Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Wish Students in #yalitclass Would Read


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week’s topic is a freebie, and I’ve decided to put together a list of 10 books I wish everyone enrolled in my Adolescent Lit class would read. Since I’m the instructor of the course, I could require all of these books. But I am trying to streamline and limit required reading in all of my courses in favor of reading challenges and invitations.

beyond magenta

Beyond Magenta

This collection of interviews with transgender teens challenges us to rethink gender assumptions and stereotypes and to grow in compassion, understanding, and love. It gives voice to a group of teens who are all too often silenced in our schools. And Susak Kuklin’s photographs are truly powerful.

grasshopper jungle

Grasshopper Jungle

Andrew Smith’s tour-de-force novel is about everything. As the main character, Austin, reminds us, the best books always are. It’s jaw-droppingly insane and obscene and offensive as well as sweet and poignant. I’m still marveling over how Smith pulled it off.

gabi a girl in pieces

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Gabi is just so real. She struggles–with family, body image, friends, decisions about sex, decisions about her future–but you always know she’s going to find a way to make her choice work. There are plenty of “issues” in this novel–teen sexuality, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, poverty, to name just a few–but it never feels heavy-handed.

this one summer

This One Summer

Exquisitely bittersweet with some of the best art I’ve seen in a graphic novel. It’s about that summer between childhood and adolescence where you’re itching to grow up and aching to stay a child.



Wonder is about a 5th-grader, so it might seem a bit young for middle or high school readers, but I’ve found that everyone can relate to Auggie’s story. A great introduction to middle-grade fiction with a hero you root for and plenty of food for thought about being different, being bullied, standing up for yourself and others, and choosing kind.



I rarely manage to make/find room for Ellen Hopkins in this course. I know that’s partly due to my own reading preferences. I simply don’t want to read 10 quazillion page verse novels about the bleakest of bleak situations. But Hopkins’s books are so important to so many teen readers. These are books we need to be sharing with our students. When I do make time to read Hopkins, I’m always surprised at just how good her verse actually is.


 The Arrival

This book, a wordless graphic novel, will challenge everything you think you know about how to read and what constitutes complex text.

will grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

John Green novels are always popular in this course, and Will Grayson Will Grayson is my favorite Green. How I love Tiny Cooper!


Page by Paige

A portrait of the artist as a young woman in an appealing graphic novel format. This is a must-read for all budding artists–and all English majors.

my name is jason mine too

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.

A collection of poetry and paintings by two friends named Jason who are trying to figure out how to make their way in the world as artists. Jason Reynolds is an important new voice in YA literature, and this is a unique introduction to his work.





11 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Wish Students in #yalitclass Would Read”

  1. jamcfarland Avatar

    I’ve actually read a handful of these (all because of you, of course), but the ones I have read, I’ve loved.
    Well, I wasn’t huge on Page by Paige, but I do think it would make a great graphic novel for aspiring artists. The Arrival also has astounding artwork, and despite having no words merits several reads. I’m the only person in my YA class I knew that really liked Will Grayson. Everyone else prefers The Fault in Our Stars.. which I haven’t read. So.

    I finished This One Summer this weekend, and I enjoyed it thoroughly – but can’t spoil what I thought, since that’ll probably make up a good deal of my Graphic Novels blog post this week.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Don’t you think Page by Paige is a nice intro to graphic novels for readers who say they don’t like graphic novels or read them? I’ve read The Arrival half a dozen times or so now–so good. I have no idea what happened with your YA class and Will Grayson. It’s so obviously awesome! I far prefer it to Fault in Our Stars–though I understand the love people have for Fault. So glad you read This One Summer over the weekend. Looking forward to your blog post on it.

  2. Vasilly Avatar

    You know what I love about this list? It’s the fact that I checked out three of the books recommended, read two of them already, and own one. That means I have some good reading ahead of me. 🙂 My daughter recently finished Beyond Magenta and like you, recommends it.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m really hoping to get some takers for Beyond Magenta. So good. Very painful to read in parts–I wish more people would take some parenting classes or maybe get some therapy for themselves before they become parents. Let me know what you think.

      1. Vasilly Avatar

        I will, Elisabeth.

  3. Lauren Avatar

    I have read Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Grasshopper Jungle and I absolutely agree!

    Check out my TTT.

  4. Michele knott Avatar

    I love looking and finding new books – I’ve only read Wonder on this list! I’ll have to check out some more 🙂

  5. jesslifteach Avatar

    I have heard of Beyond Magenta, but reading about here has pushed me to go ahead and buy it. Thank you for writing this post and thank you for pushing for more diverse and inclusive reading material for all kids (and all adults!)

  6. […] list of ten books I hope every student in my YA lit class will read this […]

  7. […] having a book club. I challenged myself this week not to repeat any titles from my post last week, 10 Books I Wish Students in #yalitclass Would Read. That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, because last week’s list was about books […]

  8. Erika B. Avatar
    Erika B.

    I LOVE that you have Page by Paige listed here! I read it in one full swoop, post-its coloring page after page (pun) 😉 I hope more of our collective students reach for it as its depiction of life’s journey is so, so well crafted.

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