Sunday, June 6, 2010

Never Too Old For Summer Reading

I must have been destined to be a reading teacher from the start because I have always loved reading. I didn't get the name "Nerdwood" for nothing. I still remember many, many sweltering summer afternoons in Dallas where my sister and I would do nothing but read. We went to the public library several times a week to check out a new stack of books. I think I've mentioned it before, but in my family, going to the library was a reward. If you were bad, you didn't get to go to the library. (Maybe you can tell that my mom is a teacher too.) Every summer, we would participate in the summer reading program at the library. I don't know what was so alluring about it, but I seriously LOVED to track my minutes, put my name up on the library window, and get little slips of paper for free meals at Chick-fil-a.

Even though I'm no longer eligible for the summer reading program at the library, I still get excited about summer reading. I have a stack of books that I'm just waiting to read. In honor of summer reading, I thought I'd share the best books I've read lately. You may notice that most of these are for young adults. I teach seventh grade, so it's kind of my job to know about the hottest titles. However, if you haven't tried young adult literature, what are you waiting for? Take Twilight for example. You know you read it, and you liked it. Admit it. Young adult literature is fun to read and can be very well written with some fantastic messages. Many of the books below are PERFECT beach or vacation reads. If you have any children or young audits in your life, you could also recommend these great summer reads. So get reading! Here are my top ten summer reading picks.

What's on your summer reading list?

This is one of the best books I've ever read. It was nominated for a Newberry Award this year, and it certainly deserved it. This is a simple, yet beautifully complex story about a girl named Harper and her little brother Hemingway who live in a motel with their mom who works three jobs to keep the family afloat. Their alcoholic father has long since left the family leaving far-reaching scars. He tells Harper, an aspiring young writer, that her writing is garbage. Guess who comes to the rescue... a teacher!! The characters and setting in this story are wonderfully realistic. When I finished this book, I cried. It was the most satisfying "book cry" I've had in a long while. SO GOOD!
I read "Heist Society" cover to cover one day on my lounge chair in Hawaii. For some reason, I LOVE heist stories. I've always enjoyed "Oceans 11" and movies like that. This book is a clever twist on a heist story. Young Katarina, the daughter of a professional thief, wants to get away from the family business, but she gets sucked back in for the most dangerous heist yet. This book was fast paced and exciting - pure fun.

This is advertised as a young adult book, but it's definitely high school/adult. If you read ONE series this summer, I would highly recommend The Luxe. These are the ultimate vacation books. (Think "Gossip Girl") I am OBSESSED with them. To be honest, the covers lured me in initially, but the stories are pure gossip-y goodness. The books are about high society and aristocracy in Manhattan in the late 1800s. There is plenty of drama - love triangles, faked deaths, rich benefactors, swanky parties, and maybe a love child or two. There are currently 4 books in the series: Luxe, Rumors, Envy, and Splendor. I have devoured them all and am desperately hoping she's working on a fifth.

This is a heartwarming new book by famed young adult author, Sharon Draper. This book tells the story of Melanie, a young girl with cerebral palsy. She is in a wheelchair and can not move or speak. She is in "special" classes at school where they teach her the alphabet year after year. However, Melanie is trapped inside her own mind because she is actually a genius, but has no way of telling anyone or showing it. When she gets a new communication device, she finally earns her way onto the school quiz bowl team, only to be devastated by a heartbreaking series of events. Very interesting window into the world of a child with a disability.

You may have heard some buzz about this book lately. Lots of adults are picking it up right now! This science fiction thriller tells the story of a world far into the future where the Earth is divided up into "districts" and the corrupt, bloodthirsty government intentionally starves its people to keep them under control. Each year, two "tributes" from every district must participate in "The Hunger Games": A fight to the death. The last person alive wins food and fame for their district. The whole world watches (reality TV style) as the tributes murder each other in a man-made arena full of deathly obstacles. This intense and gripping story contains very sophisticated themes of power, corruption, and friendship and serves as a warning for what could happen in our future.
Paper Towns is a sophisticated high school / adult level book. This is a twisted tale that I can best describe as "weird". But I loved it. It was voted as the "best high school book of the year". High school student Quentin gets re-acquainted with his childhood friend, Margo, just weeks before their graduation. Margo is a free spirit and does a lot of crazy things. One day Margo disappears and leaves what seems to be a trail of clues for only Quentin to follow. He goes on a quest to find her, and believes she may have committed suicide. The story weaves in the concept of "paper towns" fake towns that map makers sometimes include on maps - towns that exist only on paper. This was different from any book I've read. Very intriguing with an interesting message.
This is a fun, quick read about Frankie Landau-Banks, a young rich girl who attends a swanky, elite boarding school. However, she is not your typical prep school girl. She wants to hang out with the boys. When she finds herself the girlfriend of the most popular senior on campus, she decides she wants to be in his all-male secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. When she is denied entrance, she begins to enact a series of pranks aimed at making the boys in the society do her bidding.
In this sci-fi/medical thriller, a young girl, Jenna Fox, is critically injured in a horrific car accident. Her doting/obsessive parents, in a desperate act to save her live, replace her body with space age material and replace her brain with a computer that they slowly upload with memories from her past. The story tells Jenna's journey to find out what really happened to her as she discovers what her parents have done and how it will affect the rest of her life.

This book is probably the most popular book of all time with my middle school boys. I loved it too! Skeleton Creek is the brainchild of a very creative author - Patrick Carman - who wanted to think of a way to get reluctant boys to love reading. He created a new genre - a multimedia book. This is a combination book/movie. You'll notice that the book is packaged in a DVD cover. So smart. The book is written as a journal. Every chapter or so, you'll come to a page with a website and a password. Readers are instructed to log into a special website where you can view a creepy "Blair Witch"-like video that goes with the book. I had boys finish this book in one day and literally grab it out of my hands. I myself watched the videos late at night (mistake) and they scared the heck out of me. It's awesome.

This beautiful short novel by Kate DiCamillo is a fantastically complicated woven tale of fantasy involving an elephant, a magician, an old soldier, an orphan, and a separated family. It is just pure joy to read. Beautiful prose and sweet, sweet ending.
So what are you waiting for? Head to the library or the bookstore and hit the pool chair! You can even treat yourself to a Chick-fil-a after you've read a few books. :-) Happy reading!



Liz said...

OH THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!! You know I love me some tween literature and this is perfect! :) xoxoxoxox

Lane said...

Hi Katie! My sister Marisa recommended that I check out your blog - I'm so glad! I LOVE summer reading, too! My fiance teaches middle school science, and he's all about young adult fiction. I've just gotten through the Hunger Games series and can't wait to read the last one in August. Thanks so much for this list - I'll definitely use it!
-Elena Serna :)

Sweet Simplicity said...

You have a good list! I posted about my latest book obsession yesterday.

Shayla said...

This is awesome! I just signed up for my new Tulsa library card yesterday and have been looking for good books to read on the beach in a couple weeks. I plan to add a few of these to my list.

Cassie said...

After I finish reading my myriad of required multi-cultural literature for my grad class (which I honestly do love...) I will start on this list!

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