I've been dabbling with this for awhile, and have a working list. It's an older list by book standards, but these books still pack a punch with teens. I tried to pair NF with fiction.
I have a current list and will post this soon. These will include titles within the last two years. Here is what I worked up awhile back. I thought about titles I'd add to what I've already done and they're in a different color:
Homer. Translated by W.H.D. Rouse. (1999). The Odyssey New York: Signet Classics. Because he angered the gods, Odysseus must go on a journey and leave behind all that is familiar to him. He undergoes several trials, which includes Cyclops, Sirens, and Lotus-eaters, loses friends along the way, and understands himself as a person throughout his ordeal.
Deuker, Carl. (2003). High Heat. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
When Shane‚s life of privilege is turned around by the death of his father, he has to come to grips with his situation. But when he hurts another ball player intentionally, he has to come to terms with himself.
Tragic hero, tie-in through epic literary elements
Holly Black's books (Tithe and Ironsides)
Draper, Sharon. (1999). Romiette and Julio. New York: Atheneum Books.
Julio, a Hispanic from Texas moves to the northern U.S. and through Internet chat, he meets and falls in love with Romiette, an African-American girl. This doesn‚t sit well with her other friends, who are against their inter-racial dating, and tragedy occurs in their relationship. A modern day young adult book mirroring the classic tale by William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare, William. Edited by Harold Bloom. (2000). Romeo and Juliet. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.
The classic tale of love and tragedy and the hatred of two rival families.
YA meets Shakespeare
Enter Three Witches: A story of Macbeth by Caroline B. Cooney
Larsen, Erick and Isaac Monroe Cline. (1999). Isaac‚s Storm: man, a time, and the deadliest hurricane in history. New York: Crown Publishers.
Real accounts of the deadliest storm in the United States history as told through excerpts of Isaac Cline, an early meteorologist, and the devastation that occurred in Galveston. Includes actual photographs as well as modern-day interpretation of the storm.
Murphy, Jim. (2000). Blizzard! : the storm that changed America. New York: Scholastic.
Historical documentation based on first-person accounts, newspaper articles, and photographs and lithographs of the time when an unexpected blizzard hit the eastern seaboard, esp. New York City, in 1888.
Murphy, Jim. (1995). Great Fire. New York: Scholastic.
First person accounts of several survivors as well as newspaper articles and photographs/maps of the Great Fire of Chicago are interspersed to give the reader a first-hand, factual account of how this great city was devastated, why, and how people coped and survived the aftermath.
Natural disasters and science
Susan Pfeffer Life as We Knew It and her sequel The Dead & the Gone
Murphy, Jim. (2003). An American Plague: the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. New York: Clarion Books.
Looks at the yellow fever plague in Philadelphia during the late 1700‚s and the people who tried to conquer this epidemic through coarse medical knowledge and goodwill. Includes doctor‚s accounts as well as the works of government and the Free African Society. Contains illustrations and clippings from newspapers of the times.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. (2000). Fever 1793. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Sixteen year old Matilda lives in Philadelphia and begins to understand the horror of plague when it hits her hometown of Philadelphia. She experiences the mass exodus of people from the city as well as her own mother‚s death. When Matilda contracts the fever and survives, she ensures her help to those who need help the most.
Epidemics in the United States
Murray, Jaye. (2003). Bottled Up. New York: Dial Books.
Pip, a stoner in high school, must attend counseling sessions if he wants to avoid his father becoming involved in his school life. He tries to hide the fact that his father is a raging alcoholic and his mother is a pill popper as well as juggling to protect his little brother from getting emotionally and physically hurt. Through his counseling, and with the help of a teacher, a girl who‚s a friend, and a cop, Pip makes it through the tough part of quitting drugs in order to create a more bearable world for himself and his brother.
Martinez, Victor. (1998). Parrot in the Oven: mi vida : a novel. New York: HarperTrophy.
Manny relates his coming of age experiences as a member of a poor Mexican American family in which the alcoholic father only adds to everyone's struggle. The reader also gets to see how his older brother and sister handle their life in this situation as well as the mother, who tries to keep her family together through poverty and abuse.
Two views on a popular research topic from different cultural viewpoints.
Latifa, Hachemi Chekeba. (2001). My Forbidden Face. New York: Talk Miramax Books.
16 year old Latifa has grown up amidst the takeover of the Taliban in Kabul in 1997. Where once she envisioned herself as a journalist, she must now wear a burkha to cover her face and live a life of oppression for women. She and her family escape to Paris and her account of what she encountered during her four years on the run is written from a first-person narrative.
Lee, Nancy, Schlein, Lonnie and Mitchel Levitas. (2002). A Nation Challenged: A Visual History of 9/11 and its aftermath. New York: Scholastic.
A photographic look of the horror and devastation that occurred in New York City on September 11th. Includes accounts from the New York Times.
Feiler, Bruce S. (2002). Abraham: A Journey to the heart of three faiths. New York: W. Morrow.
What starts as a biography of Abraham, the Old Testament character who gave births to three extremely different religions, goes on to the implications and history behind Judaism, Islam, and Christianity to modern-day times and its implications on global events.
National/World current events National disasters Terrorism
Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers; Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci
Eliot, Eve. (2001).Insatiable : the compelling story of four teens, food, and its power. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.
The reader meets four different girls whose lives are intertwined through friendship and their interaction with food. Diseases such as bulimia and anorexia are examined as well as overeating and self-esteem issues. Each girl faces her own misery and deals with her personal and family problems in different ways, with tragedy occurring.
Bennett, Cherie. (1998). Life in the Fat Lane. New York: Delacorte Press.
Laura has it all. She‚s homecoming queen, most popular girl in high school and is dating a good-looking boyfriend. Things begin to change when she mysteriously starts to gain weight. As her weight balloons, the way her friends and boyfriend treat her as well as society in general. Laura‚s family views also change when their daughter goes from beauty queen to an obese teenager due to a rare disease. Laura must deal with all of this as well as how to fight back in order to maintain and regain her self-esteem.
Two views on a popular research topic Popular subject for HS girls
My Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught
Capuzzo, Mike. (2003)Close to Shore: The Terrifying shark attacks of 1816. New York: Crown Publishers.
A historical account of a shark attack around the New Jersey shoreline for two weeks in July. Included is a history of early 20th century New Jersey as well as public reaction and reasons why this attack occurred. The attack spawned a national outrage against sharks that is still prevalent in this day and age.
Alten, Steve. (1997). Meg. New York: Doubleday.
Paleo-biologist Jonas Taylor comes face to face with a megalodon, the prehistoric species of modern-day great white shark, and tries to capture it before it faces extinction or causes more death or harm to the balance in nature. In the first book, the megalodon rises from the depths of the Mariana Trench pregnant with a brood of three babies. The sequel, The Trench, is focused on the meg‚s offspring and other prehistoric monsters that survived and adapted to life in the Mariana Trench. Jonas must face his demons from the past in order to save his future.
A look at scientific, biographical and fictional accounts of sharks and their predecessors Good study of biomes.
Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham
Golden, Christopher. (1999).Body Bags. New York: Pocket Books.
Jenna Blake is beginning her first semester as Somerset University. She takes a job with the forensic laboratory in town and becomes involved in a series of unexpected and gruesome deaths, which takes her closer to the killer with every forensic clue that is solved.
Owen, David. (2000). Hidden Evidence: 40 true crimes and how forensic science helped solved them. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books.
Profiles forty true crime cases and explains how their investigations were aided by the use of forensic science. These are mostly high-profile crime cases that include Czar Nicholas to Nicole Brown Simpson. Included with each case is a forensic look on clues left behind that could help solve these cases.
Physiology and anatomy/biology- good science topics
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
TEN: Melville, Herman. Adapted by Will Eisner. (1998). Moby Dick. New York: Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine.
The classic tale of Captain Ahab and his ventures across the sea to find and kill his nemesis, the white whale.
Naslund, Sena Jeter. (1999). Ahab’s Wife or the star gazer: a novel. New York: W. Morrow and Company.
Una Spenser has lived an interesting life. She grew up in a privileged household and later decided to board a ship as a cabin boy to experience life on the sea. She meets and falls in love with Captain Ahab and bears him a son. Through her life experiences, the reader sees life and current issues of the time (19th century New England) and a two-sided view of the Ahab‚s lives, from the mad captain on the sea to his loving wife at home waiting for his return. This novel is based on a singular instance of the classic in which Ahab mentions a wife in the book Moby Dick.
Literary elements of a classic retold
Hobbs, Will. (1999). Jason‚s Gold. New York: Morrow Junior Books.
Fifteen year old Jason leaves Seattle behind to find gold and his brothers in the Klondike. He encounters many trials by nature and on the way, befriends and nurtures a relationship with a Husky named King, who helps Jason survive the harsh northern environment.
Kostyal, K.M. (1999). Trial by Ice: A Photobiography of Sir Ernest Shackleton. New York: Scholastic. Sir Ernest Shackleton and her crew of the Endurance fight for their lives when they are shipwrecked by ice in the middle of the Antarctic. First-hand accounts as well as beautiful black and white photographs taken by a crew member are compiled into this book and shows how the ship‚s name bears itself in Sir Shackleton and the rest of the survivors.
Human endurance against the elements
Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083 by Andrea White