Sometimes, reading about the troubles of others can put your own into perspective. Here’s a selection of five secondary school books whose protagonists have a considerable amount to contend with.
Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher
Annabel Pitcher combines humour and realism in her books, which tend to focus on social issues or dilemmas. In this one, fifteen year-old Tess discovers that her father isn’t who she thought he was. Unable to cope with this news, she stops speaking. And suddenly, the world becomes a different place when she no longer has a voice in it.
Pitcher combines laugh-out-loud-funny observations with painfully well-observed characters. Tess is a great heroine: she’s not picture-perfect and she’s a typical teenager in terms of behaviour. Her journey from despair to acceptance will appeal to many secondary school book-readers.
Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman
Malorie Blackman has gained a formidable reputation for her Noughts and Crosses saga, but she’s also written many other amazing novels and she’s a former Children’s Laureate. Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Pig Heart Boy tells the story of thirteen year-old Cameron, who undergoes an experimental transplant to save his life. But the life-changing procedure is just the start of his troubles – suddenly, he finds himself in the middle of a media storm, betrayed by his closest friend, and with some terrible decisions to make. This is a pacy, original secondary school book which will captivate lovers of reality-based drama.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
Everyone knows that some allergies can be dangerous, but for the protagonist in this book, they reach a whole new level. Seventeen year-old Maddy is allergic to everything. Even the air. For most of her life, she’s been living inside her house, observing the world outside her bedroom window. Until one day, a new family moves in next door – and with them, a new boy. A new boy who will change everything, forever.
Yoon’s debut novel is essentially a romance with a twist – how do you be with someone if you can never go near them? It’s a clever, heartfelt exploration of overcoming adversity. It does include adult themes and ideas, so it’s probably best for older secondary school book-readers.
The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Yes, it’s another book about goldfish! Only this time, the protagonist is a twelve year-old boy. Matthew suffers from OCD, and it’s become so bad that he can’t leave the house. He washes his hands until they bleed, keeps latex gloves under his bed, and disinfects everything in sight. To make matters worse, his family is battling to overcome a devastating loss. When something terrible happens in his street, though, Matthew discovers that his position at his window, watching the world go by, makes him ideally placed to solve a mystery…
Wonder by RJ Palacio
There can be very few people who aren’t aware of this book which became a major Hollywood blockbuster starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. The eye-catching cover dominated library and bookshop shelves for months – and rightly so. Wonder is the story of ten year-old Auggie, who is born with a facial abnormality. When Auggie takes the plunge and starts school, he realises just how cruel the world can be. Wonder is a funny and uplifting book, and although the protagonist is young, it’s a great choice as a secondary school book for more reluctant readers.
You might also want to read: Secondary School Books: Fiction for Reluctant Readers