Monster by Walter Dean Myers (2004, Amistad; 281 pages)
"Monster" is what the prosecutor called 16-year-old Steve Harmon for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a convenience-store owner. But was Steve really the lookout who gave the "all clear" to the murderer, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
This New York Times bestselling novel from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the haunting story of a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve's own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.
Myers' writing makes the reader question the motives of the characters, and allows the reader to think as if they were a member of the jury.
Monster is a multi-award-winning, provocative coming-of-age story that was the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award recipient, an ALA Best Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor selection, and a National Book Award finalist. In 2016, Monster was turned into a film starring Jennifer Hudson, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., and A$AP Rocky.
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Recommended by: Ariadne
ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE -- a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (2014, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers; 368 pages)
It's the summer of 1987 when 15-year-olds Aristotle and Dante meet. Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
From Booklist: "Family issues take center stage, as well as issues of Mexican identity, but the heart of the novel is Dante’s openness about his homosexuality and Ari’s suppression of his."
Saenz's story of friendship forces the reader to better know themselves, and encapsulates what it feels like to be a miserable, jaded teenager.
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Recommended by: Ariadne
THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN -- a heartbreaking and funny tale of a Native American teen growing up on the rez
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie (2007, Little, Brown Books For
Young Readers; 259 pages)
Sherman Alexie profoundly captures the hardship of living and growing up on a reservation. Alexie tells the story of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a budding cartoonist born with "water on the brain," growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Expecting disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school, Junior soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of several in Junior's life would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which he faces the world. This book provides a sobering perspective, and an entertaining story. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
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Recommended by: Ariadne
Stealing Indians by John Smelcer (2016, Leapfrog Press; 200 pages)
“In 1950, four Indian teenagers, from very different parts of America, are taken from their families, their lives immutably changed by an institution designed to eradicate their identity, to make them into something else - to make them less Indian. And no matter where they came from - north, south, east or west - their stories are representative of every story, every stolen life.“ Far from home, without family to protect them, they will have to count on friends to help them endure. The author says that the book is a work of fiction but that every word is true.
Filled with tales of courage, friendship, love, pain and endurance, this is the story of Lucy Secondchief, Simon Lone Fight, Noah Boyscout and Elijah High Horse. Their tales and stories will resonate with young Alaskan readers but it is important to keep in mind that the story has a lack of tribal specificity and maybe because of that, it feels there are an abundance of stereotypes. There may be some problems also with accuracy with respect to time periods in which the story occurs. These notes should probably be part of a post-reading discussion. The book in fact includes a “questions for discussion” section that offers a historical context to the storytelling. Questions related to the residential Indian boarding school experiment that lasted from 1879 until the 60's, or to the deaths of thousands of Indian children due to diseases to which they had no previous immunity, or those related to practices to eradicate elements that sustain the identity of a person, like the haircuts that Indian boys received almost immediately when they arrived to the boarding schools are included and are necessary to be talked about.
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Recommended by: Maite