I read Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson over the weekend. The first thing I noticed was the difference in the characters she focused on in this story. Normally, Anderson's main characters are your average, everyday, middle-class teenagers. In this story, she focuses on a high school in South Philly.
Here, teenagers have all the usual teenage troubles. Friendship, love, parent problems. But it's all overlaid with a different dynamic. Here, there is a struggle for survival. How do you move beyond working for Chuck E Cheese? How do you get out??
In this story, the characters are lucky. They attend a high school that has "woken-up." Adults there realize that success is not a given for their students. They have a mantra: "the tassel is worth the hassle." Amazing what simply acknowledging the struggles of your students can do to help them move through them.