s resistance to signing and, eventually, deal with the death of Dr. Mansell and what will happen to Sukari without someone to look out for her. This becomes a wonderful story of a teen creating her own identity even as it is a story of how we need to honor and protect animals like Sukari. Middle/high school read.
Ruby, Laura. Good Girls. NY: HarperTempest, 2007. Amber considers herself to be a pretty normal teenaged girl: she has a kind of boyfriend, tolerable parents, decent grades, and the desire to generally fit in. But when her picture is taken without her knowledge while she’s in a sexually compromising situation, Amber has to deal with how other people want to define her. The picture is sent to EVERYONE, including her dad, and Amber struggles to come to terms with people calling her “slut” in the hallway, the boyfriend turning away from her in the confusion, and her parents’ attempts to both support and understand her even though they’re horrified by what she’s done. This is a strong book, but teachers should keep in on their shelves carefully because Amber’s compromising position is extremely compromising. High school only.
Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Last Night I Sang to the Monster. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press. Zach ‘s brother, Santiago, has become a real worry for his family. When Zach wakes up in a rehab unit instead of his bedroom, he can’t remember how he came to be there. Worse, he’s not sure he wants to remember; vague memories plague him and his general sense of unease colors everything in his life. Asked to share various thoughts with his doctor and some of the other patients at rehab, Zach begins to remember the pain that Santiago caused the family; but can he actually deal with the reality of what happened when Santiago and his parents reach the confrontation point that changed all of their lives forever? High School.
Schmidt, Gary D. Trouble. Clarion Books, 2008. When Henry’s brother is hit while he’s running own the road, the Smith family reacts in different ways. As Franklin sinks into a coma, the family must deal with the trial of Chay Chouan, the Cambodian teen who hit him and with daughter Louisa’s sudden withdrawal into herself. Then, out of the coma, Franklin says “Katahdin” and Henry decides that he must climb Mr. Katahdin, although he’s not completely sure why. As Henry heads out on his quest, he gets more than he bargained for when he and his best friend Sanborn encounter Chay, who seems to be running away from town. High school.
Sones, Sonya. Stop Pretending: What happened when my big sister went crazy. NY: HarperTempest, 1999. In poem form, Cookie tells the story of her sister’s mental breakdown and its impact on her family. A pheonomenal read with great humor and great pathos. Middle/high school.
Supplee, Suzanne. Artichoke’s Heart. NY: Dutton, 2008. Rosemary’s mom has been on her forever to lose weight, but Rosemary can’t seem to make herself, until Mrs. McCutcheon has a heart attack directly related to her weight. But Rosemary wants the quick drop, so she begins her diet by making herself sick and then turning to diet bars. Along the way, however, she allows herself to accept the help and advice of others, and in doing so, comes to terms with her weight and her family issues. Great read. High school.
Tashjian, Janet. Faultline. NY: Henry Holt, 2003. Budding stand-up comic Becky meets Kip a true rising star in the San Francisco comedy club scene. At first, they simply support each other’s good work, but when the relationship moves into romance, Becky begins to realize that Kip has a troubled side. As Kip’s verbal and physical abuse of Becky escalates, Becky must find it within herself to stop him, before it’s too late for both of them. A remarkable story for high school readers.
Trueman, Terry. Stuck in Neutral. NY: HarperTempest, 2000. Shawn McDaniel was born with a severe case of cerebral palsy, so severe that he has no muscle control whatsoever. To the outside world, he is the intellectual equivalent of a 3 month old with virtually no ability to communicate whatsoever. However, Shawn IS an intelligent teen with total recall, which makes his situation all the worse as he realizes that his well-intentioned father, who has become famous for the poem he wrote about Shawn and his condition, has begun talking publicly about putting people like Shawn “out of their pain and misery.” Excellent middle/high school read.
Trueman, Terry. Cruise Control. NY: HarperTempest, 2004. Shawn’s story continues but with his brother, Paul, taking over the role of main character as we watch Paul struggle to understand his family situation, especially his father’s seeming lack of concern for Shawn and the family’s welfare. Paul is a star basketball player, and as he contemplates his future at college, he also feels guilt at the reality that he will be leaving Shawn and his mother behind to take care of themselves. The anger eats at Paul, and eventually, he has to come to terms with the depth of his hatred and the violence it brings out in him.” Solid high school read.
Vaught, Susan. Trigger. NY: Bloomsbury, 2006. Jersey Hatch tried to commit suicide and is almost successful; but his lack of success leaves him damaged in mind and body. When Jersey recovers enough to go home, he is plagued by “whys.” Why did he try to kill himself; why is his best friend made at him; why is his mother acting as she is. As Jersey tries to put his history back together, he is added by his neighbor, Leza, and her grandmother, Mama Rush, friends from “BEFORE.” But can Jersey live with the fact that he’ll never really know why he tried to kill himself? This is an interesting story of life after recovery and the difficulties of moving on. High school.
Vizzini, Ned. It’s a Funny Kind of Story. NY: Hyperion, 2006. When Craig Gilmer gets into the prestigious Manhattan Executive Pre-professional High School, he thinks that his life is set—he’s on the road to the college of his choice. But at MEP, he’s just one of many smart kids, and his ability to rise to the top puts Craig into a tailspin and he ends up in the psych ward of a local hospital where he can finally come to terms with his depression and the strange path his life has taken. A solid book on teen-age depression. High School.
Vrettos, Adrienne Maria. Skin. NY: Margaret McElderry Books, 2006. Donnie and his family are being torn apart by the joined forces of sister Karen’s anorexia and their father’s inability to accept the family dynamic as it is. This story, through the eyes of Donnie, helps the reader understand the impact on family’s when one member succumbs to the lure of anorexia. Excellent high school read.
Voigt, Cynthia. Izzy, Willy-Nilly. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986. Sixteen-year-old Izzy loses a leg after her

drunken date smashes his car into a tree. In the ensuing weeks, Izzy learns who her real friends are, and also comes to a greater understanding of what kind of woman she will be. Middle/high school.


Whitney, Kim Ablon. See You Down the Road. Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Bridget Daugherty’s life as a Traveler—a group of nomadic con artists—has her questioning so many things in her life: her family dynamic, her feelings for her “arranged fiancé” Patrick, her sense of ethics because of the manner in which her family makes money. Can she escape the arranged marriage and certainty of a life very much like her mothers by running away to her sister’s non-Traveler life, or are her feelings about Patrick enough to keep her a Traveler. An interesting book on a group of people for whom most of us have little knowledge. Good high school read.
Willey, Margaret. Saving Lenny. New York: Bantam, 1990. Jesse and Lenny seem to have the perfect romance,

and shortly after high school graduation, begin living together. However, Lenny begins acting strangely, and Jesse finally finds out from Lenny’s mom that he suffers from clinical depression. Alternating chapters are told from the point of view of Jesse and her friend Kay. Middle/high school.


Wolfsen, Jill. Cold Hands, Warm Heart. NY: Henry Holt, 2009. Dani’s heart has made her an invalid for years, and she and her mother know that her only chance at life will come with someone else’s death. That someone else is 14-year-old gymnast Amanda, who falls and breaks her neck during a meet. Amanda’s family allows a number of her organs to be donated, including her heart. After the transplant, Dani finds herself wondering about the girl who saved her life; in a parallel plot, Tyler, Amanda’s brother, seeks solace in the letters the transplant recipients write to his family. Dani and Tyler’s lives come together in a way that helps both of them deal with Amanda’s death and how her organs impact so many lives. Middle/High school.




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