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I have a policy for books. If any three of my students are reading a book I read it too. It gives me a basis of shared culture, a window into what they like, and usually a wicked good read. So I decided to put up a list of the last four books I have discovered by reading over the shoulders of middle schoolers.

1. The Hunger Games

This one almost goes without saying. I’d guess 75% of children in America have or are currently reading this. I had to wait weeks to get this book from my local library because the waiting list was so long.

2. The Knife of Never Letting Go

This one is a little less well-known, so I’ll give a short description of the plot. Settlers from Earth discovered when they landed their new world is home to a virus which makes the thoughts of men and beasts audible. There was a war with the local inhabitants of the planet, who are believed to be extinct. Our hero is an illiterate boy with a talking dog who goes on an epic quest to uncover the mysteries of his planet and perhaps to save it.

The story is pretty sweet, the graphic depiction of people’s thoughts is fantastic throughout. The characters are relatable and the story is fast paced. A fair warning though, it ends on a cliff hanger so have the second book ready when you near the end.

3. The His Dark Materials Series

If you’ve got a soft spot for strong female leads give Lyra Belacqua a shot. She’s bright, precocious and has magical powers which allow her to use a compass to see the present and future. The supporting characters are well thought out and very diverse. As a final benefit the book is controversial and has been banned in a number of districts.

4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

This book is a brilliant blend of graphic novel and young adult novel, a gripping coming of age story which tells with painful honesty the story of a young man forging an identity beyond the one he has been handed by circumstance. It’s a story of leaving and discovery. It’s sweet, funny, and often heartbreaking and deals with racism, poverty, alcoholism, and the following of tradition. It’s banned as well.

I would love recommendations for more young adult fiction, please leave a comment (with links if possible). Thanks.