Admittedly, I'm worse than the students. The Day of the Pelican is by Katherine Paterson, who was just made the Children's Laureate, AND this book was recommended to me by a language arts teacher (the long-suffering Mr. Buxton), so I wanted to hate it.
I didn't, because it is a very good book about the plight of one young girl in Kosovo in the early 90s. Meli has a nice life in Kosovo, where she goes to school with friends and her father runs a small store. When the Serbians start to oust the Albanian Muslims, Meli and her family go to live with an uncle in the country, only to be kicked out of that house as well and forced to flee to a refugee camp. When things settle down in the country, Meli and her family decide to go to the US, where they make a new life for themselves, only to experience more discrimination after 9/11. This is the sort of book that students need to read so that they realize how well off we are in the US, and the historical setting is best explained in a classroom setting. Even Picky Reader should like this one, so I don't feel bad about the class set that we have now. Go, Mr. Buxton!
A very nice student loaned me Julie Anne Peters By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead. She and her sister both liked it, but I found it overly depressing. Daelyn is overweight and has been bullied her whole life. Now, she can't speak because of a failed suicide attempt, her family has moved, and her parents watch her every moment of the day. She decides that suicide is still the answer, and signs on to http://www.through-the-light.com/, a web site that helps people commit suicide. (This link is actually a link for this book.) She meets an odd boy at school, Santana, who pursues her friendship, and eventually decides that suicide is not the answer. Both of my daughters read the book, but agreed with me that they did not like the main character and that the book was written for more of a high school audience. I felt that there was too much discussion of ways to commit suicide, even though there are lots of helpful notes in the back about organization to help prevent suicide, and the whole book is a polemic against bullying.
Is it any wonder that, given the overly gray and rainy January weather, that I had to have a Rosamund du Jardin fix? Read Practically Seventeen (1943) and Class Ring (1951), and was slightly cheered until I realized that Tobey Heydon would be 85 if she were a real person.
What I find particularly amusing is that these books were in print and in libraries for so long. There is something timeless about the teenage travails that keeps me picking up these books. If you are a fan of teen literature from the 1950s and 60s, the Image Cascade web site is worth a visit. They have reprinted several of the most popular authors of the time period, so if you have a collection and need certain titles, they will have them.