Mr. Olson's Outside Reading Books

Choice novels for Mr. Olson's freshmen

Click here for a list of titles and summaries of your choice novels.  Or browse below. . . .

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A Long Way Gone

Ishmael Beah describes his experiences after he was driven from his home by war in Sierra Leone and picked up by the government army at the age of thirteen, serving as a soldier for three years before being removed from fighting by UNICEF and eventually moving to the United States. (300 pgs)


An Abundance of Katherines

Having been recently dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, recent high school graduate and former child prodigy Colin sets off on a road trip with his best friend to try to find some new direction in life while also trying to create a mathematical formula to explain his relationships.


Alex Rider:  Stormbreaker

After the death of the uncle who had been his guardian, fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is coerced to continue his uncle's dangerous work for Britain's intelligence agency, MI6.

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Always Running: La Vida loca: Gang days in L.A.

The author recounts his growing up in poverty in Los Angeles, his encounters with racism in school and on the streets, and his struggle to overcome prejudice, drugs, and violence. (250 pgs)



Hudson Avery gave up a promising competitive ice skating career after her parents divorced when she was fourteen years old and now spends her time baking cupcakes and helping out in her mother's upstate New York diner, but when she gets a chance at a scholarship and starts coaching the boys' hockey team, she realizes that she is not through with ice skating after all. (375 pgs)

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The Book Thief

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.



Thirteen-year-old Savvy is the girls basketball team's star player, but, despite her height and skills, Savvy struggles with her self-confidence and searches for some way to boost her performance, but when steroids are found in her bag, Savvy denies they are hers and the rumors start to fly. (225 pgs)

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Eagle Blue

Follows the Fort Yukon Eagles high school basketball team from its 2004 preseason to the 2005 Alaskan state championship, exploring the lives of its players and coach and examining the six-hundred-person village's Gwich'in Athabascan heritage. (350)

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Fast Food Nation

Traces the history of the fast food industry and discusses how it arose in postwar America. (400)

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The Fault In Our Stars

Sixteen year old Hazel, who has cancer, meets Augustus at a kids-with-cancer support group and as they fall in love they both wonder how they will be remembered.  (325)

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Friday Night Lights: a town, a team and a dream

Follows the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers, a high school football team in Odessa, Texas, exploring the lives of the players and the impact of the championship team on the small town. (425)

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The Game of Their Lives

Recounts the events surrounding the 1950 World Cup Championship, describing how a group of unknowns from America managed to beat the popular England team in one of the sport's greatest upsets.

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Hole in my Life

The author relates how, as a young adult, he became a drug user and smuggler, was arrested, did time in prison, and eventually got out and went to college, all the while hoping to become a writer.



A teenage basketball player from Harlem is befriended by a former professional player who, after being forced to quit because of a point shaving scandal, hopes to prevent other young athletes from repeating his mistake. (175)

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Hoop Dreams

True-life story of Arthur Agee and William Gates and the unforgettable five year experience that turns them into men. (325)

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How to Save a Life

Told from their own viewpoints, seventeen-year-old Jill, in grief over the loss of her father, and Mandy, nearly nineteen, are thrown together when Jill's mother agrees to adopt Mandy's unborn child but nothing turns out as they had anticipated.

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Farewell to Manzanar

Biography of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston relating her experiences of living at the Manzanar internment camp during World War II and how it has influenced her life. (225)

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Dragon Flight

Young seamstress Creel finds herself strategizing with the dragon king Shardas once again when a renegade dragon in a distant country launches a war against their country, bringing an entire army of dragons into the mix. (300)

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Cold Sassy Tree

In 1906, the denizens of the small Georgia town of Cold Sassy are scandalized when Grandpa, the owner of the general store, marries a Yankee many years his junior only three weeks after becoming a widower.(400)

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Children of the River

Having fled Cambodia four years earlier to escape the Khmer Rouge army, seventeen-year-old Sundara is torn between remaining faithful to her own people and adjusting to life in her Oregon high school as a "regular" American

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Cat’s Cradle

"Delta Trade paperbacks." In the year 2000, a young man discovers ice-nine, which can set off a chain reaction more deadly than a nuclear bomb, and a new prophet whose teachings sweep the world.

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Born Confused

As Dimple Lala turns seventeen, she realizes that life is about to become more complex as her best friend starts pulling away and her parents try to find a suitable boyfriend for Dimple, despite the fact that she is not interested. (425)

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Fever Pitch

 Recreates the fever pitch of football fans in Great Britain, and describes how football has played a defining role in thousands of young men's coming-of-age stories.


The Gift

A young woman changes the lives of the residents of a small Midwestern town during the 1950s

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Glory Road

Presents the true story of how Don Haskins coached Texas Western College to the 1966 NCAA national championship in basketball by starting five African-American players, breaking the existing rules of race and sports. (250)

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I am the Messenger

 After capturing a bank robber, nineteen-year-old cab driver Ed Kennedy begins receiving mysterious messages that direct him to addresses where people need help, which helps him start to get over his lifelong feeling of worthlessness. (375)

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Into Thin Air

 The author relates his experience of climbing Mount Everest during its deadliest season and examines what it is about the mountain that makes people willingly subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense. (425)

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Into the Wild

 Tells the story of Chris McCandless, a twenty-four-year-old who walked into the Alaskan wilderness on an idealistic journey and was found dead of starvation four months later. Attempts to discover what led the young man to that point. (225)



Fifteen-year old Jack’s confused feelings for his father, who left him and his mother four years earlier, are further complicated when he finds that his father is gay. (225)

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Kaffir Boy

Includes index. The author recalls his personal experiences growing up under South African Apartheid during the 1970s, the poverty and oppression of living in the ghettos of Alexandra, and of those who helped him escape from it. (375)

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The Kite Runner

Amir, haunted by his betrayal of Hassan, the son of his father's servant and a childhood friend, returns to Kabul as an adult after he learns Hassan has been killed, in an attempt to redeem himself by rescuing Hassan's son from a life of slavery to a Taliban official.

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King of the World

 Biography of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. (375)


The Language of Flowers 

Eighteen-year-old Victoria Jones, having been emancipated from the foster care system and planted a flower garden in the park in which she slept, is hired to work for a local florist, and, after meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market, she is forced to confront her past and decide what she wants for her future.

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Little Brother

Interrogated for days by the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco, California, seventeen-year-old Marcus is released into what is now a police state, and decides to use his expertise in computer hacking to set things right.

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Looking for Alaska

Sixteen-year-old Miles' first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama includes good friends and great pranks, but is defined by the search for answers about life and death after a fatal car crash.

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Losing My Cool

The author describes his personal experiences growing up being influenced by hip-hop culture, while at the same time having his father encourage education and a love of literature, and how he struggled to accommodate both worlds in his life.

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The Lovely Bones

Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, the victim of a sexual assault and murder, looks on from the afterlife as her family deals with their grief, and waits for her killer to be brought to some type of justice. (325)

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The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro

The author relates his experiences in the remote Italian village of Castel di Sangro, where he traveled to spend a season with the village soccer team which weeks before had accomplished the remarkable feat of winning promotion to the second-highest professional league in the country.

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The Miracle of St. Anthony

Chronicles the 2003-2004 basketball season at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, profiling the team's coach and players and describing how the team rose to the top of their league. (400)

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My Losing Season

The author reflects on his days at a South Carolina military college. He recalls his love of basketball and its value to him as a means of self-expression, and shares experiences that shed new light on his novel "The Great Santini." (425)

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Nectar in a Sieve

Tells of a simple peasant woman in a primitive village in India whose whole life was a gallant and persistent battle to care for those she loved.

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The Other Side of the Sky

Farah Ahmedi, the victim of a land mine when she was just twelve years old, tells about her childhood in Afghanistan, a country trapped in war her entire life, and discusses the challenges she has faced as a result of losing her leg, and in trying to adapt to living in the United States. (250)


Muck City

Looks at three people in Belle Glade, Florida, high school football player Mario Rowley of the Glades Central Raiders, who wants to win in the name of his dead parents, team coach Jessie Hester, who is more interested in coaching for the players than winning, and Jonteria Williams, a cheerleader who wants to become a doctor, and how they are affected by the poverty and social conditions of the town.

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The Demon King

Relates the intertwining fates of former street gang leader Han Alister and headstrong Princess Raisa, as Han takes possession of an amulet that once belonged to an evil wizard and Raisa uncovers a conspiracy in the Grey Wolf Court.

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The Gray Wolf Throne

 Thief-turned-wizard Han Alister joins forces with Raisa ana'Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells, to defend her right to the Gray Wolf Throne.

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The Crimson Crown

"In the fourth and final novel in the Seven Realms series, Queen Raisa 'ana Marianna and Han Alister join forces to right a thousand-year-old wrong"--Provided by publisher.

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Paper Towns

One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q's neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears. (325)



Translation of: Persepolis. Contains black-and-white comic strip images in which the author shares the story of her life in Tehran, Iran, where she lived from ages six to fourteen while the country came under control of the Islamic regime. (125)

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The Rent Collector

Working as “pickers,” Sang Ly and her husband, Ki Lim, earn their living by sifting through the trash at Stung Meanchey, Cambodia’s large city dump. Desperately poor, they live with their sickly baby boy in a one-room hut on a small piece of land that they rent from the cantankerous Rent Collector. Everything changes when one day Sang Ly discovers the Rent Collector’s secret: she can read. Determined to give her son a better life, Sang Ly convinces the Rent Collector to teach her how to read. An unlikely friendship blossoms between the two women, and Sang Ly learns that the Rent Collector’s gruff exterior hides unspeakable personal tragedies and a life shattered by the Khmer Rouge. Undergirding Sang Ly’s literary journey is the support and care of the Stung Meanchey community, illustrating how beauty can be found in even the ugliest of places. Drawn from the real lives of the residents of Stung Meanchey, this is a beautifully told story about the perseverance of the human spirit and the importance of standing up for what is right (300)

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The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Hadley and Oliver fall in love on the flight from New York to London, but after a cinematic kiss they lose track of each other at the airport until fate brings them back together on a very momentous day. (275)


The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants

Carmen decides to discard an old pair of jeans, but Tibby, Lena, and Bridget think they are great and decide that whoever the pants fit best will get them. When the jeans fit everyone perfectly, a sisterhood and a memorable summer begin. (300)

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A Spell For Chameleon

"A Del Rey book." Exiled from the land of Xanth, twenty-five-year-old Bink must prove to his people that he holds magical powers. (350)

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Stranger in a Strange Land

First published in 1961. After his arrival on Earth from his home on Mars, Valentine Michael Smith becomes the founder and pastor of a new religious sect. (525)


Watership Down

Chronicles the adventures of a group of rabbits searching for a safe place to establish a new warren where they can live in peace. (500)



A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school

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There is no Dog

When the beautiful Lucy prays to fall in love, God, an irresponsible youth named Bob, chooses to answer her prayer personally, to the dismay of this assistant, Mr. B who must try to clean up the resulting catastrophes


The Translator

Daoud Hari recounts his efforts to educate the world about the brutal genocide taking place in Darfur, describing how he takes journalists into the heart of the country to reveal the horror his people face on a daily basis and discussing how he has helped survivors find food, water, and safety.

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When The Game was Ours

 Presents a collaborative memoir in which the two basketball stars reevaluate their competitive relationship and achievement of many championships and awards during an important time in the National Basketball Association.

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When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

A memoir of Le Ly Hayslip in which she recalls her experiences during the Vietnam War as a young spy for the Viet Cong, and tells of her return to her country and family twenty years after escaping to America.


Chinese Handcuffs

 Still troubled by his older brother's violent suicide, eighteen-year-old Dillon becomes deeply involved in the terrible secret of his friend Jennifer, who feels she can tell no one what her stepfather is doing to her

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Staying fat for Sarah Brynes

The daily class discussions about the nature of man, the existence of God, abortion, organized religion, suicide and other contemporary issues serve as a backdrop for a high-school senior's attempt to answer a friend's dramatic cry for help.



A high school coach invites members of his swimming team to a memorable week of rigorous training that tests their moral fiber as well as their physical stamina.

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The Hunger Games

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen accidentally becomes a contender in the annual Hunger Games, a grave competition hosted by the Capitol where young boys and girls are pitted against one another in a televised fight to the death

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Catching Fire

By winning the annual Hunger Games, District 12 tributes Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have secured a life of safety and plenty for themselves and their families, but because they won by defying the rules, they unwittingly become the faces of an impending rebellion.


Mocking Jay

Katniss Everdeen, having survived the Hunger Games twice, learns she and her family and friends are in danger because the Capitol holds her responsible for the unrest and races against time to protect those she cares about and the people of District 12.

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The Lighting Thief

 After learning that he is the son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, god of the sea, twelve-year-old Percy is sent to a summer camp for demigods like himself, and joins his new friends on a quest to prevent a war between the gods.

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The Sea of Monsters

Seventh-grader Percy Jackson has recently discovered that he is the son of Poseidon, making him half human and half god, and along with his a demigod and a satyr friend, must save his beloved Camp Half-Blood from evil forces determined to destroy it.

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The Titans Curse

The disappearance of the goddess Artemis while out hunting a rare, ancient monster, prompts a group of her followers to join Percy and his friends in an attempt to find and rescue her before the winter solstice, when her influence is needed to sway the Olympian Council regarding the war with the Titans.

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The Battle of the Labyrinth

Percy hurries to Camp Half-Blood after his high school is invaded by demonic cheerleaders, and joins his demigod friends on a quest through the Labyrinth, while the war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near.

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The Last Olympian

The long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy Jackson's sixteenth birthday unfolds as he leads an army of young demigods to stop Kronos in his advance on New York City, while the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster, Typhon.

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The Red Pyramid

Brilliant Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane accidentally unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes the doctor to oblivion and forces his two children to embark on a dangerous journey, bringing them closer to the truth about their family and its links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

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The Throne of Fire

Carter and Sadie must outsmart the House of Life and the gods of chaos in order to complete their worldwide search for an ancient Egyptian book.

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The Serpents Shadow

When Apophis, the chaos snake, threatens to plunge the world into eternal darkness, siblings Carter and Sade Kane plan to use an ancient spell to destroy the snake, but first must rely on the murderous ghost of a powerful magician.


Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Powell

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits--smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Fangirl by Rainbow Powell

Feeling cast off when her twin sister outgrows their shared love for a favorite fictional character, Cath, a dedicated fan-fiction writer, struggles to survive on her own in her first year of college while avoiding a surly roommate, bonding with a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words, and worrying about her fragile father.

Attachments by Rainbow Powell

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder, coworkers at "The Courier," spend all day sending each other e-mail messages, sharing everything from office gossip to personal anxieties, and unknowingly entertaining Lincoln O'Neill, the newspaper's Internet security officer whose job it is to monitor other people's e-mail, and who does not realize until it is too late that he has fallen in love with Beth without ever having met her.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In a future Chicago, sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomoly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Tris Prior survives the Erudite simulation attacks that occur during the time she expected to be celebrating her achievement of being ranked first among the initiate class of her chosen faction, Dauntless. Even though the Dauntless have been freed from Erudite mind control, a war develops and secrets emerge.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered--fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready.

Bloody Jack by LA Meyer

Reduced to begging and thievery in the streets of London, a thirteen-year-old orphan disguises herself as a boy and connives her way onto a British warship set for high sea adventure in search of pirates.

Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer

In 1803, after being exposed as a girl and forced to leave her ship, Jacky Faber finds herself attending school in Boston, where, instead of learning to be a lady, she battles her snobbish classmates, roams the city in search of adventure, and learns to ride a horse.

Under the Jolly Roger by L. A. Meyer

Sequel to: Curse of the blue tattoo. In 1804, fifteen-year-old Jacky Faber heads back to sea after seeing her beloved Jaimy with another woman; however, her life takes a dramatic turn when she and her shipmates take command of the ship and she is accused of piracy.

In the Belly of the Bloodhound by L.A. Meyer

Jacky Faber and her classmates at the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls in Boston are kidnapped while on a school outing and transported in the hold of a slave ship bound for the slave markets of North Africa.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

The author, an alumnus of Brandeis University, tells of his meetings with a former professor suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease and of the lessons he learned about life and death from his college mentor.
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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can.

City of Bones by Cassandra  Clare

Suddenly able to see demons and the Darkhunters who are dedicated to returning them to their own dimension, fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is drawn into this bizarre world when her mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a monster.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

Sixteen-year-old Clary continues trying to make sense of the swiftly changing events and relationships in her life as she becomes further involved with the Shadowhunters and their pursuit of demons and discovers some terrifying truths about her parents, her brother Jace, and her boyfriend Simon.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

Still pursuing a cure for her mother's enchantment, Clary uses all her powers and ingenuity to get into Idris, the forbidden country of the secretive Shadowhunters, and to its capital, the City of Glass, where with the help of a newfound friend, Sebastian, she uncovers important truths about her family's past that will not only help save her mother but all those that she holds most dear.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

When Jace vanishes with Sebastian, Clary and the Shadowhunters struggle to piece together their shattered world and Clary infiltrates the group planning the world's destruction.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Darkness has descended on the Shadowhunter world. Chaos and destruction overwhelm the Nephilim as Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends band together to fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary's own brother. Nothing in this world can defeat Sebastian--but if they journey to the realm of demons, they just might have a chance.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze and realizes he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Thomas and the Gladers, having solved the Maze, plan on returning to their lives, but instead find the earth a wasteland with Cranks roaming the desert in search of their next meal and they are faced with the challenge of crossing the Scorch in two weeks in order to arrive at a safe haven.

The Death Cure by James Dashner

In a final effort to complete the blueprint for the cure, Thomas must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, but Thomas does not trust Wicked and he remembers much more than they realize.

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

When fourteen-year-old Alex is framed for murder, he becomes an inmate in the Furnace Penitentiary, where brutal inmates and sadistic guards reign, boys who disappear in the middle of the night sometimes return weirdly altered, and escape might just be possible.

Death Sentence by Alexander Gordon Smith

After his failed attempt to escape from Furnace Penitentiary, Alex struggles to survive the bloodstained laboratories beneath where monsters are manufactured, with a death sentence--or worse--hanging over his head.

Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith

Alex Sawyer and his friends end up in even more trouble after being caught trying to escape from Furnace Penitentiary for young offenders, and they find themselves struggling to survive solitary confinement.

Fugitives by Alexander  Gordon Smith

After achieving the impossible by escaping the laboratories and cells of Furnace Penitentiary, Alex, injected with superhuman abilities, must uncover the last of Furnace's secrets--the truth about the man who built the prison.

Execution by Alexander Gordon Smith

Alex Sawyer has escaped his underground nightmare to discover that the whole world has become a horrible prison run by his nemesis, Alfred Furnace, and only Alex can stop him, even if that makes him the executioner.

Where the Heart Is by  Billie Letts

 Novalee Nation, seventeen, pregnant, and living in a Wal-Mart store discovers friendship, encouragement, direction and love with a group of caring people in Sequoyah, Oklahoma.

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Autobiography covering the childhood of a woman who has been a professional dancer, actress, poet, journalist, and television producer.

City of Embers by Jeanne DuPrau

In the city of Ember, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day to be a Messenger to run to new places in her decaying but beloved city, perhaps even to glimpse Unknown Regions.

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson shares the story of his miraculous survival after he was injured while climbing in the Andes in 1985 and left for dead by his partner.

Stiff by Mary Roach

 Explores how human cadavers have been used throughout history, discussing how the use of dead bodies has benefited every aspect of human existence.

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Explores space travel and answers a number of curious questions about what life would be like without gravity.

Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card

Alvin Smith arrives at Hatrack River to take up his apprenticeship to become a blacksmith with the works of the Unmaker close at hand.
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