Hoot by Carl Hiaasen- I've been re-reading this at school and have about 10 pages left. I start teaching it next week. The protagonist Roy is what I hope my students are or about to become, a young teen who is more caring, more smart, and more brave than he shows to adults on a daily basis. The save-our-environment message of the novel is terrific, and I hope to tag on a community service project for students when we finish reading the novel. But the bullying story hits home - there is truly no easy solution to bullying. There never has. Now that bullying victims grab headlines by committing the ultimate act of bullying - homicide - society scrambles to solve this problem, as if bullying is a new phenomenon. (My teaching partner just read Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes, the fictional story of a school shooting, victims, perpetrators, etc.) I want my students to think for themselves, to know who they are and who they want to be, and to know their own values. Bullying seems to me like most of life's problems - it's not solved by one act, in one day, by one person; it's a day-to-day struggle that has ups and downs; it involves people seeing the big picture, and being brave, kind, and smart.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I just started reading it. A Holocaust novel that opens with Death as narrator of the story of a German girl who is the book thief. It's a beautiful, haunting opening "prologue".