Sometimes it can seem like teenagers have so much to learn! Their bodies develop faster than their brains, and all the while, they are trying to figure out who they are: as people, as friends, as members of their communities. Below are four important life lessons that teenagers can learn from these fictional and non-fictional books.
1. It takes courage and perseverance to a make a difference
Teens can easily get caught up in the dramas of their lives. Sometimes, it’s important to remember that they live in a complex world with issues, and it’s important to engage in those conversations and take action to create a better world.
It’s therefore no wonder that teens are drawn to novels set in dystopian worlds. The Hunger Games trilogy (by Suzanne Collins) remains the best of its kind. It critiques everything from our obsession with reality television to class disparities, and it points that real change in people can truly happen through courage and perseverance. The Hunger Games and the Hunger Games: Catching Fire movies are available through streaming video and on DVD. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is scheduled to be in theaters November 21, 2014.
2. We have many similarities with people from diverse cultures and times
Realizing the world is a big place also means realizing that we all have more similarities than we have differences. Persepolis (by Marjane Satrapi) is a graphic novel set during and after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. While she lives in a different time and place, teenagers will empathize with Marjane’s desire to understand her world, and figure out her own beliefs.
For pre-teens, The Watsons Go to Birmingham tells the funny and utterly realistic story of a black family who moves to the South in the mid-1960’s. Through Kenny’s eyes, we see racism, and violence, but also hope and strength.
3. It can take a while to figure out who you are
Jerry Spinelli is expert at writing about the various phases people go through in defining their identity. His Stargirl is about a girl who is entirely unique, but when it becomes too much for her to keep working against the grain, she tries on being “normal” for size. Needless to say, it doesn’t fit, but she comes out stronger in the end. Spinelli’s Wringer is about sticking to your guns and having the strength to battle peer pressure.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (by Sherman Alexie) is a non-fiction book about Junior, who leaves life on the “rez” to go to an all-white school and work for a farmer, all the while trying to figure out what parts of his cultural identity make up who he is.
4. Sometimes life is difficult, but you can make the best of it
John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars has become a teen obsession for many as it deals with both love and death, two of the most interesting topics for teenagers (or anyone!). It is a beautifully written story about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love. Although they face many challenges in relation to their health, they both attempt to live their lives to the fullest, which is a valuable lesson for everyone. The movie is currently in theaters.
Barcott, Bruce (2007, November 11). Off the Rez. The New York Times. Retrieved from The New York Times.
Eberstadt, Fernanda (2003, May 11). Good Looked Like Marx. The New York Times. Retrieved from The New York Times.