Books that Should Be on Your High School Reading List

We’ve all been through high school and been exposed the horrid readings of Scarlet Letter and 1984 where the books further provoke conformity and submission, but the true reading lies in the books read for extracurricular reading. Twice have I been exposed to books in a high school classroom that were worth the weeks spend listening to students who still couldn’t read aloud (and they made the list, by the way).

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees is a touching novel by Barbara Kingsolver about a woman named Taylor who ends up with a baby girl, named Turtle. While leaving her small Kentucky town, her car breaks down and a woman places the baby girl in her front seat saying she is the mother’s sister and to take the child. Taylor does. This story is the adventures of Taylor and Turtle and a few colorful characters when they make their home in Tuscan, Arizona.

The Bean Trees was the first of two books on the list that I did read in the classroom. I read this book in my English 11 classroom. The characterization and the imagery in this book make it worth the read. The story is interesting in the way it is woven is different that most books, none-the-less this novel deserved to be at the top of any reading list.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter thought he was normal boy the first eleven years of his life. Then, owls started delivering letters in the day light and a giant knocked in his door telling him he’s a wizard. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling follows Harry Potter’s years through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and his battle against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the dark lord who killed his parents.

J.K. Rowlings world wide phenomena Harry Potter is the classic good triumphing over evil story. While the reading level of this book is low, the content and the moral of the story stands for any age group. Friends and family are worth more than power and money, knowledge is more powerful than strength, and courage is more powerful than provoking fear.

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

“In fact, the thing Lorraine and I liked best about the Pigman was that he didn’t go around saying we were cards or jazzy or cool or hip. He said we were delightful…” The Pigman is a short, but powerful story of how Lorraine and John, two high school sophomores, turned a prank call to an elderly man into a life long friendship.

This story is touching and has all the aspects of high school and life thrown in, too. Lorraine and John suffer from absent parents, substance abuse, peer pressure, sudden romances and terrible tragedies through the course of 166 pages. Any high school student could relate of one or both of these realistic characters.

The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen

There are many stories that send us back in time or into the future, but The Transall Saga is one that hits closest to home. Mark is a 13-year-old boy who loves the outdoors, but on a camping trip he finds himself teleported to what he thinks is a different planet. In his travels, he find he has been transported a future Earth that suffered from an Ebola virus pandemic that wiped out the human race.

Survival is our key instinct in life from the time we are born to our dying days. This story told by survival junkie, Gary Paulsen, is beautifully told to include not only the hardships of survival, but the joys of it as well.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Every girl wants to be a princess, but Mia Thermopolis just wants to pass Algebra. When Mia’s uptight grandmother, her father’s mother, comes to visit she is told the most unbelievable news a girl can hear…she’s a princess. Starting that minute she must take princess lessons and become an upstanding citizen and idol for her country, after a make-over of course.

Meg Cabot let’s Mia live the dream every little girl has, with a few twists only high school can bring. Mia describes the ups and downs in a journal her mother gives her (although she never wanted to use it). With the help of friends, including her cat Fat Louie, she transforms from High School student failing Algebra to Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Princess of Genovia.

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Blinded by a fire that killed her parents, Green undergoes a transformation from a shy girl who tends to flowers, to a tattooed wild woman, wearing thorned scarves and studded boots. The pain caused by loss is eased by the many people and animals that drift in and out of her life in the course in this books. Diamond, a boy she falls in love with, and her kind neighbor help her accept the death of her parents and sibling and heal.

Everyone suffers from loss, be it by death or just someone leaving out lives. Teenagers can submerge into depression and its good to know there is a way out that’s not psycho-therapy and drugs. This book shows hope for those who feel there is no way out and up.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

A psychological mystery, The Westing Game is about the collaboration of sixteen heirs of millionaire, Sam Westing, for the reading of his will. Each heir is given $10,000 dollars and is promised the rest of his fortune for the individual who discovers the secret behind his death.

It’s rare to find a good book that makes an individual think on many levels. With the change of point of view over several characters and the layers upon layers of mystery in Ellen Raskin’s enticing novel, there is more than one person’s fair share of thinking done while reading this book.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
by Mildred D. Taylor

Cassie Logan, a young black girl, is the narrator for a story that shows the hardships of black families in Depression-era Mississippi. Through her parents and events in her school life, she learns that blacks are very mistreated and although she wants to stand up for herself the police won’t stop the whites from abusing her.

This novel is the second novel I read it school, however I read it in my seventh grade classroom. Prejudices are everywhere in high school. If it’s not color, then it’s gender, if it’s not gender, it’s sexuality. Discrimination in unavoidable in a high school settling and while it shouldn’t be tolerated, it is daily. This novel enlightens on the severity of discrimination and the pain it can cause people, psychically, emotionally and mentally.

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

Heartbroken by her mother’s illness and her father’s abandonment, Zoe feels as if she has no one to turn to until one fateful night she meets Simon, an alluring vampire with a tragic past of his own. The two have a poetic chemistry and connect while in search for the murderer of Simon’s mother. When their mission is accomplished they both feel they can mourn peacefully.

Sometimes it feels like there is no one out there suffering quite as much as you are, and Zoe feels just that way until Simon comes along. For three-hundred-years he has been searching to avenge the death of his mother and with the help of Zoe he can get his wish. Love sprouts between the unlikely couple and Zoe soon realized that she isn’t the only one suffering quite so bad in the world.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
by Ann Brashares

Who would have thought that being at the same place at the same time and a simple pair of pants could bring a group of friends closer than ever? A quartet of soon-to-be mothers due around the same date find themselves in a maternal yoga class. After the birth of their four daughters, the mothers’ friendship fades, but the daughters is as close as ever. One summer the girls split up for the first time, but on an outing beforehand find a pair of jeans that fits every girl.

This book sums up the trials of teenage-hood: family, friends, lovers, foreign lands, sexual interest, depression…Ann Brashares shows girls that although there will be turmoil there will always be friends there to back you up and there will always be family there to love you.