Why should teens have all the fun?

A couple of months ago I promised you a list of teen books suitable for adult discussions. Sorry to be late. But here it is. These are quick reads, with discussable content, realistic characters, and compelling stories. All the qualities of a good, fun book, and necessary for a lively discussion. Consider inviting teens to the book group when you read one of these novels. Always look at the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature for discussion worthy titles for both adults and teens.

whirligigWhirligig by Paul Fleischman (1998) will have readers eagerly chatting about the small, yet significant, ways we affect each other’s lives. In a selfish and senseless alcohol related accident, ambitious and compassionate honor student Lea is killed by Brent, a self-absorbed, popularity seeking teen. Lea’s mother asks for restitution in the form of intricate wooden toys, whirligigs. She wants the remorseful Brent to travel to the four corners of the country and install these amusing sculptures painted with Lea’s face. Armed with an open-ended bus ticket and a how-to book, Brent sets off to serve his sentence and along the way learns that his own life isn’t over and Lea’s spirit lives on. Readers may be perplexed at first by the shifts in time and point of view, but they will be intrigued by the many emotions and actions Brent’s artwork elicits and ponder the interconnectedness of life.

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown (2009) is a debut novel with shocking content that is treated very respectfully. Five months after a high school shooting, Valerie is tentatively going back to school. Her boyfriend, Nick, was the shooter and he was working from a list the two of them had made one afternoon in a fit of anger. The media view Valerie as a hero for saving the life of a classmate (whose name she put on the list), but her classmates ostracize her for not stopping Nick sooner. Adult readers should carefully examine the motivations of each person, including the “villains.” Brown goes to great lengths to humanize the situation and her characters and is not interested in the easy answer.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2009) will generate conversation immediately due to its inspiring source material, Don Quioxte. Cameron is studying the classic novel in English when he is overtaken by a searing hallucination involving fire giants. Not long after he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, “mad cow.” Confined to a hospital room he shares with Gonzo, a hypochondriac dwarf, Cameron is visited by Dulcie, a punk pink angel who urges him to get out of bed, find a cure for himself, and save the world. With Gonzo in tow, the two set off on a hilarious and heart-breaking quest. Good topics for discussors will be the many ways this book is connected to the Spanish classic and how does one know when one has truly lived? Finally, readers will have fun debating whether or not Cameron’s fantastic journey is all in his head or on the road. Going Bovine is the current Printz Award Winner.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2003) was a Printz Award Honor Book and also works off of another classic of literature, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. northern-lightThe murder of Grace Brown at an upstate New York resort inspired this historical novel about Mattie, a bright, smart young woman torn between poverty and the pursuit of an education or marriage to a wealthy young playboy. It will be easy for readers to compare the choices young women make today with those Mattie must make in 1906, however, lead readers to the more challenging topic of comparing Mattie to Grace. How similar and different are their situations? Readers will also enjoy talking about obligations to family and the nature of truth when it does more harm than good.

This is a favorite topic and I’ll be adding more titles in the coming months.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

1 Comment on "Why should teens have all the fun?"

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  1. bpgourmet@yahoo.com' Catlady says:

    In one of my book clubs, the member for the month gets to select the book. Earlier this year, I facilitated a discussion about “The House of the Scorpion” by Nancy Farmer, a Newbery Honor book. The group LOVED it. The characters, the plot, the metaphors, the symbolism. For my next pick, I think I’ll consider the Whirligig – it’s an intriguing story about a young adult growing up fast.

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