The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books, 1999.

We don’t know who Charlie is writing the letters to, but we read them because they’re touching, and because they’re real, and because they’re rock and roll.


ALA 2002 Best Books for Young Adults


This is the first epistolary to be reviewed on youthreads, which means a novel told in letters. Charlie is a freshman in high school learning about friendship, mixtapes, and drugs. He excels at English but he’s a wallflower, as the title suggests, preferring to watch and listen. He struggles to understand the feelings of the girl he’s in love with, to get close to his family, and to know who he wants to be. We never find out who Charlie is writing his letters to, but by the end even Charlie is surprised to learn the biggest secret about himself. For the music alone, read this book.


March 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm Leave a comment

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960.

3 children enjoy the quiet fascinations of a Great Depression town in the South, until they’re attacked for being white allies of a black man wrongly accused of rape–in Harper Lee’s classic, momentous, and only novel.

1960 Pulitzer Prize
1960 Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews
1962 Bestsellers Magazine Paperback of the Year


A slowly unfolding tale with constant revelations about people and life. Scout (the 10-year-old narrator) and Jem are brother and sister, living in the Great Depression south with their widowed father, Atticus, and devoted black maid, Calpurnica. Atticus is an experienced lawyer who agrees to defend Tom Robbins, a black man falsely accused of rape. Many townspeople start to harass Atticus’s family for defending a black person, and soon the kids are embroiled by larger questions of race and justice. Meanwhile, the kids are trying to learn about Boo Radley, an utter recluse whom they have never even heard speak! And in more than one place they find out about the deep dark alleys of addiction.

Leanne, age 16, says:

“It’s beautiful, the way it’s written from the child’s point of view.”

March 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

A Separate Peace by John Knowles


Knowles, John. A Separate Peace; A Novel. New York: Macmillan, 1960.

Two boys in a New England boarding school try to find out what bravery can mean for those on the sidelines during wartime, and in their imaginations they create a separate peace.


Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters
1960 William Faulkner Award for the Most Promising First Novel
1961 National Association of Independent Schools Award


Phineas is the bravest and the least conventional person in boarding school at Devon prep. Gene is his best friend and also an athlete, but he’s a brain, too. While the schoolboys are following Phineas’s ideas, Gene is wondering what it means that he’s the best friend of such a popular person. Then Phineas decides to form The Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session, a secret club that makes dangerous jumps into the river. Meanwhile the school is discussing World War II, which has just broken out. Some want to finish school and join the army, while others are scared to be drafted. Not Phineas, though, because he knows there’s no war at all, and he convinces Gene to believe the same thing. When Phineas and Gene climb the tree to make a jump together, someone gets seriously injured, and what unfolds is a subtle allegory about loyalty and bravery.

March 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks


Banks, Lynne Reid, and Brock Cole. The Indian in the Cupboard. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.

Omri has found a magical cupboard that will bring his plastic toy figures to life, but can Omri and his pal Patrick keep their miniature friends a secret? And keep them safe?


Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award
California Young Reader Medal
Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Award
Virginia Young Readers Award


Omri sometimes finds his best friend Patrick a little tiresome, but he shows nothing but loyalty to his best friend. When Omri is given a cupboard for his birthday, he’s happy because he likes things that lock with special keys, but he’s overjoyed when the cupboard turns Little Bear, his plastic figurine, into a real live Indian brave. When Patrick finds out, he wants a little man too, and without thinking of the consequences he uses the cupboard on his plastic cowboy. Now the cowboy and the Indian are really trying to kill each other, and the boys have their hands full keeping them a secret.

Read the rest of the books in the series to find out what’s really behind the magic of the cupboard, and see the amazing turns taken in Omri’s and Patrick’s friendship.

March 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm 3 comments

The Giver by Louis Lowry


Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

In a different kind of society, Jonas is about to turn 12 and receive his career assignment for the rest of his life, but what first may seem a paradise comes into question when Jonas meets his new mentor, The Giver.


1994 Newbery Medal
1996 William Allen White Award
American Library Association “Best Book for Young Adults”
A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
Winner of the Regina Medal
Booklist Editors’ Choice
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year


There are no animals anywhere and no one even knows what an animal is. Everyone in Jonas’s community was assigned their career at age 12; if you’re 11 and under, you’re waiting for it to happen. Every morning at breakfast, his family members talk about–or confess to–their dreams, and every night, they are required to talk about their feelings. Everyone follows the rules, because if they don’t, they face the worst fate imaginable: release from the community. On his 12th birthday, Jonas receives a very special assignment: he is to be his community’s Receiver of Memory. But when he meets the elderly old Receiver, now The Giver, he learns what happened to the last 12 assigned to receive, and he knows things he wish he never knew. Just 16-years-old and already a classic, no one can tell you more than The Giver.

March 12, 2009 at 6:41 am Leave a comment

Forever by Judy Bloom


Bloom, Judy. Forever. New York: Pocket, 1976.

It’s first love, first sex, and the first time on the pill, but does that mean Kathy will love him . . . forever?


1996 Winner of the A.L.A. Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults


One of my favorite things about this book is a little something I read on Judy Bloom’s website: she wrote it for her daughter, who wanted to read a book in which two teenagers agree to have sex and don’t get punished for it. Judy wasn’t playing around here: the depictions are literal and detailed, and for this reason Forever . . . has consistently been one of the most challenged and banned books of the last half-century. Passing by questions like is teenage sex ok? what kind of girl am I?, the book instead asks, well, we’re teenagers and we’re in a real relationship, so that means forever . . . right? Right?

March 12, 2009 at 6:22 am 1 comment

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale


Hale, Shannon, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale. Rapunzel’s Revenge. New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury, 2008.

In this beautifully drawn graphic novel adventure, a classic fairy tale character is out to get even, with only her courage and long, red hair.


2009 Cybil Award For Best Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novel
2009 ALA Notable Children’s Book
2009 YALSA “Great Graphic Novel for Teens”


Rapunzel is no longer a waif. She’s lost the tower and gone military with the locks. This is, on the one hand, a smart adventure novel with twists and quips. One the other, it’s got lush panels that are extremely well-done. A lot of the fun of this book is the way the Hales depict the magical settings Rapunzel and Jack (guess where he’s from?) travel through on their way to redemption and revenge. I didn’t love the somewhat typical humor and “go fetch” plot structure, and some might think turning hair braids into a weapons is too far-fetched, but this is truly a story of girl power and beautiful to boot. Remember when all Rapunzel could do was sit in a tower, cry, and maybe let down her hair for a passing cavalier? Forget it.

March 12, 2009 at 6:21 am Leave a comment

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