spring ya wrap-up

Generally speaking, I characterize young adult literature in one of two ways: books I would recommend to young adults, or books I would recommend to anyone.  (I suppose there’s a third category as well — books that I wouldn’t recommend at all.)  This spring, I’ve read some of each, but I’ve also thought of an additional grouping: books that I would recommend to teachers for young adult classrooms.  Here’s a quick summary of the YA books I’ve read this spring and which of these categories I would place them in:

I have yet to read an E.L. Konigsburg novel that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone – adolescents, adults, teachers, family pets – and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place is no exception.  Konigsburg’s strength is her ability to dream up obscure situations and eccentric characters to go with them, but at the same time to make them relatable enough for her readers to feel as though they’re a part of the story.  In Outcasts, 12-year-old Margaret Rose Kane finds herself facing a series of injustices.  With her parents out of the country for the summer, she first has to take on the unfairness of camp life and then, when rescued by her uncles and brought to stay with them, discovers a much larger challenge to tackle.  Full of absolutely Konigsburg-ian characters, Outcasts  has both humor and heart, and raises questions about the importance of family, art, and staying true to oneself.

 Nick Hornby’s Slam, on the other hand, is one of those books I’d recommend primarily to young adults, boys in particular.  Generally speaking, Hornby is a hit-and-miss author for me.  I really enjoyed About a Boy and his newest, Juliet Naked, but never finished A Long Way DownSlam fall somewhere in between.  In it, Sam is a fifteen-year-old whose life revolves around skating (aka skateboarding, but he hates it when people call it that) — at least, until he meets and falls for Alicia.  Slam offers an accurate view of teenage life and certainly touches on some of the biggest struggles teens may potentially face, but at a few points in the book, Sam falls asleep and wakes up months later in his own future.  These flash forward points feel forced and awkward, and while they might capture the attention of a teen reader, just kind of annoyed me.  It’s not a bad book, all in all, but I’d probably recommend that adults looking for a Hornby book steer clear of his YA work.

I liked The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan’s first installment in his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, but it felt very…well, adolescent.  It contains a lot of action and a lot of name-calling, both of which are probably more likely to be appreciated by preteens than your average adult reader.  But I saw great potential in it for classroom use — as a classroom text itself, but even more importantly, as a gateway for studying ancient Greek mythology.  In The Lightning Thief, our protagonist is 12-year-old Percy Jackson, a kid who can’t seem to stay out of trouble, no matter how hard he tries.  This, it turns out, is because he is the son of a god — a hero, or half-blood.  And although he is mortal, his half-godliness attracts the attention of mythological monsters that are trying to do him in.  To make matters worse, a war seems to be brewing among the most powerful of the Olympian gods — and only Percy has a chance at stopping it. 

Throughout the book, Riordan introduces us to various Greek gods and monsters, as well as the stories of heroes of the past.  It certainly made me want to brush up on my own mythological knowledge, so I can only imagine the potential it might have to introduce the topic into a classroom.  I can see this book (and perhaps its sequels) as the perfect way to incorporate a mythology unit into a junior high classroom.

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~ by Molly on May 20, 2010.

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