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For the Dorky Boy in All of Us
The stereotypical dork is so ingrained in our social conscience that we have no trouble conjuring up a mental image. High school loser, computer geek, chess club nerd, wimpy know-it-all—what you see is an awkward teenage boy. Whether we’re boys or girls or men or women, there’s a dorky boy inside each and every one of us. But as these books show us, that dork is actually the coolest thing we’ve got going for ourselves. The nerdy low-life shows up the popular jock. The smart guy saves the day. The geek gets the girl. The dorky boy is actually cooler, smarter, and funnier than everyone else and once we admit that we love rooting for him, the dorky boy will triumph time and time again.   Print this list Print this list
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Cover Art: The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian /
The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian
Alexie, Sherman, 1966-
It’s tough being a handicapped bookworm who gets beat up at school every day and goes home to a poverty-stricken family on the Spokane Indian Reservation. But fourteen-year-old Junior makes it work with a sarcastic sense of humor and a penchant for drawing some very witty cartoons. Having a bear of a best friend like Rowdy who’s willing to come to your defense doesn’t hurt, either. But Junior is smart, talented, and he wants more. So he enrolls at the town school twenty miles away, where the only other Indian is the team mascot. Dodging and defying stereotypes at every turn, Junior finds himself with friends and enemies on both sides of the reservation border. Author Sherman Alexie—who, like his dorky hero, is a Spokane Indian born and raised on a reservation—pulls no punches when confronting issues of race and class. But Junior is a wishful, hopeful kid determined to find and hold his place in as many tribes and communities as it takes. Junior’s cartoons add visual flair and dark humor to a coming-of-age story that is certain to provoke thought and laughter in equal measure.
Teen Fiction ALEXIE
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Cover Art: The outsiders /
The outsiders
Hinton, S. E.
The Outsiders is a story of social divides in the classic vein of Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis and his brothers Darry and Sodapop are “Greasers” living on the wrong side of the tracks in their small class-conscious town. They are the perpetual enemies of the rich kids, the socials or “Socs,” who live to rumble with the Greasers. Ponyboy is proud to be a Greaser. He knows that his brothers and their friends may not be perfect, but they will always have his back. But Ponyboy is also curious about the Socs, who, he suspects, might not be all bad. Then fellow Greaser Johnny gets into too much trouble with the Socs, and everything Ponyboy knows is about to change. Ponyboy narrates his tale with honesty and acute observation; his story inspires instant sympathy with the rough but loveable greasers. Every teen who’s been a member of a high school clique--or an outcast--will identify with Ponyboy’s story. The Outsiders was also made into a movie in the 1980s that starred members of the Hollywood brat pack—Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise—and the book and movie make ideal companions. S.E. Hinton wrote the book when she was only sixteen years old and The Outsiders speaks with a genuine teen voice. This classic of teen literature is not to be missed--even if (or maybe especially) you're not a teen anymore.
Teen Fiction HINTON
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Cover Art: King Dork /
King Dork
Portman, Frank
Tom Henderson has read The Catcher in the Rye for practically every English class of his high school career. When the classic is assigned again, Tom digs out his deceased father’s old copy and makes an interesting discovery: what seems to be a secret code is scribbled in the margins. Suddenly a commonplace book might just be able to end the cycle of humiliation and suffering that is Tom’s life as the king dork of Hillmont High. As intriguing as the mystery of the beat-up copy of Catcher in the Rye is, it is Tom’s unique character that makes King Dork stand out. From his hilarious hobby of making up band names and album titles (even though he doesn’t play an instrument) to his self-deprecating wit, Tom is a remarkably engaging and likeable teen voice. With Tom leading the way through a story that’s chock full of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, King Dork will appeal to the wannabe teenager rebel in all of us.
Teen Fiction PORTMAN
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Cover Art: Holes /
Holes
Sachar, Louis, 1954-
Stanley Yelnats has inherited his curse of bad luck from generations of Yelnats who came before him. A perpetually down-on-his-luck kid even on a good day, Stanley is really in for it now. Wrongfully convicted of stealing a baseball star’s sneakers, Stanley is sentenced to a six-month stint at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp for wayward boys. But there is no lake at Camp Green Lake. Instead there’s the Warden, a fearsome female who forces the boys to dig holes, five feet wide and five feet deep, in the ground where the lake used to be. When one of the other inmates, a boy named Zero, finally decides he’s had enough and runs off into the Texas desert, Stanley rises to the occasion for the first time in his life and set off to help. Along the way, the boys uncover the mysteries of Camp Green Lake—mysteries that include old-time Western bandits, Stanley’s pig-stealing great-great-grandfather, and buried treasure. Using cleverly-timed flashbacks and a wide array of quirky characters, author Louis Sachar unfolds this delightful tall tale that celebrates the plight of the underdog. With good guys and villains galore and a dorky boy to cheer for, Holes is a good old-fashioned adventure story.
Teen Fiction SACHAR
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Cover Art: The catcher in the rye /
The catcher in the rye
Salinger, J. D. 1919-
Holden Caulfield has become the adolescent voice of every generation since The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951. He is an angst-filled teenager who has just been kicked out of yet another prep school. To vent his confusion and disillusionment, he runs off for a wild weekend in New York City. Holden desperately wants to be a grown-up—he checks into a hotel room, gets a drink at a club, goes on a date with a girl—but he’s only sixteen years old, and he can’t resist sneaking home to visit his kid sister. Holden is cynical, wishy-washy, lonesome, and angry—in other words, he’s having the emotional adolescence that we all can remember and relate with. The Catcher in the Rye is also a portrait of upper-class New York society in the 1950s, but Holden’s slangy narrative voice and his wryly acute observations ring true even in the twenty-first century.
Adult Fiction SALINGE
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Cover Art: Be more chill /
Be more chill
Vizzini, Ned, 1981-
Jeremy Heere is a dork. No car, no girlfriend, no high school status. An endless existence as a nerd who keeps track of his daily humiliations and consoles himself with Internet porn seems to stretch out in front of Jeremy—until someone tells him to take a squip. A squip is a supercomputer in pill form, a bit of nanotechnology that lodges in Jeremy’s brain (after he buys it illegally from the back of a Payless shoe store and washes it down with a Mountain Dew) and tells him what to wear, say and do to be Cool. Before you can say “take a chill pill,” Jeremy is leading a squip-enhanced life that has him partying with the guys who used to torment him, hooking up with the school’s hottest girls, and maybe even impressing his beautiful, untouchable crush Christine. But life with a piece of experimental talking technology in your head isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Jeremy struggles to find a balance between the sex-and-drug-fueled exploits his new popularity demands of him and getting the girl to really care about him. Author Ned Vizzini invents a clever could-be world that confronts the challenges of teen life with a biting sense of humor and a working knowledge of what that life is really like (Vizzini, twenty-three years old when Be More Chill was published, began writing about his experiences at New York City’s Stuyvesant High School when he was just fifteen). Jeremy’s squip may have some unconventional ideas, but Jeremy himself—a typical, smart-ass, desperate teenager—is the sort of dorky boy the world (alternate reality or not) needs more of.
Teen Fiction VIZZINI
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Cover Art: American born Chinese /
American born Chinese
Yang, Gene Luen
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel. This format tells its story through comic book-like panels of images and dialogue. It’s a perfect style for a coming-of-age story about a Chinese American boy dealing with the casual racism of high school life; a mythical character from Chinese folklore who thinks the gods don’t respect him because he’s a monkey; and a European American boy suffering the embarrassment of a visit from his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee. These three stories intertwine and merge beautifully through Yang’s lively illustrations and challenging stereotypes. The three characters face obvious problems but they are realistically flawed and their stories are told with originality and spirit—and some surprising plot twists and turns. The tale of Jin, the Monkey King, and Danny is a story for every dorky boy who wishes he was someone else—and let’s face it, we’ve all been there. American Born Chinese is truly American tale for the American dork in all its forms.
Teen Fiction YANG
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Cover Art: I am the messenger /
I am the messenger
Zusak, Markus.
Ed Kennedy has been a loser all his life. Born on the wrong side of the tracks, an underachiever in school, in unrequited love with his best friend Audrey, Ed's only cheerleader is his ancient, stinky dog. At the tender age of nineteen, he's an underage cabdriver facing a long life of mundane routine.... until he spontaneously commits an act of bravery during a bank robbery. Then Ed begins receiving playing cards in the mail, aces with cryptic notes that direct him to certain people and places. By following these clues, Ed finds himself in a position to help--stopping crimes, uniting people, playing the hero (even if he sometimes has to play the bad guy first). And every time he chooses to care, Ed is challenged and changed. Whether those changes are for the better or for the worst is tied up in the mystery of who sends the aces, and why, and it's a mystery that's as important to the reader as it is to Ed. Author Markus Zusak invents some unique characters to wander in and out of Ed's adventures, and makes Ed himself a lovable loser, a thoughtful, honest kid with a supporting cast of smart-ass friends and an original narrative voice. First published in Australia in 2002 as The Messenger, this redemption tale won the Children's Book Council of Australia's Book of the Year Award.
Children's Fiction ZUSAK
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Comments
On Jul 13, 2009 at 9:36, Lilacs wrote:
I love your annotated lists! This is an especially good one.
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