I would like to do a series of posts based on what kids might like, based on what they already know they love. The extremely popular titles fly off our shelves so easily and build up long lists of holds, but there are always so many other great books that don’t get as much attention.
First up, since it has been so steadily in demand for two years now: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Fans of The Hunger Games series might also enjoy. . .
Todd is the youngest person in a society of only men, in which everyone’s thoughts (including those of Todd’s dog Manchee) can be heard in a chaotic mass of Noise. One day, Todd finds a space of silence in the woods, and begins a journey of discovering the history of his world and exploring its uncertain future. The writing here is incredible—suspenseful, imaginative, and intense from the very beginning.
I mentioned this one in my last post. My book club kids have been reading it, and seem to all agree that it’s “really good, but really dark, but not so dark in the end, but really dark. But really good.”
Thomas wakes up in an elevator, with no memory of where he came from, and becomes part of a society of boys trapped in an enclosed space, surrounded by a maze they attempt to escape from each day. When a girl arrives with a mysterious note, things begin to change. This series has been raved about by pretty much every kid I’ve known who has read it.
The Books of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold)
This is a gentler version of a dystopic future that lends itself well to younger middle school readers. A city has been created underground to preserve the human race in the event of war, but the inhabitants have no awareness of the world beyond them. Supplies in Ember have begun to wane and the future is uncertain, when two kids discover an ancient clue that might lead to a way to survive. Fast-paced and full of drama.
From the Amazon.com review by Anne Bartholomew: “The shifting landscapes, unexpected plot punches, and bold, brave characters found in Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron are nothing short of thrilling: fans of Garth Nix and Suzanne Collins will take to this epic, twisty fantasy instantly, but it’s also the kind of book that will draw in the most hesitant fantasy reader.” Only a few kids have grabbed this one so far, but they have come back wanting the sequel, Sapphique.
From the description on Amazon.com: “Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.” A bit of romance mixed in with a bit of dystopia. Kids have really been enjoying this one, and the sequel Crossed is in high demand.
From the description on Amazon.com: “In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three ‘dumpsite boys’ make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city. One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat—boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money—to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong.”
Fast-paced and dark, this dystopic novel set in the Gulf Coast follows the struggle of a teenage boy and his friends as they try to balance basic survival, protection of an important treasure that might change his life dramatically, and the boy’s precarious relationship with his drug-addicted, abusive father. This was a Printz Award winner and National Book Award finalist, for good reason. The writing is tight and the suspense relentless.
And a few more . . .
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld
The Gone Series by Michael Grant
If you can think of others, please comment and add your suggestions!
Note: My recommendations in this post are probably most appropriate for 7th and 8th graders (and older teens), because this genre of book tends to be dark and violent. I have not read all of these titles. Many of them get on my radar from reviews, but most of these have been recommended and enjoyed by some of our older middle school students. For parents who are concerned about appropriateness for their child, I highly recommend the website commonsensemedia.org for detailed information about specific titles, including language, violence, drinking/drugs, educational value, presence of positive role models and points/questions for family discussion.
(Apologies for the wacky formatting of this post. I can’t get the thumbnails and text to line up the way I want!)