the enemy August 27


The Top Ten Books “On Hold” Books in My Classroom Library by Katie Sluiter

This past school year, I was moved from teaching eleventh and twelfth grade English–a gig I’d had for over a decade–to teaching eighth grade ELA. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, to say the least. I wasn’t prepared for EVERYTHING TO BE A BIG DEAL to this age group. Everything except my lessons, that is. And reading. They claimed to not be interested in reading at all.


After doing workshops and conferences with both Penny Kittle and Donalyn Miller in the summer, this was also the school year that I decided to implement a Reader’s Workshop in my classroom. The results were nothing short of amazing.


Coincidently, all those students who claimed to not care about reading, found books they loved and could recommend to each other throughout the school year. In fact, several books were constantly “on hold”–never to be just “available” ever. Below you will find the Top Ten Books that were almost always “On Hold” in my classroom.



  1.  Winger by Andrew Smith.


Ryan Dean is a 14-year old junior who is in love with his best friend, 17-year old junior Annie. The book is hilarious and I suspect the first draw to it is that there is some bad language. Eighth graders think they are getting away with something when they read it, but they end up changed at the end. One student–a self-proclaimed “non-reader”– came to me and said, “Mrs. Sluiter? This book ruined my life. So my mom bought me a copy and I just started reading it again. I don’t know if I can ever read another book.”


eleanor and park

  1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.


I have two copies of this book and I only saw it when checking it in and the putting a post-it on it to hand to the next person on the “On Hold” list. Guys and girls have loved the relationship between two awkward high school students. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in some spots, and heart-breaking in others. Students tend to relate to one or both main characters.



  1. Carrie by Stephen King


I had no idea when I book talked Carrie to my that it would be in such hot demand. Again this one is loved by both girls and boys. I think a lot of my students can relate to the bullying, but are also swept up by the creepy story and the crazy characters. The multi-genre approach to the story-telling is also appealing to junior high kids with short attention spans.


thirteen reasons why

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


This has been on MY To Read list all school year, but I could never get my hands on it because the girls in my class keep anything that has to do with death and dying off my shelves. In this one, Clay gets a package from a classmate (and his crush) Hannah after she commits suicide. The package contains cassette tapes where Hannah narrates the thirteen reasons why she killed herself.


love letters to the dead

  1. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira


This is one that not only got passed around all school year, but it also disappeared from my class library by the end of the year probably taken home by some young reader who just couldn’t let go. Maybe it will show back up in the fall, but probably not. The entire book is made up of letters that Laurel writes to dead celebrities. She is supposed to just write one, for an English assignment, but she fills her notebook with them because it helps her deal with her sister, May’s, death as well as the abuse she herself experienced.


the enemy

  1. The Enemy Series by Charlie Higson


I had a whole group of guys who were reluctant readers pass this series around one marking period. They would check in with each other if they were waiting on one of the books and give each other grief if someone wasn’t reading fast enough. The first in the series is The Enemy which takes place in London after a flesh-eating disease wipes everyone out. Teenagers barricade themselves in a building until a stranger shows up and tells them they can be safe in Buckingham Palace, but they have to get there first.


the maze runner

  1. The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner


Not surprising at all, The Maze Runner is still very popular. Just this past year the prequel, The Kill Order came out, prompting many to either revisit the series or read it for the first time.


The Selection

  1. The Selection Series by Kiera Cass


After they finish The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabbot, a lot of my girls were looking for a new series. I directed them to The Selection by Kiera Cass, and just like that, they disappeared from my shelves.  There are 35 girls and only one crown. This series is a step up into a more thoughtful, complex princess story that has reminded some kids of The Hunger Games.


fault in our stars

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


This one is STILL being checked out like crazy. My high school students loved it when it was new, and now my junior high students are re-discovering it after having seen the movie. I often use this book as a gateway to all the other fabulous novels by Green.


why we broke up

  1. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler


This was a new addition to my library at the semester and after one girl read it, another checked it out, and before I knew it, there was a long “On Hold” List started. All sorts of readers love this book from avid to reluctant because the writing is fast-paced with lots of dialogue and beautiful artwork.



Katie Sluiter is a junior high school ELA teacher and writer who lives in West Michigan with her husband and three young children. Her writing has been published in several anthologies as well as in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan. She currently contributes to The Educator’s Room and blogs at Sluiter Nation. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.