Reading comprehension is always tested on standardized tests. It just is. You will not be able to sweet talk your way out of a reading passage, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, on your next SAT or ACT. You'll need to be able to read the passage and answer corresponding questions about the main idea, author's purpose, vocabulary in context and inferencing. But what's one of the best ways to improve your reading comprehension? Reading, of course! If you pick up one of the best books for teens and just dig in, you'll get some comprehension practice about stories you may actually like. Some of the books even come with reading comprehension questions online or in the back of the book, too. It's an SAT/ACT win-win!
Check out some of the best books for teens below to get cranking. Want even more suggestions? Here are four more great books suitable for teenagers with included synopses.
Teachers across the country are begging to get this book into the curriculum for their middle school students. Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a winner by all accounts. Not only is it engaging for many age groups - I'd say advanced elementary school age-children as a read-aloud, up into high school for independent reading - it offers adult readers a great sense of history in this fictional story.
Set during the American Revolutionary War, Chains recounts the tale of Isabel, a thirteen-year old slave longing for her freedom, and Ruth, her "simple" little sister. Their master, Miss Finch, promises them freedom when she dies, but through a series of events, they end up being sold by Miss Finch's awful nephew into the hands of cruel Loyalists in New York - The Locktons.
The Locktons have no sympathy for the Patriots, and even less sympathy for Isabel and her little sister. When Isabel meets a friend, Curzon, a slave working with the Patriots, he entices her to spy on her despicable owners, who have inside information about the British plans to overtake the Patriots. Scared, Isabel says no at first, but when Mrs. Lockton breaks Isabel's heart, she realizes that she can only be loyal to whomever can get her exactly what she wants: freedom.
This YA historical novel will catapult you into the history of the American Revolution through the eyes of this brave girl. It'll break your heart, mend it, and send it soaring. Chains is a page-turner for sure, one you will stay up late to finish.
This book kept me up far past my bedtime on a few nights. It's a quick, easy read, but everything kind of just sucked me in. For one, the setting descriptions are killer. For another, the story line tugs at your soul. You simply cannot stop reading before the ending because it will make you question your judgment, your morals, and everything you believe to be true about integrity.
Sarah echoes my beliefs on her blog, "What Sarah Reads:"
"I devoured this one night when I couldn't sleep. I had given in around 4am, picked this up and sat reading till I finished around 7. It is a short bite at around 262 pages and is a delightful coming of age teen thriller/romance set in the late 40s in Palm Beach. Evie is almost sixteen and lives in Brooklyn with her mother, Beverly and her step-father, Joe who has recently returned from fighting overseas to open a chain of electrical appliance shops. When a mysterious ex GI friend of Joe tries repeatedly to contact him, Joe packs the family into the car and they drive to Palm Beach for an impromptu holiday. There family secrets unravel as Evie comes of age, discovers her first love and to what lengths she'll go to for her family.
Deb Caletti is one of my all-time favorite YA authors. I have devoured almost every one of her books, mostly because of her supreme mastery of language. If you want text rich with lovely descriptions, truly unique imagery and figurative language, then pick up a Caletti, like this one.
Bina Williams, from Booklistonline.com, offers a great plot synopsis of the book:
"What would you do if you were to come into two and a half million dollars unexpectedly? That's the question facing Indigo Skye, a high-school senior whose life has consisted primarily of spending time with her boyfriend, navigating her family (Dad has left the family to sell surfboards in Hawaii), and working mornings at Carrera's restaurant in Seattle.
Indigo can tell what people are like by what they eat for breakfast, especially the regulars. But when a well-dressed stranger on an orange Vespa comes in and orders only a cup of coffee, Indigo finds him hard to figure out--even after he becomes a semiregular. After the stranger gives her a fortune, Indigo's search for answers takes her to Hawaii to confront her benefactor and also to ritzy Hollywood suburbs, where she learns that being rich is not all it is cracked up to be."
Caletti's story with an infinitely likeable heroine and realistic supporting characters makes a fine counterpoint to the ubiquitous rich-girl series books.
Typically, I try to stay as far away as possible from books with "forever" in the title, but this one definitely caught my attention. Sarah Dessen truly delivers a touching, yet witty story in The Truth About Forever. She has a firm grasp on the angst suffered by teenage girls, and definitely knows how to showcase the comedy and tragedy of denial, grief, and first love. Check out the plot synopsis, straight from Sarah Dessen's website:
"Macy's summer stretches before her, carefully planned and outlined. She will spend her days sitting at the library information desk. She will spend her evenings studying for the SATs. Spare time will be used to help her obsessive mother prepare for the big opening of the townhouse section of her luxury development. But Macy's plans don't anticipate a surprising and chaotic job with Wish Catering, a motley crew of new friends, or ... Wes. Tattooed, artistic, anything-but-expected Wes. He doesn't fit Macy's life at all-so why does she feel so comfortable with him? So ... happy? What is it about him that makes her let down her guard and finally talk about how much she misses her father, who died before her eyes the year before?" Dessen paints Macy's resilience into a beautiful, fragile portrait, and shows the readers how the depths of love can carry us when we're too weak to take another step.
This one's for the boys. I thought that after putting four books up there that would typically be considered "girly," I'd better add one for the guys! Personally, I loved this book, both when I read it alone and when I taught it. Here's a synopsis from Anna, a children's library assistant in California. She writes a blog all about controversial teen reads, and this one fits the bill.
"The year is 1967, and African-American Richie Perry, a seventeen-year-old high school graduate from Harlem, joins the U.S. Army and immediately gets sent to Vietnam. He arrives with a lot of romantic illusions about war and army life. He befriends fellow army members, becoming close to Harold "Peewee" Gates in particular. One of their platoon members is killed fairly quickly by a land mine, only the first incident of the destruction and brutality which Richie witnesses.
All of this leads to Richie's questioning of the morality of war and his disillusionment with his commanding officers. He longs to communicate his thoughts and feelings to his mother and younger brother at home, but feels unable to. Richie also searches for himself while in Vietnam, trying to figure out whether his motivations for enlisting were selfless or selfish. The bond of the men in Richie's squad is tested both when a racist sergeant takes command and when they later become involved in a potentially deadly mission.
Will the squad be able to get past personal disagreements in order to confront these challenges together?"
Myers' writing is, as always, exceptional. His characters are so real, you truly feel like you know them personally by the end of the novel. As a teacher, I recommend this book to students who say they "hate" reading, simply because I know they won't be able to pass it up.