being a student, books, Literacy

Great Books for Resistant Readers in Middle School and High School

I have been on the hunt as of late for books that I can hand to one of my hardest student groups; my resistant readers.  Not just reluctant readers, not just readers that may have forgotten how much they like reading, no, the students that really do not want to read and would rather fake read every single day of the year rather than actually read.  These are the kids I am book hunting for.  So what are some of the books that seem to be hooking not just my reluctant readers but even my resistant ones (and almost every other reader as well)?

Handed Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren to one of my hockey players and she could not put it down.  Her word of mouth recommendation means that it is flying through the classroom, and kids who told me they hate reading are devouring it.

Image result for hey kiddo

Kids cannot believe that this is a graphic novel.  With its unflinching look at how addiction shaped his life and his talents, Hey, Kiddo by Jarret J. Krosoczka is flying through the room.

“Mrs. Ripp, I only want to read books like this one…” so said one of my most resistant readers this year, and it happens every year.  Jordan Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pies is one of those books I can count on to be a great reading experience for almost every child I hand it to.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone is one of those books that takes you by the heart and then twists it painfully.  Unyielding in its honesty, this book stays with you long after the last page.
What happens when the alpha bully at a middle school hits his head and forgets everything about himself?  I think so many of my students can connect with Gordon Korman’s Restart for many different reasons.  It is fast-paced and Chases’ dilemma makes you want to read on; will he go back to how he was?
Jason Reynolds is a natural treasure and his latest free verse book Long Way Down is haunting.  Written in the aftermath of Will’s brother’s murder, this whole story is set in an elevator as he decided whether to follow the rules of the neighborhood and shoot the boy who killed his brother.
Also by Jason Reynolds, Miles Morales – Spiderman is the first full-length novel that features the comic book character Miles Morales as Spiderman.  Need I say more?

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt has hands-down been the biggest game changer for a lot of my readers.  I have 7 copies circulating and none of them sit on the shelf for more than a day.  We have it on Audible as well for students who prefer to listen to their books.

Another frequently read book (and listened to as well) is All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds.  Masterful story telling and a gripping narrative means that this book has been flying off the shelves.

Noggin’ by John Corey Whaley is one that has been passed from student to student and is probably one of the most frequently book-talked books in our room.  The story is easily accessible to many levels of reading development and grips the students with its premise of cryogenics and what it means to be 16 in a a 21-year-old’s body.

 Rhyme Schemer also by K.A. Holt is about a bully who becomes the victim.  I love how students relate to this story and often see this passed from kid to kid.

Who would think that our most resistant readers start to fall in love with reading through free verse?  What Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover has done for our reading life cannot be underestimated.  I have already had to replace my copies of this book this year and students are eagerly awaiting Booked on it’s arrival date of April 5th.

Reality Boy by A.S.King may have a very angry protagonist but I think the anger and “realness” of the books is what draws readers to it.  This is another book that is often recommended from student to student.

Another free verse book, this one is House Arrest by K.A. Holt has been making the rounds as well.  The discussions in class that this book leads to are powerful for many students.

When a resistant reader recommended this book to me I knew it had staying power in our classroom.  Carl Deuker’s Gym Candy is not your typical sports book and I think that is why it has been so popular with many resistant readers.  It is a little bit raw and a little bit unresolved, a perfect choice for many of my more picky readers.

Another Jason Reynolds book, Ghost is book one in the Track series and left my students wanting to read the next book, Patina, right away.  Easily accessible langueg with a relatable character who does not have the easiest life, this was a book many kids declared as a favorite.  

Boost by Kathy Mackel was book talked last week and has not been in my classroom since, quickly passing hands from student to student.

For the first time ever, I used We Were Liars by e.lockhart (Emily Jenkins’ pen name for her YA books) and I was not disappointed.  It was clear that my group of readers quickly became absorbed as they begged for just one more minute of reading time.

It can come as no surprise that Monster by Walter Dean Meyers is a book many readers gravitate to.  I have loved the reflections and thoughtful dialogue that this book creates but even more so how many students have recommended to each other.

What are your must adds/must-reads that will hook resistant readers?

41 thoughts on “Great Books for Resistant Readers in Middle School and High School”

  1. What a great list – and I am so impressed with the power of the book talk, and your students’ respect for each other’s choices. I found a number of years ago that the books in free verse were really welcoming to my girls who were resistant readers. I think it was freeing for them (not as overwhelming?) to be faced with a page that was not covered in print.

  2. Many of Jacqueline Woodson’s early books are good, Miracle’s Boys, Locomotion, and a newer one, Hush.

      1. Thanks !!! I´m an English teacher from Argentina…..and i´m always looking for something new to present to my students….we only have 2 hours of English a week in state schools… it´s quite difficult to make them read…..but i´m always trying to bring new stuff to classes! Thanks a lot!!!!! We´ve read some poems by Benjamin Zephaniah……and they loved them! i´ll try to get some of the material you present!

  3. Great recommendations. I read Orbiting Jupiter aloud to some classes this year, and it’s been in constant rotation every since. Smile and Sisters are still the most popular graphic novels, pulling in male and female resistant readers. Anya’s Ghost, Awkward, Roller Girl, and Sunny Side Up are gaining in popularity. April Henry’s thrillers have caught on recently, and after one of my colleagues read The Circuit to her class, all three volumes in Francisco Jimenez’s memoirs have flown off the shelves all over the building.

    Regarding Crossover–one of my students who is constantly picking up and putting down books not only loved Crossover, but keeps remembering to check in with me about when Hooked is coming out. So exciting!

  4. I read Orbiting Jupiter just a few weeks ago, and it was amazing. Have put it into the hands to two readers since then.

  5. Do you have a recommendation for * yrs old boy who is reading resistant ? My grandson can read anything , however he’d rather be doing something besides reading . My daughter and I love to read ,and we visit the library often … would appreciate any suggestions , thank you

  6. My students were obsessed with We Were Liars. I loved there comments when they would come in after reading the twist and would just have their mouths open saying, “But Ms…did that just happen?” Loved it.

  7. This is a great list and I can’t wait to check out some of these books! I love audiobooks but find I have a hard time using them in my classroom. How do you have your students using audiobooks?

    1. We have an English account that I log the students into on their own personal device. Many of my students have a smartphone so they have downloaded the app. We also have access to ipads if they do not have their own device and then they would be able to just listen during school. Multiple students can listen to the same book as long as they do not hit yes on the pop-up message of whether they would like to start where they left off. They just need to remember where in the book they are.

  8. Yep–I know these readers and these books are the way to their hearts–great list. Two I would add (both a little easier) are Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick and My Side of the Mountain (maybe because we live the woods–might not work for everybody.)

  9. My middle school students only want to read short books. I need to convince them that “page turners” can be read faster than a short book that doesn’t interest them. I recommend Hachiko Waits by Newman based on a true story. Sometimes, I can hook students with the Bluford series. I’m going to try the Urban Underground series this year. I think anything by Gordon Korman and Gary Paulson is great. The school I work at wants to move the students away from only reading the Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries.

    I really like your lists, but I would appreciate a straight, unannotated, unillustrated list that I could print out and use for ordering purposes. I’m the librarian in a state and school that focuses on reading, yet the school libraries in my district are not funded. I managed to get a Snapdragon grant for the library last year that was mostly used to replace books that were falling apart (the library had been neglected for years). Now I will need to purchase books via DonorsChoose, Scholastic or through library and community book sales (my sister, who is retired, haunts the book sales looking for deals and then mails the books to me). I want to get permission to set up a Titlewish account with Follett so I don’t have to be limited by what Scholastic offers. Thank you.

    1. I am glad that the lists are helpful, I simply don’t have the time to make just a straight up list once I post these. Hopefully it is not too much of a hassle to use the posts.

    2. Have you ever tried the extension Clean Print? You can delete whatever you do not want to print.

  10. I love every single one of the books on this list but never thought of them as great for reluctant readers. Ten names leapt to mind as I read your post- can’t wait for Monday!

  11. Thank you, Mrs. Ripp! I need to add more to my classroom, as I have a few who need an intriguing read and I want to keep them reading!❤️

    1. Mrs. Ripp,
      How are you able to use Hey Kiddo in class. Does anyone ever complain about the grandmother and her choice of language and expletives? I love the book but am nervous to put it on my shelves since I teach 7th and 8th grade.

  12. I wasn’t worried about the students complaining but more about the parents/guardians. Glad to hear it was not a problem in your district.

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