2018-08-01 / BookBag

Bittersweet Books for Teens

Maria Burchill | Schlow Centre Region Library

The end of the summer is bittersweet. It means the last of the hot, hot days and final trips to the pool. It also means there are only a few more weeks to conquer the recommended reading lists assigned back in June. There’s just enough time for teens to make a dent in them, to read ahead, or to begin the new school year with a few more stories to ponder and to discuss with friends. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, serious or silly, the stories we read prepare us for the bigger world. Like the end of summer, they can be bittersweet, but they help us navigate new experiences with confidence.

Schlow’s Head of Children’s Services, Paula Bannon, just finished the The Button War by award-winning author Avi. The story focuses on two boys, Patryk and Jurek, in a Polish village around the time of the Great War. They are used to playing any number of daring games with other boys in the village, vying for who will be top dog. But when the war encroaches on the village, their game turns grim. Possibly too violent for young teens, older teens and adults may find this story reminiscent of the movie The War of the Buttons, which is loosely based on the French novel La Guerre des Boutons by Louis Pergaud.

If you’re more into fantasy than historical fiction, I recommend Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. While the first book, City of Bones, was published a decade ago, it’s still a popular title. Made into a film, graphic novels and a TV series, Clare’s books appeal to both older teens and adults. In City of Bones, Clary Fray discovers her fated role as a shadowhunter, whose job it is to rid the human world of demons. Clare has a unique talent for taking folklore and enmeshing it with both historic and modern elements for a unique and exciting reading experience.

Nonfiction that’s inspirational and informative can be hard to come by in the young adult world. If you have a younger teen who wants to learn about computer programming, try Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani. For fiction about girls who code, check out When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. This is a delightful romance about Dimple Shah, an Indian-American teen who attends a coding camp only to discover that her parents have arranged her marriage to another student attending the camp.

Finally, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is highly recommended by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) as one of the best books of 2018. Great as an audiobook or in print, the story follows Will as he gets onto an elevator with a gun tucked in his waistband. He’s fixated on revenge. He knows who is responsible for the death of his brother. At least, he thinks he does. This uniquely formatted story examines how decisions made in a single moment can drastically change lives. This is fiction at its finest. Because of the violence, however, I recommend it for mature teens or adults who enjoyed The Hate U Give or All American Boys.

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