Booktalk This! Not your mother’s bedtime storytelling (Nontraditional Books and Stories for Teens)
Though storytelling comes in all forms, I tend to spend the majority of my reading life with fiction told from a 1st or 3rd person point of view, and a “first this happened, and then this, then this…” chronology.
Yes, these stories are often wonderful, but I find that sometimes it’s intriguing to mix things up a bit. The following books all tell their stories differently, whether by playing with style, point-of-view, or format, but they’re all guaranteed to catch the attention of older teens (and adults)!
There’s nothing quite so infuriating than a pen pal assignment from a teacher who clearly wishes to go back to the dark ages of letter writing (before the awesomeness that is text messaging). For Lydia, Cass and Emily, this assignment is also dangerous, as they’re meant to write kids at Brookfield HS, the student body of which is rumored to be full of scary criminals. But then Charlie, Seb, and Matthew write back. And through letters, emails, and even meeting transcripts, they experience friendship, grief, secret missions, love, and heartbreak, not to mention a trial about some not-so-harmless school vandalism…
You by Charles Benoit
“You’re surprised at all the blood.” So begins You, a suspense story with a twist: it’s told in 2nd person, meaning that you, the reader, feel as if you’re Kyle Chase, a 10th grader with an “aptitude” for math and a crush on Ashley. You hate your school, and wish you could go back to eighth grade, to work harder for the better grades needed to get into the school all your friends did. Instead, you’re stuck at Midlands High, where you end up hanging out with the kind of guys who sneak out at night to smoke, steal beer, and break into your old middle school. And then, one night, you’re covered in blood and someone is dying. But how, exactly, did you get there?
What about poetry? Do you have a group of teens obsessed with Ellen Hopkins’ dark verse novels? Why not give them family by Micol Ostow? Ostow took the true story of the Mason Family cult and murders, and told that story from the point of view of a person on the inside. Mel, a seventeen-year-old self-described “broken” girl, finds solace and companionship in the charismatic Henry. Through Mel’s eyes, we begin to see the ways in which Henry, as a collector of “broken” people, uses and manipulates his devotees, Mel included, to carry out horrific acts. This is an unsettling story, but powerful in the way it forces the reader to understand how a person looking for acceptance can be led down a very dark path.
Do you prefer stark images and notes to go with your zombie apocalypses? Dead Inside tells the story of a zombie outbreak and the breakdown of society through “items found in a backpack.” In reality, this was a huge Internet project, in which people from around the world created content for the book. You’ll forget soon, though, that this isn’t real as you get caught up in reading increasingly confused and desperate notes scribbled on torn pages, signs, and any available paper, including birthday cards, photos, maps and cardboard. (You, too, can participate in the project at www.lostzombies.com )
This final book, Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral, has the least amount of text of all the books here…and it’s the most mind-blowing, in my opinion. Glory Fleming was a brilliant piano “prodigy,” destined for greatness and sold-out performances. So why has she gone missing? And what led to her Chopsticks-obsessed breakdown? Through photographs, drawings, and newspaper clippings, follow the story of a girl who fell in love, and then lost her mind. Then reread the story, in order to find out what *really* happened.
What are your favorite nontraditional format books? Share with us in the comments.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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