This week I will pick up where my fellow high school reviewer, John Chartier, left off, by compiling my own top-five list of must-read books for young adults.

As I pored through four years' worth of book reviews, I found that the memory of each of these books struck me uniquely. Some I could hardly even remember reading. Others brought back vivid and powerful emotions. Those are the books I chose for this list.

"The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien

I have referred to this book as being my favorite of all time. It is however, largely unknown. It is the story of one man's struggle in and around the Vietnam War. More importantly, it is a story about truth and what really defines that clichéd concept. Don't mistake this for just another war story; it is at root a story about storytelling.

O'Brien is one of the finest writers of our time, and this is his masterpiece. Be prepared to do a lot of thinking when reading this book; it is filled with metaphors and double meanings that require a little more analysis than most. I caution you that this is truly a piece of literature, not merely a shallow story, and thus could be less entertaining to some. This is certainly not a young children's book, but to all others I say, make this a top priority on your reading list.

"And Then There Were None," by Agatha Christie

This mystery was among the first books John and I ever reviewed, and the very first to receive a 10 out of 10. It was one of my favorite books then, and it remains so now. It is the story of a group of 10 people who are summoned to a private island for a weekend. All of them are found to be hiding something terrible in their pasts, and one by one they are murdered. Paranoia and hysteria ensue among the guests.

In typical Agatha Christie fashion, the plot is diabolically intricate and so well thought out that you are convinced she must have been a murderer in another life. This is one of the most suspenseful and compelling stories I have ever encountered. Christie keeps you guessing right up until the last page. Then a wry smile of understanding and awe will come across your face as the preceding 250 pages of confusion begin to make sense.

"The Lord of The Rings," by J.R.R. Tolkein

Tolkein was not merely an author, he was a citizen of a land called Middle Earth. He truly immersed himself in his work with an utter devotion not paralleled by any author before or since. He even went so far as a to create a working language called Elvish as well countless maps, folk songs and other creations.

Entire books are devoted to the understanding of Tolkein's unique world. Tolkein himself wrote a book summarizing the history of Middle Earth up to the beginning of The Lord of The Rings trilogy. In short, this series is probably the most intricate and complex work ever created. Tolkein poured his genius, heart and soul into these stories, which are immensely entertaining. You, too, may find yourself swallowed up by the land of Middle Earth. This is probably the most popular work on this list, but well deserving of every bit of its popularity.

"The Giver," by Lois Lowry

This is a social experiment story about a culture in which its members are sheltered from war, pain and fear. They are given no choices in life, but merely assigned roles that they must follow without question.

When Jonas turns 12, he is chosen to become the apprentice of The Giver. The role of The Giver is to keep all the memories from which the society is sheltered. Only he can experience true life, but with it comes trade-offs. This story makes the reader really think, but at the same time keeps the reader deeply enthralled. Lowry does an excellent job creating a believable world where all this can take place. The result is a fabulous piece of children's literature.

"Speak," by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is quite a bit more sinister than most of the other books on this list. It is the story of a girl making the transition from middle school to high school. In the summer after her eighth-grade year, she goes to a party with high school students and is raped. She calls the police, who come and break up the party. From then on she is remembered as the girl who called the cops on the party and begins her high school career as an outcast. She tells no one of the incident at the party and in time the emotional stresses of being raped and cast out of society drive her to the brink of insanity.

This is a heart-wrenching exposé of the tragedy that rape can cause and the harshness of high school society. It is extremely well-written and tells a story that more of us need to hear and be aware of.


Andover resident James Caron has reviewed books for the Townsman throughout his high school years. He graduated from high school this June.

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