If you like The Bluford series…

When I was working part-time at a high school library this semester for grad school, I worked with teens in a different community than my own. I was also surprised at how different readers’ advisory was in a high school library as compared with the public library. It was an interesting experience I might share more about later. For now I want to share some of the new reading lists I made specifically for the high school.

The Bluford series was big with reluctant readers at this school, and they wanted more urban stories with lots of family or relationship drama. These are books that met the page requirement for book reports and were approved by teachers for class assignments, but also appealed to teens who said that the only books they ever enjoyed reading were the Bluford series. Descriptions are from WorldCat.


If you like the Bluford High series, check these out.

Saint Iggy by K.L. Going

saint-iggyIggy Corso, who lives in city public housing, is caught physically and spiritually between good and bad when he is kicked out of high school, goes searching for his missing mother, and causes his friend to get involved with the same dangerous drug dealer who deals to his parents.

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper

the-battle-of-jerichoA high school junior and his cousin suffer the ramifications of joining what seems to be a “reputable” school club.

Tyrell by Coe Booth

tyrellFifteen-year-old Tyrell, who is living in a Bronx homeless shelter with his spaced-out mother and his younger brother, tries to avoid temptation and not land in jail like his father.

Hip Hop High School by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

hip-hop-high-schoolTheresa Anderson and Devon Hampton set out to beat the SAT in order to get into a top college; however, they must also deal with the reality of street violence that could keep them both from realizing their dream.

Heaven by Angela Johnson

heavenFourteen-year-old Marley’s seemingly perfect life in the small town of Heaven is disrupted when she discovers that her father and mother are not her real parents.

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

after-tupac-and-foster-dIn the New York City borough of Queens in 1996, three girls bond over their shared love of Tupac Shakur’s music, as together they try to make sense of the unpredictable world in which they live.

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

criminalEighteen-year-old Nikki’s unconditional love for Dee helps her escape from her problems. When he involves her in a murder Nikki lands in prison, confronted with hard facts that challenge whether Dee ever loved her. She can only save herself by telling the truth about Dee.

BANG! by Sharon Flake

bangA teenage boy must face the harsh realities of inner city life, a disintegrating family, and destructive temptations as he struggles to find his identity as a young man.


What books would you recommend for fans of The Bluford series? What’s your favorite YA novel with an urban setting or that features diverse characters?

Molly signature


7 thoughts on “If you like The Bluford series…

  1. I totally agree with the interest in all those titles. Unfortunately the reading levels on most of these books is below 6th grade. Isn’t anybody writing anything with a more challenging vocabulary, ie higher reading level??

    1. This post is rather old so I checked to see what the lexile/suggested reading level is on some more recent titles (Jason Reynolds, The Lure, Takedown, etc.) and most were in the 500-600 Lexile range but recommended for grades 7-12. I’m a public librarian, so I am less concerned with what teens are reading and more concerned with creating a lifelong love of reading. And then I look at these assessments of text difficulty, vocabulary, lexile, etc for beloved books that I have seen change people’s lives, and I end up thinking there isn’t really a way to quantify “reading levels” in a holistic sense. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Alvarez has a lexile of 380. Yet it’s one of the most beautiful, lyrical, thought provoking books I’ve read. I think it’s better to introduce vocabulary and text complexity in some reading, but to also allow for reading choices driven by appeal.

  2. I have most of the titles you’ve listed in my classroom library, I’m pleased to say. I’ve also found that the kids like the Kimani Tru series and titles by Paul Valponi. Boy 21 has flown through the boy athletes. Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, and Panic by Sharon Draper are also big hits. First Part Last by Angela Johnson should be on the list too!

  3. “I was also surprised at how different reader’s advisory was in a high school library as compared with the public library. It was an interesting experience I might share more about later.” I would be very interested in hearing more about that at some point!

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s