10 YA Books You Should Add to Your Classroom Library

As ELA teachers we’re always trying to add books to our classroom libraries. Ideally every child that walks into our classroom should be able to find a book that he/she can relate to. Here are a few books that I think would make great additions to any secondary ELA classroom.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Fabiola Toussaint grew up in Haiti and hasn’t spent a day away from her mother. Their plan was to move to America and live with her aunt and her cousins in Detroit. Unfortunately, Fabiola was allowed in the country, but her mother was detained. Fabiola is thrust into a world she doesn’t understand with people she barely knows. This heart-wrenching book is well-written and depicts the struggles of many young people today.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Being Native American is hard enough in a racist society. Our main character Junior is born with an array of health issues. Even as a teen he has a lisp, he wears thick glasses and he has a stutter. He jokes about being part of the “black eye of the month club” because he was always being beaten up. He rarely left the safety of his home because he didn’t want to be beaten up. Everyone on the reservation is poor and he is often the subject of ridicule and cruelty. To make matters worse, his parents are both alcoholics. Junior escapes the trauma of being bullied, and his life of poverty through his drawings. The book is well-written and it is semi-autobiographical.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The book starts out like a scene from The Breakfast Club: you have the jock, the prom queen, the nerd, the delinquent and the kid who ends up dying. Did one of them kill him? They all claim innocence, but someone had to do it. Right??? Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Someone must be behind this, but it’s not what you’d expect in this teen mystery. Everyone has something to hide, but who is the murderer?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter hasn’t seen her childhood friend Khalil in a long time when she runs into him at a neighborhood party. Starr goes to a private school in the suburbs because she lives in a rough neighborhood. When a fight breaks out at the party Starr gets in Khalil’s car to get away from danger. She thought that she was safe, but they get pulled over by a police officer and Khalil ends up getting shot and killed. Starr is the only witness, but will they believe her? She feels like she’s being pulled between two worlds. How can she stand up for her friend’s rights and not turn her world upside down?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The book is set in a future where everyone would rather be plugged into the internet 24 hours a day than deal with how depressing reality is. The world is overcrowded, unemployment has sky-rocketed and life in general is just not the way it used to be. Therefore, everyone plugs into the Oasis and lives the life they wish they had in real life. Wade Watts is poor, he lives with his aunt and her abusive boyfriend, he’s overweight and he has no friends. In the Oasis he’s better looking, and he has good friends. The creator of the Oasis created a contest that started when he died. The person that wins the contest gets to control the Oasis. Everyone dreams about the fame and fortune, but 5 years have passed, and no one has solved even the first part of the contest.

Auggie Pullman was born with a rare condition. He is 10 years old and he’s never been to school because he’s had numerous surgeries. Auggie fears going to a “real” school after being homeschooled his whole life. The book deals with issues such as fitting in and bullying. Every student should read this book so that they can get a better understanding of bullying and the painful effect of words.

Every teenager makes some bad decisions.  Unfortunately, the main character Andy makes a decision that ends up causing the death of one of his best friends. The guys were just celebrating winning the basketball game with a few drinks. He didn’t think he was that drunk…

Susie was only 14 years old when she was raped and murdered (that isn’t a spoiler because it happens on page one). The rest of the novel is uniquely narrated by her ghost. From up in heaven Susie observes her family, her friends and the rest of her suburban neighborhood. Susie gets to see things that normally she wouldn’t get to see like her sister’s first kiss and what happens to her murderer.  This book is beautifully written, and students thoroughly enjoy it.

Melinda went to a party the summer before entering high school. She calls the police during the party and as a result she starts her 9th grade year with no friends. The book follows Melinda over the course of the entire school year. The book deals with issues such as bullying, depression, and sexual assault. I think this is a book that every high school student should read. This book has now been adapted into a graphic novel.

Steve is 16 years old. He should be watching cartoons with his brother, playing basketball with his friends or making films for his school project, but he can’t because he’s in jail. Was Steve part of the robbery or is he innocent? This book is about Steve’s trial. Will he get a fair trial, or will his race stand in the way of justice? You’ll have to read the novel to find out.

Some of these books I’ve used with my whole class and others I would use either in literature circles or independent reading. Some of these books deal with controversial topics but these are topics that many of our students are already dealing with.


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