Posts Tagged 'high school life'

The List by Vivian Siohban



Genre:  Realistic Fiction

333 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

2014-2015 Iowa High School Award Winner

Every year a list is posted the Monday before Homecoming listing the four prettiest and four ugliest girls, one for each grade respectively.  Each chapter follows one of the eight girls and how they cope with the existence of this list.  Danielle, the ugliest freshmen, must deal with the fallout of how her boyfriend handles the news that she was voted on this list.  Meanwhile, Abby, the prettiest freshmen faces possibly not being allowed to go to the dance at all due to grades.  The “ugliest” sophomore is actually a cute, but very mean girl who is deemed “ugliest” on the inside.  The “prettiest” sophomore girl is a girl who has been home-schooled for her entire life and is trying to find independence from her mom with great difficulty.  The prettiest junior, Bridget, feels pressured into an eating disorder in order to maintain her image while the ugliest junior reacts quite strongly and refuses to shower or change her clothes for the entire week after the list comes out.  The ugliest senior is the first ever to earn that particular honor for all four years of high school and she pretends she is totally fine with it.  The prettiest senior feels the pressure to follow in her sister’s footsteps who was the prettiest senior the year before and seemed to fall apart afterward.  Each chapter follows a different girl as she navigates through this very difficult week.

This book has earned many awards for good reason.  This book delves into many serious issues for high school girls including insecurity, the fear of being excluded, worrying about what others think, eating disorders, dating problems, academic trouble, lying, and problems at home.  No one on the list finds happiness no matter which side of the list she is on.  While the circumstances around the list may seem unbelievable, the issues surrounding it are completely believable and exist at every high school.  A great book to recommend to high school girls, especially ones who are having trouble adjusting.

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Suspense

# of Pages:  236 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Madison lives in a wealthy, safe neighborhood where no one ever thinks anything bad could possibly happen.  When an anonymous blogger writes that she wishes one of the popular girls, Lucy, would die she disappears.  As the community frantically tries to find out what happened to Lucy, Madison must deal with her guilt over being the last one to see her.  When the blogger then starts singling out others and more disappear, the entire community begins to panic instilling curfews and chaperones on all the teenagers.  Meanwhile, Madison is receiving mysterious notes and she often feels like she is being followed.  Could she be the next victim?  Will she be able to figure this out before it is too late?

This story touches on the issue of bullying and how even minor comments and actions can have lingering effects.  The suspense and mystery will keep even reluctant readers interested, while at the same time providing several good topics for discussion in small groups.  How involved should parents and teachers be with bullying?  How should bullies be punished?  Should the victims take any responsibility?  What could you do if you see a student getting bullied?

Lush by Natasha Friend

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 178 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Samantha struggles with the fact that her father is an alcoholic. He is a successful architect who often comes home late or not at all due to his drinking habits. Her mother is constantly making excuses for him and trying to tell her that everything is okay, but Samantha does not believe this and starts to grow distant from him. After a binge he is always apologetic and promising change, but Sam quickly learns that his word means nothing. Her little brother is young enough that he doesn’t understand what is going on, but Sam tries to protect him from it nonetheless. She begins leaving notes for someone in the library she believes might be able to help her, but the person responding to her notes is not who she thinks it is. As she deals with some bullying at school the situation at home continues to get worse. The worst part is that she starts to wonder if she could have the same tendencies as her father.

Alcoholism is a very serious topic for young adults, but this story relates the topic best to teenagers and what it can be like to live with an alcoholic. This book discusses the warning signs, the symptoms, and even the steps needed to begin overcoming this disease. Having said that, it never gets preachy or gives the impression that something of this nature can be fixed quickly. Communication is stressed as being very important to helping a family member work through this problem. A good book about a serious subject.

Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 13 and up

# of Pages: 338 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Written as an inside story about the famous music group Lemonade Mouth, this book follows the five bandmates and tells the story of how Lemonade Mouth came to be. Wen, Charlie, Mo, Stella, and Olivia were all thrown into detention one fateful day and the idea of a band started to take shape. As they begin to meet after school in the music room, which is located in the dingy basement, they start to realize that anyone who has activities located in this portion of the building (including A-V, choir, band, etc.) start to become labeled as freaks in the high school. Life gets more difficult for them when they get equal playing time to the popular high school band, Mudslide Crush. The members of that band resent having to share school functions and plan to make life difficult for this group of freshmen. Despite all the difficulties, however, Lemonade Mouth soon gains unprecedented popularity and they try to use that popularity toward promoting causes they believe are important.

This story was a surprisingly fun book to read. The idea that five virtual strangers, who often feel like they do not fit in anywhere, can come together and touch the lives of so many of their classmates is inspiring. Their road to success is difficult and often plagued with strife, but they keep trying even when things look hopeless. The main characters all have personal issues to deal with as they navigate high school, but never stop trying to make their way through that difficult time. Over time they realize they do not need to try so hard to survive the pressures and trials of high school when they have each other to lean on. This is a fun, entertaining, and many times surprising book that most readers will really enjoy.

The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  494 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Bindy Mackenzie is a very studious and conscientious high school student.  She is the type who always gets the highest grade in the class and is not afraid to tell anyone what she thinks.  Due to her frank and curious nature she has sometimes alienated students around her.  This year all juniors are required to take a Friendship and Development (FAD) class that she finds useless and a waste of time.  The class asks her to look back at her own life so far and reflect on what she sees.  She finds that she is not happy with her relationships and becomes obsessed with making friends in her (FAD) class.  As she focuses on this more and more she loses sight of everything that was previously important to her.  She also starts to get really sick.  Can she pull herself together to become the person she realizes she wants to be or is it too late?

This story is told through Bindy’s journal and includes diary entries, memos, emails, essays, and even transcripts of conversations she has heard.  Bindy records every thought and interaction she has every day.  As she struggles with her home life, school life, and health her journal ramblings can seem a little superfluous but in the end everything makes sense as the surprising ending unfolds.  Students who make it through some of the mundane chapters will be pleased with how the story ends and will appreciate why the mundane portions of the book were important in order to piece together what happens to Bindy.  The story also discusses many issues that teenagers face everyday and shows students that there are many ways to deal with those issues, some more effective than others.


Crackback by John Coy

Genre: Sports/Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 200

2008 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book: Yes

Miles Manning has been a starting football player since he was in junior high. His team begins the year with high aspirations of winning state, but those dreams quickly vanish when their two starting quarterbacks get hurt and their coach has to leave for radiation treatments. The new coach blames Miles for everything that goes wrong with the team and believes he thinks too much and should just react to situations.

As hard as life is at school, however, it is worse at home. Miles’s dad is like a ticking time bomb that they all tip toe around and try not to set off. He still manages to find things to be angry about and usually goes after Miles when he wants to yell at someone. He was a big football player himself, so whenver he can he tells Miles all the mistakes he is making and never compliments him on what he does well.

On top of everything else, the players who are doing well on the team have all started taking recreational drugs including steroids and want him to do the same. This story accurately depicts the many aspects of a teenager’s life and how pressure can come at a student from all sides at times. Despite the many people trying to pull Miles down he always does what he feels is right, even if he knows there will be consequences. He cannot allow others to think for him and instead chooses to always think for himself. Miles has to learn that there will be life after high school and in order to survive he needs to look ahead. Recommended, especially for sports readers.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 250 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Tyler struggles with both his home and school life. His father works for one of the most powerful men in the community and struggles to please him. The stress of his dad’s job transfers to a difficult home life for Tyler as his father often takes his frustrations out by yelling and him, his mother, and his sister. Although his dad never hits anyone, he is not afraid to yell and throw tantrums in order to get the respect from his family that he thinks he deserves.

At the same time, Tyler is still remembered for a vandalism prank he pulled the previous year. He is constantly picked on and ridiculed, but the most popular girl in school, who also happens to be his dad’s boss’s daughter, has decided to show some interest in him. When Tyler makes a difficult decision at a party to walk away from a bad situation, he ends up landing in even more trouble than he could have imagined.

This powerful story will resonate with readers in a similar way to Anderson’s popular Speak. This story asks many questions about high school life such as: Do the rich and powerful always win? Can someone be beaten into submission? Can someone survive abuse in all aspects of his or her life? Is it possible to stand up for yourself against all powerful forces? Students will find this story haunting but possible, which will leave them thinking about these questions long after they have finished reading.

Undercover by Beth Kephart

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  278

RAC Book:  Yes

Elisa loves to write poems and chooses to use that talent to help boys get girls to like them.  She believes that she will always be invisible since she is not pretty or popular.  When she helps a boy named Theo try to woo a popular girl she begins to enjoy meeting with him to share poems and other thoughts.  When his new girlfriend finds out she gets jealous and vows to make Elisa’s life miserable. 

Elisa is not just invisible at school, however.  Her mother and older sister are beautiful blonds who concern themselves with their appearance and the latest fashions.  Elisa doesn’t mind this as much as you would think because she has such a strong connection to her father, the person who showed her how to view nature in a way that she could write poetry about it.  Her father has been out of town on business for a long time and it begins to cause friction between her parents.

The idea of Elisa being a Cyrano de Bergerac is interesting, but not played out enough.  She seems to do it out of sheer kindness even though everyone around her treats her terribly.  Her fascination with skating is interesting, but also rushed in the ending which makes it feel underdeveloped.  The entire ending seemed rushed and too open ended for the intended audience.  Students will have many questions about it when they are finished.  The pacing of this story is uneven and fails to resolve itself by the end.