Books for Mature Teens and Adults

Theme: Personal Makeovers

A Child Called It - (ISBN: 978-1558743663)

by Dave Pelzer

This harsh book recounts the life of a child without a name who was brutally abused by his mother, despite the fact that she was a respected Cub Scout Leader. Even his father did nothing to stop the abuse. Eventually a caring teacher alerted authorities so that he escaped from his family and grew up in foster care. This book is not for the faint of heart. What quality did this boy have that allowed him to persevere despite his mother’s treatment?

How Green Was My Valley - (ISBN: 978-0884119364)

by Richard Llewellyn

The hardships of growing up in a mining town come to matter less as Huw matures and realizes how he loves the sights and people of South Wales. The simplicity of the writing makes immersing yourself as a reader in his life compelling and easy. What do you like (or dislike) about the area that you grew up?

The Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil - (ISBN: 978-0812976731)

by Deborah Rodriguez

Deborah Rodriguez decides the best way she can help the Afghan women is by helping them establish a beauty school; the Taliban has banned all such establishments. The Afghan women respond beautifully to her assistance, studying hard and overcoming many personal and political obstacles to become accomplished beauticians and businesswomen. Especially interesting in this book is the camera-eye view of the veiled women who rarely left their homes before her venture. Who overcomes the most obstacles here, Deborah or the women of Afghanistan?

This Boy’s Life - (ISBN: 978-0802136688)

by Tobias Wolff

Famed award-winning author Tobias Wolff always had a close relationship with his mother, growing up as she moved him from one perilous situation and married another tyrant. Although Wolff’s new stepfather had other children, he singled out Tobias for special “treatment” that included physical abuse and other forms of humiliation. Wolff, meanwhile, developed schemes of escape which eventually included getting away to college on the other side of the country. Although this autobiography is hard to read at times, laced throughout is Wolff’s almost unconscious belief that he will escape and go on to a better life.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - (ISBN: 978-1400064168)

by Laura Hillenbrand

This true adventure story details the journey of a young man who survived the crash of his own plane during World War II and struggled for 47 days on a raft with his companion only to be captured by the Japanese. The book’s details of the horrible types of torture he experienced make for rough reading. Even after being freed by the end of the war, our hero continued to be haunted by his war experiences and found peace and a meaningful life only after many years. Which of his personal qualities helped him to survive?

Cry, The Beloved Country - (ISBN: B0014MHV3W)

by Alan Paton

I Beat the Odds - (ISBN: 978-1592406388)

by Michael Oher

The Last Lecture - (ISBN: 978-1401323257)

by Randy Pausch

Activities for this Theme

Make a graph of the main events in two of the amazing characters’ lives. Are there any special challenges they all share?


Write an imaginary letter to a person in one of the books. What would you like to ask him or her?


If you enjoyed the books about real people, find another biography of a person you particularly admired and compare the two books.