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Katie > YA Contemporary Realistic Fiction (choose 2)

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Katie Manuel | 21 comments The Outsiders by Susan E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The first time I conferred with a student about this book, I thought it sounded ridiculous. However, it also left me intrigued. I could not imagine how a realistic story that is so well-known could have a character whose real name is Ponyboy or Sodapop. Now, this is one of my favorite books for middle school or even possibly high school students. There are so many important themes in this book, including social class, dysfunctional families, gang activity, prejudice, violence, consequences, self-defense, pride, values, and many others.

The story follows a gang of "Greasers" who were basically dealt a rough hand in life. After getting jumped by a "Soc" while walking home and then hanging out with one of their girl friends, a fight breaks out between Johnny, Ponyboy and the Socs. In order to save Ponyboy from being drowned in a fountain, Johnny stabs one of the Socs, killing him. They hide out for a few days, not knowing what else to do. During that time, they end up saving some children from a burning building and become heros. However, Johnny breaks his back and is told he will be charged for murdering Bob. Once Ponyboy returns home, the rival gangs get into another rumble to settle their differences, but the Greasers win. However, the positive feeling doesn't last long due to two surprising deaths in their gang, and Ponyboy having a really hard time dealing with them. Eventually he realizes he needs to follow his dead friend's advice and make something of himself. He begins to apply himself more in his schoolwork, and it seems that he writes this exact story as his essay for English because the book ends with the exact same sentence it begins with.

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Katie Manuel | 21 comments The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane

Molly is an eighth grade girl dealing with the loss of her father, who she had been extremely close with. He was killed in a single car accident, which leaves her with many wonders. Over the course of her school year, she tries to overcome her loss as well as her mother being distant and proving to her peers that she is more than just a girl whose father died. A very special bond she had with him developed during their backyard games of catch, during which he taught her to throw a perfect knuckleball (also known as a butterfly). Molly seems to use baseball as a way to connect with him and cope, and she ends up going out for, and making, the boys' baseball team. This experience helps her learn a lot about herself, what teamwork means, her friendships, and her mother. This is a very powerful, moving, realistic fiction novel.

I think this would be an excellent read aloud in the intermediate or junior high grades when learning about figurative language. Molly is an extremely intelligent character, and the words the author puts in her head are beautifully written. I'm obsessed with the language in this book. It would make an excellent mentor text for a realistic fiction writing unit in the upper grades, even if only one or two chapters were read to the class.

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