So You Want to Read YA?: Guest Post from Sarah Andersen

This week’s “So You Want to Read YA?” guest post comes from Sarah Andersen.

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Sarah teaches high school English in Clio, MI.  She’s passionate about reading and hopes to foster this same passion for reading in her students.  You can talk books with Sarah on her blog Y.A. Love  or on Twitter @yaloveblog.  (I’d like to note the lovely photo of Sarah there cuts off the person she’s next to, which is Lisa McMann).

I’ve been avid reader of YA for six years and a high school English teacher for five years. Connecting my students with great books is one of my passions, but I also love introducing YA to teachers, librarians, parents, etc. YA has grown in popularity since I started teaching, which is really exciting because it continues to provide books for every reader. 
I love reading YA, and I have my favorite topics and genres, but I read it with my students in mind. I’m constantly trying to balance what I read and make sure to include books dealing with sports, problems at home, relationships, fantasy, etc. because I have readers with diverse tastes in my classroom. Since this is how my brain works when I’m picking out books, it made sense to me to focus this post on the most popular titles in my classroom right now. I’m breaking it down according to what the guys and girls are reading. These titles are often big hits with my reluctant readers as well. If you’re a teacher/librarian/parent or even a teen, and you’d like to start reading YA but don’t know where to start, these are the titles I recommend beginning with. 
What The Girls Are Reading:
**Many of these books deal with love and relationships, but it’s what my girls are usually looking for.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (Goodreads): I positively love Courtney Summers. Cracked Up to Be and her other books, Some Girls Are and Fall for Anything, have grown in popularity just this year. Parker, the main character, is suffering and feeling responsible for something horrible, but she hasn’t told anyone about it. Consequently, she’s been acting out and her personality has completely changed. Quite a few of my students look for edgy reads about characters with real problems. They also want a character they can connect with emotionally and personally. Almost every single one of my girls that’s read Cracked Up to Be enjoyed it and went on to read the rest of Courtney Summers’ books.

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (Goodreads): Personally, my favorite book by Sarah Ockler is Fixing Delilah, but my girls (my reluctant girls in particular) love this book. They like the romance, the first love, and the friendship between Anna and her best friend Frankie. Even if readers haven’t experienced a loss like Anna or Frankie, they’ve most likely had a best friend that’s helped them through a problem or that they’ve gotten into a big argument with. The summer atmosphere gives the book a light-hearted feel while dealing with big issues. 

Forever by Judy Blume (Goodreads): Forever is classic YA originally published in 1975. It’s an excellent example of first love and the ups and downs of relationships. There’s quite a bit of sexual activity in Forever, but my girls always tell me that yes, there’s a lot of sex, but that it teaches girls that relationships don’t always last forever. Many of my girls in class are head over heels in love with someone. I like knowing that there’s a good book out there for them to read after a break up, or if they’re in one of these relationships. I don’t hand them this book to burst their bubbles. I hand them this book because the characters feel the same way they do. Forever by Judy Blume is almost always a winner for my reluctant girls in class.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads): Novels in verse are becoming increasingly more popular in my classroom. Many of my students start with Ellen Hopkins, but Lisa Schroeder’s novels are quickly gaining popularity. I Heart You, You Haunt Me is the most popular choice. Many of my girls will walk into my room telling me how quickly they read this book and how much they loved it. One of my students is in my YA Lit class right now because she wants to enjoy reading. She was at a complete loss for where to start and which books to read. I Heart You, You Haunt Me was one of many books I set aside for her, and she ended up reading three of Lisa Schroeder’s four books in a week! The imagery in this novel is beautiful, and for so few words, readers really connect with the characters and the story. 

**Other Popular Titles: Hold Still by Nina LaCour, Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal, The Boy Book by E. Lockhart, Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
What The Guys Are Reading:
Right Behind You by Gail Giles (Goodreads): This has been a “homerun” book for so many of my boys. It’s usually the first couple pages that hook them because we learn that Kip set another child on fire when he was nine. We don’t know all the specifics right away, but it’s enough to keep my students reading. Kip has lived a rough life after this incident including a name change, moving out of state, etc. He’s a vulnerable character with a tough shell. The boys in class can relate to him for a variety of reasons including being angry for one reason or another, being afraid to open up, living a rough life, and more. also gives readers a chance to understand a character unlike themselves and learn to empathize with people like Kip.
Trapped by Michael Northrop (Goodreads): Many students have imagined what it would be like to get trapped in school, but Trapped actually allows the reader to experience it. Many of my reluctant boys enjoyed Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, but they haven’t read or enjoyed a book since. Trapped has been a winner for these boys. They enjoy the suspense and wondering whether anyone will survive. Plenty of my girls in class have enjoyed Trapped as well.

Paranoid Park by Blake Nelson (Goodreads): The mystery in Paranoid Park really grabs my guys in class. I guess it doesn’t hurt that the main character is responsible for killing someone, even though it was self-defense. The story revolves around the character’s guilt and his indecision whether or not he should turn himself in. Paranoid Park has grown in popularity this year because many of my boys in class have been sharing it and discussing it.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads): I’m always searching for books with humor because I’ve been told that I don’t have enough “funny books” in my class library. Stupid Fast is a gem of a book that’s humorous, but also tackles family issues and fitting in. Felton is authentic and easy to relate to. He’s trying to handle his mom checking out and falling into a deep depression, his annoying little brother, becoming a good football player, and falling in love for the first time. It’s an all-around fantastic book that I can’t recommend enough.

**Other Popular Titles: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick, Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

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  1. says

    Oh man, I just cannot take Forever seriously. Why? Ralph.

    This is all I have to say right now, since that's the only one of these I've read, although I really want to read more Courtney Summers.

  2. says

    Great post! I also teach high school English in Michigan (about 70 miles from Sarah) and am always looking for more book recs for my students, especially male students. I will definitely check out Right Behind You and Trapped. Thanks, Sarah!

  3. says

    Great list of recommendations! I'll definitely be picking up most of these.

    I read FOREVER in high school, before my first real relationship, and it has stayed with me and kind of helped me to keep my head up since then.

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