When it comes to public schools, students are forced to read books that can bore them. Though these books aren’t bad there are multiple reasons that it could bore a student such as the writing is outdated so it makes it difficult to read. Or some times students are not able to see themselves in a story. For example, if a person of color is not reading a positive or accurate representation of their race then they will immediately become disinterested and see how society views them. Which is why it’s important to get students reading. With the young adult genre on the rise, students from every background are able to get the proper representation they deserve meaning that it has the power to possibly change a life. So personally, these are the books that cover some important topics in a teenager’s life and teachers should be able to teach to them if given the chance.
- ‘The Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ series by Rick Riordan
Though the title says five, this is a series that has touched the hearts of many readers for its diverse characters, excellent writing and amazing world-building. The Percy Jackson series is one of those series that students grow up reading like Harry Potter. Yet unlike Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson series is solely popular for the books since the movies are not as good — to the point where the author is not a fan of them.
The first book is called “The Lightning Thief,” in which 12-year-old Percy Jackson has just discovered that he is the son of Poseidon and has been accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt. After staying at a summer camp for a couple of weeks, Percy and his two friends must travel across the United States to retrieve the lightning bolt by the summer solstice or chaos will wreak havoc. What makes the story unique is that the main character has ADHD and dyslexia, which are traits not many lead characters have. The author wrote that in order for demigods to fight, they must have one or both of these learning disorders since it helps their mind in battle. On top of that, the story includes themes of identity, family, and loyalty.
It’s a great series to introduce to students of all races, ages, and those who are going through hard times. In fact, why stop at the one series? Students can read the others, such as The Heroes of Olympus, which explains both Greek and Roman myths. Then there are the other series such as The Kane Chronicles that goes into depth about Egyptian mythology, and the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy that explores Norse mythology.
- ‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ by Nicola Yoon
This is a story in the romance genre that can be boring to some students, but the book has deeper topics than it lets on. A girl named Natasha who lives in New York City is being deported with her family back to Jamaica in 24 hours. Her plan is to try to find a way to prevent that from happening. On the other hand, Daniel is on his way to have an interview with a Yale alumnus in order to make his Korean parents happy after his brother was suspended from Harvard University. As that is happening, the two meet and quickly fall in love.
Yet these two characters are polar opposites. Natasha only believes in science and the cold hard facts over true love, while Daniel is a poet who believes in following his dreams and that fate exists. The story deals with powerful themes of immigration and having to hide in fear or follow your passion over reason. Also, it’s written in an incredible way. The story is written in two perspectives, so there are chapters that are really short. Yet there are also chapters in between where, for example, a car almost hit a girl. In the book, there is a small chapter dedicated to the driver of the car and how it led up to the accident to show that everything has a chain reaction. It’s also a nice debate starter for those types of students who believe in love at first sight and for those who believe only in the Pythagorean theorem.
- ‘It’s Kind of A Funny Story’ by Ned Vizzini
This is a book that is rarely taught in the English curriculum, yet it is an important one. The story is about a 15-year-old boy named Craig Gilner who’s from New York and attends a competitive business-type high school after studying for an entire year to get into it. But the atmosphere and workload of the school become very overwhelming to the point where Craig cannot eat or sleep. One night, Craig decides that he wants to end his life by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge — but instead he calls a suicide hotline and checks himself into a psychiatric hospital for five days.
In the hospital, he meets a variety of different patients that range from friendly to delusional to those who don’t have a place to go. Later on, as Craig recovers, he discovers that he is really interested in art and decides to pursue it. This story covers topics that are very relative during the time of adolescents such as suicide, discovering what you want to do in life and the judgment of society. The book also questions the workload of the education system, explaining that it can be stressful for a lot of students and it kills their creative side. It’s a good reminder to students that school is not what determines their future and that it’s important to check in with yourself to see how you are feeling.
- ‘Check, Please!’ by Ngozi Ukazu
This book is not written in the traditional text. In fact, it’s a graphic novel about a college freshman named Eric “Bitty” Bittle who has just moved from a small town in Georgia to attend a private university in Massachusetts. From there, Bitty had gotten a scholarship after sending his figure skating videos and had to join the ice hockey team.
First things first: teachers should not stay away from graphic novels. Students can learn the same themes and lessons from a graphic novel as a regular book. Also, it’s a great way to help English learners how to read, since there are more visuals. What makes this graphic novel stick out is the main character, Bitty, is an openly gay boy who likes to vlog and bake, and is not afraid to show his soft side. Yet Bitty being gay is not the main focus of the book, which is good since it can show students that LGBTQ people are regular people as well. It’s good for sports lovers too since it’s about college ice hockey. There’s also an element of college guys just doing college guy stuff, like throwing parties and drinking beer. What’s funny about this is that the author made this comic as a project for one of her classes, but she didn’t know anything about ice hockey until she started researching it. Not only that, but this graphic novel is actually a webcomic that is still being published online, so if the students are interested they can continue reading it. If not, then they will have to wait for when the next book comes out.
- ‘All American Boys’ by Jason Reynolds & Brenden Kiely
This is the only book on this list that is written by two authors, and it really shows in the writing. It’s written in two perspectives, the first one being a boy of color named Rashad who is accused of stealing chips from a convenience store and is then brutally beaten by a cop. The other is of a white boy named Quinn who witnessed his best friend’s brother beating a kid that goes to his school. The two boys come from very different backgrounds. Rashad works hard to earn the respect of his father as he joins JRTC and stays out of trouble, while Quinn was instantly born with respect from his community — especially after his father dies in the war and his mother works late shifts to support her two sons.
As the story progresses, Rashad tries to wrap his head around what had happened to him. Yet Quinn must decide whose side he’s on: his best friend’s brother — who practically raised him after his father died — or a classmate that he barely knows but plays an important role in his social life. So it’s a no-brainer that one of the topics is police brutality, which can be a difficult yet important theme to discuss with students as in situations like these, many people are not there to witness it so the easy resolution is to pick sides. There are other themes like loyalty, and the relationship that the two have with their fathers plays an important role. This story is able to show students that though it has been years since the civil rights movement, there are still hidden biases in people. It also can teach them that not all adults are right and that it is up to them to make a change in society.