This week in the Teen Room, we've been visiting The Americas: primarily Canada, the United States, and Mexico. We've eaten hot dogs and maple cookies, voted for our favorite hot salsa, and created duct-tape luggage tags, to name a few activities.
The Young Adult collection is, of course, filled with novels that take place in the United States. Here, however, are some that highlight unique cultural or geographic aspects of American culture:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie: In this award-winning book, Alexie writes about the struggles of Arnold Spirit, Jr., to maintain ties to his Indian tribe while still pursuing his own hopes and dreams. When Arnold chooses to leave the reservation for a chance to attend a better school, will he be alone forever?
Phantoms in the Snow, by Kathleen Benner Duble: In 1944, a 15-year-old orphan boy has few options for survival. Noah has been raised a pacifist, but his only family is an uncle who lives in a remote U. S. Army camp in Colorado. Forced to live there, Noah must reconcile his upbringing with his current situation, and train to be part of an elite corps of winter soldier known as the Phantoms.
Countdown, by Deborah Wiles: It's 1962 and it seems that everyone is living in fear. Eleven-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, and can feel the fear of the nation in the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amid the pervading threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits into her family, and learn to look beyond outward appearance.
Love is the Higher Law, by David Levithan: Three New York City teenagers struggle to come of age amid the chaos and aftermath of September 11. Peter's, Claire's, and Jasper's lives weave together as they come to terms with a new reality.
We also have an abundance of titles set in Central or South America. Although the main focus is on the stories, these novels also give the reader a slice of culture and philosophy:
The Queen of Water, by Laura Resau: Living in a village in Ecuador, a Quechua Indian girl is sent to work as an indentured servant for an upper class "mestizo" family.
Finding Miracles, by Julia Alvarez: Milly Kaufman is an ordinary American teenager living in Vermont-until she meets Pablo, a new student at her high school. His exotic accent, strange fashion sense, and intense interest in Milly force her to confront her identity as an adopted child from Pablo’s native country.
Muchacho, by Louanne Johnson: Eddie Corazon is angry. He's also very smart. But he's working pretty hard at being a juvenile delinquent. He blows off school, even though he's a secret reader. He hangs with his cousins, who will always back him up -- when they aren't in jail. Then along comes Lupe, who makes his blood race. She sees something in Eddie that he doesn't even see in himself.
Finally, try one of these titles, both set in Canada:
Half-Brother, by Kenneth Oppel: Oppel deviates from his usual fantasy fiction in this tale. The main character, Ben, is less than thrilled that his 13th birthday includes moving across Canada and getting a new "half brother"-a baby chimpanzee named Zan that Ben's father, a behavioral psychologist, will be raising like a human to determine if chimps can learn sign language. Gradually, Ben comes around, learning more about Zan and chimps, but he still struggles with his social life in his new school, his parents' high expectations, and Zan's role in their lives-is he family or just an "animal test subject?"
Blink and Caution, by Tim Wynne-Jones: Blink and Caution are two teenage runaways in Toronto. Blink is getting by day to day by stealing breakfast leftovers from room-service trays in a fancy hotel when he accidentally observes a faked kidnapping of a wealthy CEO. Caution is on the run from an abusive and possessive drug-dealer boyfriend when she meets Blink. She falls in with him at first because she thinks he will be an easy mark, but finds herself strangely drawn to him. Blink, however, is obsessed with the kidnapping he witnessed, and the media storm surrounding it.
As I stated, there are many, many YA titles set in the Americas -- too many to list here. Try one of these, or come to the library so we can help you find one that suits you.