Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Some Young Adult Novels Worth Reading

It's July 1st.  To me that means it is finally summer! I work in the months of June and August doing summer school, so July is my summer. I start a graduate class on the 7th, but I still am so excited to be able to make my own schedule this month and enjoy that flexibility.

Through the month of June, after work I spent a lot of time reading, taking naps, and working out. I don't know about you, but naps might be one of my favorite parts of summer.

I thought I would share some of my young adult reads from the last week.  I have always enjoyed young adult reads anyway, but now that I am moving from grades 4-5 to grades 7-8 I have even more reason to read them. I have been catching up on some of the blog posts about the Reading in the Wild book study over at the The Brown Bag Teacher.  I need to start reading the book, so I can catch up.

Now that I will be teaching Middle School, I have had to give a lot of thought to the novel studies we will do, as well as the books I want to have available in my classroom library. With 8th grade especially, I feel it is important to do some classics and really prepare students for the types of reading that will be required in high school. At the same time, I want my students first and foremost to develop a love of reading. Hopefully I can model my love of reading by mentioning the books that I read. I usually read at least 1-2 novels a week despite the fact that I work full time and go to graduate school. Someone told me that once they became a graduate student they had to give up pleasure reading.  I do not buy that.  We all have extra moments in our week.  It is a matter of what we decide to do with them.  We can steel moments to read, just like we steel moments to play on our phones.

Young Adult Books I Read this Week

I am going to link up a day late with Teach Mentor Texts for #IMWAYR. 

I mentioned last week I was starting this book. This book was a historical fiction spy novel written as a fictional memoir.  It is about two girls during World War II: one is a pilot and one is a spy. The first section is written from the point of view of the spy, who has been captured by the Nazis.  You know there has to be some plot twists somewhere, and you find out what they are in the second part of the novel (which is from the pilot's point of view.)  This book was absolutely unique and unlike anything I have ever read. I would  probably recommend it for a High School audience more than Middle School due to content.  I will still probably have in my classroom library though.


I started this book at the same time as Code Name Verity.  I am almost done with it.  It is a very easy read.  I wish I had found it sooner because this book would be appropriate even in 5th grade.  I would recommend probably using it with grades 5-7. It is about the Navajo Code Talkers.  What is great about this book is that you could use it as part of a Native American unit or a World War II unit.  You also get to see the Navajo experience of the boarding schools that were created for Native American children.  I think helping kids understand different points of view on history is important. 


I found out about this book at NAGC last year during Bob Seney's presentation on the Best Books of 2013 for Young Adults. It is about a fictional empire based on China where every family has a 2 child limit.  Because so many parents are getting rid of their girl children, the City of a Thousand Dolls was created. In the city unwanted girls can be dropped off where they are trained to learn different trades.  When they are teens, the girls can be sold to be be someone's wife, mistress, or apprentice.  The main character in the novel is an interesting girl with the ability to talk to cats.  Some girls in the city start dying, so the main character is trying to solve the mystery as to why the girls are being murdered.  This was a fabulous book.  This is a book that could be read just as a pleasure read, but it also could be read for some interesting cultural discussions. I would recommend it for a middle school or high school audience. The content is actually very clean.

This was the sequel to Grave Mercy.  I can't wait to read the third book in this trilogy. It takes place in Brittany in the late 1400's. Brittany was fighting to remain an independent nation outside of France. This trilogy is about some girls who are trained to be assassins as part of a secret order, who find themselves entrenched in political royal intrigue.  One of the most fascinating parts of this trilogy is the history surrounding the fact that when the Catholic church came to some of the Celtic regions they adopted some of the old Celtic gods as saints to pacify the Celtic peoples.  Some people in the areas kept to their old gods.  Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph are both hard to put down.  I would recommend them for a high school audience and older. 

I listened to this on audio this week.  I cried through several sections.  It is about a yellow fever outbreak in 1793 in Philadelphia.  This book would be a great book to get students to understand the devastation that disease has caused throughout history, as well as how circumstances often caused kids to grow up very quickly.  You could tie this into History and Science both easily.  The book was well-written.   Once again, I wish I had read it sooner.  I would have used this book with 5th grade.  While the topic is heavy, the content could still be appropriate for 5th grade.  I would probably recommend this book with grades 5-8.  It would be an easy read for 8th grade, but still very appropriate for teaching US History. I am thinking I will use this as an audio book this year and tie it into discussions of germs and disease in Science and the role of disease in history. 

Pirates! by Celia Rees
This was my second audio book this week. I found the book on this reading list earlier in the week.  This book caught my attention because I read the Bloody Jack series about a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.  There is something highly entertaining about being able to combine the adventure genre with historical fiction.  Pirates! was a highly enjoyable read, and very well done on audio. Bloody Jack is lighter in mood and more over the top, but a great read for Middle School. Pirates! is about an English lady who ends up becoming a pirate to avoid an arranged marriage to a cruel Jamaican plantation owner.  The mood of this book is more serious than Bloody Jack, but both books would be good for older middle school audiences to high school. 

What did you read this week?


  1. I love hearing about new books to read! Thanks for the suggestions!


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  3. Hi there April. We're having a War and Poetry reading theme soon at GatheringBooks, so I'd probably try to find Code Name Verity in our library as it seems to fit in quite nicely.

    The last time I attended the NAGC back in 2011, I enjoyed Bob's presentations as well on YA literature, particularly the Stonewall awardees. Will be presenting this year in November about PBBs, hope to catch you there.


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