Text Set Compiled by: Kathy Burns

I recently started reading memoirs and autobiographies, not of great historians but of actors and activists. As I read them I discovered this common goal of perseverance with all of the authors. I did not think students would connect to these books. These stories are not applicable to their age/peer group. So I read Gallagher’s book, looked over his lists of recommended young adult literature along with the list provided in our Capstone Academy and shifted my focus to young adult literature with the ideas of perseverance. I discovered that teens view perseverance differently as they are limited by their scope of experiences.

I began reading some of the books suggested and found myself reading more about teen drug use and teenage suicide. I started to question the statistics that would support such an overwhelming topic of literature. I found several websites that give statistics on these topics. I realized these websites could be used with the books to talk about real world application of the literature.

Perseverance does not always result in a positive outcome; the characters in these books do try to persevere and overcome their dire situation but are not always able to do so. However, they still have real conflict and obstacles to overcome just on a different scale. The last eight books on my text set are young adult books relating to the ideas of perseverance. I still have some memoirs in the set since real stories are such a large part of my focus.

Bibliography Information
Thoughts/ Connections/Questions
Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain -- Portia de Rossi

ISBN-10: 1439177783
Portia de Rossi tells her story of weight loss and body image. She explains how she fixates on her image and food becomes the only thing she can control.
How do people get to the point that they become so skewed in their perceptions of themselves? The book gives an insight into eating disorders and body image that is not always expressed in public.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends -- Rob Lowe

ISBN-10: 080509329X
Rob Lowe tells the stories about Hollywood that should not be told. He gives a candid account of his relationships with the Estevez/Sheen family along with many others. He also discusses the stories of excess and the brat pack of the 80s.
Do people really live this way? I have always been intrigued by the larger than life stories of Hollywood. Can people really live with such excess and lack of boundaries? According to Lowe people do, they just don’t give all the details.
Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering -- Meredith Baxter

ISBN-10: 0307719308
Baxter gives the account of her life as a young impressionable child with no parental guidance to the controlling married life with David Birney. Not all “stars” live easy lives.
How do people get in situations where they cannot seem to find themselves? Baxter was unclear of her true self for many years, how does that happen? What can be done to prevent that?

Students will not be able to relate to the previous three books because they do not really provide a frame of reference for teenagers.
I Am Nujood Age 10 and Divorced – Nujood Ali

ISBN-10: 0307589676
Nujood Ali lives in Yemen where it is a cultural practice for families to marry off their daughters. Nujood is 10 years old when she is married off to her 30 year old husband. The abuse becomes overwhelming; Nujood runs away from home to the capitol to get a divorce.
Students may be intrigued by the practices of other countries. However, I think they may still have difficulty relating to the story since it is not a practice in our society.

Hopefully, they may be propelled to read it in order to understand that age is not a limitation to what one person can do.
Armies of Liberation
Statistics on rate of divorce in Yemen along with an explanation of marriage laws.
What are the laws of marriage? How do statistics of divorce compare with those in the US?

This website answers the questions that students may consider regarding arranged marriages.
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher

ISBN-10: 1571107800
Nonfiction – Professional & Educational
Gallagher discusses how teachers have ruined reading for students by making them focus on analysis and other exercises that educators think are necessary to complete. However, society and students are no longer satisfied just to sit down and read a book. We need to figure out better ways to engage our students.
The traditional ways of teaching literature do not work for the average student. Most students are not highly motivated to read and have been forced to analyze books in English class that they find boring.

Teenagers need to read books with relatable topics and discuss them. Maybe respond in writing but we need to get students to want to read again.

I enjoy memoirs but many students do not like nonfiction. I need to shift my focus. What books will work for reluctant readers, especially teenage boys? Gallagher provides a list of books and a few writing ideas that no longer dissect a book for literary significance but allow the reader to find a way to connect to the book and its characters.

ISBN-10: 159514188X
YA -- Fiction
Clay Jensen comes home to find a shoebox of cassette tapes on his porch. Hannah Baker recorded these tapes to explain why her life ended and those listening are part of it.
Loved the book – suspenseful – made you want to continue reading to figure out what motivates Hannah to end her life. As an adult it was a curious look into the significance of even the smallest event can affect a teenager.
The Other Wes Moore One Name, Two Fates – Wes Moore

ISBN-10: 0385528205
Wes Moore grows up fatherless in poor Baltimore neighbors. Another kid named Wes Moore grows up the same way yet they travel different paths and have different destinies.
I found this book intriguing. The relationship between parent and child was so different on the parts of son and mother. Wes Moore’s accomplishments are abounding and yet the other Wes Moore sits in prison, alone under the very authority he tried to reject most of his young life.
By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead – Julie Anne Peters
ISBN-10: 1423130219
YA -- Fiction
Daelyn Rice has attempted suicide many times. She has been teased and tormented ever since she can remember. Her abuses range from bullying to sexual assault yet she keeps the abuse to herself. Rarely does she let adults know what is happening because the adults never seem to do anything. She thinks she has found the solution to all her problems with a website for “completers”.
I found this book disturbing. I had a hard time coming to terms with the setup of the book and the idea of no one coming to save Daelyn. Hope presents itself in the forms of Emily and Santana but she does all she can to reject them. Her parents are helping in every way they know and it is still not enough or is it?

I would not recommend this book to my students. While it was intriguing to see the mindset toward suicide I have a hard time with a book that seems to support the idea of “completion”.
The Burn Journals – Brent Runyon

ISBN-10: 1400096421
It is 1991 and Brent Runyon is a 14 year old boy living in Falls Church, Va. He is extremely mischievous bordering on troubled. He gets in trouble at school for stealing school supplies and later he is accused of setting a gym locker on fire (which he did). Worried about his parents’ reaction to the fire setting he decides that the only way to deal with all of his problems is to set himself on fire. He douses his bathrobe with gasoline, stands in the bathtub, covers himself and lights a match.
This book was not as interest grabbing as some of the other books I have been reading. In fact, he wrote the book 10 years after his suicide attempt. At times the book still had the whiney voice of the 14 year old boy and it wasn’t as introspective as I expected. At other times, Brent questions his decision but the reader never gets the full picture of Brent’s thinking. It will be a good book to share because Brent very quickly admits the mistake of attempting suicide; however, his parents really never investigate his motives nor does he reveal any underlying causes for his decision.
Science Daily
Website --
CDC statistics on Teen Suicide in the United States. This website also includes links to suicide statistics in other countries.
I think part of reading is being able to connect to the real world. After reading three books about teen suicide I wanted to know the statistics. Why are there so many books about teen suicide? When I was in school only one student in my school committed suicide. In my 15 years of teaching around 8 students have committed suicide. What a huge increase? What are the numbers today? This website gives that information through 2007.
Living Dead Girl – Elizabeth Scott

ISBN-10: 1416960600
YA Fiction
Alice was taken from the aquarium by Ray. She has spent the last five years getting abused in every way imaginable. She is growing up and Ray wants another little girl. He sends Alice to find him one.
I found this book gut-wrenching. How can one person endure so much? I think students would be intrigued and may try to comprehend others pain, if that is even possible.
Unwind – Neal Shusterman

ISBN-10: 1416912053
YA Fiction
After the Second Civil War parents were given the right to have their children “unwound” if they found them undesirable. This can only happen between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.
Connor, Risa, and Lev are on the way to harvest camp when they are thrust together and go AWOL
Wow! As a parent I find the idea of such a society disturbing, sickening and downright insane. However, as a teacher I could see how students would be compelled to keep reading as I did. I wanted to know what these kids had done that made them so undesirable and how did their society get this way. Teenagers will find the book gripping and I can think of many great discussions.
Give A Boy A Gun – Todd Strasser

ISBN-10: 0689848935
YA Fiction
Brendan and Gary have been tormented mercilessly most of their lives. They have had enough. They steal several guns and show up at the dance to kill everyone who ever tormented them.
This book intrigued me because of the incorporation of facts. Throughout the book, Strasser included facts about gun violence and gun control in the United States as well as other countries. The statistics were eye-opening. Also, the torment that these boys suffered would seem trivial to the casual onlooker but over a period of years, it was easy to see how they became so disgruntled and disconnected.
National Institute of Justice – Gun Violence
Article --
Article on gun statistics and deaths from 1976-2005 – includes youth and gang violence
I was shocked by the facts Strasser used in his books so I researched to see how gun violence had changed since his statistics which were from 1999-2000. The number of deaths by gun violence in the United States is alarming yet we live in a society that believes citizens have the right to own guns.
Go Ask Alice -- Anonymous

ISBN-10: 1416914633
YA Fiction
This is the diary of a 15 year old girl named Alice in a middle class family who gets hooked on drugs. Even though it is never stated, the story is set during the era of free love in the 60s.
The drug culture of the 60s seems to be so disconnected to the culture of today but after reading this book I realized that drug usage is a big issue regardless of the time period. What amazes me is that teenage drug users unknowingly give their friends drugs because they want to give others that experience. Yet it always ends horribly for everyone involved.

Do teens really give their friends drugs without telling them? Are the teens in the drug culture really bullied to stay in that culture and not allowed to get out or get help? What can parents do to prevent this from happening?
Teen Drug Abuse
Website on drug usage and statistics through 2002 --
This is an informative website for parents that gives statistics on all types of drugs, why and how they start.
The availability of all types of drugs whether alcohol, prescription, or illegal is alarming. This article provides facts to support that drug usage that is mentioned in Go Ask Alice. I think this information could be used to in a discussion of the book and Alice’s different experiences.

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