RTW: Rite of Passage Reading

I missed my Monday post this week (thought I had another auto-post queued up, oops) so I was determined to jump on Road Trip Wednesday to make up for it. And lucky me, I actually had something to say on this topic! Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: In high school, teens are made to read the classics - Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens - but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

I secretly enjoyed* some of the titles on our high school reading list--in fact, I'd already read most of them. I say secretly because it irked me to no end to be forced to read a book, and then discuss it at length with other students forced to read it and therefore unlikely to contribute anything beyond what the teacher wanted to hear. But the third high school I attended (which happened to be a continuation high school) let us pick from a list of books, and it actually had science fiction titles!

As to books I consider to be required reading for teens, I have two titles that I always give to my teen nieces and nephews as a sort of rite of passage. And no surprise, they're both science fiction.

I've heard from a few charter school students that Ender's Game is on their reading list, and kudos to those teachers. This book raises so many of the big questions for teens like making decisions for yourself, coming to terms with others' expectations for your life, and living with the consequences of choosing to defy or meet those expectations. As well as more everyday, relatable topics like bullying, sibling rivalry, adults that want you to act your age and are disappointed when you actually do. All this, and a fascinating world-building and action-packed plot too.

The second book that I give to teens, especially girls, at age 16 or older would never make it onto a high school reading list because of all the graphic sex. It's not gratuitous, definitely integral to the plot, but it's graphic enough that I give a copy with a warning.

You may not be able to see it in the pic, but the full title is The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Ladies Illustrated Primer, and it truly is a formative book for young ladies. On the surface, it's got some incredible, early Steampunk imaginings (I would totally be a craftsperson for the Vickies, even with the rules) and cyberpunk elements. But it also has a thread of story throughout, with girls finding their own kind of power and honor, and therefore their own paths in life.

If you haven't read this one, put it on your own required reading list! What about you--what books did you hate reading in high school, and which ones would you substitute for the required reading list? Don't forget to go to today's YA Highway post to see what everyone else had to say.

*The exception was Steinbeck; I had this weird brain hiccup in that I loved his stories, but couldn't wade through the actual writing. The Grapes of Wrath has some truly heartbreaking elements, East of Eden has such classic story conflicts, but as a teen I just couldn't get into his writing style. I've done a little better as an adult, but Travels with Charlie and Cannery Row are the only Steinbeck books I've truly enjoyed.


Susan Francino said...

Interesting choices :) It sounds like we had similar high school experiences (until you get to that "third high school" where reading science fiction was an option lol).

Juliana said...

I'm currently reading a HOW-TO book by Orson and I'm very intrigued by Ender's Game.
I really should get to it soon lol
Great suggestions!

Alison Miller said...

Must. Read. Ender's Game. Been on the TBR for too long.

And I LOVED the Great Gatsby. Still do. I read it every year when the juniors at my school do.

Crystal said...

"But the third high school I attended (which happened to be a continuation high school) let us pick from a list of books..." I think this is an important part of high school reading as well. We had something similar at my high school--a shelf of books we could pick out for ourselves--and I loved being able to choose what I read.

Francesca Zappia said...

YES to Ender's Game. It took me a long time to finally pick up that book, but when I finally read it I kept wondering what took me so long.

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

I LOVE ENDER'S GAME. A lot. Obviously.


And I'd never heard of The Diamond Age. It sounds good though!

Lora Palmer said...

ENDER'S GAME sounds great! Another book to add to my to-read list.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Wow, so many great comments came in while I was making the rounds of other blogs! Thanks for stopping by everyone.

Rebecca B said...

I have heard great things about Ender's Game from so many people--based on your description, I might check it out!
I love Steinbeck, but I've actually never read Travels with Charlie. I should make that one a priority!

Unknown said...

Cool choices. One of my friends loves Ender's Game. I haven't heard of The Diamond Age but I'll have to check it out.

Kris Atkins said...

ENDER'S GAME is definitely essential reading. I read it in 6th grade (for school!) and it changed my life. It's my favorite book!

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