So, what are you reading right now? What are you teaching your students? Whether you’re handing out summer reading lists, preparing to teach intensive summer school English, or planning for next year already, I thought it was about time for a short post on some of my favourite books for teens. Now, I’ll readily admit that most of these are books that have been around for awhile, but hey, this is a post about my all-time favourites to teach. In fact, writing this post was a bit difficult. Every time I wrote about a book, I thought about another one I could have swapped it out with instead! Perhaps a “sample” of my favourites is more accurate than a top ten listing!
10 Great Books for Teens & Young Adults
Frost, by Nicole Luiken is an excellent book for junior high, or even first year high school students. In fact, I used it as a novel study with two Grade 9 ESL girls I taught in Canada and they absolutely loved it. Whether your students are native speakers or ESL learners, Frost will take them into a magical land unknown to most – The Canadian North. After a snowmobile accident, Kathy, the new girl in town, begins to notice that strange and mysterious events start to happen around her. She tries to solve mysteries surrounding the accident. Soon, she must figure out who the mysterious grey haired man she knows only as “Frost” really is, in this supernatural thriller.
Caroline B Cooney’s No Such Person kept a 12 year old ESL student of mine in suspense the whole way through. Yes, the vocabulary is a bit difficult (I’d say B1 level at least), but I had never seen my student so engaged with a story. No Such Person tells the story of Miranda and her older sister Lander, who is falsely accused of murder, but can’t remember anything from the night she is accused of the crime. Miranda, sure that her perfect, Ivy-league bound sister cannot be a criminal, sets out to prove her innocence even when everyone is against them.
Judy Blume’s novel Tiger Eyes is a serious, captivating novel by a master story teller. Davey is a young girl hit by tragedy when her father suddenly dies. In an attempt to heal, her mother moves the family to a new state, to be with extended family, uprooting Davey’s life completely. As she meets Wolf, an older boy, she starts to begin to emerge from her loneliness and heal. A beautiful read – and now a movie, too!
So, Anne Holm’s I Am David is another serious novel. Well, I suppose I like serious novels, especially historical fiction! Set in WWII and written in 1963, Holm’s novel tells the story of David, a young boy who escapes from a concentration camp. In an easy to read style, this book is great even for younger readers!
Well, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is a little different to most teens’ regular reads. Since it’s a classic Christie murder mystery, it may introduce your students a new genre and style! After 10 guests are invited to a hotel party, people begin to die, by way of murder, one by one. Can someone solve the crime before they become the next victim?
Well, what book list would be complete without S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders on it? Written when Hinton herself was only 16, this book is definitely a classic. It tells the story of Ponyboy and his brothers, who belong to the “Greasers”, a lower social class of boys always in opposition with the elite, the “Socs”. From the perspective of 14 year old Ponyboy, Hinton tells the story of two different classes living together in the same town, and the obstacles they face.
Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley tells the story of Tom Ripley, a jealous and strange man who decides to kill and steal the identity of a richer man, Dickie, who was his peer at school. Highsmith’s writing pulls you in, as you follow the intricate details of Tom Ripley’s thoughts and actions as his “new” self. It’s also available as a Penguin Graded Reader (B2 level) for ESL students.
Zilpha Keatley Synder’s The Egypt Game was one of my favourite books growing up. As it’s an easier read, it would be perfect for younger students or ESL learners. A time travel and historical fiction novel, The Egypt Game allows students to take a trip to the world of ancient Egypt
9. The Giver
So, this is one classic I’m pretty sure you’ve read. Lois Lowry’s The Giver tells the story of a “perfect” (or too perfect) utopia, where no one knows pain. Everyone is exactly equal, follows the rules, and doesn’t question the life they are given. Only one individual knows all the pain and memories of life before the new world, The Giver. Jonas is selected to become his pupil – and learns about a world beyond the utopia. While the theme is complex, and would be best for native speakers or B2/C1 ESL learners, it makes for some fascinating class discussion!
If your class cringes when they hear “Shakespeare”, be sure to get them really into Hamlet. Actually, Hamlet is my favourite play of all time. While the story is old, the characteristics of human nature are definitely as realistic now as they were when the story was written. For ESL students, use a graded reader or an adapted version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that tells the story as a novel, rather than a play. C1/C2 students will love the discussion!
Bonus: My Sister’s Keeper
Okay, so I clearly couldn’t stick to a list of ten! Recently, I read (part of) this book with an advanced 16 year old ESL student who I’ve been tutoring privately for a few years. Now, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper is one that I’d save for advanced readers. I would likely assign it as a summer reading piece, or extra credit reading, rather than during the year homework.
Full of advanced vocabulary and fascinating themes, Jodi Picoult story tells us about Anna, a thirteen year old child who was born (created) so that she could supply her terminally ill sister, Kate, with blood, organs, and bone matter as needed. Tired of being a medical experiment, Anna hires a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emancipation. Want a slightly easier read also on the topic of death? Try If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which is narrated by a girl in a coma, trying to show the outside world that she is still alive.
Bonus 2 (younger kids): Gordon Korman’s Titanic
Gordon Korman has always been on of my favourite kid’s authors, and his Titanic Series is no exception to his brilliance. Another trip into historical fiction your students will love, even if they aren’t history buffs! Suspenseful and fun, Korman writes in a way that will keep students on their toes throughout the series.
Novel Study Plans – Coming Soon!
By the way, if you like this list, stay tuned for my upcoming store selling novel study packs, which I hope will be up by September 2017. In the meanwhile, you’ve seen my e-book on 25 TED Talks for Your English class, right? These talks are one of my favourite ways to teach English. Actually, they work well for English or ESL classes, either in class or as homework assignments.
Of course, you can always access my free-printables library for a free sample plan before you buy – and a ton of resources to help you teach, with more added each month!
Well, that’s my short and sweet post on 10 books for teens (and two bonus ones). Have you read all of them? Do you have any other favourites your could add to my list? I would absolutely love to hear from you in the comments below!
P.S. The main photo for the post was one I took right here in Barcelona, Spain!
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