Divergent Crazy: Top 16 Books to Get you Through Divergent Withdrawal for the Next Year

Hi all! I meant to mention this before (and failed–sorry about that), but if you get a chance to see the movie Divergent (let alone read the series!) I highly recommend it!


Not all YA book to movie adaptations manage to transition from page to screen smoothly, but I thought that this one was great. Even my 68-year-old father–who makes fun of me incessantly for my interest in YA lit, and has therefore not read the series (though curiously did read The Hunger Games. . . hmmmm. . . )–really, really enjoyed this movie!

To the point, though: This hyperlink takes you to a great list of YA Lit broken into categories (the same as those in Divergent!) to help with the wait until the next episode of the Divergent series is released! So, for example, if you’re feeling rather Erudite, take a look at some interesting YA books under the Erudite section. What really caught my attention with this list is that there were a number of books on it that I haven’t seen time and again on other lists of YA lit. That could be good or bad, but for me? It’s a challenge that I look forward to checking out, and I hope you do too!

Also, to add a little context for those of you unfamiliar with the Divergent series, very briefly, it is a dystopic series set in a society that is broken into factions (separate work/personality groups). In this society, each teenager, upon reaching the appointed age, must publicly commit themselves to the faction of their choosing: either Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity or Candor. Once the group is chosen, though, there’s no going back and undoing it, and failure to sustain the requirements of the chosen group’s initiation results in becoming a member of the “factionless.” The series follows Trish in her choice of which faction she will join (no other hints because I don’t want to ruin it for you!), facing the challenges of that group, as well as trying to make sense of the world as she knows it when the factions war with each other. If you liked The Hunger Games, you’ll definitely enjoy Divergent!

In fact, come to think of it, dystopic novels are pretty popular for young adults. As mentioned, you have those of the Divergent and Hunger Games series, The Giver series, The Maze Runner series. . . I have a sneaky suspicion the list goes on and on. I’m sure there’s a lot I’m missing–anyone else have a dystopic YA series they can plug here?


Tuck Everlasting and Other Thoughts

Tuck Everlasting is a book I adored the first time I read it, probably when I was about 10; at the time I really identified with Winnie. However, rereading it as an adult I noticed a few things that concerned me. In general I am bothered by the literary trope where the immortal character falls for the young female protagonist. Here is someone with decades of experiences falling for a young girl. This is bad enough when the character is a teenage girl; Winnie is 10. I have read way too much about adults who “groom” young children for inappropriate relationships. For Jesse to try to convince 10-year-old Winnie to drink the water when she is 17, so she can be with him, truly disturbs me. I am currently teaching a 6th grade class, and I would hate to think any of my students would get the impression that it’s romantic for a much older person to express interest in them. Granted I am looking at this through 33-year-old eyes, and my 12-year-old students are adoring this novel. It’s possible I am over-thinking this, but I think it’s our job as teachers to notice things before they happen.

Sadly, Natalie Babbitt does not have a blog for us to follow, but she does have an author’s page through Scholastic (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/natalie-babbitt).

Lastly, I wanted to respond to some of the questions and comments I received after my lesson.

  1. When working in my class I have shown my students a model Voki, this is also an activity I’ve returned to on more than one occasion, and so the more kids work with the site the more comfortable they are with it.
  2. It is possible to embed your Vokis in other sites; with much practice I was able to embed a Voki in a PowerPoint for a presentation.
  3. When students don’t have emails, or are unable to log in, I log them in using my sign in. In fact, I did this for a few people Tuesday!
  4. In order to prepare for this lesson I usually plan out which level I think each student should choose, this doesn’t mean they will, but if I think a student is at a fundamental level and they choose super challenge, I might try having them at least choose the challenge option. It’s also important to have a back-up lesson in case the internet is down, or the computers aren’t working.


Why We Teach YA LIt Statement

JC: Young adult literature is a significant genre of reading as it relates to adolescents at a time in their lives where growth and evolution are extremely important. The lessons, morals, advice and information that can be learned through literature at this age is very imperative, insofar as it can teach teens how to develop into mature adults. Moreover, the experiences that are conveyed in YA novels and books makes adolescents feel like they are not alone in the plights that they encounter as they become “grown-ups”. It is for this particular reason and for my affinity in reading about human narratives why I would like to teach YA Lit. – JC

A Rainbow Worth Following . . .

Sometimes you bite into a book and it seems like it should be exciting, interesting, and perfect for your YA readers.Sometimes you open it and start reading, but soon the words blur on the page, you begin yawning, and find that the dialogue is taking you nowhere, because never in a million years does it reflect a conversation that you could possibly imagine any teens you know having. OR it’s so extremely dirty, you cringe at the idea of recommending it to a younger person, even if the story is, indeed, worth reading, and blush even as you read it.

However, every so often, you come across a book that’s so well written and masterfully told that you can’t put it down; you can’t wait to share it with every YA lit reader you know; you don’t want it to end. I had this distinct impression while reading Rainbow Rowell’s book, Eleanor & Park.

The book tells a couple of clear narrative story lines along the way: one follows Eleanor’s troubles dealing with an abusive step father, a highly impoverished living environment, and being the odd new girl in school. The other follows the budding friendship/relationship between Eleanor and her bus seat buddy, Park. It is a beautifully woven narrative, with strong dialogue, a touching switch of narration between Eleanor and Park ( a technique that’s been done–and done well–repeatedly in young adult fiction, by other YA lit authors–Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s popular book/movie, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist comes to mind, as well as in Marie Lu’s Legend series and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series–the books, not so much the movie). Personally, I think it’s a great way for the author to incorporate both the male and female perspectives in the story.

If you liked John Greene’s The Fault in Our Stars, this one is a great one to check out! (Especially because film rights have already been bought by Dreamworks, and the film itself is set to begin shooting next year!!!)


While Eleanor & Park is my favorite by this author, she has a couple of other books out, too, intriguingly each for (in my humble opinion) different age groups. While E & P is clearly geared for young adult readership, her book Fangirl, about twin girls starting college–one of whom is extroverted, the other introverted, both dealing with familial issues, concerns for each other and the initial college experience–is a great read, as well, though maybe a bit much for the standard 12-17 crowd. The book follows the main character, Cath, who is the author of an extremely popular fan fiction blog about a highly Harry Potter-esque book series, which rules her life through most of the book. Her sister, Wren, is focused on partying, drinking, boys and not much else. Yet Rowell does a great job of not judging either for their proclivities: instead, she treats her characters as young women who are making choices about juggling life, family, classes, and personal interests (though she does an excellent job of showing the family’s concern for Wren’s self-abusive drinking behaviors). Indeed, Cath is constantly reflecting the nervousness/self-doubt that seems fairly common in many young adults, while Wren engages in very adult behaviors with the careless interests of a youngster first tasting freedom.

There are definite arguments that this could work for the very oldest of the young adult novel crowd. However, I would lean the readership of this book more squarely towards new adult over young adult.

Finally, Rowell’s last book–Attachments–is squarely an adult novel (and so I won’t go into details on it on this blog. However, if you–fully adult young adult teachers–want a witty adult read, you could definitely do worse).

Out of curiosity, what is your take on romance in young adult lit? How much is enough, and how much is too much? And, perhaps most important, how does the author’s use of literary techniques determine the answers to these questions for you?


Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Staying_Fat_for_Sarah_Byrnes_coverEven though the adage “Love is blind” sounded trite as I whispered the phrase repeatedly and faintly while finishing reading Chris Crutcher’s Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I thought the phrase as a writing prompt and exit slip for the resolution of the story was appropriate. Why? I pondered.  Because Crutcher want let’s forget, and he’s giving the adage a new dimension for teenagers.


Male fans of female YA characters

Click the image for a list of 100 books to get boys reading, from The Telegraph (UK)

From The Telegraph (UK)

So there’s evidently been some hullabaloo about book retailers engaging in gender marketing. Evidently they believe boys won’t want to read books with girl protagonists.

Weird, eh?

Well, here’s a list, from The Guardian (UK), that counters this argument: female characters admired by male readers. Men and boys want to read good stories as much as women and girls do. Why are we not surprised?

Who are your favorite female (and male) protagonists?


Why I would teach on the book The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

Why I would teach on the book The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

I believe that students should read a wide range of genres in their English classes. One of the genres I think is most beneficial is historical fiction. Students are able to connect their learning experience in history class to characters that they read about in their historical novels. History text books alone can be boring because of the many facts and figures. There aren’t enough details to engage students into the events and get them to think about the significance of what happened. When authors writing novels are able to use facts and make it relate to people’s own experience, then students could gain a better understanding of events in certain points of history and that is what Paula Fox did in her novel The Slave Dancer.

Paula Fox wrote The Slave Dancer, which is about a boy name Jessie who is kidnapped by sailors to play his fife in a slave ship. The story brought into awareness the horrors of the slave trade and slavery. Paula Fox spent many hours in the New York City public libraries to gather information for her novel. She wanted to have accurate information about slave ships to describe it in her novel. Fox also learned about the different laws that were presented in the time that the novel took place, which was in 1840. According to a New York Times article published in the 1974, Fox stated that The Slave Dancer, “In many ways … was the most difficult book I’ve ever written”. Fox said this because she wanted to have precise information, she also said, “When dealing with a certain period in history… the spontaneity of your writing is restrained by the nagging doubt, ‘Is this true? Is this the way it must have been?” So in order to answer her own personal questions she had to dig into books and find the facts. She read about different historical accounts and incorporated them into her novel.

Fox’s novel is a great literature to use in an English classroom because students would get to learn about the slave trade and slavery through fictional characters. The characters emotions and actions would bring the events to life, and students would see how it affected people. An English teacher could collaborate with a history teacher to create a curriculum where students are able to think about events from a historical lens, and from English. As I did in my mini- lesson, I would find real historical documents like the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano to have students compare both experiences and get an in depth understanding of the horrors slavery during that time period. JA

Check out a cool book trailer for The Slave Dancer

Check out a cool book trailer for The Slave Dancer

Hey All,

I’ve attached a link to the YouTube web page of a book trailer for The Slave Dancer. I must say that the trailers posted on YouTube are not made by professionals, but by students in school, so it’s not as extravagant as what you normally see for movies. There were many book trailers posted for The Slave Dancer and this one was my favorite. I thought that the person spoke clearly and gave great visuals. If you watch it let me know what you think. JA