Good options for young adult novels I can read with my community college developmental writing classes?
August 20, 2012 8:04 PM   Subscribe

What are some good options for young adult novels I can read with my community college developmental writing classes? The novels don't have to be "young adult" per se, but they should be engaging and high interest.

The developmental writing curriculum where I teach has been recently changed to include a literary analysis unit. Because this change is new, no one has figured out what works best, so I am experimenting. I am going to have the class read summaries and reviews of 5 novels and vote on which one to read. The novel will be the basis for the analysis essay. What would be good options for this assignment?

Some helpful information:

The book should be on the short side. ~200 pages is a good target.

I would like recent publications, very new if possible.

There should not be a movie version of the novel. However, I am going to try to link the chosen novel to a film or documentary for the comparison/contrast unit, so if the novel's theme connect well with a film, that's a plus.
posted by TrarNoir to Education (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think that both Starters by Lissa Price (about old people who rent out the bodies of the young) and False Memory by Dan Krokos (action-oriented novel about genetically engineered soldiers) would appeal to readers in a developmental writing class. They're both short, with fairly simplistic writing, but also action-oriented and high interest.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 PM on August 20, 2012

That last sentence should read "connects," not "connect." Whoops.
posted by TrarNoir at 8:19 PM on August 20, 2012

Ok, this is not new (by any stretch of the imagination), but Ayn Rand's Anthem.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:22 PM on August 20, 2012

I'm not sure the page count but China Meivilles Railsea is a fascinating read.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:27 PM on August 20, 2012

How about Ender's Game? It's been in development hell; there still isn't a script for it AFAIK. Animal Farm isn't "new," but the odds are very low that they've seen (or even know about) the (weird) film version. I can't remember how long Starkid is, but it might work, too.
posted by SMPA at 8:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two ideas:

How about Feed by MT Anderson paired with PBS' Digital Nation?

Or Looking for Alaska, John Green's first novel, paired with a Brat Pack film like The Outsiders or another epic teen angst movie?

Both have that tragic coming of age moment that YA novels seem to revel in, but also touch on some good worldly issues ripe for a class discussion or essay.
posted by juliaem at 9:17 PM on August 20, 2012

I'm recommending some of the books I have read for my IB English and history classes.

You can try The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's a classic 20th century American novel about love, money, and superficial ideas.

You can try The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck, a very short book on passive resistance in World War II. The mood of this book is very good.

You can also try Brave New World, a futuristic book on utopia/dystopia.
posted by Thisispiggy at 9:27 PM on August 20, 2012

My community college students LOVE The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy. It was mandatory on the curriculum at the time and I was very hesitant about teaching it, but they were crazy about it, semester after semester. It's quite short.

More recent, Coin Toibin's Brooklyn. Simple plot, simple language, beautiful book.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:35 PM on August 20, 2012

1984 I guess? The Handmaid's Tale might be well suited to our times.

Seconding The Great Gatsby, as the movie is coming out soon* *I dislike this book somehow but remember many of my classmates finding it moving.

Really though-- Avi's books are firmly Young Adult and may be too "young," but very much gripping well written and filled with adult themes. If you've read them, remember how intense they were? If not, they're still worth it. There's the parodic Emily Upham's Revenge (one of his least appreciated, but one of favorites... would be great if shown with a Coen Brother's movie)...

Nothing But the Truth is about a teenager expelled from school for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is great.

Joyce Carol Oates may have something suitable- Firefox, as I remember, is about a girl gang set in an industrial upstate NY town. There may or may not be a movie version with Angelina Jolie; I don't believe there's any connection to the browser though.
posted by kettleoffish at 9:37 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King? The story structure is non-linear, if that would be a problem for your students, but the writing is straightforward and there's a lot of rich symbolism and thematic content. Manages to touch on themes from bullying to suicide to the experience of POWs in Vietnam, all without being incredibly heavy-handed.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:38 PM on August 20, 2012

The Giver
posted by kbar1 at 9:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Ender's Game is actually out of development hell. Writer/director Gavin Hood has recently finished shooting the film for a 2013 release.)
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:31 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I, too, teach community college literary analysis. I've had very good luck with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (a really fascinating narrative voice), as well as Helpless by Barbara Gowdy, about a child abduction. I've also taught Lullabies For Little Criminals, by Heather O'Neill; it's longer than what you're looking for but is action-packed.
posted by ilana at 12:58 AM on August 21, 2012

I teach developmental writing/lit courses at a community college. Please feel free to MeMail me if you would like materials, assignments, etc.; I'd be happy to share.

Some short novels that have worked well for our students, or that we are considering using in future (all would be good as YA books even if that is not how they were marketed):

Summer of My Amazing Luck by Miriam Toews (240 p)
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (226 p) [on preview, hi ilana!]
Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje (208 p)
Elle by Douglas Glover (205 p)

If graphic novels are acceptable, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home (232 p) is terrific.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:14 AM on August 21, 2012

I'll second Feed by M. T. Anderson.

Here's a website dedicated to reviewing short novels; the link goes to the "YA only" sorting section.
posted by kyrademon at 3:22 AM on August 21, 2012

You might find this recent list made by NPR as a helpful cross reference to the books listed here.
posted by spec80 at 5:47 AM on August 21, 2012

Maybe Emma Donoghue's Room? It's a bit longer than you specify but it reads pretty quickly, and the child's voice is amazingly well sustained. And it's comparable enough to Jaycee Dugard and other similar cases in the news, so you might be able to make that linkage.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:18 AM on August 21, 2012

A couple classics: Erich Marie Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart. Both are under 200 pages and are very simply written, and both are likely to engage male students who need more encouragement to read.
posted by tully_monster at 10:08 AM on August 21, 2012

Full disclosure: I work on this website. These articles have some good recommendations:

- Pairing Texts with Movies to Promote Comprehension and Discussion
- Movie Read-Alikes from YALSA
- TV Tie-ins (a booklist)
posted by sa3z at 11:22 AM on August 21, 2012

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