Young Adult Book Club discussion

Member's Chat > Putting Together a Library for Incarcerated Teens

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message 1: by Fred (new)

Fred Kirchner (pedalin_poet) | 1 comments I'm Fred Kirchner, teen librarian at one of the Dayton, Ohio's branch libraries. Just joined the Goodreads site and this group. I also work occasionally for Project Jericho, a group offering arts opportunities for at-risk teens in Clark County, OH. Here's their web address:

I've been Poet in Residence at several poetry slam workshops for them. Click on Media and you can hear the kids' poems. Some nifty stuff.

Anyway, now we're going to put together a library for teens at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center. And we're looking for YA Fiction & Non-Fiction titles for teens behind bars. We'd like to find books about all of the issues facing teens today, ranging from suicide to murder, from cutting to body art, from anorexia to gluttony... you get the idea. Some with female protagonists; some with male.

If you have read (or heard about) any books lately that you think could help a teen in jail deal with issues and make a difference in their growth, or is just a great read, please share some titles. You can just respond to the group, or email me off list at:

Fred Kirchner

message 2: by Ann (new)

Ann | 177 comments Hi Fred,

For non-fiction I'd suggest the "Uncle Eric" series by author Richard J. Maybury.
Out of the eleven books in the series I'd especially suggest taking a look at Whatever Happened to Justice?. They are published by Bluestocking Press:
Anyway, they're worth taking a look at I think.

Best of luck to you!

message 3: by Alethea (last edited Nov 12, 2008 09:06AM) (new)

Alethea A (frootjoos) | 46 comments Fred, I'll have to give that some thought!

They're not typically the kind of books I read, but I as a bookseller I get asked for them quite a bit.

I haven't read most of these, but here goes:

Tweak by Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy by David Sheff.

There's Grief Girl which I haven't read but plan to read someday.

Fat Girl has gotten varying reviews, and I have not read it/don't plan to, but I think it might spark interesting discussions.

Pretty much all books by Dave Pelzer particularly Help Yourself for Teens: Real-Life Advice for Real-Life Challenges

Every book by Walter Dean Myers

Cut by Patricia McCormick

Ellen Hopkins's series--Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, and Identical are written in verse.

message 4: by Alethea (new)

Alethea A (frootjoos) | 46 comments
Thirteen Reasons Why about loneliness and suicide

Scott Westerfeld's series--Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras, and Bogus to Bubbly: An Insider's Guide to the World of Uglies, which I personally did not enjoy but are quite popular fiction.

A book I did enjoy immensely but of a tamer variety than most of the ones I just mentioned: Flipped, which I recommend for younger readers or those who need an "easier" read to introduce them to novel-reading.

The Burn Journals


The Perks of Being a Wallflower (I remember enjoying this book in my late teen years. Very angsty.)

Wake--I haven't read, but I believe it deals with sexuality and friendship (or lack of it)

Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin deal with life, death, love, friendship, family, choices, and second chances.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Feed, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party, and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves all by M.T. Anderson

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Before I Die


Living Dead Girl

The Hunger Games

Graceling--a complex one.

Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Double Helix, The Rules of Survival, and other books by Nancy Werlin

Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns by John Green

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Skinny by Ibi Kaslik

Lush by Natasha Friend

I hope this is the kind of thing you were looking for!

message 5: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 13 comments What a great project, Fred. I will do some thinking on some books. Chris Crutcher comes to mind without thinking too much. Books like Iceman and others would be good for boys.

message 6: by crystalibrary (last edited Nov 23, 2008 07:09PM) (new)

crystalibrary How about How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff? This books deals primarily with a girl sent to England during a war (set in the present), but the author touches on some issues that she has, namely anorexia, and depression. It doesn't deal with the issues explicitly, but it is a gorgeous read.

John Marsden's Letters from the Inside, which is set inside a prison, or Checkers which is set in a psychiatric hospital.

Venessa (PebbleCafe) (PebbleCafe) | 4 comments I'll give this some more thought and ask the ladies in my online book club for suggestions.

My first book that came to mind, however, is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It's an excellent book. The audio version, I felt, really gave the story life.

Just an idea for next year, have you heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo)?

It may be another way/outlet for the teens to express themselves. It could be a group or individual effort. Just a thought. I know some teachers did a version of this with their classes and the students really got into it.

message 9: by Amy (new)

Amy Reed (AmyReed) What an incredible thing you're doing!

There are a lot of great YA books out there, but many of them are from a white, middle-class, suburban perspective. I expect that your readers are looking for a little more than that. Here are my suggestions:

"The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian" (about a smart Indian teen who defies the odds)

"Dark Dude" (a poor Latino boy finds himself when he attempts to escape from the drugs and crime of NY city)

"Push" (This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It is narrated by a young black girl as she deals with pregnancy, incest, abuse, HIV, and ultimately, hope. this book is VERY graphic--maybe not so great for a younger reader)

I've thought of teaching a writing class in a juvenile detention facility too. The thing I always wanted to do was show kids the movie "Slam" with Saul Williams. It's about a guy who escapes the life of crime and drugs through writing poetry--and it's a true story. It's really inspiring.

I hope that helps. Keep up the amazing work!

message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (melissacwalker) Great idea! Coe Booth is an incredible author here in NYC, and her books TYRELL and KENDRA both deal with inner-city living in the Bronx and have amazingly true voices. I think they'd be a hit.

message 12: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne Hi Fred,
I agree with a lot of the suggestions here. I would also highly, highly recommend America by E.R. Frank (very intense), Jude by Kate Morgenroth, and Monster by Walter Dean Myers, all of which involve kids in the court system, as well as the Bluford series -- prints highly accessible, fairly well written and plot-driven dramas involving urban students at Bluford High. There are about 13 of them and I have seen kids who wouldn't read anything else get into them. AND they cost a dollar each, and are often free to good causes. Definitely worth contacting the good folks there. Another excellent book is The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Werlin (severely abusive mother). You might also want to check out Bronx Masquerade, by Nikki Grimes -- about a cool English class that starts doing poetry slams! All of the above have strong, resilient characters and face-paced, well-crafted plots, in my opinion. I guess my last two cents would be to keep in mind that while all of these compelling tough-life teen dramas are what a lot of kids there might want to read, it'd be great to include some escapism, too.

message 13: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne Realized it might help to include the links:

America by E.R. Frank
Jude by Kate Morgenroth
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
The Gun (Bluford Series, Number 6) by Paul Langan
The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

message 14: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Aley (kraley) | 100 comments I also recommend Freedom Writers (about a high school teacher who opens the world of writing to her Los Angeles gang area students).

Touching Spirit Bear is an EXCELLENT book about a boy who commits a crime out of anger and then instead of jail, picks community punishment. He is exhiled to an island in Alaska and is told how to survive. Within hours he burns down his shelter and his personal journey begins. A great book about growth and turning yourself around.

message 15: by Joe (new)

Joe (sleepyman) | 1 comments I know that teens in juvenile correction centers often read the Bluford Series; teens from urban backgrounds can relate to the characters and they're interesting

message 16: by Celestasaurus (last edited Jul 28, 2009 04:16PM) (new)

Celestasaurus This is why you should never ask me for a list of recommendations. I get over-excited and write down way, way too many. I’ve typed in my recommended books (31 in all) and “tags” beside them that describe what teen issues the book pertains to. Also beside that it says if the book is nonfiction and what gender the protagonist is.

Ellen Hopkins books are written in verse and all of the protagonists are female:
Impulse – rehab, suicide, homicide, sexuality, sex, drugs, self-harm
Identical – sexual abuse, drugs, sex, bulimia
Burned – abuse (physical and emotional), sex
Crank and Glass – drugs, sex, rape, pregnancy

Wintergirls – anorexia, death, suicide, female protagonist
Speak – rape, female protagonist

Jerk, California – Tourette’s syndrome, male protagonist

Pictures of Hollis Woods – foster homes, female protagonist

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – racism, poverty, death, male protagonist (Extra note: This book is hilarious!)

Finding Alice – schizophrenia, religion (Christianity), female protagonist

The Burn Journals – nonfiction (memoir), suicide, male protagonist

Give a Boy a Gun – suicide, attempted homicide (Students bring weapons to school and threaten to kill other students and teachers.)

Boy Toy – sexual abuse, male protagonist

Thirteen Reasons Why – suicide, male protagonist

Go Ask Alice – nonfiction (diary), drugs, female protagonist

Chloe Doe – prostitution, abuse, female protagonist

Runaway – child runaway, female protagonist

Rx – drugs, female protagonist

Skin – eating disorder, male protagonist

Skinny – eating disorder, female protagonists

Candy – prostitution, drug addiction, male protagonist

Dreamland – abusive relationships, female protagonist
Just Listen – rape, female protagonist

You Don't Know Me – male protagonist

Wrecked – DUI, death, female protagonist

I Know It's Over – teen pregnancy, sexuality, relationships and sex, male protagonist

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - sexuality, male protagonist (A must-read for every teenager.)

Blind Faith - death, depression, religion, female protagonist

Black Box - depression, female protagonist

After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away - death, depression, drugs, female protagonist

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance - alcoholism, female protagonist

message 17: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (LisaVegan) Celeste,

For all your links I get this error message:

"page not found

The resource you requested doesn't exist. Please check the url again, or go to the home page."

Maybe it's me or a temporary Goodreads glitch. I was able to find Skinny, but not some others. Who wrote Black Box?


message 18: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (readerandwriter) Are you looking for any Gay and Lesbian reads? I can recommend some.

message 19: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 3 comments I would also recommend books by Paul Volponi, such as Rucker Park Set Up, Response, Black & White, and Hurricane Song. He used to teach kids in Rikers, so there is an authenticity to the writing and the stories that I'm sure incarcerated people will identify with.

message 21: by Angie, YA lovin mod!! (last edited Jul 29, 2009 08:24AM) (new)

Angie | 2691 comments Mod
Celeste that also happened to me. You may have linked them wrong. But I checked everyone else's links and the same thing is happening. So I think it is a goodreads error and will correct itself.

message 22: by Ralph (new)

Ralph (sunwriter) | 53 comments Yeah, none of the book links are working on any of the pages - trivia, profile or groups. =[

message 23: by Lorraine (new)

Lorraine Stinson | 23 comments A good series for reluctant readers who may be reading below grade level is the Bluford series from Townsend Press. They are short novels about an urban high school & the issues the kids deal with at school & at home. You can get them for $1.00 from the publisher at
Orca is another good publisher for books for kids who say they don't like to read. They have high interest books at lower reading levels that are about topics that motivate kids to read.
Good luck

message 24: by Karen (new)

Karen (kgalenis) | 5 comments Check out any books by Todd Strasser. I just finished If I grow up....WOW!

message 25: by Josh (new)

Josh Newhouse (newhousejo) | 14 comments Here are a few:

The Juvie Three by Korman
Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers
Autobiography of my Dead Brother by Myers
Petty Crimes by Soto
Thick by Colin Neenan
Endgame by Nancy Garden
Bang by Sharon Flake
Who Am I Without Him by Flake
Good Girlz series by Rhonda Billingsley
Drama High series by L. Divine
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur
Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper
Battle of Jericho by Draper
Ender's Game by Card
Ender's Shadow by Card
Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have by Sheppard (coming out soon)
Football Hero by Green
Runner by Deuker
Red Kayak by Cummings
Shadow of a Doubt by Rottman

Let me know if you need more!

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Books mentioned in this topic

Whatever Happened to Justice? Revised Edition (other topics)
Help Yourself for Teens: Real-Life Advice for Real-Life Challenges (other topics)
The Middleman and Other Stories (other topics)
Cut (other topics)
Glass (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Richard J. Maybury (other topics)
Ellen Hopkins (other topics)
Dave Pelzer (other topics)
Patricia McCormick (other topics)
Nic Sheff (other topics)