Reading Essentials: A fourteen year old’s list of absolutely must reads.

Fourteen year old Arya is clearly after my own heart. Just when I was looking for the perfect last list for this summer, I found her list quietly slip in the mailbox. And what a list! I had been itching for a while, almost suggesting some names to the list givers I personally know, and then biting my tongue remembering the rules I had laid down myself. So I was hoping that these would show up somewhere! And here they are! Read this delicious list and if you haven’t read these so far, drop everything and do so now.
1. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) Liesel is adopted by the Hubermanns because her parents have to flee from Hitler. She steals books because she can’t get them otherwise. Her life gets more and more complicated and she writes to vent her feelings. This heart-rending story set in Nazi Germany is narrated by Death, which makes the book all the more beautiful. I’ve read about a dozen books set in the Holocaust, but the horrors get to me every time.
2. Harry Potter series (J K Rowling) Couldn’t leave this one out. Harry knows nothing about his being a wizard, until, that is, Hagrid, a giant of a man arrives on Harry’s eleventh birthday to tell him that he has been admitted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He makes friends, and has fun, but there is danger waiting for him. And that danger will follow him throughout the series. I feel bad for those who haven’t read these. You don’t know know what you’re missing.
3. The Giver Quartet (Lois Lowry) This is the story of a dystopian world, where our rules do not apply. The possibilities of what civilization as we know might evolve into are scary, amusing, saddening, even. The books seem completely unconnected, but read on, and Lois Lowry, the genius behind this series reveals seamless conections and ties up all the loose threads. I’m not saying any more. This is a series to be read, not written about smile emoticon
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon) Christopher Boone has Asperger’s Syndrome, and sees everything very differently from others. When he learns his neighbour’s dog has been killed, he decides to investigate. He makes a shocking discovery on the way, and sets out on a terrifying journey to find the truth. Christopher’s style of narration gives the story another dimension, making it an extraordinary read. I know an autistic child, and I never really understood her. I just knew she was different. After this book, I know. And what a wonderful thing different can be!
5. Because of Mr. Terupt (Rob Buyea) Oh, I could go on and on about this one, but I’ll try to keep it short. Seven children start fifth grade and they have a new teacher. A teacher like no other. He changes them all, from the shy Anna to the boisterous Peter. It seems like nothing could go wrong. Nothing, except that fateful accident on that snowy day. I fangirled about this one for so long! Pssst! There’s a sequel…
6. Out Of My Mind (Sharon Draper) Melody has cerebral palsy which makes her unable to speak or move. Nobody really knows how smart and insightful she is. One day she and her helper at school get a brilliant idea and finally she is able to express herself. She then launches a quest to prove herself to her classmates by doing what she does best
7. The Red Necklace (Sally Gardner) Yann Margoza, an orphan, lives as an assistant to a magician, along with his friend and mentor, Têtu, during the time of the French Revolution. He unwittingly enters a deadly melodrama involving a rich and sinister count, a foolish and broke Marquis, and a series of inexplicable murders. This is a spine-chilling story, and I loved it. Expect subtle creepiness… Looking forward to reading the sequel The Silver Blade.
8. Talking of Muskaan (Himanjali Sankar) Muskaan has attempted suicide, and is now in the hospital, in a horrible state. Her friends and classmates narrate this story, and the events that led to her suicide attempt are revealed slowly. This is a story on a topic not normally found in children’s books, but this book ignores taboos and goes for the real deal, making it a must read.
9. No Guns At My Son’s Funeral (Paro Anand) Aftab is a regular Kashmiri teenage boy. Or so it seems to most people. By night he is part of a secret group of terrorists, and he and all those in the group idolise their leader Akram. Soon, he can no longer socialise with his childhood friends, because they have nothing in common anymore. In time, Akram’s gang falls into trouble, and Aftab and all those around him are sucked into the endless vortex of terrorism.
10. Last Chance Angel (Alex Gutteridge) Jessica is coming back from her friend’s house. It’s dark, and rain has made the road slippery. Jess hasn’t brought her bicycle lights. One crash, one fall, and Jess is in the hospital, connected to beeping machines and monitors. She accidentally leaves her body a day early, and gets a chance to see her friends and family once last time, but she is invisible. She discovers something that makes her furious. And then she has one last chance to live, but at a high price. It’s the most important choice Jess will ever make. This one made me cry, and there are few books which have done that.
11. Holes (Louis Sachar) Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile camp, for stealing a pair of shoes, which in reality he did not steal. Camp Green Lake is not what most people think it is, and there are secrets buried deep within it, and Stanley sets out to unearth the truth…
12. The Secret Keeper (Mitali Perkins) Asha is a teenage Bengali girl, and her family follows a lot of ancient and now pretty much redundant traditions. When her father goes to America to look for a job to get the family out of their financial troubles, she her mother and her sister move to her uncle’s house. There, she is restricted even more than before, and desperately looks for a way to escape her problems, if only for a while. She finds an escape in friendship with her neighbour, and soon they are good friends, and then more than good friends. As circumstances grow worse, Asha make one bold and heartbreaking move that will change her forever.
13. The Third Chimpanzee, for young people (Jared Diamond) Humans are different from all animals, but humans are animals. In daily life, we see animals as disconnected from us, but some of humanitiy’s greatest mysteries can be solved by looking at humans simply as animals who are one step ahead of all others. I was fascinated, and I went on and on to anyone who would listen about every single fact and discovery. Anthropology is just plain cool.
14. Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine) Okay, okay, I know I’m too old to read fairy tales, and that Cinderella is for six-year-olds…But this is a different kind of fairy tale. This is a fairy tale where Ella doesn’t get rescued. She rescues herself. She fights for what she wants, however hopeless things may seem, however difficult it is to fight against her curse of obedience. And trust me, you’re never too old to read this one.
15. Smile (Raina Telgemeier) Raina is having some trouble. For one thing, her permanent front teeth got knocked out. Second, the boy she likes doesn’t know she exists. Her friends aren’t being too friendly anymore. And beyond that, she has to deal with the usual dilemmas of regular teenagers. Will she ever be able to smile? A graphic novel.
Thank you Arya for sharing this fabulous list with us. And thank you dear scribe, for patiently waiting for the bookworm to come up with it. 

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