Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson

Shop Indie Bookstores

This book is so well known that I feel silly that I didn’t read it till now.  Speak is a great novel that follows its main character, Melinda, through her freshman year of high school.  Melinda faces a lot of issues throughout the book all stemming from an event that occurred the summer before the book starts.  I felt like this book opens up important topics for discussion.  As usual Anderson captures the voice of American teens with great accuracy.

I know there are school districts that have all of their freshmen read this book.  I would not hesitate to use it in my classroom or to recommend it as independent reading to a student.  I think that this book is appropriate for grades 8-12.


A 2000 Printz Honor Book
A 1999 National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
Winner of the Golden Kite Award
An ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Top Ten First Novel of 1999
A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
An SLJ Best Book of the year
A Horn Book Fanfare Title
2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award (for this and other novels)

The Chocolate War- Robert Cormier

Shop Indie Bookstores

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier is a story about a boy at an all boys Catholic high school who decides to rebel against a school tradition.  He also gets involved with a secret high school society.  The book addresses friendship, bullying, and teacher student relationships.  I enjoyed this book, and I think that it would be a good choice for teen boys.  There are several mentions of male arousal and self-pleasure, but they aren’t overly explicit and some students might not pick up on them.  For that reason I might not use it in a classroom, but I think with parent permission it would be fine.  This book is best for early high school in my opinion.  There is another novel, Beyond the Chocolate War which Cormier also wrote that continuing the story of the secret society and students at the school.  I will read and review it sometime in the future.


An ALA Best Books for Young Adults
A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
Kirkus Reviews Choice
A New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year
Margaret A Edwards Award 

I am the Cheese- Robert Cormier

This novel is sometimes credited as the first YA novel.   It is a mystery type story written in a multi-genre format.  The narrative part of this story engaged me quickly, however the “transcripts” that were interspersed lost me.  I think that students could get into this book because it makes you want to figure out what is happening.  I think this would be a good book for 9th or 10th graders that are reading at or slightly above grade level due to the complexity of the novel.  This can be used as a class or individual read.

Margaret A Edwards Award 1991

Scorpions- Walter Dean Meyers

I really enjoyed Scorpions.  I think Meyers does a good job of portraying what life can be like for kids living in impoverished neighborhoods.  The reading is pretty easy, and I think that this book can be used successfully in a middle school classroom.  Or even for a class of struggling 9th graders.  It lends itself to discussions about gangs, violence, loyalty, school and more.  I would also recommend it for individual reading.  It may appeal more to males than females due to the male protagonist.


Margaret A. Edwards 1994