Young Adult Literature
For the young of heart...and book.
Wait, what? A young adult lit course for high school?
That's right. All of our favorite Shmoopers are young at heart, and we wanted to reward you by reopening the door to your favorite YA titles. We'll revisit six classic stories, looking at all of them through the lens of communication. So put the children and adults to bed, and channel your inner young adult—it's time to burn the midnight oil, YA-style.
Unit 1. A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words
Through The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, we'll think about the power of pictures to communicate complex thoughts, ideas, and emotions. We'll also be taking some time to consider all sorts of other big-picture stuff: cultural stereotypes, the struggle between the needs of one person and the needs of a community, and people's fear of "the Other."
Unit 2. Words Will Set You Free
As we read The House on Mango Street, we'll focus on written communication. The book may be short, but it has a lot to say about how we say things.
Unit 3. Finding Your Voice
As we follow Melinda through her freshman year at Merryweather High School in Speak, we're going to think about another means of communication: oral. Yep, that's the spoken stuff.
Unit 4. Good, Evil, and the Power of Words
The Book Thief will bring on more tough stuff, forcing us to think about what happens when our communication is squelched by others. We'll also dig deeper into those Universal Themes you love so much.
Unit 5. The Absence of Words & The End
Author Terry Trueman, whose son, Sheehan, has a severe condition that prevents him from communicating, wrote a novella called Stuck in Neutral. So we're going to finish up our YA Lit course on communication with a character who can't communicate? You betcha.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 6: The Truth About Stereotypes
By now, you know Junior and the world he inhabits like the back of your hand. Or like the back of the head of the kid who sits in front of you in math class—ugh, couldn't he shower more than twice a week?
So let's take a quick look at what facts we've got about Junior's family and some of the other folks who live on the reservation:
- Many of them drink too much.
- Most of them are poor.
- They get into a lot of fights.
- They don't value education.
- Most of them think Junior is betraying his culture and "becoming white" because he leaves the reservation for school.
Overall, this isn't a super hopeful picture. In fact, you might even think that The Absolutely True Diary feeds into stereotypes about American Indians. But wait a second—are these the only things Sherman Alexie has told us about the Spokane Indians and their culture? And of all the things he tells us, how can we distinguish between what's a stereotype and what's true?
Great questions—we're glad we asked.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.6a: Bildungs-PowerPoint
It's time to show off those good old PowerPoint skills. We want to give you a little more insight into classic coming-of-age—aka Bildungsroman, for you fancy folks—novels out there.
And trust us, there are tons of them out there. Shmoop's pretty sure that if you threw a rock in a library, you'd hit at least one Bildungsroman novel. We're also pretty sure that if you threw a rock in a library, your librarian would do more than shush you.
Let’s don’t try that one out.
We've got a plan to help you become a bildungsroman master, and it doesn't even involve saying "Wax on, wax off," we promise. Nope, you’re going to create a five-slide PowerPoint presentation.
Pick five bildungsromans that interest you from the list we’ve provided below; also, don’t worry about "knowing them," just choose based on if the title grabs you:
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
For each slide on your PowerPoint, highlight a different coming-of-age memoir. Each slide should have
- A picture of the book cover
- One or two sentences about the main character's point of view
- The main character in To Kill a Mockingbird is Scout Finch, a young girl between the ages of six and nine while the story takes place, who is looking back on events that happened in her young life and describing them through the lens of an adult.
- One or two sentences about the author's purpose in writing
- It seems like Harper Lee wrote this book to tell the tale of what life was like for people in segregated Alabama.
Yes, we said you didn’t have to know anything about the book to choose it for this activity. And we weren’t kidding. But if you selected a text you’re not familiar with, you’re going to need to hit the library or the internet—or both—to be able to fill in all the requisite info we’re asking for.
We bet you learned some pretty profound things about human nature, Shmooper. Just sayin'.
Upload your full presentation below.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.6b: Stereotypes: Digging a Little Deeper
There’s no question that our text is rife with stereotypes—and some come out a little bit stronger and more prevalently than others. What is Alexie trying to get across to his readers? Let’s hear from him and another American Indian author on the subject of stereotypes.
Start off by reading these two articles:
- “Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexie. Read down to the break in the text on the second page.
- “Sorry for Not Being a Stereotype” by Rita Piryllis. Read this whole article.
Now that you have all that material in your head, it's time to let your thoughts and opinions out. Read the questions below, and post responses—of about four to six sentences each—to at least two of the questions on the discussion board.
- Which characteristics of Spokane Indians described in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian do you think are accurate and which do you think are stereotypes? Why?
- Sherman Alexie said that "Alcoholism is epidemic among Native Americans, and anybody who says otherwise is either drunk, or they're lying." Do you think Rita Piryllis would agree? Why or why not?
- Have you ever been stereotyped? Describe what happened.
- Why do stereotypes exist? Are they ever accurate? Why or why not?
Once you've submitted your responses, check in to see what others have written. Read through your fellow Shmoopers' posts, and ask questions or offer feedback on at least one comment in each of the four questions. For those of you who love math, that's a total of six posts you'll be making.
P.S.—don’t forget your discussion board manners while commenting on your peers’ posts. We’re all just people with feelings and that. Now get to it.
- Course Length: 18 weeks
- Grade Levels: 7, 8, 9, 10
- Course Type: Elective
- Middle School
- High School
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following Common Core Standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4