Juvenile delinquents make some of the best characters. There’s nothing like a good redemption story to help you see the good in the world. From classics like Holes, to newcomers like Scar Island, there’s a book on this list that’s calling you.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats has bad luck. When he gets caught with a pair of shoes belonging to a famous basketball player, he gets sent to a juvenile detention center in the middle of the desert. The warden is meaner than a snake and makes the boys dig holes all day in the hot sun. A great cast of characters, superb writing, and a most unusual story make this a book everyone will enjoy.
Scar Island by Dan Geimenhart
When Jonathan arrives at the Alcatraz-like reformatory facility for boys, he quickly realizes that he may as well be in Hell. The Admiral rules with an iron fist. When all the adults die in a freak lightning storm, the boys decide to hunker down and deceive the delivery boat driver into believing everything is normal. What follows is a Lord of the Flies type scenario where the boy who takes charge is just as mean as the admiral.
House Arrest by K. A. Holt
As 12-year-old Timothy sees it, he didn’t have a choice when he stole money to pay for his infant brother’s medication. His mom couldn’t afford it and his brother needed it. His probation officer and therapist require Timothy to keep a journal. Through the journal entries, we see the thoughts of a boy who is trying to square his sense of right and wrong with society’s. Written in verse.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Cole Matthews has anger issues and is on his way to becoming a juvenile delinquent. After seriously injuring a classmate in a fight, he is given the choice of jail time or spending a year alone on an isolated Alaskan Island in a Native American reform process called Circle Justice. After he botches things on the first day, he is given a second chance on the island.
The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
Arthur isn’t coping well with his father’s death, so when he sees James the junk man wearing his father’s old hat, he doesn’t think before he throws the brick. In court, James asks the judge to let Arthur serve his punishment by doing community service hours helping James. James gives Arthur a list of 7 junk things he needs to find around the neighborhood. At first Arthur is angry, but James’ advice and coaching end up being just what Arthur needs.
Peak by Roland Smith
Peak loves to climb. When he gets caught climbing a skyscraper in New York, the judge agrees to let him off if he leaves the states with his dad, a famous extreme mountain climber. He takes Peak to Mt. Everest where he is leading an expedition to the summit. Within feet of the summit, Peak must decide if he deserves to be the youngest person to summit Mt. Everest.
Pilfer Academy by Lauren Magaziner
Pilfer Academy is a boarding school that trains kids to be thieves. Everything in the school is stolen. The food is stolen. The mansion is stolen. Even the kids are stolen. George ends up here after being kidnapped by a couple of idiots in an ice cream truck. Must appreciate incompetent adults and satirical humor.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Alcatraz. Some kids would think it’s cool to live several hundred yards from the most famous criminals in the world. But not Moose Flanagan. When his father takes a job as prison guard and electrician, Moose’s world takes a turn for the worst. All he wants to do is play baseball, but instead he has to put up with the egotistical, scheming daughter of the warden.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
11-year-old Perry has lived in prison his entire life while his mother serves time. When the district attorney, who happens to be his best friend’s stepdad, finds out, he removes Perry from the prison. He thinks he’s helping Perry catch up on a life he missed out on, but Perry loves his mom and the other inmates and just wants to go back to the life he loved.