Contemporary British Fiction Choices For High School Seniors
Note: This is part four of my recommendations for independent reading in the British Literature classroom. If you are interested in my first and second lists you can find them here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
I am excited to bring you yet another list of independent reading options for your high school students. Please check out my other recommendations at The Lit Lady blog!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.
Choice #1: A YA Horror Mystery
Summary: Edinburgh, Scotland, 1817: Hazel Sinnett is from a wealthy family and is expected to marry well. She is not supposed to want to be a surgeon, a profession that is considered butchery and available only to men. Jack Currer, a “resurrection man”, digs up freshly buried bodies to sell to the black market of the medical community. The problem is that people around Jack are going missing, and what Hazel and Jack find will change their lives forever.
A Fun and Grotesque Historical Fiction Mystery
I really enjoyed this book and my students love it too. It pairs well with Frankenstein, which we read in grade 12, so I am offering it to both my freshman and senior students this year.
When we read Frankenstein, my students are fascinated by the grotesque practice of what we laughingly call “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Body ), which was commonplace in the 19th century in England and America. Although it is only mentioned over a couple of lines in Shelley’s novel, my students want to know more! I have even had students use this as their research project thesis.
Check out this article here that gives some historical insight into grave-robbing for medical purposes.
However, this novel is written for young adults, making it a perfect choice for struggling or reluctant readers. I offer it as a reading choice, and I feel like this will continue to be a top choice amongst my kids. It could even be a conversation with freshmen about how this is seen in Frankenstein, making them excited to read Shelley’s novel!
The book is gory, I am not going to sugarcoat it. There is blood and guts and insides on the outsides. There are mutilated corpses and butchered surgeries. It is certainly not for everyone, but I fell in love with the characters and I was entranced by the story. I also am obsessed with the city of Edinburgh, so this gave me another chance to “visit”.
Check out this interesting NPR article on Anatomy here.
For some more independent reading options for young adults, check out my post here.
Purchase your copy of Anatomy: A Love Story here!
Preorder Immortality: A Love Story, coming February 2023. It’s a duology!
Choice #2: A Romantic And Unlikely Love Story
Summary: Louisa Clark needs a job, but the one she finds ends up being much harder (and ultimately more fulfilling) than what she ever could have expected. Her new duty is to care for Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident.
Will does not want Louisa there and makes it known. He has secret plans for the end of his life, and Louisa commits to showing him that there are other options that will ultimately make him happy. This book is romantic, funny, and intensely sad, all at the same time.
Me: "Did You Love It?" Students (In Unison): "YES!"
This is the most popular option for independent reading in my classes currently. At first, I thought it was because of the movie adaptation (and the students have seen the movie), but what I have found is that most of my students want to read the book because they loved the movie and have heard that the book is even better.
I see the students reading it on their own, in the locker rooms and cafeteria. They are reading it and loving it. In fact, this semester I have a class where every single student chose to read Me Before You, which is a career first for me.
This also has lead many of my students to write their research paper on psychological effects of physical trauma and the current debate around assisted suicide (another trigger warning if you are new to to this story).
It is also a series, which some of my students are interested in, while others are content to let Louisa’s story end with Me Before You.
Watch the official movie trailer below.
Choice #3: An Austen Inspired Whodunit
Summary: In Death Comes to Pemberley, Lizzie and Darcy have been happily married for six years and are living at their beloved Pemberley. Life is routine, until Lydia shows up unexpectedly, screaming that her husband, the untrustworthy Wickham, has been murdered.
A Fun Mystery For Austenites!
This is Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie. It is the perfect book for students who have read and loved any of Austen’s work, but especially Pride and Prejudice. I always have a few kids who are Austen fanatics, and I love recommending this fun mystery to them!
Check out PD James’ website here.
Read my complete review of Death Comes to Pemberley here.
Purchase your copy of Death Comes to Pemberley here.
Also, the miniseries was great! Check out the preview below.
Choices 4 & 5: World War II Historical Fiction Choices
Summary: England, 1946. Juliet receives a letter from a resident of the island of Guernsey, a man she has never met, who found her name written in a Charles Lamb book.
They begin exchanging letters and Juliet learns of his book club, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, created as an excuse for being out past curfew during the German occupation of the island. As you will inevitably be, Juliet is fascinated by the island and its people.
A Book About Destiny And Hope
I love this sweet book so much, and so do my students. This epistolary novel packs in so much emotion, but is a quick and easy read. I grew to love the group of friends in this ‘society’ and I was devastated when I had to leave them at the end.
My students love this book and some of them encouraged me to watch the movie, which I was nervous about because of my love affair with the book. BUT, I was brave and I watched it and I loved it. Totally worth watching. Check out the trailer below:
Summary: England, 1940. Three women report for their secret work at Bletchley Park, where the brightest were sent to become codebreakers.
Osla, a wealthy debutante wants to be more than a pretty face, Mab comes from a poor family in London and is looking to increase her odds of moving up in the world, and Beth is a shy girl under the thumb of her oppressive mother. Years later, much has changed for the three women, but they have no choice but to reunite to crack one last code.
How Women Helped Win The War
This is not only one of the best books I read in 2021, but also maybe ever. I loved these three women and I was so proud of their accomplishments. This is a longer book than Guernsey, but so, so, so smart and powerful. For me, World War II fiction hits hard and this book did not disappoint.
As of this writing, I have not yet recommended it to my students (coming later this spring), but I will update once I have. However, I do have one student who is devouring WWII books and she read it over a weekend. This in turn led her to write her research paper on how WWII was a turning point in the women’s lib movement. She researched the women of Bletchley Park, female spies, and the myriad of careers that women were now “allowed” to do with men away fighting. It was a really fascinating paper, kind of an English teacher’s dream.
Let’s hope and pray that this book is turned into a major motion picture immediately!
Check out Kate Quinn’s website here.
Here is a link to the book trailer.
Purchase your copy of The Rose Code here.
I hope this list has been helpful! Be sure to check out my other posts with more independent reading choices for the British Literature curriculum here, here, and here! As I find more appropriate and engaging titles for my seniors, I will certainly add to these lists.
Check out the lesson planning template that I use for creating and organizing my lessons here!
Please reach out with any recommendations for me! I love to talk books!