Young Adult Books and Classic Novels


As mentioned in my last post, I recently created a bibliography of young adult books that can be paired with classics. I found several books that could be paired with novels that are often taught in middle/high school. They are listed below!

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins. 2010. Recommended for Grades 7-9. Recommended Pairing: Night by Elie Wiesel

The novel first follows the perspective of Chiko, a Burmese boy forced to be a soldier, and then switches to the perspective of Tu Reh, a Karenni boy who captures Chiko. Though on opposite sides of the conflict, both boys strive to protect their families and learn how to be brave, respectable men. Paired with Night, this book could help students connect past atrocities to present-day wars that still affect young people around the world.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. 2012. Recommended for Grades 10-12. Recommended Pairing: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Julie, a Scottish spy captured in WWII, provides information to her captors rather than endure more torture. The significance of this decision emerges when the novel switches to the perspective of Julie’s best friend. This captivating story depicts horrific conflicts of war occurring beyond the battlefield. Teaching this novel with All Quiet on the Western Front would expose students to a variety of hardships and ethical dilemmas faced by those who fought in WWI and WWII.

The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian. 2001. Recommended for Grades 9-11. Recommended Pairing: Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Josh criticizes society through a blog that he starts under the pseudonym Larry. When his website garners unexpected levels of attention, he struggles to retain the integrity of his message within the publicity frenzy. Humorous footnotes throughout the novel highlight Josh’s witty narrative voice. With several references to Walden, Josh considers how to be a philosopher in a media-driven, consumerism-based society, and this book adds a unique 21st century twist to Thoreau’s classic text.

Nothing by Janne Teller. 2010. Recommended for Grades 10-12. Recommended Pairing: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Pierre Anthon startles his classmates with his declaration that life has no meaning. In response, Class 7A creates a “heap of meaning” to disprove Pierre’s claim. The innocent effort quickly turns grim as the students force each other to make sacrifices of greater meaning. Though horrifying at times, it could complement Lord of the Flies as it explores similar questions about mankind’s innate capacity for cruelty even within the boundaries of a civilized society.

Shattered: Stories of Children and War by Jennifer Armstrong (Ed.). 2002. Recommended for Grades 8-10. Recommended Pairing: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

This collection of twelve stories by a variety of authors illustrates the brutal effects of war on children. Told from children’s perspectives, the stories focus on the personal and humane ramifications of war, and a ribbon of text at the bottom of each page provides context for the conflicts depicted in the stories. Read alongside The Things They Carried, this book could extend the themes raised by O’Brien to a multitude of wars and cultures.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. 2007. Recommended for Grades 11-12. Recommended Pairing: Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

During the summer after high school, James struggles to find meaning in his life. He does not want to attend college, and through a witty first-person narrative, he explores his conflicting feelings about his past, present, and future. Hailed as the modern-day Catcher in the Rye, this novel could be paired with the classic tale in a unit examining subtleties of tone, voice, and style as well as themes of happiness, loneliness, and young adulthood.

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson. Illustrated by Philippe Lardy. 2005. Recommended for Grades 7-10. Recommended Pairing: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

In fifteen connected sonnets, known as a heroic crown of sonnets, this book uses evocative imagery, allusions, and metaphors to depict the horrors of racism and Emmett Till’s murder. The accompanying illustrations juxtapose the evil behind the crime and the awareness of injustice that was raised by Emmett’s death. Complete with an explanation of allusions used in the poems, this book could help students explore many themes from   To Kill a Mockingbird through poetry.

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