Class texts for Middle Secondary – Part 1

Following on from last week’s posts on popular class texts for lower secondary, here are some suggestions for middle secondary readers.

Need some suggestions for your students?  Email education@au.penguingroup.com with your requirements and we will put a list together for you.

Below are some of our most popular class texts for middle secondary, but also some new books you may like to consider.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Since the death of her mother, fifteen-year-old Daisy has been finding life hard.  Her father has remarried and his wife is expecting another child.  At a loss to figure out how to control the bad behaviour of his daughter, Daisy’s father sends her to live with her Aunt and cousins inEngland.  Daisy’s cousins are like no one she has ever met and the country manor begins to give her the solitude and relaxation she has craved.  But thenEnglandis invaded and her aunt is called away out of the country to work on the peace process.  The children are left alone when the army arrives to take over the house as a base.  The children are split up, the girls sent in one direction and the boys in another.

This is a story about the breakdown of society, how seemingly ordinary people deal with extraordinary situations.  Winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, this is a gripping novel for middle to senior secondary students.  Daisy is a feisty female lead who both male and female students will find interesting.

Themes: war, love, hope, fear, courage, trust.

Read an extract

Teachers’ Notes

Unit of Work

Just in Case by Meg Rosoff

After saving his brother from a possibly fatal accident, fifteen-year-old David Case begins to think about his own fate.  It is fate that bad things are going to happen.  And bad things will happen to David unless he does something about it.  So David decides to reinvent himself.  He sheds his old identity and changes his name to Justin.  Decked out in new clothes and a new attitude to life, Justin begins trying to fool fate into believing that David no longer exists.

David/Justin is a smart, slightly neurotic, insecure loner determined to take control of his own fate.  His baby brother possesses very sophisticated thoughts but is in the unfortunate position of only being able to communicate what his two year old body will allow him.  And “fate” himself is a sinister and wise character whose comments dot the narrative.  This book is thought provoking and extremely funny.

Themes: fate, destiny, love, control, frustration.

Read an extract

Teachers’ Notes

Unit of Work

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The time has come for the human race to find an alternative planet to Earth.  The US Government have decided to send a convoy of people into space to investigate and populate a planet they know nothing about.  As important personnel in the US Military, Amy’s parents have agreed to be cryogenically frozen for the 300 years the journey will take.  Amy has decide to go with them.  However, after 250 years, Amy is violently and unexpectedly awoken.  Nothing is what she expects.  She cannot be re-frozen but now must face the possibility of never seeing her parents again and remaining on the ship, in the middle of space, for the rest of her life.  But then there is Elder.

Elder is the future leader of the ship.  After a plague killed three quarters of the ship’s inhabitants over a century ago, a strong leader was needed to keep life on the ship in order.  Elder is being trained to take over as leader but is frustrated with the current leaders lack of trust in his ability.  The inhabitants of the ship have gone from a mixture of races and religions to a monoethinicity – all in the hope that no differences will mean no trouble.  Everyone looks the same, and everyone has their place.  Until now, Elder has believed everything he has been told.  Then he meets Amy.  She is fair, with fiery red hair that screams difference.  She is also the most beautiful girl Elder has ever seen and he will do anything to protect her.  But the more she tells him of Earth, the more he begins to doubt how the ship is run.  Now someone is unplugging the “frozens” and people are dying.  Will Elder and Amy be able to stop the murderer before more people are killed?  And will the ship ever reach its destination?

With perspectives from both Amy and Elder, this compelling story is accessible science-fiction that explores the nature of closed society.  What happens when history is erased and a new one created?  Does difference really breed unrest?  When does leadership become dictatorship?  This would make an excellent class text that explores politics and human nature, all wrapped up in an exciting, space-age adventure.

Themes: human nature, society, space travel, new worlds, leadership, secrets and betrayals, loss, hope, ignorance and education, dystopia, science fiction.

Read an extract

acrosstheuniversebook.com

 Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia’s world is ruled by the Society.  Everything is perfectly thought out and planned in order for the human race to strive at its absolute potential.  The Society decides everything – what you will eat, what your job will be, who you will marry, how many children you will have, even when you will die.  The world is orderly and no one steps out of line.  On Cassia’s seventeenth birthday she attends her Matched Banquet to find out who her perfect partner will be.  When her name is called, like everyone else, she stands in front of a screen to see her match for the first time.  At first Cassia is thrilled.  He match is someone she knows, she never imagined that she would be so lucky.  But then Cassia finds herself falling in love with someone else, someone who could not possibly be her match.  Someone who teaches her about words and poetry, who opens her eyes to a world greater than the Society.  However, if they are to be together it would mean breaking all the rules and taking the greatest risk Cassia has ever taken.

Themes: dystopia, society, oppression, love, taking risks, punishment, compliance, science fiction.

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

Set in the ultra-cool city ofNew York, this is a book about the notion of “cool”.  Who or what is cool?  How do we know?  Hunter works for a multi-national shoe company spotting trends and reporting them back so they can be marketed.  If anyone knows about cool, he does.  When his boss disappears, Hunter becomes involved in the world of big business and discovers that it’s not all about cool shoes.  Great for boys and girls, this is filled with pop-culture that kids will recognise.  Fast paced and humorous, this is a great tool to explore the brands and trends kids are faced with everyday.

Themes: “cool”, mystery, big business, marketing, trends, popular culture.

Teachers’ Notes

Unit of Work

Bye, Beautiful by Julia Lawrinson

Set in the wheat belt area ofWestern Australiain the 1960s, this is a family and town drama that has a backdrop of the radical societal changes that were taking place at the time.  Fourteen-year-old Sandy, and her sexually confident older sister Marianne, are the daughters of a Police Chief.  When their father is relocated to a small town in outback Western Australia, both sisters find themselves drawn to the town heart-throb Billy, a part Aboriginal apprentice mechanic.  Despite a previous engagement inPerth, and the warnings of those around her, Marianne pursues the relationship.

This is a stunning novel that explores the limitations placed on young women in the 1960s, the expectations of society, the difficulties of growing up and the consequences of dangerous decisions.  Beautifully written, it is impossible to stop reading once you have started and will make a compelling class novel for older readers.  Great for girls.

Themes: love, trust, betrayal, societal limitations and expectations, small town mentality, prejudice, family, decisions and consequences.

Read an extract

Teachers’ Notes

Unit of Work

Kill the Possum by James Moloney

Dylan’s relationship with Kirsty Beal is still in its early stages.  They’ve been out a couple of times, but nothing serious.  But Dylan knows he really likes Kirsty and is keen to spend more time with her so he decides to visit her house one Sunday afternoon.  Little does he know that this is the worst possible time to visit the Beals’.  Every second Sunday Kirsty’s step father, Ian Cartwright, returns her little sister from an access visit.  Every second Sunday is a nightmare for the Beal family as he bullies them into terrified submission.  He may not hurt them physically but he destroys them emotionally with stand-over tactics and intimidation.  This is especially difficult for Kirsty’s younger brother, Tim, who believes he should be able to protect his family.

Dylan is the first person outside the family to witness Ian’s abuse and is shocked and sickened by what he sees.  Dylan can’t understand why Ian has never been stopped and becomes determined to find a solution.  As Dylan’s relationship with Kirsty slowly becomes more intimate, his friendship with Tim also begins to grow.  Dylan is the first real friend Tim has had in years and the first person to understand the tensions within the Beal family.  As Tim and Dylan start discussing ways in which to stop Ian they stumble across the ultimate solution – Ian’s murder.  They must stop Ian at any cost before he can do more damage to the family.

Told from the points of view of Dylan, Kirsty and Tim, this is a tense psychological thriller about the effects of abuse and just how far a troubled boy can be pushed to protect his family.

Themes: domestic abuse, father-son relationships, depression, truth, trust, lies, morality.

Teachers’ Notes

Unit of Work

Doppelganger by Michael Parker

Andrew’s nightmares and blackouts are becoming increasingly worse.  So much so, that one night he blacks out and wakes up in an alternateSydney.  Completely different from anything he has ever known, this alternateSydneyis dark, gritty, violent and dangerous.  The wealthy people have moved into massive estates that keep them separated from the violent gang warfare outside.  Masses of homeless kids have been forced into the disused tunnels and subway system below ground.  Taken underground to join them Andrew learns that everyone in his world has a Doppelganger, or double, in the other.  He also learns that the worlds have become dangerously close and if one person dies in one world, their doppelganger will die in the other.  The leader of the underground gang called The Hallboyz is planning a massacre of hundreds of teenagers in the alternateSydney.  People Andrew knows from his world.  The consequences for his world are unthinkable to Andrew, and he knows he has to do something about it.  The only way for Andrew to stop the massacre is to kill the Hallboyz leader…who happens to be the doppelganger of Andrew’s best friend.

This is a suspenseful sci-fi thriller with undertones of classics such as The Lord of the Flies and The Heart of Darkness.  While it is intriguing and thrilling enough to keep even you toughest students enthralled until the end, it also provides a large amount of scope to explore some big issues.

This title is also accompanied by a six week unit of work available for teachers to use.

Themes: ethical/moral dilemmas, fear, friendship, courage, trust, betrayal, good vs evil.

Read an extract

Teachers’ notes

Unit of Work

Break of Day by Tony Palmer

Set during the 1930s and 40s, Break of Day is the story of two brothers both drawn into the Second World War.  AsMurray grows up on a farm in ruralAustralia, he learns the harsh truth of what it is to survive on the land during the depression. Murray idolises his older brother Will and the two of them help their parents work the farm.  Their Uncle Jack plays a significant role in teaching the boys, though he never seems to speak much and they don’t know much about him.  Jack was sent to Gallipoli as a young man and returned severely emotionally effected, though Murray is curious to know exactly what it was that happened during the War and why no one will discuss it with him.  As the years move on,Murray is constantly tormented by Sid Archer, a rich kid who seems to have a personal vendetta against the brothers.  While Will likes to see the best in everyone and tries to ignore Sid’s taunts,Murray finds it much more difficult.  After Sid manages to convince Will’s sweetheartAda to marry him, Will tries to mend his broken heart by joining the army and heading overseas.  Not long after, the boys’ father is killed in a fire andMurray, racked with guilt, also joins up.  It is on the Kokoda track that Murray once again comes face to face with Sid and is unsure as to whether he can fight alongside a man he hates.

Themes: WWII, Kokoda, family relationships, the Great Depression, returned soldiers, courage/bravery.

Read an extract

Teachers’ Notes

Unit of Work

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