Top Ten Books That Should Be Required Reading for Teens
1. Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. In many Canadian school districts teachers are not allowed to teach Merchant of Venice because of it's antisemitic views. I think it's an amazing play that happens to touch on many "taboo" topics including homosexuality, antisemitism, and racism that students should study and learn about rather than be ignorant of.
2. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Being completely biased on this one because I love it more than air sometimes, but I think everyone should read Harry Potter. There's amazing character and plot development, plus great themes to study like good vs evil, nature vs nurture, the journey of the hero, sacrifice, responsibility, racism, prejudice, bullying, destiny, etc. I would've killed to do a paper on Harry Potter in high school.
3. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. One of Jodi Picoult's finest works, Nineteen Minutes focuses on many issues teenagers face including bullying, peer pressure, and relationship abuse in a strong literary style. A great novel about the consequences of actions it's main topic is a school shooting, something teens should read about and be aware of especially in a decade where so many have occurred.
4. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I read this when I was about 13 or 14 and bawled my way through the final chapters. An amazing ethical novel told through the eyes of a mentally challenged man given an operation to "be smart". I don't want to ruin the plot for anyone who hasn't read it yet but the transformation is tear-jerking and a must-read for any young person.
5. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. A novel about a young boy but definitely not for young readers. I would recommend this to a mature English class studying Holocaust literature because it gives a fresh perspective on concentration camps through the eyes of a child. Whittling World War II down to the simplest it can be taught me how truly horrifying the entire war was.
6. Crank by Ellen Hopkins. Poetry and dug abuse are two things rarely covered in high school curriculum, so why not combine them both in one book! Crank is an excellent way to convey metaphor, simile, and any other fancy literary terms English teachers argue can't be found in YA books without the "boringness" of most required reading today.
7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This one doesn't really have an explanation. It's just an amazing novel that I think all teens should read, especially boys just to gain a female perspective on rape. While some might argue it's a book with "heavy" content, I think it's important for teens to read at least some "dark" books at some point before they turn 18.
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry. This was required reading in my elementary school but I found out that no other school other than mine chose it so most teenagers at my high school had never read it. Everyone should read this! One of the first great dystopia novels written for teens, The Giver changed my perspective of government, responsibility, and communism.
9. So Shelly by Ty Roth. A bunch of people would probably disagree with this, but I'd choose this for recommended reading to introduce young people to some of the most famous authors and poets who ever existed. Why not read a modern day intellectually written book about them rather than subject students to reading poetry and books that they'll probably grumble about because they don't understand the language? This is a great introduction and would probably spark a lot of interest in people that otherwise would've ignored poetry and the classics all together.
10. Anything. As Anna said, teenagers should have the opportunity to read anything they want. Every year in my high school English classes we had one required reading novel (The Hobbit, To Kill a Mockingbird, Frankenstein, and Fifth Business) but in 3 of those classes we were allowed to choose our own ISU novel. It was a great opportunity to showcase and analyse YA fiction and I hope more English teachers do the same in the future.
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