By the time students get to high school, pleasure reading has become, for many of them, nonexistent. I remember watching sophomores and juniors walk into my classroom and ask, “Why do you have all these books in here? I never read anymore.” As many of us have learned, somewhere between “Circle Time” read alouds in elementary school and when they walk in our doors in high school, we have managed to kill the love of reading in our students. As I’ve mentioned before in my 5 Best Read Alouds for Middle School, I think students are never to old to be read to. And more than ever, when books are dissected and analyzed and cited and thematically essayed to death in high school, we need to reintroduce our students to the LOVE OF STORY. Please keep in mind that these are merely suggestions and books that I have had success with in multiple districts. You, of course, are the best judge of whether a book and its content are appropriate for your students.
1. The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe by Dan Poblocki – Has Gabriel created a monster?
Something sinister lurks in the woods outside of Slade.
Gabe has seen it, or he thinks he has – a shadow standing at the tree line, watching Gabe’s house with faintly glowing eyes.
Despite Gabe’s misgivings, his new friend, Seth, relishes the creepy atmosphere of the forest. It’s the perfect setting for his imaginary struggle against the Hunter, a deformed child-eating creature said to leave the bones of his victims in his wake. It’s just a game, but it’s all a bit much for Gabe, who quickly loses interest as summer ends and the days grow shorter.
But then strange things start to happen. Frightening things. And Gabe knows it has to do with the dark figure watching him from the edge of the woods.
Is Seth out to teach Gabe a lesson? Or is the Hunter more than just a myth? Gabe isn’t sure which option is more horrifying, but he’s determined to learn the truth before someone gets hurt . . . or worse.
2. Blank Confession by Pete Hautman – Shayne Blank is the new kid in town–but that doesn’t stop him from getting into a lot of trouble very quickly. The other kids don’t understand him. He’s not afraid of anything. He seems too smart. And his background doesn’t add up. But when he walks into the police department to confess to a murder, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems. There’s more to Shayne–and his story–than meets the eye. As the details begin to fill in, the only thing that becomes clear is that nothing about Shayne’s story is clear at all.
3. Shattering Glass by Gail Giles* – “Simon Glass was easy to hate….I guess, really we each hated him for a different reason, but we didn’t realize it until the day we killed him.”
Fat, clumsy Simon Glass is a nerd, a loser who occupies the lowest rung on the high school social ladder. Everyone picks on him — until Rob Haynes shows up. Rob, a transfer student with charisma to spare, immediately becomes the undisputed leader of the senior class. And he has plans for Simon.
Rob enlists the help of his crew — wealthy, intellectual Young, ladies’ man Bob, and sweet, athletic Coop — in a mission: Turn sniveling Simon from total freak to would-be prom king.
But as Simon rises to the top of the social ranks, he shows a new confidence and a devious side that power-hungry Rob did not anticipate. And when Simon uncovers a dangerous secret, events darken. The result is disquieting, bone-chilling…and brutal. *some profanity and sexual content
4. Killing Mr. Griffin – Lois Duncan – High school can be tough. But with teachers like Mr. Griffin it can seem impossible.
They only planned to scare him. But sometimes even the best-laid plans go wrong.
5. The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom – Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. His days are a dull routine of work, loneliness, and regret.
On his 83rd birthday, Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.
One by one, Eddie’s five people illuminate the unseen connections of his earthly life. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life: Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer, which comes from the most unlikely of sources, is as inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.
6. “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by John Green from Let It Snow with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.
Using these titles ans springboards, it is possible to get high school students interested in reading again. I’ve seen it. Good luck, and happy reading!