Great Summer Reads with Carol Jago: Never Give Up, Grades 9–12

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Though the characters in these stories face challenges and obstacles, they never stop trying to do the right thing.

Dear Readers,

As the days of summer draw to a close and the demands of a new school year approach, treat yourself to one of these books by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Trevor Noah. Seeing how others have met with and triumphed over adversity could help put the challenges of fall 2020 into perspective.

Happy reading!



Novel Angie Thomas

If you liked The Hate U Give, I guarantee you are going to find Angie Thomas’s latest book unputdownable. I read it in a single sitting. This is the story of 17-year-old Bri who wants to be a great rapper like her father. Her first song is a distillation of the anger and frustration she feels daily. When the rap goes viral, Bri learns just how hard it can be to fight for what you believe and for who you are.


Novel in Verse by Jason Reynolds

Will’s brother Shawn was just murdered. That means Will has a job to do—seek revenge. Those are the rules. As Will boards the elevator in his apartment complex and begins his descent, he is visited by a myriad of ghosts. Each ghost sheds new light on the significance of revenge, and Will begins to question the rules. Will he really be able to do what he intends with what is shoved into the waistband of his pants?


Autobiography by Trevor Noah

According to South African apartheid, Trevor never should have existed. The union of his White Swiss father and Black Xhosa mother was strictly forbidden and punishable by years in prison. Because of this, Trevor spent the earliest years of his life being hidden away by his mother out of fear of the government’s retaliation. Finally liberated from the tyranny in South Africa, Trevor and his mother began their fearless adventure into a new life with more freedom and opportunities.

As you read these titles, consider:

  • How does one push forward in the face of adversity?
  • What can we learn by reading about the experiences of characters who face tremendous challenges?

Try out one of these activities to further your reading:

  • Book Club: Read On the Come Up with one or two people and use this question guide to discuss important themes from the book.
  • Podcast: Listen to author Jason Reynolds discuss the personal experiences that inspired his book Long Way Down.
  • Social Studies Connection: Check out this page for information and recordings about the South African languages spoken by Trevor Noah, his family, and his friends in Born a Crime. Visit this page for information about the apartheid system that dominated South African life for nearly a century.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

Note: HMH is not responsible for the content of third-party websites.

Photo of Carol Jago provided by ©Andrew Collings

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