Examining Canadian Family’s “20 Books Every ‘Tween and Teen Should Read Before They Hit 16”

 I recently came across an article in Canadian Family, entitled ’20 Books Every ‘Tween and Teen Should Read Before They Hit 16’. Although the article fails to mention how exactly the books were picked, I did enjoy the organized headings of What it’s About? And Why Your Child Should Read It.     

The Twenty Books:   

  • Catcher in the Rye-J.D Salinger 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee 
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams 
  • Harry Potter series- J.K Rowling 
  • Animal farm- George Orwell 
  • Maus- Art Spiegelman 
  • The Perks of being a Wallflower-Stephen Chbosky 
  • The Lord of the Flies-William Golding 
  • Macbeth-William Shakespeare 
  • The Golden Compass-Philip Pullman 
  • The Island of Dr.Moreau- H.G Wells 
  • Flowers for Algernon- Daniel Keyes 
  • Go ask Alice-Anonymous 
  • The Outsiders-S.E Hinton 
  • Are you there God? Its me Margaret-Judy Blume 
  • A Semester in the life of a Garbage bag- Gordon Korman 
  • The Diary of a Young girl- Anne Frank 
  • The invention of Hugo Cabret-Brian Selznick 
  • Treasure island-Robert Louis Stevens
  • Slake’s limbo-Felice Holman

How many of these books have you read? I’ve read ten of the titles listed; most being part of my high school curriculum. I am familiar with most of the remaining titles, except for Slake’s Limbo, and A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag.   

Do you agree with the list? Would would you change/add?   

I think the list has included many of the books that have stood the test of time. However, I was surprised that Wuthering Heights by Emile Bronte was not included. I also noticed that the most modern addition to the list was the Harry Potter Series, despite the article being written in 2010. Are there truly no new books that are worthy of being placed on the list?   


I actually just finished the sci-fi novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and absolutely agree that this book should be read by all teens.   

What it’s about? This novel revolves around Charlie Gordon, a developmentally delayed man selected to participate in a groundbreaking surgical procedure that would gradually raise his IQ to genius levels. Having always dreamed of one day getting smarter and making his mother and his reading teacher, Miss Kinnian, proud, Charlie eagerly goes along with it. His progress is tracked alongside Algernon, a lab mouse whose intelligence level was raised exponentially by the procedure. Soon Charlie begins to overtake Algernon in head to head tasks and eventually he reaches the elite intelligence level he desired. However, with his newly acquired knowledge and understanding of the world around him, he begins to discover that many of those whom he counted as friends had actually been laughing at him the whole time. As well, when remembering his childhood he realizes that he had been abused, and that his mother was ashamed of him. Charlie also holds strong romantic feelings for Miss Kinnian, but is afraid to confront them due to being under-developed emotionally. Resentful of being considered a lab experiment, Charlie retreats into loneliness with Algernon, where he discovers the one terrible flaw in the experiment that both he and the little white mouse participated in.   

From the beginning, the misspellings and lack of punctuation let the reader see the difficulty Charlie has with written language. Here is an excerpt:   

“all my life I wantid to be smart and not dumb and my mom always tolld me to try and lern just like Miss Kinnian tells me but its very hard to be smart and even when I lern something in Miss Kinnians class at the school I ferget alot.”   

I must admit, when I first started reading, I found the misspellings really difficult to read and flipped ahead to ensure the entire book was not written that way. After completing the novel, I understood why Keyes adjusted the level of writing to match Charlie’s mental state. By writing in a journal format, readers are able to instantly connect and feel compassion toward Charlie. I praise Keyes writing ability to write compelling material no matter what Charlie’s level of IQ.   

By and large, the book did an excellent job of showing how society felt about and treated individuals with developmental disabilities. Despite being written in the 1960’s, I think the book is still relevant for teens today for it’s ability to tackle societal issues while refraining from being overly preachy.   

Other Reviews:   

Fluttering Butterflies   

Booker Critics   




1 Comment (+add yours?)

    Oct 09, 2010 @ 02:03:43

    I have read 6, and I think Twilight should be on the list. 🙂


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