Torrey Maldonado Recommends Books for Middle and High Schoolers

With summer in full swing, it’s possible you’ve already exhausted your reading list. Never fear – Behind the Book author Torrey Maldonado has some recommendations for you!

 After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson, a Behind the Book author

The day D Foster enters Neeka and her best friend’s lives, the world opens up for them. Suddenly they’re keenly aware of things beyond their block in Queens, things that are happening in the world—like the shooting of Tupac Shakur—and in search of their Big Purpose in life. When—all too soon—D’s mom swoops in to reclaim her, and Tupac dies, they are left with a sense of how quickly things can change and how even all-too-brief connections can touch deeply.

America by E.R. Frank, a Behind the Book author

Fifteen-year-old America has been nowhere, has been nobody. He is separated from his foster mother. He is a runaway, a patient. Without love. Without hope. And, eventually, without the will to live. Until Dr. B. steps in. To listen, to explore, and to find within America both the story and the boy who are lost.

The Hammer and the Anvil by Dwight Jon Zimmerman

In The Hammer and the Anvil, the award-winning author Dwight Jon Zimmerman and the renowned artist Wayne Vansant vividly depicts the tumultuous time through the lives of two men who defined it: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

This book reveals that both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln each wrestled with the question of slavery from a young age. Douglass, a slave who was spared no brutality, once fought an especially cruel master and escaped north to freedom. Lincoln, who was hired out by his father to do manual labor on neighbors’ farms, found this harsh life intolerable. As a senator, Lincoln sought ways to end the westward spread of slavery, believing that adding free states to the Union would diminish the power of the Southern states and lead to the gradual disappearance of the “peculiar institution.” Douglass was less patient. He had become a skilled orator and an influential editor of Northern abolitionist journals, and called on white Americans to honor their nation’s founding commitment to liberty.

When the Civil War erupted in April 1861, Douglass hoped that the conflict would mean the end of slavery. But Lincoln delayed emancipation, and Douglass despaired—until he met the president face-to-face and recognized that their causes were one and the same. Featuring evocative and dramatic scenes of this seminal time, The Hammer and the Anvil will engage both Civil War buffs and young people new to the study of American history.

The Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

In the summer of 1971, Jack Gantos was an aspiring writer looking for adventure, cash for college tuition, and a way out of a dead-end job. For ten thousand dollars, he recklessly agreed to help sail a sixty-foot yacht loaded with a ton of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City, where he and his partners sold the drug until federal agents caught up with them. For his part in the conspiracy, Gantos was sentenced to serve up to six years in prison.

In Hole in My Life, this prize-winning author of over thirty books for young people confronts the period of struggle and confinement that marked the end of his own youth. On the surface, the narrative tumbles from one crazed moment to the next as Gantos pieces together the story of his restless final year of high school, his short-lived career as a criminal, and his time in prison. But running just beneath the action is the story of how Gantos – once he was locked up in a small, yellow-walled cell – moved from wanting to be a writer to writing, and how dedicating himself more fully to the thing he most wanted to do helped him endure and ultimately overcome the worst experience of his life.

Stay With Me by Paul Griffin, a Behind the Book author

Fifteen-year-olds Cece and Mack didn’t expect to fall in love. She’s a sensitive, straight-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 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.

From award-winning writer Paul Griffin, Stay with Me is both heartbreaking and uplifting, filled with characters (both dog and human) that will forever change the way you look at the world.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Yummy by G. Neri, a Behind the Book author

Eleven-year old Roger is trying to make sense of his classmate Robert “Yummy” Sandifer’s death, but first he has to make sense of Yummy’s life. Yummy could be as tough as a pit bull sometimes. Other times he was as sweet as the sugary treats he loved to eat. Was Yummy some sort of monster, or just another kid? As Roger searches for the truth, he finds more and more questions. How did Yummy end up in so much trouble? Did he really kill someone? And why do all the answers seem to lead back to a gang – the same gang to which Roger’s older brother belongs? Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is a compelling graphic dramatization based on events that occurred in Chicago in 1994. This gritty exploration of youth gang life will force readers to question their own understandings of good and bad, right and wrong.

If your book appears on this list and you are interested in becoming a Behind the Book author, please contact us at info@behindthebook.org.

If you’re looking for other recommendations, feel free to check some out here, here, and here.

And as always, you can browse our shelves on Goodreads.

All book summaries were taken from their respective pages on Amazon, and may have been altered for our purposes.

Happy reading!

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