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Teenage Experience Choice Book Unit

Updated: 2 days ago

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This unit was for my 10 Intensified students. I wanted to do a unit where the kids could read a choice book that connected to one of the core texts that we studied.

For this unit, I gave the kids an assignment sheet and lots of time to read in class, and they submitted some really great projects at the end. I definitely recommend building in some time to let students read a choice book in some capacity.

Core Texts & "Teenage Experience" Books That Connect to Them

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is the story of what happens when colonialism takes over in Nigeria.

Essential question: What is the danger of the “single story”?

Book choices:

  • The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver-In The Bean Trees, the main characters leaves her home in Kentucky in order to make a better life for herself. She drives until her car breaks down and starts to build a life where she stops.

  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi-In Purple Hibiscus, Kambili and her brother must live under the strict rules of their wealthy, religious, and abusive father.

Purple Hibiscus Multiple Choice Test
Purple Hibiscus Multiple Choice Test

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon-a boy with autism goes on a journey to figure out who killed the neighbor's dog. He must navigate a world he does not understand in order to get the information he needs.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel memoir about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.

Persepolis Multiple Choice Test
Persepolis Multiple Choice Test

Essential Question: How do your surroundings shape your identity?

Book Choices:

  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez. I have not read this one yet, but if you have, feel free to tell me about it in the comments section!

  • A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (non-fiction)-This book is the story of Beah's time as a child soldier in Sierra Leone and his subsequent rehabilitation.

  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (YA lit)-I read this so many years ago. It's amazing and disgusting at the same time. It tells the story of a young slave in pre-revolutionary Boston.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This is the classic story about an angry and lost teen wandering New York City.

Essential Question:Is there a common teenage experience that we all have to suffer through?


  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky-The main character in this story suffers from blackouts and fits of anger. We do not find out why until the end.

  • Looking for Alaska (YA lit) by John Green-The main character in this book always reminds me of Holden Caulfield because of his outside status and his ridiculous vocabulary, BUT, the story is engaging even if the teenage characters are too smart and witty to be real. Miles heads off to boarding school and falls in love with the enigma of a girl named Alaska. The story goes from there.

  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA lit) -UGH THIS BOOK IS TOO CUTE. Two teenagers fall in love, but it all starts with their love of music.

  • Knife of Never Letting Go (YA Fantasy/Suspense) by Patrick Ness. I do not remember how the kids convinced me to book this book on the list, but it is a doozy. It opens with a high speed chase through a forest/swamp and does not stop from there.

  • Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia Mccall -This is a beautiful book in verse about a Mexican American teenager who has to take care of her mother.

  • WHEN I WAS PUERTO RICAN by Esmeralda Santiago- a memoir about growing up in Puerto Rico and eventually moving to the United States.

I really enjoyed doing this unit at the end of the school year. It is always nice to give the kids some flexibility when we can.

I think I created this unit about 9-10 years ago. Although the above books are all amazing, there are so many more great YA lit books from the last 10 years that could work. I kept the unit as I originally wrote it, but looking back, I would make it more diverse in the race and sexuality categories.

If you do any similar units or activities, please feel free to share your ideas below.

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