A Little YA Love

I have finished reading some really good young adult books in the last several weeks, so today I’m gonna show those books, and their authors, a little love.

Second Hand Heart         Deadline

The Book Thief   Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories

I most recently finished Chris Crutcher’s Deadline,  so we’ll start there. I was introduced to Chris Crutcher this summer by my professor-turned-friend Dr. Katie Mason during an adolescent lit class I took with her at Wichita State University.

Deadline is about Ben Wolf, an 18 year old high school senior who finds out he has a terminal blood disease and he will be lucky to survive long enough to graduate. Ben decides not only to forgo treatment, but also not to tell anyone he is dying in hopes of living the rest of his life “normally.”  What he doesn’t realize is this decision will cut him off from vital support down the road and leave the one person he doesn’t want to hurt feeling betrayed and alone.  While this book is about a young man facing death, it is also about life and the relationships we all need to help us navigate life and everything in between.

Next up is Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde, who is also the author of the fabulous Pay it Forward (yes, the movie was based on this book).  Now it’s possible that Catherine might not classify this novel as young adult, but it meets the general criteria for YA, so for me, it’s YA. This book came out in the UK before it hit the US this summer. I am lucky enough to have a online friendship with Catherine and she gave me an ebook version to read and review.

I was initially intrigued by the title and was wondering how this heart would be “second hand.”  It turns out 19 year old female protagonist, Vida, needs a heart transplant and is lucky enough to get one in the opening chapter. But the “new” heart comes with feelings and memories that are not Vida’s, prompting her to embark on a journey that is driven by these memories.  One thing I really liked about this book is the narrative is shared by Vida and Richard, who is the husband of the woman whose heart now beats within Vida’s chest. This shared narrative lets the reader explore both sides of the gift of life that is organ donation.

The third book on the list is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book is set in Nazi Germany during Hitler’s reign.  I first learned of this book this summer when I read a list of 20 “Must Read” YA titles. I was immediately intrigued by the synopsis and quickly got my hands on a copy. I wasn’t actually able to give it my full attention until a few of weeks ago, but there is no doubt in my mind that this book belongs on a list of 20 “Must Read” YA titles. I have read a lot of books over the years that have impacted me in significant ways and left me in awe of the amazing talent of their authors. The Book Thief is one of the most amazing books I have read. The writing style, while unique, is outstanding, and Zusak’s use of figurative language is stunning. I can easily see this book as a staple in High School English classes, replacing outdated canonical works. I look forward to reading more from this author, and I will be reading I Am the Messenger in the future.

Last but not least, we have Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones. This book is a must read for teachers, parents, teens, and anyone else who wants to put an end to bullying. I heard about this book through a couple of Facebook connections, and I immediately knew I had to get my hands on this book as soon as it came out. I am VERY glad that I did.

As a middle school teacher, I see behavior that is clearly bullying, but most of what I see is “friendly fire” between students. It is sometimes difficult to see the line between playful banter among friends and hurtful remarks that really sting. And, sadly, many students will not say anything to anyone about these remarks and will instead hold their hurt inside.  This book helps us see some of those blurred lines more clearly. This book shows bullying in its various stages and in its various disguises. I have shared many of the stories in this book with my students as a read aloud, and it has sparked some good conversation.

I think it has been helpful for them to see themselves in these stories, because sometimes they’re the victim, sometimes they’re the bystander, and sometimes they’re the perpetrator.  Bullying has gotten so out of control, and unfortunately, is deeply ingrained into the culture of our schools. It’s time we stand up and speak up to end bullying, and this book is a good place to start

Other good reads by these featured authors:

Whale Talk and The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher

Jumpstart the World and Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall

The Need series by Carrie Jones


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