Although no book is perfect for everyone, here are three that will appeal to a wide variety of teen readers. Please let me know if the readers in your world like these books as much as I did!
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown: Virtually every page of Don Brown’s Drowned City elicits gasps as we first understand the astonishing power of the storm and then the inept responses of local officials and the Bush administration. Heroes are few in this tale, but credit is given to law enforcement officers who stayed on the job (while some of their colleagues resorted to looting), individual rescuers who saved neighbors and strangers, and the people of New Orleans who did what they had to do to survive the storm and its aftermath.
Readers of this graphic novel/journalism masterpiece are guaranteed to be emotionally moved.
Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman: After being publicly dumped by a boy on Facebook, Lara attempts suicide. Her neighbor and former best friend Bree then posts on Facebook a photo of Lara being loaded into the ambulance on a stretcher. All of this happens in the first few pages of Sarah Darer Littman’s Backlash. I can’t say much more about the plot of Backlash without revealing spoilers galore, but I can say that Backlash is much more than an “issue” book. Yes, cyberbullying is at the heart of the story, but Littman gives us authentic, complex, compelling characters that leave us wondering how people can possibly be so cruel. I’ve dealt with any number of situations where a young person mistreats someone else and offers as a defense, “I was just kidding, “ or “It was a joke,” or “I thought it would be funny.” By focusing on one such realistic situation Sarah Darer Littman has given us an important book. I hope Backlash finds its way into the hands of many, many young readers. Dramatic without being graphic, Backlash is appropriate for grades seven and up.
Trashed by Derf Backderf: Derf Backderf’s Trashed is an appropriately grimy follow-up to his graphic-novel-memoir My Friend Dahmer, Backderf’s recounting of his high school acquaintance with serial cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.
My Friend Dahmer is my go-to book for a certain kind of reader, the kind who doesn’t find anything in print worthy of interest. MFD always hooks them. If they need other reading suggestions, now I can offer Trashed.
Trashed is a graphic-novel-ish tale of some guys who work as trash collectors. As with any job story, there is a boss, a boss’s boss, corruption, pain-in-the-butt customers, and some down-time. But as with few other jobs, this one has a lot of really gross things going on. Think diapers and roadkill and you’ll be getting in the zone.
But Trashed goes beyond that storyline to share insights about how America generates and processes its trash. Readers will learn about garbage trucks, landfills, recycling and other garbage-related topics. The balance between these nonfiction elements and the workers’ storyline is perfect. Those who are in it for the yucky stuff will stick with the book through these relatively short explanation sections.
Trashed probably isn’t for every reader, but it’s perfect for some we all know.
Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with an advance copy of Trashed. Look for it in November, 2015.