Category Archives: Maybe better for Teens
I will admit that hip hop and rap are a little bit outside of my wheelhouse, but I love the education I’m getting with this book! Bri, the tough and talented protagonist is everything I want my students to be. She cares deeply for her family, is talented beyond her own knowing, and follows her dreams with the reckless abandon we only seem to find in our youth. I just want to buy her that pair of Timberlands!
“Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families” (Good Reads).
So, I’m usually more of a young adult fiction fan, but this non-fiction piece grabbed me and just wouldn’t let me go! I’ve never read a story of such a hateful and senseless crime. But even stranger is the fact that I came away not hating the perpetrator. There is some very subtle empathetic writing happening here. I will warn you that the crime itself as well as Sasha’s recovery is difficult to digest, but Richard’s character arc makes it worthwhile. This story will ask you to dig deep and discover just how much forgiveness do we have as human beings.
The book also provides an enlightening education on the LGBTQ acronym, specifically regarding gender roles that I found refreshingly straightforward.
“One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.
If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight,” (Good Reads).
Told in two perspectives, this is a book that I could not put down. When one boy was finished, I wanted to hear from the second right away. After watching his older brother brutally beat his classmate, Quinn must decide (under pressure from both sides) if he will be a bystander or an ally. This is a stark look at how far we have come since the Civil Rights Movement and of how far we have yet to go.
“Rashad is absent again today.
That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…
Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.
And that’s how it started,” (Good Reads).
Oh, boy. What can I say, but get ready for tremendous emotion in this one. I read it at the same time as All American Boys. They have similar story lines (teens being wrongfully accused and mistreated by police officers), but there was just something about the female protagonist in this one that has stayed with me ever since. Starr is tough, smart, and sensitive (even if she doesn’t want to be). Needing to code switch in order to fit in at her private school while still maintaining an authentic presence in her neightborhood, Starr is an unforgettable character.
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed ” (Good Reads).
I just love that poetry is back in fashion! This young poet is so full of thoughts, ideas, wonder, and talent. But she feels stymied by an overbearing and tremendously strict mother. It is difficult for X to fully express herself, and the climax of this novel when she finally does will stay with me forever!
“A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself, ” (Good Reads).
I’m not sure how I missed this one all of these years because I love Laurie Halse Andersen’s work. But what an impact! It feels as frigid as its title. Written in a diary format, the book presents the inner workings of the mind that has overcome the body of the girl. I was haunted from the very first pages and read it in one sitting just to find out what happens! The content may be upsetting to some as eating disorders are revealed in grave detail, but I woud consider required reading for my middle school girls.
“‘Dead girl walking’ the boys say in the halls.
‘Tell us your secrets’ the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl. I am the spaces between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.”
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit,” (Good Reads)