This weekend one of my very good (and bookish) friends shared a BuzzFeed post with me that listed 26 Contemporary Books That Should Be Taught in High School. I thought it a bit odd that the list did include some books that are already taught in high school, but they did have a good point. There are many books that aren’t taught in school that leave a significant gap in knowledge and experience for young people heading to college. The absence of these books in the classroom also leaves far too much room for some serious issues teens deal with to make them feel isolated. I know, for example, if I had read something like Wintergirls (included in my list) when I was in high school, my life would have been very different.
So here are 5 books that I think all teens should read (whether in or outside of school):
- Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Laurie has an amazing way of presenting some common teen issues in a realistic and compassionate way. Wintergirls is a first-person narrative that addresses eating disorders and how they impact the entire family, not just the victim (which isn’t the right word, but I’m drawing a blank right now). People with eating disorders are very selfish, and I think it’s important for young people to see how their behaviors can (and often do) harm their families and friends.
- After by Amy Efaw – With the popularity of awful teen mom shows on certain channels, I think it’s important for young people (of both sexes) to see the consequences of their choices in a less romanticized way. After is one of the most wrenching and raw takes on the consequences of teen sex, and it would serve a lot of young people well to read it. Sex is seriously not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you factor in the ways it can change your life.
- Fall for Anything by Courtney Summer – I could honestly but all of Courtney’s books on this list, but this is the one that seems the most important as far as which one I would want a young person to read. It’s interesting in that it addresses several issues, but the most important one (in my opinion) is how our parents aren’t always what they seem. I think that’s an important lesson for all young people.
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – You read that right. I want young people to read this book with the help and guidance of an adult. So often teens read books like this and see it as translating into their own lives. They think that the way Bella and Edward are obsessed with one another is romantic. They don’t see Bella’s serious self-esteem issues and the fact that some of Edward’s behavior is borderline abusive. In addition, the rules for these characters are not the same as for those of us in the real world. We’re not vampires, after all.
- Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – With everything I’ve read and heard about bullying recently, I think that young people need to see the consequences of being the mean girl or boy in a way that will really resonate with them. All the anti-bullying videos and brochures and all the adults telling teens how to behave won’t have nearly the effect as a book like this. Karma is a bitch.