Over the holidays, I was reading, but took some time off work to spend with my own kids while they were home on break, so I'm once again a little behind on posting (among other things!) Here's the update on what read, both of which I enjoyed...
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, is the story of 15-year-old geek, and budding comic book author, Donnie, who lives with his mother and stepfather (aka the step-fascist). Donnie gets picked on relentlessly, and has spent years trying to just ignore it. Suddenly another loner, Kyra, a goth girl, kind of steamrolls her way into his life and gets him to take a real look at how he handles life and other people. The book deals with some mature subject matter so it's not recommended for middle school kids. It's not graphic, though. Early on, I was afraid that this book was going to stoop to having Donnie become a school shooter, since he was compiling a list of people who had done particularly nasty things to him, and fantasizes about terrorists taking over his school. Having worked in a middle school, I've seen the bullying, and I'm pretty sure that a lot of kids have, at one time or another, made at least a mental hit list and fantasized about getting revenge. Does that mean we should lock them all up? I don't think so. In this case, Donnie at least starts to get beyond some of what's been happening to him. There isn't a sit-com, everything's-wrapped-up-in-a-nice-neat-pretty-bow, kind of ending. But there is progress and there is hope, and I think that kids, and everyone who deals with them, need to see that.
I also just finished Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story. This is the story of high school freshman Craig Gilner, who spent a year cramming for an entrance exam to get into a prestigious New York City high school, but once he gets in he realizes that once you're in a prestigious place, you're likely to be just average in that group. He starts smoking pot with a friend, and slips downhill, until he is clinically depressed. When he reaches the point where he plans to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, he checks himself into the psych ward at the local hospital instead. Vizzini wrote the book right after he actually spent 5 days in the psych ward of a Brooklyn hospital, so I'm assuming that it's pretty authentic in it's depiction of the ward and patients. This book has a lot to say about the pressure put on a lot of teens to excel at a young age, and what happens to the ones who don't. This could be an incredibly depressing book, but it is actually very hopeful, and many times rather funny. Again, some mature content, handled pretty well, but not recommended for middle school kids.
For high school students, I'd highly recommend both books, as well as Vizzini's Be More Chill, which I read a few years ago.