All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Stories About All Kinds of Families

Too often TV and movies portray perfect families that teens can't relate to. Our list has great books with relatable families — some struggle with serious issues like addiction or mental illness; others with more mundane things like sibling rivalry. Oh, and we've thrown in a comic with supervillain parents.

Dishes

Dishes

Age Level: 16-18

Danny decides to spend the summer after his freshman year in college working with his estranged Dad at a resort town in Maine. Danny doesn't know until he gets to Ogunquit that the restaurant he's working in had largely gay staff and clientele. Danny doesn't mind, but it's strange being one of the only straight guys in town.

Waiting for Normal

Waiting for Normal

Age Level: 12-14

After her Mom and stepdad divorce, Addie moves with Mommers into a trailer owned by stepdad Dwight. Mommers is dysfunctional and inattentive, but Addie loves her and struggles to hold their life together. As she meets the trailer's neighbors, Addie and this makeshift family become a group of folks you can't help but root for.

My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper

Age Level: 16-18

Kate has suffered from leukemia since she was a toddler, and her younger sister Anna was conceived for the blood and bone marrow that would help Kate fight the disease. But when it seems Kate might need a kidney, Anna decides that, though she loves her sister, enough is enough.

Corner of the Universe

Corner of the Universe

Age Level: 12-14

Hattie enjoys her family and the boarders in her parents' rooming house. Her wealthy grandmother is tough sometimes, but Hattie doesn't get discouraged. When her mentally challenged Uncle Adam comes to live with them, Hattie must determine who in her family is most important.

Saffy's Angel

Saffy's Angel

Age Level: 12-14

The Cassons are an eccentric family of artist parents and four unique children: Indigo, Cadmium, Rose and Saffron. However, Saffron eventually discovers she is actually the cousin to the other Casson daughters; her mother died when Saffron was very young. With the help of her neighbor Sarah, Saffy discovers a lot about her family.

Higher Power of Lucky

Higher Power of Lucky

Age Level: 9-12

Ten-year old Lucky lives in a small California desert town with her guardian Brigitte, her father's ex. Lucky's "family" also includes the adults at the 12-Step meetings she eavesdrops on. When Lucky begins to worry that Brigitte will return to her native France, she searches for her own "higher power." This title is a Newbery Award winner.

The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood

The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood

Age Level: 16-18

Fifteen-year old DeAndre lives in the projects of West Baltimore, and his parents, Fran and Gary, battle severe drug addiction. This book asks difficult questions: What happens when parents don't parent? What is the community's role? Simon and Burns went on to create the TV series "The Wire," continuing their examination of life in Baltimore.

Rooftop

Rooftop

Age Level: 14-16

Clay and his cousin Addison both have problems with drugs, and are in a day rehab to recover. When Addison is shot and killed by police, Clay becomes a reluctant witness — what he observed that day isn't what the community wants him to have seen.

Beige

Beige

Age Level: 14-16

Katy lives in Montreal with her Mom, an archeologist. When Mom leaves on a dig, Katy must stay in L.A. with her estranged father, an ex-addict and aging punk rock drummer in LA. Though, Katy is determined to stick to her "beige" personality, she and her Dad's edgy companions have a lot to learn from each other.

Vegan Virgin Valentine

Vegan Virgin Valentine

Age Level: 14-16

Mara's older sister has a daughter nearly as old as Mara. Unlike her immature, rebellious older sister, Mara has been accepted to Yale and is obedient to a fault. When Mara's niece V comes to live with Mara's family, it seems like she's allowed to do whatever she wants, and Mara begins to chafe at her role as "the perfect one."

Son of the Mob

Son of the Mob

Age Level: 14-16

Vince's family is wealthy, while his new girlfriend is solidly middle class. But the bigger problem is Vince's father is a mob boss, and his girlfriend's father works for the FBI. Filled with colorful characters, this book is perfect for reluctant readers.

What I Call Life

What I Call Life

Age Level: 12-14

Cal's mother acts weird sometimes, but Cal always knows how to deal with that — until that day at the library. When Cal is put in a group home with the knitting lady and four other girls, he's sure the situation is just temporary, but the other foster home girls know differently.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

Age Level: 12-14

When Ruby's mother dies, she must move to California to live with her movie-star father, who she doesn't really know. Though, she's determined to hate her rich famous father and she misses her old life in Boston, she comes to accept her new life.

Runaways, Vol. 1

Runaways, Vol. 1

Age Level: 12-14

Six teenage friends discover that their parents have superpowers, but they're using them for evil, not good! It's teen angst meets Heroes. Can the kids work together to defeat their parents?