It’s been a good while since I walked through my high school gates for the last time, brimming with nerves and overflowing with excitement for the new chapter that waits. When I look back, I can’t say that high school itself was as tough on me as it was for so many of my peers; but there were definitely times that I could have used a little life lesson that comes with a good book. Unfortunately for me, I only became aware of Goodreads in my second year of varsity, which is roughly the same time that I started dipping my toes into different genres, exploring the worlds that so many people find solace in.
Teenagers are facing more and more social and personal challenges these days, and as time marches on the burden becomes that much tougher to bear; leaving many out in the cold with no place to turn to. That’s where these books come into play. I think if parents, guardians, teachers and most importantly, teenagers themselves read some of these books; it could help with that first step in understanding one another. It could teach us to show some empathy towards that girl with the “attitude problem” or that “weird boy from school” who you’ve never bothered to get to know; and ultimately make the journey that much easier to endure.
Since school is about to reopen for the new year over here in South Africa, I thought I’d share eight books that are perfect reads for high schoolers.
*** Some of these books may contain subject matter that could be harmful to sensitive readers.***
THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE BY JENNIFER MATHIEU
Rumour has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumours start to spiral out of control.
This book is for anyone who has ever had to face nasty rumours being spread about them. But I think more importantly, this is a book for the person who has spread a really hurtful story about someone else. The Truth about Alice is a remarkable debut novel in which four high school students unpack what they know, giving the reader a vivid idea of the repercussions of one’s actions and words. We get a glimpse into the lies, the secrets and the down-right ugliness that often goes by unnoticed – or in some cases, completely ignored.
This book touches on SO many issues young people face and might just give you a different idea of what it must be like being a teenager today.
THIRTEEN REASONS WHY BY JAY ASHER
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
Hannah and Clay’s views of the events leading up to her death, gives the opportunity to walk a while in the shoes of a young girl whose very real struggles result in a tragedy that so many people are trying to avoid. This heart-breaking story about confusion and desperation will deeply affect teen readers.GOING UNDER BY S. WALDEN
Brooke Wright has only two goals her senior year at Charity Run High School: stay out of trouble and learn to forgive herself for the past. Forgiveness proves elusive, and trouble finds her anyway when she discovers a secret club at school connected to the death of her best friend. She learns that swim team members participate in a “Fantasy Slut League,” scoring points for their sexual acts with unsuspecting girls.
Brooke, wracked with guilt over her friend’s death, decides to infiltrate the league by becoming one of the “unsuspecting girls,” and exact revenge on the boys who stole away her best friend. An unexpected romance complicates her plans, and her dogged pursuit of justice turns her reckless as she underestimates just how far the boys will go to keep their club a secret.
Despite the disturbing scenes and intense issues that were being addressed, Going Under made me come out on the other side feeling positive that everything will be okay. This story about one girl’s need for revenge and forgiveness paints a picture of the darkness lurking behind every corner; and how after so much suffering and loss there is always hope to find redemption.
A MONSTER CALLS BY PATRICK NESS
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
This was the first book I read by Patrick Ness and it is the reason I love his work so much. A Monster Calls told a tale of strength and courage in a way I found to be enlightening and thought provoking in the best possible way, especially considering the heart-breaking circumstances it involved. Patrick Ness encourages the reader to face reality no matter how hard it gets, and to use the strength, that we often forget we have, to move pass the pain and find peace.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER BY STEPHEN CHBOSKY
Charlie is a freshman.
And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.
Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book about coming-of-age told in a way that will transport you back in time to those belly wrenching roller-coaster days that came along with growing up.
OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS BY KRYSTAL SUTHERLAND
Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.
Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.
I wrote my full review for Our Chemical Hearts a few weeks back, sharing my thoughts about this beautiful, beautiful book. I think it’s a perfect story for high schoolers because it touches on really important matters in an honest, refreshing, and highly entertaining way. I love how Krystal Sutherland managed to get inside the mind of a teenager and give us a story that we could all relate to in some way. I also really appreciated the references she made to Harry Potter and SnapChat (among other things) because it brought the whole story so much closer to home.
THE APPLE TART OF HOPE BY SARAH MOORE FITZGERALD
Oscar Dunleavy, who used to make the world’s most perfect apple tarts, is missing, presumed dead. No-one seems too surprised, except for Meg, his best friend, and his little brother Stevie. Surrounded by grief and confusion, Meg and Stevie are determined to find out what happened to Oscar, and together they learn about loyalty and friendship and the power of never giving up hope.
The Apple Tart of Hope was as unusual and interesting as its title and I am so happy I gave it a chance after struggling to get into it. This beautiful story about friendship, love and bullying was so vivid and real; so painfully real. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald managed to pull me in so completely that I could feel everything the characters were going through. Every single time they felt angry, frustrated, hurt or confused, my emotions took a dive too; and it was just lovely to connect with them in such a way even though the circumstances weren’t the best. I highly recommend this book, I’m sure we can all relate to it on some level.
KETCHUP CLOUDS BY ANNABEL PITCHER
Secrets, romance, murder and lies: Zoe shares a terrible secret in a letter to a stranger on death row in this second novel from the author of the bestselling debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.
Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.
This book is real and raw, and where so many YA books these days choose to give you a story wrapped in fluff and convenience, this one gives you clear cut truth that I found to be refreshing. Even though it is written rather light and a little bit quirky, you are always aware that the story is headed toward heartbreak and pain. And I just love that Annabel Pitcher never tried to explain things away or create a convenient gap in the story where the characters could very well take the easy way out, not being bothered by reality. It was such a fantastic book that I wish more people would read.
Find my review over here.
Are there any books you would recommend for teenagers? Let me know in the comment box, I always enjoy hearing from you!
*** Some of these books may contain subject matter that could be harmful to sensitive readers.***