It’s September and students everywhere are heading back to school. As part of the back to school ritual they will undoubtedly be presented with an academic reading list, a list that hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years. While we love classics such as To Kill A Mocking Bird and Catcher in the Rye, we thought we’d offer some contemporary and diverse alternatives.
Replace To Kill A Mockingbird with Mosquitoland.
There will forever be a place in my heart for Harper Lee’s classic tale of the loss of innocence in 1930’s Depression era racially segregated South. But the times they are a changin’ and we need a Scout for a modern age. Enter Mim Malone.
Replace The Catcher in the Rye with The Great American Whatever
Your inner 13-year old will fall in love with Quinn Roberts, the Millennials’ Holden Caulfield. One self-centered slightly mental boy replaces the other when The Catcher in the Rye is updated with The Great American Whatever.
Replace Flowers for Algernon with Extraordinary Means
In both the classic Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and the modern Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider, medical issues change the way our lead characters live. They are forced to see the world differently and this change or profound. While these stories are very different, they share the elements of coming of age, compassion, tragedy and hope.
Replace Brave New World with Feed
In 1932 Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World which predicted the society that is played out in the 2002 book Feed by MT Anderson which predicted the social media obsessed world we live in today. I know, it’s getting meta, but trust me on this one. Both Brave New World and Feed show us a glimpse of modern society in the not so distant future. And the future is a pretty scary place.
Replace The Complete Sherlock Holmes with A Study in Charlotte
Update the stale old Holmes and Watson camaraderie for the Millennial generation. We start by adding a feminist twist and making Holmes a female and Watson her love-sick do-boy. Set on a college campus, the traditional myth is further steeped by making these characters the great, great grandchildren of the original characters from Doyle’s series. A perfect introduction to a new generation of readers.
Replace The Scarlet Letter with Speak
The Scarlet Letter’s Hester Prynne gets a high school makeover with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Rather than facing being ostracized and wearing a large letter A, Melinda experiences a relatable high school experience and discovers more heartache and more complex rules of engagement than in Hawthorne’s original.
Replace Romeo & Juliet with The Weight of Feathers
We all know the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, but Anna-Marie McLemore brings a new twist to the ill fated love story with The Weight of Feathers. Instead of fair Verona and rivaling royal houses, McLemore gives us the world of traveling performers, mermaids and tightrope walkers. This retelling has a much more diverse cast than the original, with elements of magical realism while still holding on to the gorgeous, lyrical writing from the original.
Replace The Outsiders with Kids of Appetite
The Outsiders and Kids of Appetite are both stories of creating your gang, whether it’s greasers or hipsters. They’re both stories of self-discovery. Kids of Appetite uses the The Outsiders formula and adds plenty of diversity of race and experience to the gang. KOA’s heart-warming journey taps into the modern psyche of today’s teen reader and is an excellent replacement for The Outsiders.
Replace The Bell Jar with Belzhar
Belzhar chronicles the pain of being pulled into the depths of depression and mourning, much as The Bell Jar was Sylvia Plath’s personal journey. In homage to the original, this book chronicles the experiences of one particular girl in one painful situation using The Bell Jar as it’s framework. Poignant, painful, this is a book for every school reading list.
Be on the lookout as we continue adding on to this modern classics list. Did we miss modern YA books that you think should be included on this list?
Ann-Eliza & Carmen