Penncrest High School Required Summer Reading Program 2015 Mandatory Core Reading: Grade 9 A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah Beah's riveting memoir tells the tale of a childhood lost to the civil war raging in Sierra Leone. When he was twelve, Beah was “recruited’ by rebel forces attacking his village and enlisted as a boy soldier. After four years, during which he committed heinous acts and witnessed unimaginable brutality, Beah was aided by UNICEF. He eventually moved to the U.S., where he finished high school and college. The savagery of his early experiences during the war makes his ultimate survival and redemption all the more gripping and powerful. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt June Elbus had just one person in the whole world who truly understood her, and that was her brilliant, artistic, gay uncle Finn. But Finn has died of AIDS and June is in shock. To make matters more upsetting, Toby—Finn’s partner and the person June’s family blames for Finn’s death—is trying to contact June secretly. June is also worried about her sister Greta, who seems to be spiraling out of control. Against her better judgment June forges a fragile, hidden friendship with Toby, which holds unexpected joys and as well as sorrows. June discovers truths about herself and her family and about muddling through the complications of life. Phoenix Island by John Dixon Carl is standing in front of the judge yet again. Troubled by a tragic past, alone in the world, he bounces from foster home to foster home and gets in trouble every place he goes. Only it’s not his fault. Carl is just a guy who sticks up for what’s right–and maybe goes a little too far. The judge sentences Carl, not to jail, but to Phoenix Island, a military confinement camp, where he will have no contact with the outside world, but if he follows the rules, he can leave on his 18th birthday with a clean record and a chance for new start. Will Phoenix Island be Carl’s last hope?? Former RTM teacher, author John Dixon, sets us off on an action packed, disturbing story about survival and conspiracy and a fight against all odds. *Warning for violence Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar Scott Hudson fumbles through his freshman year of high school. He is hilarious as he juggles altering friendships, a growing family, too much schoolwork, and an unexpected extra-curricular load. Throughout it all, Scott writes letters to his unborn baby brother about how to survive freshman year—if Scott can make it through himself! Endangered by Eliot Schrefer When fourteen year old Sophie leaves her Dad in Miami to spend the summer at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she never imagines what the summer holds for her. Unwittingly, Sophie becomes the adoptive mother to an orphaned and abused baby bonobo named Otto; together they are swept up in the midst of a revolution and trapped alone in the jungle. Because of the its great characters (both human and primate!), vivid descriptions, and suspenseful, action-packed plot, you will find yourself thinking about this book long after you have finished reading it! Rank One Selection: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain You might assume that when Prince Edward and the pauper Tom Canty accidentally change places, the pauper is thrilled and the prince is repulsed. You would be partly right. Mark Twain shows through this relatively short novel what Prince Edward learns about how the poor people live and are treated by the Crown, and the pauper learns that there are many drawbacks to living the life of a prince. Twain has fun satirizing both lifestyles in this work. Mandatory Core Reading: Grade 10 The Queen of Water by Laura Resau This poignant novel, based on a true story, is an eye-opener. Born in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her poor, illiterate family until her parents literally give seven-year-old Virginia to a wealthy couple, for whom she cleans and cooks for years, unpaid and not permitted to visit her parents. Frequently beaten by the mother of the house and fearful of abuse at hands of the father of the house, she secretly teaches herself to read and, although embarrassed, enters elementary school as a teenager. Virginia finds herself caught between two cultures—her impoverished upbringing and the wealthier family with whom she lives. You find it hard to believe that human trafficking takes place today? Read this book; you will never think of human trafficking in the same way again. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman With a single act of kindness Richard Mayhew finds himself catapulted out of his ordinary life into an alternate dimension--London Below, a dark and dangerous shadow city of lost people, places, and times. The only chance of getting his old life back is to accompany a young woman named Door on a dangerous mission across the London subway system to find out who hired the assassins who murdered her family and why. Their companions are the Marquis of Carabas, a trickster who trades services for very big favors, and Hunter, a mysterious lady who guards bodies and hunts only the biggest game. Funny and creepy at once, Neverwhere is, “A fantastic story that is both the stuff of dreams and nightmares” (San Diego Urban-Tribune). Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon Cory Mackenson and his father accidentally witness a murder as a car plunges into a lake while they are working together on his father’s milk-delivery route. On their journey to discover the killer, Cory encounters monsters swimming in his hometown’s river, a woman well over 100 years old whose powers are feared and legendary, and a violent gang of moonshiners. Amidst what at times seem to be magical experiences, Cory also deals with the realities of 1960s Zephyr, Alabama—racism and the decline of old-fashioned ways of life. Reality and fantasy blend as Cory and his father struggle to work together against real and otherworldly forces of evil. *Warning for language and violent situations Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork Have you ever thought that your parents just don’t understand you? Meet seventeen-year-old Marcelo Sandoval who, because of a developmental disability, has always attended a special school. He cannot wait for summer, because he has plans to work with the therapeutic horses in the stables at his school. But his father, who does not really understand Marcelo at all, pushes him instead to work at his law firm's mailroom to experience what it is like in "the real world.” Marcelo finds a world filled with jealousy, competition, and injustice but also friendship, compassion, and trust. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson Both funny and intense, this book tells the story of Hayley as she attempts to readjust to traditional high school after years of being taught while on the road by her military veteran turned truck driver father. Unprepared for tests and the college application, Hayley treads carefully at home too, where her father is battling severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and reconnecting with a former girlfriend with her own demons. Hayley hates this former sort-of-stepmom and has repressed all painful memories involving her and nearly all memories about her biological mother as well. Simultaneously starting to remember and trying not to remember, Hayley has a hard time knowing where to turn, much like her father whose struggles escalate with tragic consequences that both he and Hayley must face. Rank One Selection: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Mary Shelley’s sole novel combines elements of science fiction and romance. Doctor Frankenstein creates his famous monster, and in a unique narrative style, we learn about the consequences of manipulation in all things -- nature, science, and the human heart. Mandatory Core Reading: Grade 11 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Junior is an underdog; he’s an amateur cartoonist, a boy born with several medical problems, a victim of bullying, and, at his core, a Native American teen searching for a brighter future. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves “the rez” to attend a privileged, all-white school in the neighboring town. Junior faces both serious family problems and jeers from his new and old classmates, and the story he tells, both heartbreaking and hysterical, is about finding your own way and your own strength. *Warning for sexual references and language Ready Player One by Ernest Cline In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr This novel tells the stories of two teenagers coming of age on opposite sides of the conflict during World War Two: blind Marie-Laure LeBlanc, who takes part in the French Resistance, and the very Aryan-looking German orphan Werner Pfennig, whose talent at fixing radios lands him in the service of Hitler’s army. The chapters of the novel alternate between their stories until the two finally collide thrillingly in the last days of the war. The short chapters make this book easy to read, and its beautiful, lyrical writing, fully realized characters, and thrilling plot lines will resonate long after you’ve finished reading. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult This gripping novel hits close to home as a community attempts to make sense of a horrific shooting at Sterling High School. Picoult creates a compelling cast of characters who must come to terms with powerful issues of bullying, conformity, and violence and who, eventually, learn to take responsibility for allowing the worst to happen. Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women form friendships as they work in a vast silk factory from dawn until dusk. Please do not be put off by the time/setting. The San Francisco Chronicle says of the novel: "One of the loveliest and most beautifully written first novels published this year...The pages turn themselves." The young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, and friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on their own. The author's graceful prose weaves the detail of "the silk work" and Chinese village life into a story of miraculous courage and strength. Ms. Lobitz and Mrs. Bury give this novel "two thumbs up"! Go for it, and challenge yourself! Rank One Selection: The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy This memoir is based on his work as a teacher on a poor rural island in South Carolina. The book details Conroy’s unconventional efforts to connect with his disenfranchised students and invigorate learning for them. AP Selection: Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie A story that manages to be both sweeping and intimate in scope, Half of a Yellow Sun follows five people—Ugwu, the bright village boy; Odenignbo, his idealistic and charismatic master; Olanna, Odenigbo’s beautiful and cultured mistress; Kainene, her willful, sardonic twin sister, and Richard, Kainene’s shy British lover—through 1960s Nigeria. Daily life, complete with family tensions, love interests, political idealism, and tender personal moments, gives way to ethnic cleansing, civil war, and starvation, as the attempt to create the independent state of Biafra implodes. The five must forge their way through, and the bond you form with them as they do will last long after you read the final page. Mandatory Core Reading: Grade 12 the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon Christopher John Francis Boone is mathematically gifted and socially hopeless. For a school project, he investigates the mysterious murder of a neighborhood dog and discovers family secrets along the way. Little Bee by Chris Cleave Two worlds collide in this gripping novel. The fates of three people, a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan and two vacationing British journalists, tangle one fateful day, and one of them is forced to make a terrible, life-changing choice. Two years later when they meet again, the story of forgiveness, heroism, and sacrifice unfolds. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving Owen Meany is a small boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend’s mother with a baseball. He also believes he is an instrument of God, that he was born to be a hero, and that he can foresee the hour of his own death. This extraordinary story of the friendship of two boys–one a social outcast, and the other an orphan–is darkly comic, heartwarming, and poignant. *Warning for language and sexual references Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden. *Warning for language and sexual references The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls In this powerful memoir, Jeannette Walls, an underprivileged but intelligent young girl, tells of her troubled childhood and her relationship with her three siblings and her unstable parents. Walls’ journey from poverty and despair to success and acceptance is an inspiration to anyone who yearns to become more than what is expected of him. This selection contains occasional strong language. Rank One Selection: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines Jefferson sits in a jail cell on death row, defeated by the knowledge of his innocence and the impending doom of the electric chair. Grant Wiggins is thrust into a role that he never asked for and never wanted: hero. The worlds of these two men collide in a gripping tale of one man’s quest to save the dignity of another. AP Selection: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter to a stranger at a country fair. Although he eventually establishes himself as a respected and wealthy man in the community of Casterbridge, the shameful secret of his past is ever-present, waiting to be revealed.