Middle School to Young Adult Books

Theme: Partner Books

A Little Piece of Ground - (ISBN: 978-1931859387)

by Elizabeth Laird

Three Palestinian pre-teens of different religions and political persuasions join forces to do some neighborhood improvement. Although war events interrupt their budding friendships, and two of the boys suffer bullet wounds, the book shows Karim, one of the trio, to be a typical developing adolescent seeking independence. What happens when the boys see each other again after an enforced separation? Partner this book with <i>A Stone in my Hand</i> by Cathryn Clinton.

A Stone in my Hand - (ISBN: 978-0763625610)

by Cathryn Clinton

An 11-year old girl, Malaak, tries to comfort herself by focusing on her pet bird after her father disappears from Gaza City. Malaak’s self-imposed solitude ends when she becomes concerned about her brother and his radical activities. Compare the reactions of the male and female characters in this book and a partner book, <i>A Little Piece of Ground</i>.

An Off Year - (ISBN: 978-0525421597)

by Claire Zulkey

A young woman puts in an appearance in her college dorm only to announce she’s taking a year after high school as an exploratory year. Surprisingly, Cecily spends much of the year at home being introspective, but her father and other friends help her make decisions about what to do with her life now that she has put college on hold. Read this book together with <i>Prada & Prejudice</i> by Mandy Hubbard.

Bread Winner - (ISBN: 978-0888994165)

by Deborah Ellis

Set in Afghanistan (as is <i>Wanting Mor</i> by Rukhsana Khan), this book portrays the life of a young woman living in seclusion inside her family home until she is forced to disguise herself as a boy to find money and food for her family. Any adolescent will identify with her quick thinking as she struggles to learn a new social role outside of the “covered” life of a chador (Islamic women’s cover-up). Older teens might enjoy a partner book, <i>The Handmaid’s Tale </i>by Margaret Atwood.

Prada & Prejudice - (ISBN: 978-1595142603)

by Mandy Hubbard

Fifteen-year old awkward Callie bemoans the fact that everything about her life is so dull -- until she trips over a pair of Prada heels she buys on a class trip to England and begins time traveling! Although her social ineptness continues in her new world, her fresh spirit and friendship with another American girl add humor and an appreciation of her determination to make this YA novel an entertaining read. <i>An Off Year</i> by Claire Zulkey makes a good partner to this slightly humorous take on a young woman’s departure from the norm.

Wanting Mor - (ISBN: 978-0888998583)

by Rukhsana Khan

A young Afghani girl finds herself on the street in pre-intervention Kabul after her father remarries. When her father’s new wife’s son acts interested in the girl, her drug-addicted father cannot cope with the situation and throws her out. Jameela is lucky when she finds her way to an orphanage that assists her. Jameela’s memories of her mother provide her with the strength to cope to her new life. Based on a true story, this tale of Jameela’s struggles shares some remarkable similarity to adolescence in many cultures. For another view of life in war-torn Afghanistan, try <i>Bread Winner </i> by Deborah Ellis.

Kabul Beauty School - (ISBN: 978-0812976731)

by Deborah Rodriguez

Life of Pi - (ISBN: 978-0156027328)

by Yann Martel

The Kite Runner - (ISBN: 978-1594480003)

by Khaled Hosseini

Activities for this Theme

Listen to Deborah Rodriguez (below) talk about how she came to write Kabul Beauty School.


Consider opening your home up to an international student for a semester or a year. Or have your high school student apply to be a foreign exchange student.


Try volunteering for a year if you are not ready for college after high school.