I made myself a goal for this summer: to read as many young adult books as I could, so that I would have more to recommend to my students when school resumes. Last year, I started taking my classes to the library every other week. My students would sometimes ask me, “What should I read?” Sometimes I was stumped. Part of that was because our school library is small and doesn’t always have the biggest selection. Also, during the school year, I run out of time to read as much as I’d like. So the day before school ended, I went to my local public library and started on my list. My eighth graders gave me suggestions, and that’s where I started.
Charlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo
This book was not on the recommendation list from my students, but the son of a friend of mine suggested it. I actually read the first book in the series (Midnight for Charlie Bone) last year, but I couldn’t remember it well enough, so I picked up the second book. If you enjoy Harry Potter-type books, but maybe you struggle a bit with reading comprehension, this might be the series for you. The reading level is a bit lower, but the topic is similar to Harry Potter. Charlie Bone discovers suddenly that he has a special gift: he can hear people in photographs talking. As a result, he is sent to a special school for the “Endowed” (those with supernatural gifts, such as flying, being able to communicate with animals, and hypnotizing others.) Students with other, more normal gifts (specifically those related to musical, theatrical, or visual arts) also attend this school to legitimize it with the public. Charlie meets some friends and encounters some mean and nasty characters, too. The overall arch of Charlie’s adventures have to do with finding his father (missing and presumed dead) and learning more about the Red King, from whom all Endowed children are descended.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A few students suggested this book to me over and over. It does not seem to have found wide-spread popularity like some books such as The Fault in Our Stars has, but those who like the book, LOVE the book. Jacob’s grandfather (presumed a little bit crazy) suffers a violent attack which kills him. Jacob witnesses the death, but when he tells others what he saw, they think he is crazy, too — or at least has suffered from some kind of shock that has caused him to imagine things that do not exist. As part of his healing process, he travels to Wales to visit Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, where his grandfather once lived. While there, he realizes that his grandfather was much more than Jacob imagined, and begins to suspect that there may be something special about himself as well. The book is part fantasy, part mystery, and it is illustrated with real vintage photography around which the author weaves his story. This is a high-interest novel with slightly challenging vocabulary. I think both adults and teens would enjoy it.
Wake by Lisa McMann
There was a book on my recommendation list that had no author listed by it, but I looked for it anyway. I found a book with the same name, but it was the third in a a series. Not knowing if this was the right book or not, I decided to check out the first book in the series: Wake. Janie is a 17-year-old with an unusual problem: she gets pulled into others’ dreams. She witnesses others falling, or giving a class presentation without pants on, or running from an unseen pursuer. She has no control over the experience, and can get sucked into any person’s dream any time she is in close proximity. It is unsettling and disturbing to Janie, and she learns much more than she wanted to know about her classmates (who sometimes fall asleep in class.) The book has an interesting premise, but I found the writing style less than exciting. Also there is a significant amount of gratuitous swearing and some adult imagery. The reading level is on the lower side, so even struggling readers would have no trouble understanding the content. I would not necessarily recommend this book, and I doubt I will read any of the others in the series, but perhaps someone will enjoy it more than I did.
I’m currently reading two more books: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. I can already tell you that Call the Midwife would likely be enjoyable only to students who plan to enter a medical career as an obstetrician, obstetrical nurse, or nurse midwife. Adults, particularly those interested in history (specifically of the 1950’s), midwifery, or childbirth, or those who have enjoyed the PBS/BBC series by the same name, might like reading it, though.