Margin Notes



Extraordinary Ordinary Ella was written in 2020 by Amber Hendricks. This book is a must read as it talks about Ella, a young girl struggling to find a talent. At such a young age, and all through adolescence, kids are pressured to find their purpose. This book teaches them that it’s ok to take your time and enjoy life rather than worrying about the little things. 

This picture book provides a lesson for all ages and will leave readers thinking about this topic in a new way. This title is inspiration for young people as they grow up, giving them a female role model with a young perspective. It helps give readers the encouragement and confidence they need to grow in life. This book is a great representation of how extraordinary, ordinary is and can be.  



Deaver writes a book that the world needs to read with insight into a non-binary mind and life. The story follows Benjamin De Backer as they come out as non-binary and are not accepted by their parents. This story gives space to relationships that include a non-binary person while quietly including the addition of a mixed-race relationship. 

While the reader feels the devastation of the rejection by Benjamin’s parents, the book does provide examples of supportive allyship. There are characters like the sister and her husband, the boyfriend and the art teacher that really highlight how to be there for someone in a situation where the queer person was kicked out of the house.  

Readers may see themselves or peer into a new world as they follow the loss of hope with battles faced and then the glimmer of new dreams with a fresh chapter in life. The themes around love, friendship, hardships, adversity and hope surround the characters in this read. 




This Is Where It Ends is a beautifully written novel following the events of a school shooting. Readers follow the lives of the people closest to the shooter and how they are affected throughout his terror. The reader is placed into the lives of five separate students and learn the relationship they had with the shooter and how it feels to have no power in a terrifying situation. 

This novel highlights the life of public-school students and the constant fear that they face with the rise of school shooting. It shows that no one is safe in this kind of position, not even family. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and makes you wish you had another book to follow each of the characters.  

Tyler Browne is the shooter. This is a familiar name as you flip the pages and immerse yourself into this story. This Is Where It Ends puts the fear that the students feel within you. Your heart will break for anyone who has been affected by, or lost a child to, school shootings. Rather than chapters, the plot follows a timeline, the 54 minutes that feel like a lifetime to the students and teachers at this school. There are many trigger warnings of course, with school shootings and the loss of children or student.  On the same note, there are gory details about people being shot – which is hard for an audience to read when they are so deep into the story.  

A reader who enjoys reading fiction that reflects current events should definitely read this title. 

My name is Chloe Despres, and I am a grade 11 student at Leo Hayes high school. I enjoy reading and writing during my free time and being with my family. Reading has become a new passion of mine and consumes my time, as does Book Tok. I work a lot so hanging out with my family and my dog is my escape and calm! 




They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera is a great choice for fans of young adult, dystopian, science fiction narratives. This bittersweet story connects two unlikely people, who push each other to live their last day to the fullest. I enjoyed the author’s modern take on fatalism, as it is easy to relate to as the two teen protagonists must come to terms with mortality. It evokes the realization of human mortality in the mind of the reader and makes them question the base of fatality. It beautifully demonstrates how a single day lived to its best is better than a lifetime of just existing – making everyone who reads want to live each day as though it’s their last.  

This book has great representation through its main characters Matteo and his antithesis Rufus, who although very different, create a deep bond. Matteo is an 18-year-old Puerto Rican teen, who suffers from anxiety and keeps to himself as much as possible. He meets Rufus a 17-year-old Cuban teen, who is vivacious and confident on “The Last Friend” app. Both character’s growth in just the short time they spend with each other shows that you don’t have to spend an eternity with someone to have a lasting effect on their life.  

I could not put this book down, I finished it in just one sitting and as you grow to love and empathize with the characters, you begin to dread the inevitable ending. However, it was satisfying as they both lead meaningful lives. Readers will be left thinking about this book long after they’ve put it down. 



‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’  

Through the Woods is a graphic novel written by award winning Canadian author Emily Carroll. This novel contains 5 haunting and eerie stories about topics such as the chilling adventures of three sisters after their father’s disappearance as seen in Our Neighbour’s House or the story of a girl who witnesses the horrors awaiting her in the woods during her trip to visit her brother after their mother’s death as told in The Nesting Place.  

Carroll’s fast paced story telling had me absolutely entranced the whole time. Each story is easily digestible with a charming art style. It is easy to imagine yourself in the shoes of each character and wondering what you would do in their situation. That is until the real horror element truly seeps in and darkens every crevice, making you reconsider all of the trust you’d once put into the characters..  

All this, paired together with Carroll’s unique panel placement and organization, truly makes for an unforgettable read that will have every horror fan on the edge of their seat.  This graphic novel is one that’s stuck with me for quite some time after devouring it in one sitting. 



Eleanora Fagan better known as Billie Holiday did not have a happy life. After all, she sang the blues for a reason.  

“Becoming Billie Holiday” is a poetic interpretation of her life story. Readers follow Billie as she matures from a troubled adolescent into the fearless and passionate musician we know today. The text offers the privilege of watching her navigate a world that seems to be against her with parents that leave her, a neighbor that rapes her, and a drug addiction that destroys her. Billie must summon every ounce of her courage to fight against the brutality.  

Carole Boston Weatherford recounts this story beautifully and entirely through free verse poems with titles that correspond to each of Billie’s songs. The poems are accompanied by compelling illustrations.  

It was extraordinary to discover the complex story behind the famous musician. The book was exactly what I needed to incorporate a little bit of poetry and a lot of imagining into my reading routine.  



All Maggie wants is some time alone – and she has a plan to get it. With a few lies about where they are, Maggie and her friends plan a sleepover at her empty grandparents’ house. To say things don’t go as planned is an understatement. Her friends are caught and can’t come. During her secret night hidden alone, her town is evacuated, and Maggie is indeed left alone…totally alone. 

This novel, written in verse, is a fantastic middle level survival story. Readers follow Maggie as she slowly accepts that no one is coming back and realizes she is on her own to take care of herself and her neighbor’s dog, George. The slow descent into survival mode is realistic and brings authentic threats such as food, water, weather, fire and wild animals. 

Other than the obvious challenges of survival, the conflict of the plot is a steady build of loneliness. Maggie is aware of the hope she is losing and searches for connection in radios and books. The seasons change and the years go by without any indication of this isolation ending. Maddie’s resilience in the environmental and mental struggles is fierce and makes her a strong character for readers to admire. Although I would give a trigger warning for animal abuse, I would recommend this book to readers who like dystopian survival stories as well as someone looking to devour a book in verse.  



Heartstopper is a graphic novel depicting an adorable yet realistic LQBTQ romance between two boys finding themselves, one an openly gay and bullied boy, the other a questioning rugby jock.

When the story begins, Charlie Spring wants nothing more than to be loved by his secret, closeted, emotionally abusive boyfriend, Ben Hope. He finds himself sitting in the art room every lunchtime, eating his lunch surrounded by the haunting memories of last year.

Nick Nelson is the epitome of a sweet jock, having a soft spot for vulnerability, but still hanging out with his rough, homophobic rugby friends. Even though he doesn’t agree with what they do, he finds himself with no one else to listen to.

Charlie and Nick finally meet after a homeroom seat change one morning, and nothing but a “Hi” every day to each other. Nick was all Charlie thought about for weeks on end, whereas his friends, Tao, Isaac, and Elle, only crushed his hopes by continually insisting that Nick was straight, without a doubt.

Then there is an incident with Nick in homeroom and a leaky pen, and after Charlie helps Nick, a spark of friendship begins to whirl between the two. They begin to chat in the halls, smile at each other when they pass, and Nick invites Charlie to learn how to play rugby after school one gorgeous, sunny day.

Unfortunately, there is then a horrible and aggressive incident between Charlie and Ben, with Nick comes to Charlie’s aid after lingering around due to a sense something isn’t right between Charlie and Ben. That event sparks the first nighttime texting session between them, evoking a stream of confused feelings about their relationship and the potential struggles of identifying as LQBTQ in an all-boys school.


Heartstopper is one of the most subtly powerful and emotional novels I’ve ever read. Each page ropes you more into the character’s life until you’re immersed into the feeling of pure excitement every time they show affection, romantic or not.

Sometimes I would take breaks in between reading, just to scream out of joy or sob at an emotional scene, and I’ve honestly never had a book do that before. It’s an LGBTQ modern classic, and I absolutely adored how many topics are addressed and how inclusive the characters are. So many mature topics are covered in such an realistic way, like coming out as gay and lesbian, being transgender, homophobia and discovering your sexuality. Heartstopper is an essential read for allies and LGBTQ alike. I guarantee it’ll be the best book you’ll ever read.


Fionna Jarvis is a 14-year-old student at Ridgeview Middle School in Oromocto, New Brunswick who likes to read atypical romance, dystopia, non-fiction and poetry books. She loves to write and has written several online novels. She plays rugby, volleyball and does all-star cheerleading. Also, she does art, she paints, sketches, and also uses oil pastels and watercolours.



the collection of titles on SORA has expanded to include titles for students in high school. To celebrate this, and to add some book buzz, Margin Notes will feature book recommendations written by high school students over the summer months. Stay tuned for some great book recommendations!

Ways teachers might use the students’ recommendations:

  • Direct students to Margin Notes to read student recommendations
  • Book talk the titles by reading the student recommendations
  • Post the recommendations in the classroom for students to read
  • Have students comment on the posts of titles they decide to read
  • Use as mentor texts for students writing their own recommendations



From We Need Diverse Books co-founder, Ellen Oh, Finding Junie Kim is a powerful and important middle grade book that focuses on family, hope, and survival, all while delivering a punch. Based on the author’s own family stories from the Korean War, this is an eye-opening and candid look at a piece of history that is underrepresented in both the middle grade and young adult genre.

Finding Junie Kim follows our young protagonist, Junie, who struggles with her own demons, friendship issues, and acts of racism in her school. She is then assigned an oral history project, for which she interviews her grandparents and learns about their struggles and experiences growing up during the Korean War. Taking inspiration from her grandparents’ courageous stories, Junie finds ways to overcome her own personal struggles and make changes in the world around her. The story beautifully connects the trauma of war with modern hate crimes, while also including conversations around bullying, depression, & friendship dynamics. It does all of this with sensitivity and without diminishing any of the topics, keeping it relatable and suitable for a middle school audience.

Finding Junie Kim was a very insightful middle grade novel and would make a great mentor text for many reasons. The book is split into sections told in part realistic fiction from Junie’s first-person perspective and in third-person historical fiction from both of her grandparents. It is also split into time periods, with different sections telling the stories from different years, which would lend well to practices around both framing a story and discussing point of view. The grandparents’ interviews are a wonderful way to provide many details about the historical setting that many students may not have much background information in and would make a great mentor text for how to weave background information throughout a story. Finding Junie Kim would also make an excellent class read aloud or book club book, as it is a fitting example of a window/mirror/sliding glass door book that any student or adult alike can learn from. Middle grade students need this book for many reasons, and I am so looking forward to all the ways I will incorporate it into my classroom.


Lauren Sieben is a Grade 8 ELA teacher at Perth-Andover Middle School. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.