White Pine

Take a Walk in the Forest of Reading

The average teen sends 60 text messages a day. Combine that with Facebook updates, Instagram posts and YouTube uploads and it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for anything else. Books in particular can have a hard time competing with the instant gratification of social media.

Although it can be tricky to get teens to put down their phone in favour of reading a book, The Forest of Reading program has a whole list of great reads geared to spark the interest of teenagers. The program has ten different categories broken down into different grade levels. The White Pine category is designed to introduce high school students to Canadian authors.

This year’s category has a broad range of books that cover so many timely issues. These books are not the stuffy classics teenagers are required to read in their English class. They are written in the teenage perspective and cover issues being faced by young people today.

There are many incredible titles in this category, but my two favourites from this year’s selections are:

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie is a survivor. She has survived abuse, neglect and abandonment. Although she’s still a child herself, she’s raising her younger sister Mattie. But when Mattie is found murdered, Sadie no longer has a reason to survive. She is lost and doesn’t want to be found.

A radio personality hears about Sadie’s story and creates a podcast investigating her disappearance. The chapters in the book alternate between Sadie’s point of view and the investigation. The story weaves in and out from the split narrative putting the pieces of Sadie’s whereabouts together one clue at a time.

This book is certainly a thrill ride, but its greatest strength comes from Sadie herself. Her character is fierce and full of rage and yet there is also a very vulnerable side to her. It is her realness that makes this story so likeable. Sadie has many layers and it is refreshing to read about a character that is so well developed.

Baggage by Wendy Phillips

A boy sits at the Vancouver airport. No one is with him. He has no identification. He speaks no English. Ms. Nelson and Brittany notice him sitting alone for hours. After the authorities become involved, it looks like the boy will be deported.

Brittany is determined to help the boy stay in Canada however, it isn’t as simple as she hopes. The boy (whose name turns out to be Thabo) has lived a traumatic life and suffers from PTSD. Adjusting to life in Canada is complicated and his situation is a lot more serious than anyone understands.

There is a ton of emotion packed in this novel. It is written in verse and each section alternates between different characters. The pages contain very few words which maximizes the emotional delivery of the story.

I learned so much about human trafficking in this book. I never realized just how common human trafficking is in Canada and how difficult is it for victims to escape. (For those looking to learn more about the subject, I recommend the non-fiction book Invisible Chains).

For a complete list of books in the White Pine category please see the Ontario Library Association’s website. For more favourites from the Forest of Reading program, please check out my other posts: Silver Birch Express and Taking a Walk in the Forest of Reading.

— Lesley L.