Five Books You (& your teen) Need to Read NOW!

I’ve been doing Reader’s Workshop with my 8th and 9th graders for almost 11 weeks now, and I have noticed that there are certain books I simply can’t keep on my shelves. There is constantly a wait list for these books.

Sometimes I start the craze by doing a book talk that gets the kids interested.

Sometimes they start their own craze–someone reads the book and tells a friend, and he tells a friend, and so on and so forth.  That is my favorite. In fact I was standing outside my classroom door in between classes today when I heard one of my students yell down the hall to another one of my students, “DUDE!  You checked out MY book!  I was going to get it today and you BEAT ME TO IT!  You better read fast!”

I don’t think I noticed anything else that happened today. That one interaction made me so happy.

Anyway, I thought I would share with you the Top 5 books (or series)* that I probably won’t see on my shelves again until I take inventory this summer.

Winger by Andrew Smith

I read this book on the recommendation of my friend, The Preacher’s Wife. She almost had no words for how it affected her.  The book is about a kid named Ryan Dean who everyone calls Winger due to his position on the school rugby team. He is a 14-year old junior at a very prestigious private school, that his parents put him in after he couldn’t stay out of trouble back home. On top of being young and ridiculously smart, Ryan Dean is also in love with his best friend, Annie, a fellow junior (but who is 17). His dorm-mate is the biggest bully on the rugby team and he is constantly fighting the label “kid”. This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but will tear you apart and leave you changed. One caveat: it has some pretty raunchy language, but it flows so well with the book, to me it’s forgivable.

The Selection (series) by Kiera Cass

I have not read this series, but I haven’t been able to keep it in my classroom since I got it. I have the first two books in the trilogy plus a special stories book that just came out in paperback. The girls in my classes check in daily to see if I have gotten the third book!  I have a lot of girls who love The Princess Diaries series, and once they finish that they want something similar. This series has some of the same aspects, but is more of a challenging read.

The reviews I read say the trilogy is like The Hunger Games meets The Bachelorette. Thirty-five girls are “selected” to vie for the crown. The main character, America Singer, is bummed to be selected because that means she is now a caste above the boy she loves, but in the process of competition she meets a prince. So there’s romance and royalty and back-stabbing.

The teenage girls love it.

The Maze Runner (series) by James Dashner

Again, I haven’t read this one, but holy cow kids love it. Boys AND girls fight to get their hands on this series. I have all four books now: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and most recently added, the prequel to the series, The Kill Order. 

Apparently it’s everything I am not a fan of in books and the masses LOVE it. Most of the kids who pick it up have already worked through The Hunger Games series AND The Divergent Series and are looking for something new.  According to the student I asked today, it’s about a guy who can only remember his name. He has no other memories and all the people around him are guys and the only way out is through this maze that no one has yet made it out of. A girl shows up and says they have to run or die.  The student wouldn’t tell me more other than, “just read the book, Mrs. S. That is what you tell us!”

Fricking kids actually listening to what I say.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The girls in my classes pretty much keep my “death & dying section” completely empty. As I type this there are zero books on that shelf.  This is another book I haven’t read yet. Not because I don’t want to, but because my students really want it, so I am just waiting until either summer, or when I can check it out of the library over a break (or maternity leave).

The book is about a kid named Clay who gets a package from a classmate (and crush), Hannah, who committed suicide. Inside the package are cassette tapes where Hannah narratives 13 reasons why she killed herself, one of them being Clay.  He has to listen to find out why.

From that alone I can see why my students want to read it. I mean shoot, want to read it.

Why Soccer Matters by Pele

I use this one as an example, but really any soccer books fly off my shelves. I have so many soccer fans. I also have a book by Dr. J that my basketball players keep rotating among themselves. Students who claim to not be readers, tend to get interested in non-fiction about people and sports and activities they love. This is one section of my classroom library I am really trying to beef up. Even though these are not my first choice of book, many of my students gravitate toward these.

When I have a reluctant reader, the first thing I ask is “what do you like to do?” If they are into a sport or a hobby, I direct them to my nonfiction section. It seems that if I can get them hooked there, they are likely to ask for more books.  What is interesting is that nonfiction tends to be more challenging to read than a lot of the fiction I have, yet my reluctant and non-readers would rather read (and be seen with) a book about a soccer champ, than something else.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any suggestions based on these? What are your teens reading?

*I could include in here The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in this, but I already posted about those and how you need to read them.

My students are HUNGRY for new books! If you are feeling generous, we are always taking donations. Here is a list of student-requested titles.

Get The Behavior You Want…{Review}

51WlU9RnZLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I totally never read parenting books.

Ok that is a lie. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting cover to cover when I was pregnant with Eddie. It was like my Bible.  And then his birth and everything was absolutely nothing like what I was told to “expect” and I chucked that book. I also bought a book about sleep training when Eddie was a baby who wouldn’t sleep (because colic and crazy baby!) and I wanted to stab the author, so I chucked that book too.

And then I stopped reading parenting books.

I may have parenting book PTSD. Whatever.

I do, however, love my friends with medical/nursing degrees. I try not to abuse our relationship by constantly texting or messaging them about ailments I or my family members may have. I’d like to publicly thank them and apologize to them for the pictures I’ve sent of rashes and/or the gross descriptions I have typed out.

Anyway, one of these friends happens to be the internet-famous Dr G. I call her Debi, but she Dr. Deborah Gilboa, MD. to you, and she wrote a book called Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You HateAnd I read it…and LIKED it.

Even though I have little kids, I read the parts about tweens and teens too because, well, my boys WILL be that age someday. But really, more immediately, my students are that age. Since I have never taught 13-year olds before, I want to try to understand them a little better. No, I am not their parent, but man a LOT of my day revolves around behavior.

The book is set up to be extremely user-friendly. There are four major parts: one on respect, one on responsibility, one on resilience, and one on implementing the changes. In each of those sections there are numerous short, easy to read, chapters.  It is the complete opposite of daunting. In fact, when reading a book by an MD, the reader usually expects some jargon or medical terms to be thrown at them. Dr. G keeps it very simple and easy to understand. It’s much more like chatting with a friend than talking with a doctor. Yet at the same time, she keeps it very professional and because of her credentials, you know she can be trusted and relied on to give good advice.

One of my favorite sections was the one on resilience. We have had a lot of death in our lives and we have always been as honest as we can with Eddie (and now Charlie) about it. Some people have questioned why I would tell a 5-year old that his Papa died of cancer, but ever since he was small we talked about how Papa lived in heaven, then that he had died, and now that he died because of cancer. As he gets older and asks questions, we answer them as honestly and simply as we can.  This chapter reinforced how important it is for our kids to experience failure, grief, and loss.  It TOTALLY sucks, but it’s a part of life and if they can learn to be resilient from early on, they will probably be better at coping, and hopefully more empathetic to other people, as they get older.

There are a million tips and wise words I could share that I have underlined or marked, but really, you should read the book. If you are a parent, it’s a must-read, but I think even if you don’t have your own kids, but are a childcare provider, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. it’s a good book to have on hand.

The main message is right there in the title: you don’t have to be a giant jerk of a parent to have kind, well-adjusted kids. You don’t have to yell and lose your mind to have your kids behave.

Rare Bird {book review}

I must be in a memoir and memoir-style mood.

After reading the fictionalized memoir of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, I read a very real memoir by a good friend who lost her 12-year old son Jack in a freak accident.

Anna is the writer behind An Inch of Gray who wrote about life and refurbishing old furniture until the day her son was swept down a raging river and her world changed.

Continue Reading…

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Carrie

When I was a senior in high school, I went to a youth group conference called Genesis. It was a big weekend conference where we all got to stay in a hotel and attend fun session and do singing and stuff.

My roommates were two of my best friends, and since there were three of us, they gave us a room with one king-sized bed. To be honest, I don’t think any of us had ever seen a king-sized bed before because we kept giggling that this hotel was so weird; it had rooms with a three-person bed in them!  SO WEIRD!

Anyway, I remember one of the nights–probably the first night–my friends fell asleep first while we were watching TV. I suck at falling asleep in a new place with people around me, so I was wide awake watching whatever was on TV. I was not in the middle of the bed (nowhere to turn away from a person…eek!), so I kept the remote on the floor and just kept flipping channels. That is when I found Carrie. I watched it from beginning to end wishing I wasn’t watching it at all.

I hate horror films, but this wasn’t a horror film like I was used to. It didn’t have some freak like Freddy Kruger or Jason ripping up all the people and having no plot line to speak of.  This movie screwed with my mind. It was troubling and awful and just so good.

But I was horrified and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even kick a foot out of the sheets like I normally do. I was too afraid of that hand coming to grab me.

I was seventeen then. I’m thirty-six now.  I just read the book this winter.

Continue Reading…

The Paris Wife

This summer I am all about reading. I say that every summer, but I let other things get in my way. This summer I have almost no other projects on tap which means if there is down time, I am reading!

The first book I read this summer is The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I happened upon it when I was browsing the tables at Barnes and Noble. I’m sort of a nut for the 1920’s and the ex pat writers, so a fictional novel told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, about their time in Paris as ex pats when Hemingway was just getting his footing as a writer hooked me immediately.

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The HerStories Project: celebrating female friendships

This spring I read a collection of stories about women and friendship called The HerStories Project. I’ve admitted my lack of awesomeness at female relationships here before.

Even when they are at their best, I feel like the weakest link in all of my female friendships. I feel unsure, inadequate, and anxious.  And that is when things are going WELL.

I thought maybe this anthology of essays could give me a clue to the elusive female friendship. What I found out was that I am not alone in my pain and questioning in friendships.

female friendships

I read this book  of female friendships while sitting in my bag chair in the shade of our tree during spring break while my kids played in the yard and rode bikes and trikes. Like any collection, there were stories I skimmed over because they didn’t reach me, but for each of those there were stories that deeply connected with something in my heart.

Vicky Willenberg had me nodding along to her piece, “Big Girl Friendships” as I related to how my friendships have changed now that I am an adult.

Pam Moore’s piece “Pen Pals” reminded me of my best friend who lives almost three hours away. We send notes and texts to each other randomly, yet we rarely speak on the phone. However when we see each other it’s like no time has passed.

Alexa Bigwarfe’s piece “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” encouraged me to get to know the women in my real life better–the moms in my subdivision, the ladies in my church, the teachers who I work with.

I cried through Allison Slater Tate’s piece “To My Best Friend on the Occasion of Her First Pregnancy.” My best friend married five years before I did, but had her first baby four years after I had my first. I had two kids by the time she had her first and my excitement for this new journey was summed up by Allison.

And it was like Alexandra Rosas was writing my life in her piece “On Feeling Lonely.”  We both suffered severe loneliness and depression after the birth of our first sons. Her words are exactly perfect.

Story after story I was reminded that I am not alone in my messy feelings about female friendships.  I thought this stuff was supposed to get easier as we get older, but no. Not so much.

This is why I am so excited to announce that HerStories is coming out with a second anthology in September called My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends and I am a contributor! That’s right, I’m going to be published in print…again! I am sharing my story about how I am in the season of losing friends right now.

Can’t wait until September to read stories of friendship? The first anthology is still available and I highly recommend it.

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In other fun news, I am taking over the Bonbon Break Instagram Feed today! Come follow along!

Bonbon Break

Hannah, Delivered {book review}

I am the last person you would think to find reading a book about natural home births and becoming a midwife.

In fact, part of the excitement about getting pregnant again is that I will get to go to the hospital and stay for three days and be waited on. I was in love with the epidural from my first birth. I have had two C-sections. Basically I am the poster child for hospital births.

Yet Hannah, Delivered  by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew completely fascinated me.

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Hannah, Delivered is the story of Hannah, a receptionist in a St. Paul hospital who happens to help the hospital midwife one night. After assisting that birth, she develops a fierce desire to help babies with the work of being born.  She travels to New Mexico where she does her midwife apprenticeship and meets many unconventional people and questions what she is doing to her life. Eventually she moves back to Minnesota to practice midwifery in her own illicit practice.

Continue Reading…

love for the book love

I had this dream and I told the internet about it.

It exploded.

I don’t even know how to put my feelings into words this time.

The books piled up before our eyes. I would carry in bags every day for about a week and half, and my students would say, “MORE?”

Yes. More.

“But they don’t even know us,” they said to me.

I know.

“Do they even know you?”

Many do. Some don’t.

“Why?”

Because reading is important.  Because YOU reading is important.

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My classroom library went from 104 books to over 400 books in less than a month. All I did was make a wish list. All I did was say, “hey, I want to put books in my students’ hands.”

And they started coming in.

I also applied to the Book Love Foundation for their yearly Classroom Library Grant. Each year they gift class libraries to ten chosen applicants. Part of the application was to have letters of recommendation. Two of my students stepped up to write for me.  The words they said about me made me cry.

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Everything Ms. Sluiter does she does to help better her students’ education.

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Mrs. Sluiter puts everything she has into her job, and I would love to see her get something that she would be absolutely grateful to receive.

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Cortney said to me this past week, “did you ever imagine your little blog would bring such opportunities and good?”

No. Not in my wildest dreams. I signed up for a Blogger blog on July 7 of 2007 with the intent to post pictures and some updates for my family and friends. Never did I dream that someday Sluiter Nation would truly reach nations. Would provide for my students. Would connect me with some of the best friends I have ever had.

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I have a stack of all the notes that came with all the books. They are in a box in my classroom so I can share them with the students. I will be posting them around the library once I have shelves in place.

I wish I could send thank you notes to everyone who contributed so far, but Amazon doesn’t give me your return address. So I hope this humble blog post will do.

Thank you…

Brian and Adrienne J
Alexandra B
Rachelle F
John H
Lori B
Jennifer W
Julia L-R
Gigi R
Amber W
Joanne M
Kelsey P
Emily E
Brittany V
Wendy M
Dawn
Kathleen B
Christine
Jill D
Leslie K
Gretchen V
Rachel M
Sarah T
Tonya W
Arneyba H
Amanda B
Mary B
Erin M
Jennie G
Elaine A
Debi G
Greta F
Roxane B
Tracy M
Anonymous People
And to anyone I missed because my mind has been all over the place this past month.

I promise to keep you all updated on the building of the library shelves and introducing the library to my new students next year.

I promise to keep this library sparkly and clean and organized.

I promise to put these books in the hands of teenagers.

I promise to always remember where they came from.

Thank you.

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If you would still like to donate via my Wish List, I am currently most in need of “boy” books. You can also send gently used books too! Email me at sluiternation@gmail.com for the address to ship them.

Six Must-Read Teen Novels

It’s been awhile since I reviewed a book, so I thought I would go all over-achiever on you all and talk about SIX books!

Why six, you ask? Well contrary to how little I have been posting about books, I have been a reading machine. I’ve read something like eleven books so far in 2014 and six of them were books that my seniors are currently reading for their Book Clubs.

All six books knocked me right out with how awesome they are, so I thought I would share in case you need an awesome read, that will be quick, yet keep you hooked throughout the whole book.

teen novels

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter {a review}

There is nothing more frustrating to me as a reader than when characters fail to communicate with each other and get angry and make life-changing choices based on that miscommunication.

It’s also what propels me through a book the fastest because I have to know how messed up they are going to make their life by doing instead of talking things over.

This was my love/hate relationship with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.

Keep reading…

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