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Young Adult Literature

For the young of heart...and book.

Shmoop's Young Adult Literature course has been granted a-g certification, which means it has met the rigorous iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses and will now be honored as part of the requirements for admission into the University of California system.

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.

Course Breakdown

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

A book cover that says American Novels at the top and The Fighting Trapper: Kit Carson to the Rescue at the bottom. There's an illustration of Kit Carson (a white person) fighting Native Americans on the front.
Stereotypes might be a thing of the past—but they're a thing of the present, too. (Source)

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.