Beyond the




The Perfect High School Summer Reading List to Prevent Brain Drain

student reading book

Research shows that students, on average, score lower on standardized tests administered at the end of summer than they do when they take the same tests at the end of the school year. Low-income students are especially negatively impacted—they experience greater summer learning losses than their wealthier counterparts. In many cases, schools provide summer reading lists for students, but if your school doesn't, here's a high school summer reading list that's "teenager-approved" and can help combat summer brain drain. Just keep in mind that some of these books deal with mature subjects.

Further Reading: 5 Classic Books That Offer Timeless Lessons

Recovery Road by Blake Nelson

My students love this book so much that it often "disappears" from my room. Recovery Road is the riveting story of Maddie, who begins her junior year of high school in rehab. Teens find Maddie's relationship with Stuart, a recovering addict, and her journey to sobriety especially compelling. Nelson does not sugarcoat the realities of drug and alcohol abuse, and Maddie's voice is one of the most authentic in young adult literature. Many of my students have said that Recovery Road is "the best book [they've] ever read." I truly believe that this book saves lives.


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak has been around for a while, but it's always a hit with teens. It tells the important story of Melinda, who has become alienated and isolated from her high school peers because she called the police at a summer party. It isn't until much later in the novel that it's revealed that Melinda's trauma stems from the fact that she was raped by a popular senior at that party. This first-person novel contains powerful imagery and symbolism, and it addresses a topic that is essential for teens to know and understand. Because Melinda's plight is realistically portrayed, teens really connect to this novel.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

It's no secret that teens love coming-of-age stories, and Esperanza, the Mexican-American protagonist in The House on Mango Street, grows emotionally, spiritually, and artistically throughout the book. Esperanza tells her story through a series of easy-to-read vignettes that pack a powerful punch. Esperanza shares the spirit of her colorful Mexican-American neighborhood and perfectly captures the feelings of a teen trying to preserve her culture and traditions while making her own place in the world. The story explores racism, poverty, and gender honestly and poetically. This novel has inspired many of my students to write about their own experiences growing up in today's world.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This book is the top choice among the young men in my classes, but I find that everyone, no matter their gender, enjoys this read. The Maze Runner is part of the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre that's so well-liked by teens. It's a fast-paced and suspenseful survival saga. Thirty teenage boys are trapped in a new world with no memory of how they got there or why they're there. They've learned to survive in their enclosed environment, and Thomas, the book's protagonist, works to solve the mystery of the maze. Since this novel is the first in a series of books, it may spur teens to read the next installments.

Fences by August Wilson

Fences may be a play, but it's a quick and powerful read that deals with relationships, trust, family, grace, and forgiveness. Wilson's dialogue is so powerful that it's easy to see why he has been called one of the greatest dramatists. Many students can relate to the father-son conflict that Wilson so sharply outlines. In a recent conversation about this play, one of my students said, "Mrs. Barile, you pick the best books. When you're reading them, you think everything is completely normal, and then all sorts of craziness starts happening." The 2016 movie adaptation with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis is viewing for this selection.

Further Reading: Taking Online Classes While Holding Down a Job: 3 Tips from Real Students

Trust me when I say this high school summer reading list has been well-vetted. Countless students in my classes have given their stamp of approval, so whether you're a teacher or parent, I'm sure your teen will love these books!