“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” It’s one of my all-time favorite opening lines in a book, setting the stage for a fantasy-horror-western seven-book epic that spans twenty-seven years of Stephen King’s career. The Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, is the last of his kind in a world that no longer resembles the one he grew up in. He seeks the Dark Tower, a place that unites the universe, and which may hold the key to preventing more decay in the world. He seeks the Man in Black, who may hold the secret of finding the tower and to Roland’s destiny. Roland believes he will do anything to get to the tower, he has sworn to find it, but the price for a meeting with the Man in Black may be too high. The Dark Tower Novels are a must-read for Stephen King fans.
The series has spawned the prequel graphic novels The Dark Tower by Peter David, which was listed by the American Library Association as one of the best graphic novel series for teens for 2009. Beginning with Roland winning his guns, the comics show the love, the loss and the war that turn Roland from a serious kid into the hardened gunslinger we meet in the first Stephen King novels. The art in these books is amazing, but also gory. The story is scary and sad. I highly recommend it. The graphic novels are rated PG by Marvel, which they suggest as 15+ for more explicit content.
Angela Cardenas has not been an angel, and she knows it. By the time she goes to live with her grandfather, she’s been expelled from every school that will have her, and is ready for a new life. Instead, she meets a guy, the love of her life, and goes further than ever to make him happy. When her grandfather dies during a heated confrontation, Angela’s parents decide to send her to Hidden Oak, a last-chance boarding school for girls on the brink.
Hidden Oak is more than a normal reform school. Combining psychoanalysis, mind-games and physical abuse, Hidden Oak is clearly a dangerous place. As girls begin to disappear one by one, Angela and her friends begin to suspect that there is a dark secret at the school that goes beyond even the everyday horrors of the place.
The School for Dangerous Girls is a fun read. It doesn’t really stand up to close examination, but as a mystery and a thriller, it is satisfying. Angela is a bad girl with an essentially good nature, and you’ll find yourself hoping that she manages to get out of Hidden Oak alive.
Sweet Sixteen Princess is book 7.5 in the saga of Mia Thermopolis, Crown Princess of Genovia (you know her from Anne Hathaway’s ugly-betty-turned-swan-princess character in the Princess Diaries movies.) Mia’s about to turn sixteen, and her beloved Grandmère and her best friend are plotting an MTV-style televised birthday extravaganza that would make Paris Hilton blush. All Mia wants is a quiet, romantic evening with her boyfriend, but first she has to find a way to stop everyone else from planning her party, get the PTA to fix the school gym and convince her best friend to say the L-word. No biggie right?
The Princess Diaries books are a cool summer read: light, fluffy and fun.
Alanna and Thom are the nearly identical twin daughter and son of the Lord of Trebond. Alanna is fearless and dreams of being a wandering Knight, while her brother is studious and longs to learn sorcery. Alanna is convinced of her destiny, so when her father proposes to send the unwilling Thom to learn Knighthood, Alanna disguises herself as a boy and takes his place. Alanna’s adventures test her ambition, her duty, and her ability to succeed while maintaining a dangerous secret. She is determined to not only become a Knight, but also to find a way to defeat the powerful enemies she must make along the way.
Alanna: The First Adventure is a CD audiobook, read by Trini Alvarado. Her voice brings to life characters whose adventures will keep you riveted and wanting more. Alanna is a smart, fearless character who is willing to work hard and risk everything to achieve her dreams. This is the first book in The Song of the Lioness series about Alanna’s adventures at the palace and out in the world.
Other books by Tamora Pierce here.
Percy Carey came up in 1970’s and 80’s in Harlem. In this autobiographical graphic novel, he talks about how as a child he was an extra on Sesame Street, but from there is life goes in a different direction. Hip-hop was at its beginning and Carey was determined to become an emcee. He became well known (by the name M.F. Grimm) in hip-hop circles, and can count people like Snoop Dogg, Lady Rage, Suge Knight, Roc Raida, KMD and Tupac Shakur among his friends and acquaintances. Along with hip-hop came gangs, violence and drugs. In the opening scene of the book, Grimm tells the story of the gang shooting that kills his brother and paralyses him for the rest of his life. Along the way he goes to prison, and as one of the few prisoners who can read, becomes an advocate for prisoner’s rights, and finds the determination to change his life.
Sentences is an interesting story that is powerfully drawn. Carey takes looks at his mistakes head-on without shying away from the violence, while still allowing the reader to be proud of his accomplishments. Anyone interested in hip-hop and rap will want to read this book, but be warned— the violence, though not very graphically depicted, is there, as are drugs. The language is pretty rough, with lots of profanity, which is what you’d expect from a hip-hop artist/former gang member. It is the story of the beginning of hip-hop from someone who was there, and who is willing to talk about both the good and the bad without apology.
If you like Sentences, you might also be interested in:
50 x 50: 50 Cent in His Own Words by 50 Cent
The Way I Am by Eminem
Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip-Hop by Johan Kugelberg et al.
Chess Rumble by Greg Neri
Street Scene: How to Draw Graffiti-style by John Lee
Bog Child is about Fergus, a high school senior growing up on the border of Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland in the 1980s. The Troubles, the conflict that rocked Northern Ireland between 1960 and 1998, colors the story: Fergus is being courted by the Provos*, a group that engages in terrorism, and his brother is in jail and participating in a hunger strike that will almost surely kill him. While out cutting peat with his uncle, Fergus discovers the body of a child buried in a bog. Archeologists are called, and research into the child’s origins shapes Fergus’ last summer before college. As his own life descends into chaos, he imagines how the dead girl’s life must have been.
Bog Child is a really cool story about a guy who is trying to live a normal life in the middle of a crisis. The story is well written, and Fergus has an authentic and strong voice throughout. The many elements of the plot come together as Fergus tries to find peace with the decisions he has to make. He struggles with balancing falling in love, getting the grades that will earn him a scholarship that will take him away from The Troubles, and trying to find a way to help his brother and his family.
*Provos: Provisional Irish Republican Army
If you're looking for a book to read or recommend and all that's coming to mind are "classic" youth and YA books, here are some contemporary books that you might like!
|If you like this classic...
||Try these contemporary titles!|
|The Chocolate War||Bullyville, Prep|
|Z for Zachariah||Gone, Life as We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone|
|The Witch of Blackbird Pond||The Minister's Daughter, Witch Child|
|The Cay||Hippie Chick, Overboard|
|Forever||Story of a Girl, When it Happens|
|Anne of Green Gables||Hattie Big Sky, Billie Standish was Here, Dairy Queen|
|The Dark is Rising||The Pellinor series, the Mortal Instruments series, the Keys to the Kingdom series|
|A Wrinkle in Time||The Gideon trilogy, Bunker 10, London Calling, the Caretaker trilogy|
|Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||The Gollywhopper Games|
|The Saturdays||The Penderwicks|
|The Narnia series||Magic or Madness, the Dark Materials trilogy|
|Ballet Shoes||The Year My Sister Got Lucky|
|The Babysitters' Club series||The Peaches series, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series|
|The Secret Garden||The Gemma Doyle series, Flora Segunda|
|A Little Princess||Pulling Princes, the Princess Diaries series, Finding Hattie|
|The Nancy Drew series||Bad Kitty, the Enola Holmes series, Kiss Me Kill Me, Kisses and Lies|
|Pride and Prejudice||The Luxe series, Cassandra's Sister|
|Watership Down||The Redwall series|
|Hatchet||The Killing Sea, Peak, The Winter Road|
|A Day No Pigs Would Die||Out of the Dust|
|The Hobbit||The Farsala trilogy, The Sea of Trolls, the Ranger's Apprentice series|
The first book that members of the Middle School Book Club are reading is:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
This book won the 2008 Newbery Medal!
If you would like to join the Club, please email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org. We meet on the last Thursday of the month at 7:00 p.m and we serve pizza.
The Book Club is for rising 7th and 8th graders.
Tempo Change was a very good book even though it took time to read and understand. The main character has very complex thinking. It's about a high school girl name Blair Kelly and though her classmates don't know it, she's related to an indie rock icon. That icon left her mother and her when she was very young. She never played music and used the word artist as a deadly punishment instead of an admirable character. She was a musical critic for the school newspaper. She was a poet in secret and wrote amazing lyrics. She decides to form a band and gets some of the most unlikely people to join her for the ride. They make an amazing team and win their talent show and tie in a bigger contest. Then they reach the Meca of music. Coachella. Blair realizes this may be the chance she is waiting for, the chance to see the father she hasn't laid eyes on in almost 13 years.