5. From the Barrio to the Board Room, or Mi Barrio

Author: Robert Renteria

Why it’s important: The book promotes hard work, dedication, and education as the secrets to success. That context, says Renteria, is inspiring kids to do more around the house, try harder at school, question if they’re hanging out with the right crowds, believe in themselves, and reach for higher goals. It is also inspiring adults to open their own businesses, go back to school, and give back to others.

Summary (From the Barrio…): Several years ago, a young man approached Renteria and wanted to know the secret to getting himself a “phat” ride like Robert’s new Mercedes. When Robert told him the secret was hard work, the boy listened. At that moment, Robert realized that countless children, teenagers, and adults are walking around—lost in a culture of darkness—and he needed to do something about it. (Mi Barrio): A comic book version of From the Barrio to the Board Room.

Awards/Notes: Released in February 2008, the book has been endorsed by mayors and state representatives, used by universities, high schools, middle schools, youth prisons, jails, juvenile justice centers, battered women’s shelters, foster homes, and social services and youth groups.

6. The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Why it’s important: Discusses themes such as reality television and its impact on American culture, youth culture, self-discovery, and society’s social mores.

Summary: Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used to be the U.S. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

Awards/Notes: Since its initial release, the novel has been translated into 26 languages and rights of production have been sold in 38 countries. The book received mostly positive feedback from major reviewers and authors and is now a major motion picture.

7. House Rules

Author: Jodi Picoult

Why it’s important: Focuses on what it means to be different in our society and gives insight into Asperger’s and others who are on the Autism Spectrum.

Summary: Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself to others, and like many children with Asperger’s, Jacob has an obsessive focus on one subject–in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do–and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. Reluctance to make eye contact, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate gestures, all these can look a lot like guilt. Suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder.

Awards/Notes: Nominated for the 2012 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Award; winner of the German Reader’s Choice award “Leserpreis 2011” for Audiobook.