#54 The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks. Grand Central Publishing, 2009. ISBN: 0446547565, 400 pp.
Publisher’s Description: “Seventeen year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Miller’s life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father… until her mother decides it would be in everyone’s best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie’s father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story about love in its myriad forms – first love, the love between parents and children – that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that deeply felt relationships can break our hearts… and heal them.”
Awards: Awards? Who needs awards when it comes to fun romance books?! Alright, I’ll admit that The Last Song was selected for the Goodreads Choice Award for Chick Lit (2009).
Diane’s note: Finding romantic books for teens is never easy. Nicholas Sparks has created a novel perfect for teens and young adults that shows you can quickly change with the right friends to help. My favorite quote: “Life, he realized, was much like a song. In the beginning there is mystery, in the end there is confirmation, but it’s in the middle where all the emotion resides to make the whole thing worthwhile.” Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I should mention that this has been made into a movie starring Miley Cyrus. Since Nicholas Sparks wrote the screenplay before the book, that little tidbit might be important.
#53 The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Greenwillow Books, 2006. ISBN13: 978-006083577X. 400 pp.
By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides (yoo-JEN-ə-deez) wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making.
Then he drags a naive young guard into the center of the political maelstrom. Poor Costis knows he is the victim of the king’s caprice, but his contempt for Eugenides slowly turns to grudging respect. Though struggling against his fate, the newly crowned king is much more than he appears. Soon the corrupt Attolian court will learn that its subtle and dangerous intrigue is no match for Eugenides.
Quotes from Readers:
Megan Whalen Turner is a genius. This is my favorite of her books thus far. (I haven’t read A Conspiracy of Kings yet.)
(Sequel to the Queen of Attolia.) This book is a standalone, although it’s even more enjoyable if you’ve read the previous two. Like its predecessors, it contains twists and surprises galore, and the way the main character manages to make everything work out for him is just wonderful to behold. I wish there were two number ten slots, because this would be right there with Queen.
- School Library Journal Best Book
- ALA Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults
- Horn Book Fanfare
- New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
- Dorothy Canfield Fisher Chidlren’s Book Award Masterlist (VT)
Diane’s note: This is book three in the series by Megan Whalen Turner. It is a fascinating fantasy without epic exploits. I believe you should read them in order since there are spoilers throughout. Some series you can read in any order, then go back and re-sort the pieces. For this series, I think you should stick with the order listed below:
The Queen of Attolia
The King of Attolia
A Conspiracy of Kings
#52 Just Listen by Sarah Dessen Viking Juvenile, 2006. ISBN13: 9780670061051. 371 pp.
Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything”—at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help,maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.
Quotes from Readers: Dessen’s books all have a similar feel, but this one is her best. The characters are real and fully realized. They have faced hardships and they heal each other. A great love story, where you see each detail of the characters feelings unfold.
Awards: ALA Teens’ Top Ten, Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee 2011
Diane’s note: Sarah Dessen’s books resonate with my teen students. Just Listen will invite comparisons to Speak. I was glad to see this made the list.
#51 Forever by Judy Blume – 1975 ISBN13: pp.
Publisher’s Description: There’s a first for everything . When you build up something in your mind — really imagine it, wish for it — sometimes, when it actually happens, it doesn’t live up to your expectations. True love is nothing like that. Especially not for Katherine and Michael, who can’t get enough of each other. Their relationship is unique: sincere, intense, and fun all at the same time. Although they haven’t been together all that long, they know it’s serious. A whole world opens up as young passion and sexuality bloom. But it’s senior year of high school, and there are big changes ahead. Michael and Katherine are destined for another big “first”: a decision. Is this the love of a lifetime, or the very beginning of a lifetime of love?
Quotes from Readers:
A girl book, to be sure, but required reading for every girl upon turning sixteen or so? It is a story of first love and sexual awakening that really empowers female choice and respect. The main character is responsible- she goes on birth control, and she loses her virginity because she wants to with the boy she loves and trusts. And eventually, she grows and moves on.
This book has a timeless appeal to teenage girls especially. I have heard so many stories of “I just couldn’t stop reading it–do you have another book like this?”
Awards: Well…. honestly, this book is not well-written in a literary sense, so I couldn’t find an award for the writing. Wait…. how about an award for being #7 on the 100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999?
Diane’s note: Okay, I admit it. I did read this book when I was in middle school. I didn’t have to sneak it like my friends did. My mom was the local librarian four hours a week and simply let me check it out. I was all excited to read the juicy sex stuff, but the romance left me feeling flat so it never became one of my favorite titles. I was confused by Ralph so I went back to sneaking reads of some of my mom’s more adult titles to see if any of them named their penises. Phew! It was a relief to find out most don’t. While this book remains a classic for censorship, I wonder how we’d feel about it reading it today? Hmm? I notice it’s not on the shelves in my middle school. I wonder if it’s on yours. Was there some type of censoring or self-censoring occurring before I arrived or did all the copies simply wear out? Would you consider this a strictly high school title or would you put it on the middle school shelves?
#50 Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. ISBN13: 978-0-375-82668-8. 497 pp.
Publisher’s Description: When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands….
- Arizona Young Readers’ Award (2006: Teen Book, Winner)
- Beehive Award (Utah) (2004-2005: Young Adult, Winner)
- Book of the Year Award (2004: Kids’ Non-Illustrated, Winner)
- Book Sense Book of the Year Award (2004: Children’s Literature, Winner)
- Books I Love Best Yearly (BILBY) Award (Australia) (2007: Shortlist Older Readers)
- Borders Original Voices Award (Finalist, 2003: Intermediate/Young Adult Literature)
- Buckeye Children’s Book Award (Ohio) (2007: Grades 6-8, Winner)
- Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award (2004-2005, Winner)
- Colorado Children’s Book Award (2005: Junior Novel, Winner)
- Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (2006, Winner)
- Evergreen Young Adult Book Award (Washington) (2006, Winner)
- Florida Teens Read (2006, Winner)
- Gateway Readers Award (Missouri) (2006: Young Adult Division, 1st Place)
- Golden Archer Award (Wisconsin) (2006: Middle/Junior High School, Winner)
- Iowa Teen Award (2008, Winner)
- Kanga Award (Australia) (2005: Year 6-7, Top 15 Book)
- Nene Award (Hawaii) (2006, Winner)
- Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award (2005: Grades 6-8, Winner)
- Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (Illinois) (2006, Winner)
- Rhode Island Teen Book Award (2005, Winner)
- Sequoyah Book Award (United States) (2006: Young Adult, Winner)
- Soaring Eagle Book Award (Wyoming) (2005: Grades 7-12, Winner)
- South Carolina Young Adult Book Award (2006, Winner)
- Teens’ Top Ten List (2004, Winner)
- Virginia Readers’ Choice Award (2006: Middle School, Winner)
- Volunteer State Book Award (Tennessee) (2006: Grades 7-12, Winner)
- West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (2005: Older Reader, Reading List)
- White Ravens Award (2004, Winner)
- Young Readers’ Choice Award (2006: Grades 7-9, Winner)
Diane’s note: Fun stuff online at alagaesia.com http://www.alagaesia.com/activities.htm. Eragon was a success story that inspired many teens to write. Paolini was only fifteen when he wrote the first draft of Eragon then worked with his family to self-publish. Thanks to Carl Hiaasen, Knopf picked up Eragon and began this huge journey. My students who love a deep fantasy with many characters love the Inheritance cycle including Eragon, Eldest, Brisinger, and a rumored fourth book. I remember my oldest son curled up between soccer games with Eragon.
Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, and the Inheritance cycle. Three of our most circulated fantasy series for middle schoolers. Critics found all the cliches, errors, and plot similarities to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Still youth vote for this title over and over again, as you can see by the list of awards at the top. The students have spoken. I own multiple copies.