Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:

In high school, teens are made to read the classics - Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens - but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

Here are five that immediately came to mind.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and
discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Brilliant dialogue. Amazing voice. Powerful messages. These three novels dive heart-first into the reprecussions of actions, even the little ones you never think will hurt.

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green's arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

Why this one? John Green is a literary genius. The book deservingly won the Printz Award. For many of us there is that moment that defines us, the difference between our befores and afters, that moment that shapes our perception of the world and the people and things around us. And, well, I just think every teen should be inspired to pursue their own "Great Perhaps."

And lastly, I think every high school should mandate this series.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Fighting for what you believe in the ugliest face of adversity? Having a voice? Making the right choice even though the conseuqences look bleak?

Emotional intensity, heart-stopping action, beautiful prose, incredible voice. Yep. Definitely gets my vote for required reading.

How about YOU? What book(s) would you add to the mandated school reading list?

PS - Are you NaNo-ing it? Check out the YA Confidential scoop on NaNo teens, comment, and enter for a chance to win a 10-page critique! Click here for details!


  1. These are all brilliant books. Would they have the same impact if they were teacher set?

  2. Oooooh nice choices!

    And I love what Beck said lol it's so true!

    But I do remember liking Catcher in the Rye and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest for their rage against the machine qualities, despite being school-assigned.

  3. I've been reading good things about Before I Fall ... I think it's time to check it out by myself ;)
    Nice list!

  4. Great list! I'm in the middle of Looking For Alaska and just read Before I Fall (all the others I read a while ago.) I've taught Speak and Hunger Games, to wild success (they will probably also make my list!)

  5. Yes, yes, yes, and MORE yes!

    Okay, I really need to read Looking for Alaska!

  6. Brilliant picks! Before i Fall was such an amazing read. I've been hearing about Thirteen Reasons Why lately and need to read that one.

  7. The Hunger Games and Thirteen Reasons Why would both me on my list for sure. Great list!

  8. Your first three had me thinking, YES, I should have added that on my list too :)

  9. I agree with Speak. In addition to the difficult subject matter, the prose is beautiful.

    I'm not sure I agree with Thirteen Reasons Why, however. It's a good book, but it isn't a universal representation of suicide. While the book would resonate with students who are being bullied, there are a lot of people who aren't "victims" of bullies or bad circumstances, but who nonetheless suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. (See Hannah Moskowitz' review.) Additionally, there was a lot of hostility against Hannah Baker in that many people who read the book found her to be a whiny girl who didn't have a real reason to kill herself. Seeing that kind of attitude from your peers wouldn't exactly help someone who really was considering suicide.

  10. YES! What a great list. I was so happy to learn how many high schools actually are teaching SPEAK. So, so important!

  11. I actually read SPEAK in middle school for my GT class. It wasn't a regular class requirement, but it was on a list. And THE HUNGER GAMES is on my list as well. I recently got my grandmother to read it, and she says she's hooked now, haha!

  12. I would require every single one of those books. I love all of them. Fantastic list!

  13. Great choices--there's a balance here between what teens love to read and what they can learn from.

  14. I've only read Before I Fall (which I didn't get into as much as others) and the Hunger Games (and I would put that one on a list too) from your list. But I think it's interesting that people come away from books with so many different ideas and interpretations, and I agree that teens should be give the chance to do that for themselves. By reading books like these that raise questions and stimulate discussions.

  15. Speak and The Hunger Games were both on my list, too! And I've talked to people who've taught them, and apparently they've worked out well.

  16. This is a dangerous question to ask me, because of my English degree and because of the fact that I actually LIKE stuffy old literature.

    I'm not sure what I would assign people (the potential! It's too much!) but there are definitely works I'd want to make teachers wait until either senior year or college to teach, because there was such a difference between how much I got out of something when I was 14 and when I was 18. I'd say hold off on most Shakespeare and Paradise Lost for sure. I have a personal hatred for 2/3 of the Bronte sisters so according to me nobody ever has to read that stuff, ever. Anything like Moby Dick is way too long and boring to expect a high school student to read it. I definitely didn't. That was one of the few times I did sparknotes in high school.

    Here is one thing I know I'd do: I'd assign something like La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Keats, and then I'd make everyone write their own poem from the woman's perspective. Oh, and Robert Browning--My Last Duchess AND Porphyria's Lover. Ok those are poems, not books, but I can't help myself!

    But we would definitely read feminist stuff. And probably Harry Potter.

  17. Awesome picks! I just read BEFORE I FALL last week, and it was so so good.

  18. Love that you included ALASKA... me too, of course! And I'm wishing I would have put THE HUNGER GAMES on my list as well. I can't imagine a teenager who WOULDN'T love it!

  19. I like the sound of the Lauren oliver one! Great list.

  20. Oh! Guess what? In my school there actually IS a class reading The Hunger Games. I am very jealous of them. :D

  21. PS. Apparently my comment the other day didn't stick, but you won the prize from my blog.

  22. Yes, we are totally on the same page with our choices. I Iove it.

  23. Brilliant choices! I agree wholeheartedly!!

  24. I agree with you on Hunger Games. I think it shows what violence truly is and the impact it truly has on teens (Katniss has a serious case of PTSD). Teens needs to read this to know that violence is permanent, serous, and dangerous. It's not all Bond-fantasy-cool-explosions.


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