BtB’s Top Titles for High Schoolers

The books just keep coming! Today we’re featuring fiction and nonfiction for high school readers, recommended by the bibliophiles on our staff; each is a profound tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.

Fist Stick Knife Gun Fist Stick Knife Gun by Geoffrey Canada
Long before the avalanche of praise for his work—from Oprah Winfrey, from President Bill Clinton, from President Barack Obama—long before he became known for his talk show appearances, Members Project spots, and documentaries like Waiting for “Superman”, Geoffrey Canada was a small boy growing up scared on the mean streets of the South Bronx. His childhood world was one where “sidewalk boys” learned the codes of the block and were ranked through the rituals of fist, stick, and knife. Then the streets changed, and the stakes got even higher. In his candid and riveting memoir, Canada relives a childhood in which violence stalked every street corner. — Amazon

Never Fall Down, Patricia McCormickNever Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
When soldiers arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever. Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes.One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn’s never played a note in his life, but he volunteers. In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand—and steal food to keep the other kids alive. This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. — Amazon

Jumped by Rita Williams-GarciaJumped Rita Williams-Garcia
All Leticia wants to do is to mind her own business. She’s too busy stewing about being assigned to early-morning math tutoring to worry about anyone else’s problems. Sure, she’s intrigued when she overhears bad-girl basketball player Dominique threaten to beat up bubbly, self-obsessed Trina for bumping her in the hallway—who wouldn’t be excited to get the inside scoop on juicy gossip like a girl-on-girl fight after school? But she doesn’t feel the need to get involved, even after she realizes that Trina didn’t hear Dominique’s threats and thus has no idea that she’s going to get jumped. Will she follow best friend Bea’s advice and warn Trina of the danger she faces, before a potential tragedy can unfold? — Reed Business Information

Random FamilyRandom Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
In her extraordinary bestseller, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc immerses readers in the intricacies of the ghetto, revealing the true sagas lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society. Focusing on two romances—Jessica’s dizzying infatuation with a hugely successful young heroin dealer, Boy George, and Coco’s first love with Jessica’s little brother, Cesar—Random Family is the story of young people trying to outrun their destinies. Jessica and Boy George ride the wild adventure between riches and ruin, while Coco and Cesar stick closer to the street, all four caught in a precarious dance between survival and death. Friends get murdered; the DEA and FBI investigate Boy George; Cesar becomes a fugitive; Jessica and Coco endure homelessness, betrayal, the heartbreaking separation of prison, and, throughout it all, the insidious damage of poverty. — Amazon

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot DiazThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love. — Amazon

In the time of the butterflies Julia AlvarezIn the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
During the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, three young women, members of a conservative, pious Catholic family, who had become committed to the revolutionary overthrow of the regime, were ambushed and assassinated as they drove back from visiting their jailed husbands. Thus martyred, the Mirabal sisters have become mythical figures in their country, where they are known as las mariposas (the butterflies), from their underground code names. Each of the girls–Patria, Minerva and Maria Terese (Mate) Mirabal–speaks in her own voice, beginning in their girlhood in the 1940s; their surviving sister, Dede, frames the narrative with her own tale of suffering and dedication to their memory.  Alvarez captures the terrorized atmosphere of a police state, in which people live under the sword of terrible fear and atrocities cannot be acknowledged. As the sisters’ energetic fervor turns to anguish, Alvarez conveys their courage and their desperation, and the full import of their tragedy. — Reed Business Information

Stay with me, Paul GriffinStay With Me by Paul Griffin
Fifteen-year-olds Cece and Mack didn’t expect to fall in love. She’s a sensitive A student; he’s a high school dropout. But soon they’re spending every moment together, bonding over a rescued dog, telling their secrets, making plans for the future. Everything is perfect. Until. Until. Mack makes a horrible mistake, and in just a few minutes, the future they’d planned becomes impossible. In this stark new reality, both of them must find meaning and hope in the memories of what they had, to survive when the person they love can’t stay. — Amazon

This post is part of a series – don’t forget to check out earlier installations herehere, and here.

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