What doesn’t this book talk about? Being the child of immigrants. Border crossings. Mexico’s drug war. Family loyalty. Sibling rivalry. Mental Illness. Suicide. I found this book gripping, eye-opening, and in a word, amazing. Way to go, Erika Sanchez.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas has written a novel to inspire social change and ignite a generation of teenagers to pursue social justice. She has woven the threads of hip hop, the Black Lives Matter movement, and her own life story together to create the stunning story of how one teenage girl’s life changes when the best friend of her childhood is shot by a policeman right next to her.
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
It’s not easy being Maya in the wake of 9/11. This Indian-American Muslim teenage protagonist loves making films, and hates being stereotyped. While she is trying to fall in love and find her way, she is bombarded with the judgments of others. When tragedy strikes her state, it strikes her too, and she and her family must figure out what to do next.
Perhaps the most powerful part of this book, though, is the way Ahmed simultaneously shares Maya’s story and the story of the character who eventually brings the tragic climax. This tragic antagonist is not stereotyped and left anonymous, instead his past and the forces that shaped him are shared in eloquent snapshots.
Turtles all the Way Down, by John Green
John Green has walked down many narrative paths, but this one is wholly new. As Aza shares her daily life with her friends and her love interest, she also shares her intense struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. Somehow Green manages to convey the spinning mental anguish of the disorder through snatches of poetic text as well as the overall arc of the story.
I’ve read very few young adult books that can really take the reader behind the veil of mental illness, and this is one of them. Since my own mother and brother have struggled with very difficult mental illnesses, I can say that I appreciate that John Green is sharing this particular story with teenagers. Perhaps this is the novel of the five where I can most see aspects of my own story reflected, and it does matter to me.
I hope some of these amazing YA novels sounds just right for your reading library. They pack a powerful impact.
Looking for a fun activity to check in with your independent readers, whatever wonderful book is in their hands! I’ve got your back! Sign up below for this book hashtags handout, a fun and easy way to find out how your students are getting along with their books.