The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

absolutelytruediaryThe first day of school. Geometry Class. Arnold Spirit, also known as Junior, gets the Geometry book he is going to be using for the year. Inside the front cover it says:

THIS BOOK BELONGS TO AGNES ADAMS

He gets so mad that before he knows it, he throws the book at his teacher’s head. This is his depiction in a cartoon that drew. Why did he do it? Agnes Adams was his mother’s maiden name. His school on the Indian reservation where he lives is so poor that they have used the same textbook for at least the last 30 years.

Let me introduce to Arnold by reading you some of his diary:

Read first diary entry.

Arnold gets suspended for a week for throwing the book. When the same teacher shows up at his house that week, he thinks maybe the guy has come to throw a book at him too. Or at least to yell at him. But instead he offers Arnold a chance to attend the school in Reardon, the rich, white town near the reservation. It’s a great opportunity for him. He will get an excellent education and it may be his chance to achieve his dreams.

But when he starts school at Reardon, it’s obvious he is not welcome by everyone. He tells us there is only one other Indian at the school—the school mascot. The other kids are afraid of him, some call him names.

When he gets home, his best friend Rowdy and others, think he is a traitor for leaving the reservation.

This diary is about what happens next. Falling in love, playing basketball, trying to fit in and not get beat up. At school and at home.

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The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

thefirstpartlastImagine this. You are a guy in high school and you have your whole life ahead of you. Graduate and then college. But then your girlfriend gets pregnant, and even worse, she develops a condition called eclampsia that sends her into a coma. You will have to raise the baby on your own without much help from either of your parents.

That is exactly what happens to New York teeenager Bobby in the book The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Sometimes he doesn’t even know if he can handle it–the lack of sleep, the crying–even though he knows he loves his little girl more than anything.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

thirteenreasonswhyTwo weeks after Hannah Baker committed suicide, Clay Jensen received a mysterious package in the mail. Inside he finds 7 cassette tapes.

Here is what he heard when he played the first tape. [Play audio file]

Clay borrows a friend’s Walkman and spends the night travelling alone around town listening to each side of the tapes. He carries a a map provided by Hannah has starred locations where the events described took place.

But what could Clay have done to Hannah? He barely knew her.

When he finally hears his own story, the answer is one he could never have imagined.

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American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

americanbornchineseAmerican Born Chinese is a graphic novel that is made of 3 different and distinct stories.

The first is that of the Monkey King. It is from a Chinese legend about a monkey god who wants to prove to the other gods in heaven that he is more than just a monkey. Unfortunately, his pride gets the better of him.

The second is about a Chinese American boy named Jin Wang. When we first meet him, he is a young boy who has just arrived at a new school where he is the only Chinese-American kid. He has to deal with racism and loneliness at first as he tries to fit in.

The third is about a popular kid named Danny. Once a year, he gets a visit from his extremely embarrassing Chinese cousin Chin-Kee. Chin-Kee is a character made up of a shocking exaggerated set of negative Chinese stereotypes. Danny is so embarrassed when he visits that he has changed high schools every year after his cousin visits.

Though these three stories seem really unrelated at first, they come together in surprising ways by the end of the book.

 

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Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

stupidfastFelton Reinstein has never had what you might call a normal life. He has always been a scrawny, goofy, socially awkward kid. His younger brother is a nerdy piano prodigy with no friends and his crazy hippie mom is a school crossing guard. His dad commited suicide when Felton was 8 years old and Felton was the one who discovered the body in the garage. To make all of this even worse, he lives in a small rural Wisconsin town where everyone knows everyone else’s name and business. He is kind of a weird kid, so when someone nicknames him “squirrel nut,” it sticks.

But then one summer right in the middle of high school, everything changed for him. Felton went through a huge growth spurt, grew hair in all kinds of places (don’t ask) and he got stupid fast, fast like a donkey. The football team recruits him, he gets more friends than he has have ever had (that is more than one or two) and he gets a beautiful girl to fall in love with him. And the only time people call him “squirrel nut” now is to cheer him on.

But it also the summer that his mom goes off of the deep end, his brother gets even weirder and his relationship with his best friend Gus starts going down the drain. Football, girlfriend, screwed up family and friendships. Why can’t this stuff ever be easy?

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The Contender by Robert Lipsyte

thecontenderIt’s the 1960’s in Harlem, New York. Alfred Brooks is seventeen, a high school dropout, and in real danger of going nowhere in his life. He works at Epstein’s, a neighborhood grocery store, as a stock clerk. It’s probably good enough that he avoids the gang of punks down the street who smoke weed, get drunk, steal cars…

Then one night while looking for his best friend James, Alfred makes a mistake that will change everything. You see, James has been hanging around the same gang Alfred has been trying to avoid. Alfred lets it slip that the owners of Epstein’s grocery leave large amounts of cash in the store over the weekend. The robbery was his fault. James getting caught by the cops is his fault.

He doesn’t know how he ended up at Donateli’s Gym. Henry, the kid from the neighborhood is always talking about the Gym. About the boxers training there. How Alfred should come by sometime. Alfred makes his way up the narrow, dark stairs of the gym. Yes, he tells Mr. Donateli, he wants to train to be a boxer. Yes, he wants to see if he can do it. He wants to see if has what it takes in the ring…to be a contender.

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Monster by Walter Dean Myers

monsterSteve Harmon is a monster. He is on trial for taking part in a robbery where the storeowner was killed. Steve knew the other guys being accused of the crime and one of the other guys (in order to get a reduced sentence) has testified that Steve was at the scene of the crime. If he is convicted, he could get 25 years to life in prison.

But is Steve really the monster that the prosecution says he is? Or is he just a good kid who is hanging out with the wrong people? The real answer isn’t as simple as a yes or no question.

Read Steve’s story, laid out in a screenplay and journal entries written by Steve himself.

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirlsCassie called Lia 33 times the night that she died, alone and drunk in a cheap hotel room. Lia never picked up the phone.

They hadn’t talked in 6 months, having been inseparable since they met in elementary school, but then they had been recently drifting apart. They had a lot in common, but especially their desire to be thin, to stop the pain they felt in their lives by controlling the calories they ate, by cutting their skin so they didn’t have to feel the emotional pain they felt all of the time.

At 18, Lia is 5’5″ tall and 91 pounds. She wants to get to 85 pounds…and then 75…and then…who knows? Her doctors, therapists and family can’t get her to stop this obsession, especially now that Cassie is dead.

The voices in her head, and Cassie herself (is she a ghost or just a hallucination?) taunt her and tell her she is fat…stupid…ugly…Cassie wants Lia to join her, to be a Wintergirl stuck somewhere between life and death. And Lia just might. It is only a matter of time.

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Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

162086[1]Meredith’s dad was well liked by everyone in town, a little league baseball coach that could do no wrong. And then she accused her dad of molesting her. His own daughter!

He was sent to prison for nine years.

It should have been more.

Her mother, lonely and desperate, didn’t believe her and never forgave her little girl.

Now three years later, he is coming home.
Out on good behavior.

Her mother has welcomed him back into their house.

Now Meredith knows he will molest more kids and will try to get revenge on her.

But she has a plan.

She will be the sacrificial lamb. She will stop him before he can hurt anyone else.

If it doesn’t destroy her first.

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Why I Fight by J. Adam Oaks

whyifightOne day Wyatt Reaves accidently burns his parents’ house to the ground. That is how it all starts.

His parents leave him by himself all the time while they are working or out drinking with their friends. At 12 ½, he is 6 feet tall. So you might think he looks grown up, but he is as naïve and innocent as most kids his age.

After the fire, they end up homeless. His parents are furious. Luckily, his Uncle Spade shows up and offers to take Wyatt with him. Spade is a fast talking salesman who sells almost everything he can out of the trunk of his car. For four years, Spade takes him all over the U.S., as they live out of hotel rooms and Spade’s girlfriends’ houses.  Spade drinks a lot just like his parents, but he takes care of Wyatt like a guardian angel.

When Spade notices how fast and strong Wyatt is getting, he sees the chance to make some money off of him. He starts training the boy to bare-knuckle box and Wyatt wins again and again, sometimes fighting guys almost twice his age. He wins because he channels all the pain, the anger, the loneliness he feels inside.

He fights because he doesn’t have much choice.
He fights until he has had enough from Spade, his parents, his life.
And then he finally fights back.

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Deadline by Chris Crutcher

deadlineBen Wolf has one year to live because he has leukemia. He is a senior in high school. Think about it. What would you do if you found out you had a terminal disease?

This is what Ben does during that year:

1. He keeps his illness a secret.

After all, why put his family and friends through the grief? Besides, chemotherapy is difficult and painful.

2. He goes after his fantasy girl, Dallas Suzuki.

He gets her.

3. He becomes a football star.

Net easy for a short, 123 pound kid to pull off.

4. And some other things.

He helps to get the town drunk to sober up.

He ticks off his social studies teacher on a daily basis with his smart aleck attitude..

He gets regular visits from Hey-Soos in his dreams.
 
Note: Not Jesus, Hey-soos. He might even make his mark on the world before he is gone.

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Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

51738[1]If you just saw Annabel Greene in her modeling photos or the local commercial she starred in for Kopf’s department store; if you met her perfect family; if you saw how many friends she had; if you saw her report card….

…then you would never suspect that her life is falling apart around her. Her junior year has begun. None of her friends are talking to her. Her family is falling apart because her older sister has an eating disorder; her best friend thinks Annabel betrayed her.

She eats lunches alone. She puts on a smile for her family.

Then she meets Owen Armstrong. Owen is a loner. He is scary, tough and is always blocking out the world with iPod headphones. But somehow, they start talking.

Owen is obsessed with telling the truth. Can he help her uncover the truths that she has kept bottled up for the past year?

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