Hinton, S. E., The outsiders, 1967. New York, NY: Viking Press. ISBN: 0-670-53257-6.
This story follows Ponyboy for a short time in his life and through his eyes. We experience the harsher side of life that includes families without a mother and father, gangs, rumbles, smoking, drinking, jail time and death. While the author seems to be taking on too many issues when we look at the topics, the story is woven in to a realistic view of life through the eyes of a teenage boy who is sensitive, smart and protected by brothers and friends. The story flows easily through the hardships of differences in social status as we experience the conflict between the haves and the have-nots, in this case the Socs and the Greasers. The two deaths are even different in their affect on the reader. One is due to a fight where the person who dies has instigated the situation due to being drunk while the other dies as a result of risking it all to save children from dying in a fire.
This book is ageless in its intensity and covers enough issues that each reader cannot help but be touched by something in the story. Ponyboy bares his thoughts and feelings to the reader as one is carried along throughout the range of emotions that the situations bring forth as the story unfolds.
The cover has changed many times through the years and now the Greasers look more like the middle to upper class of students with the church fire in the background with Ponyboy sleeping on a wood floor in the foreground with a gun beside him. While the cover depicts some of the story line, the physical characteristics of the characters in the story have been ignored. Oddly enough I found the story very accurate for teenagers in Tulsa, OK at the time it was written. In fact the author and I went to the two rival high schools there ( Will Rogers and Central High Schools). This book does depict the life of the gangs and the jocks at that time for the inner city student. Much of the harder side of life is still true today for many students throughout the country. I found it to be a moving, tear jerking and believable read. This book helped open the door to more realistic fiction for the young adult and, in my opinion, is not only the pioneer in this area, but also a classic representing a new awakening in the YA novels.
Zindel, Paul. Night of the bat. 2001. New York, NY: Hyperion. ISBN: 0-7868-2554-5.
Jake is the main character and is considered basically as inept by his father who is studying bats in Brazil. Jake goes to Brazil to try and reach out to his father and establish a relationship with him. When Jake arrives, he is faced with a mystery of the disappearance of two of the workers as well as trying to get his father to take him seriously. After introducing a native tribe that practices human sacrifice, we are thrown into a science fiction style of writing where a bat with human intelligence and of great size is attacking the research team. Jake becomes the one who sends everyone, including his father, to safety down the river while he stays behind and successfully battles this foe to the death.
While the story is more on the science fiction line, it begins quickly and the action continues nonstop to the end with Jake victorious. Underlying the action theme is another thread of a son and a father who have become distant. The son, Jake, reaches out to his father and succeeds in reestablishing a deep respect and understanding relationship. The quick start and the action are bound to capture the YA reader. While the underlying theme is one that depicts the estrangement that can occur between father and son, the way it is developed is unique and exciting. YA readers will thoroughly enjoy the suspense, the foe and the ability of Jake to overcome almost impossible odds to defeat the bat and save the remainder of the research party. This book is very readable and I would consider it as a high interest book for the entire age range of the YA group.
Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. 1999. New York, NY: HarperTempest. ISBN: 0-06-028078-6.
In this story, we are taken through the experience of a teenage boy who is being tried for murder during the robbery of a drugstore in his neighborhood. The experience is told through the thoughts of Steve Harmon. The story is written in a combination of script and journal entry styles. This format helps the reader identify with Steve and his sense of watching the events in the court room unfold around him without him having any control of the action but experiencing everything as a trapped observer. Even at the end of the book the reader can still question whether Steve was really innocent or just fooling himself into thinking he was.
While the format is a little disturbing at first, the reader can quickly adjust to the idea of reading a combination script and a personal diary. I really had an opinion of the book from the cover that left me dreading this read. Instead I found the book to be very revealing and captivating. The reader experiences the feelings and thoughts of Steve as he goes through the traumatic experience of possibly being given the death penalty, the realistic depiction of jail life and the responses of family and acquaintances including the Diablo gang members. The suspense was maintained to the very end of the book and the decision of the jury in this case. Myers has found a new way to let the reader experience something through the eyes of a teenager that is so realistic that one cannot put the book down until the last page is done.
Lipstye, Robert. The contender. 1967. New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN: 0-06-023920-4.
Alfred Brooks, the main character, is a teenager who is known for not finishing things he starts. While he is a good young man who avoids fights, he toys with being a want-to-be gang member. He has dropped out of school as he finds no benefit in finishing. After his buddy, James, is arrested for breaking in to the drugstore where Alfred works, Alfred decides to go in to boxing. Mr. Donatelli teaches Alfred boxing and how to become a contender. Without realizing it, Alfred learns that he does not want to be a boxer but uses the lessons learned in the ring to his own life and becomes a contender in determining his own future.
The depiction of Alfred's life is realistic and as the main character, the reader is magically transported to this time of racial prejudice and taken with Alfred to a realization of school and education being important. Here the message in the background seems to be that physical exercise, such as training for boxing, brings discipline and direction to Alfred (YA), One is rewarded with the knowledge that Alfred will turn his knowledge to other children in his neighborhood to help them get on track for their chosen futures. The story is realistic in atmosphere and conditions and would be considered believable to the YA group. The minor characters contribute and compliment the story even though their interrelationships might be stretching the realistic a little. The book is a delightful read for reluctant readers as well as those looking for a refreshing and quick read.