Stories That Expose Limits

The titles below are from the 9th grade CP Outside Reading List #3 - Stories That Expose Limits. 

Characters in these stories usually find out that something in their lives is keeping them from moving on. These stories usually highlight one aspect of society that is wrong, and show how an individual can grow beyond societal limitations.

Click on the title or book type (HC = Hard Cover, pb = paperback)  to check for availability or to place a reservation.  Titles in italics are popular choices.

My sister's bones : a novel / by Cathi Hanauer

This is a very interesting story told through the eyes of female protagonist, Billie, 16, whose “perfect” older sister becomes anorexic a few months into her freshman year of college.  As Billie struggles with her sister’s health and the emotions in her family, she also acquires a new boyfriend and the ups and downs of this relationship are also very interesting.  We can learn a lot from Billie.

The house of the scorpion / Nancy Farmer

This is an amazing and very popular science fiction novel.  The story is about Matt, who is not human, but has enough of a brain to wonder about who or what he is.  Matt was “harvested” and carried to term in a cow in order to guarantee the eternal life of El Patron, with whom Matt shares identical DNA.  Matt is constantly in danger but the book also provides real, in-depth relationships among characters.  This is a great book if you like suspense and thinking about our possible future!

The secret life of bees / Sue Monk Kidd; available in pb or ebook

In this novel, teenage Lily Owens flees her troubled home with her mother-figure Rosaleen after Rosaleen insults some vindictive white men.  They travel to Tiburon, South Carolina and stay with the beekeepers of the Black Madonna honey company.  During their stay, Lily finally learns the truth about her mother, who was shot and killed when Lily was four.  This novel sends a powerful message about female healing power, as well as dealing with racial conflict.

Ender's game / Orson Scott Card; available in HC or pb or pb

The protagonist of this science-fiction novel, “Ender,” has been selected to participate in military training to fight an alien race of “Buggers,” and he shows tremendous promise in this area.  However, being a child prodigy doesn’t exempt Ender from having to deal with rivalries based both at home and in school, and the feelings of isolation that come with them.  Eventually, Ender learns a lot about everything, including the race of aliens he’s been trained to defeat.

Monster / Walter Dean Myers

Protagonist Steve Harmon is a 16 year old who is accused of a felony murder.  The story is focused around the trial, but what is most interesting is what is going on in Steve’s mind during, before, and after this trial.  By the end of the novel, we know Steve very well and have a much greater awareness of race, prison, and justice.

Crystal / Walter Dean Myers

Crystal is a beautiful model who becomes aware of how the superficial aspects of the glamour business are changing her values and sense of self.  Crystal ends up having to make a decision about her success:  is it worth it if she has to let go of everything she values?

Shizuko's daughter / Kyoko Mori; available in HC or pb

This is a highly readable novel told from the perspective a young Japanese American girl who loses her mother and needs to make the painful adjustment to creating a life with her distant father and new, annoying stepmother.  Sounds like a depressing story, but the way that Shizuko overcomes obstacles is very uplifting.

Ironman / Chris Crutcher

This novel follows the story of Bo Brewster, a young teenager whose anger issues lead to his attending a before-school anger management program.  Bo is tired of listening to his father and his coaches, and he is initially pessimistic about the anger management group, but he ends up making some good friends and learning more about himself in the process.  Bo also attempts to reach out to popular talk show host Larry King while he continues to train for a triathlon.

A lesson before dying / Ernest J. Gaines

Jefferson, a black youth, gets caught in the wrong place during a violent crime and is sentenced to death for something he did not do.  With the support of his family and community, he regains his self-esteem and learns to face death with dignity.

A single shard / Linda Sue Park; available in HC or ebook

Tree-ear, a thirteen-year-old orphan in medieval Korea, lives under a bridge in a potters’ village and longs to learn how to throw the delicate celadon ceramics himself.  He meets challenges along the way and learns what it means to come of age.

Daniel's story / Carol Matas

Daniel and his family must find the courage to survive the horror of the Holocaust “for all those who couldn’t.”  Published in conjunction with the exhibit “Daniel’s Story: Remember the Children” at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., this text explores the themes of family, justice and prejudice, perseverance and courage.

The devil's arithmetic / by Jane Yolen; available in pb or pb

A young woman struggles to understand her family’s experience during the Holocaust.  Going through a magical doorway, she suddenly realizes first-hand what they went through, and she learns both an appreciation for her heritage and the importance of remembering the past.

The book thief / by Markus Zusak; available in HC, pb , ebook, or YA kindle

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

The fault in our stars / John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Marcelo in the real world / Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear--part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify--and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world."

Pop / Gordon Korman

When Marcus moves to a new town in the dead of summer, he doesn't know a soul. While practicing football for impending tryouts, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with an older man. Charlie is a charismatic prankster—and the best football player Marcus has ever seen. He can't believe his good luck when he finds out that Charlie is actually Charlie Popovich, or "the King of Pop," as he had been nicknamed during his career as an NFL linebacker. But that's not all. There is a secret about Charlie that his own family is desperate to hide. When Marcus begins school, he meets the starting quarterback on the team: Troy Popovich. Right from the beginning, Marcus and Troy disagree—about football, about Troy's ex-girlfriend, Alyssa, but most of all, about what's good for Charlie. Marcus is betting that he knows what's best for the King of Pop. And he is willing to risk everything to help his friend. 

The Orange Houses / Paul Griffin

Meet Tamika Sykes -- Mik to her friends (if she had any). She’s hearing impaired and way too smart for her West Bronx high school. She copes by reading lips and selling homework answers, and looks forward to the time each day when she can be alone in her room drawing. She’s a tough girl who never gets close to anyone, until she meets Fatima, a teenage refugee who sells newspapers on Mik’s block. Both Mik and Fatima unite in their efforts to befriend Jimmi, a homeless vet who is shunned by the rest of the community. The events that follow when these three outcasts converge will break open their close-knit community and change the lives of those living in the Orange Houses in explosive and unexpected ways.