unRequired Reading Blog

Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents by Zac Bissonnette

Debt-Free U book cover image

If there was one thing that people across the country could agree on right now, it would be the ridiculously high cost of today’s college education. Most parents assume that student loans are a fact of life, and most students assume that student loan debt is a necessary and even positive thing. If you want to get a good job, it’s commonly thought that going to a good college (chosen in part by U.S. News and World Report rankings) and getting a good name on your diploma simply costs money and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Enter Zac Bissonnette. Twenty-one, college student, and an art history major. So what knowledge does he have that the rest of us--and many other experts--do not? Well, as the subtitle of Debt-Free U suggests, Zac paid for his college education, “without loans, scholarships, or mooching off [his] parents.” And you can, too. Because, as it turns out, Zac might know what he’s talking about. He is a writer and editor with AOL Money & Finance, has written for the Boston Globe, appeared on CNN, and has the financial savvy and banking portfolio of someone several times his age.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is Everywhere

Lennie, a 17-year-old bookworm and band geek, has always walked, safe and happy, in the shadow of her dynamic older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie is left to cope with life in this intense debut novel The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson.

Even through her grief, Lennie, who’s barely had a boyfriend before, finds herself drawn toward two completely different guys. The first is Bailey’s boyfriend, who is also suffering from the loss. Lennie and Toby both recognize that their relationship is wrong, but can’t seem to stop themselves. And then there’s Joe, the new kid in school, who just moved here from Paris and who helps Lennie forget her pain with his beautiful smile and musical talent. Music plays a major part in the story, bringing them together with Joe even nicknaming her John Lennon. Meanwhile, Lennie is eaten up with guilt over hooking up with Toby. Wearing her dead sister’s clothes and dating her boyfriend seems to keep Bailey alive. Only with each other can they share their true feelings of sadness.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Charles and Emma

A mountain of information has been written about Charles Darwin’s life, ideas and adventures, but this may be the first book about his romance with Emma Wedgwood. The dilemma? Emma was staunchly religious while Charles was bound to science and his revolutionary idea of the origin of species. Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman, examines the true story of their courtship, marriage and family life as a backdrop to Darwin’s famous discoveries.

Faced with the question of whether or not to marry, Darwin, ever the scientist, compiled a list – a wife, he wrote, is “better than a dog” but then again he’d have “less money for books.” Eventually, Darwin did decide to marry Emma and the couple spent many happy years together.

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro works at the local Quikmart.  She is bored with her job.  Ryan Sweeney  goes to the Valley Forge Military Academy, where there are no girls.  In The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant, their two worlds collide.  One day Carmen is working at the checkout counter, and Ryan comes into the store on a one-day pass.  He sees her jet-black hair and snake tattoo and falls for her immediately.  Carmen sees Ryan as a cute boy with whom she'd like to spend some time.  She invites him to come and listen to her band.   That is the beginning of an intense relationship for Ryan.

Ryan Sweeney comes from a military family.  His family decided for him that he would be going to Valley Forge Military Academy.  He wants to please his family and has never questioned their authority.  He has been a model student and a rule follower - that is, until he meets Carmen.  He starts sneaking off campus to see her and lying to his classmates about where he is going.  His grades start to slip.  Ryan has never met anyone like Carmen, and he has fallen hopelessly in love with her.

If you like The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. You can browse our book matches here.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.

If you liked The Giver, you might also enjoy the companion books (they're not exactly sequels) that Lowry has written:

Gathering Blue
Gathering Blue
by Lois Lowry
Lame and suddenly orphaned, Kira is mysteriously removed from her squalid village to live in the palatial Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her gifts as a weaver to do the bidding of the all-powerful Guardians.



 

Messenger
Messenger
by Lois Lowry
In this novel that unites characters from "The Giver" and "Gathering Blue," Matty, a young member of a utopian community that values honesty, conceals an emerging healing power that he cannot explain or understand.


 

If you like these books, you might also enjoy:

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Airborn
by Kenneth Oppel
Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may,in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.
 

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Among the Hidden
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
In a future where the Population Police enforce the law limiting afamily to only two children, Luke has lived all his twelve years inisolation and fear on his family's farm, until another "third" convinces him that the government is wrong.

 

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

In Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare returns to the world she created in her series, The Mortal Instruments. Clockwork Angel, the first installment in the new Infernal Devices series, is set in London, several hundred years before the events in City of Bones. Tessa, an American, is called to London by her brother, only to find him missing and herself a captive, embroiled in a dark world of demons, warlocks, vampires and Nephilim, those descendants of angels who strive to protect the world from the forces of evil.

The London Clave that shelters Tessa is also home to three orphaned Nephilim, each apparently with secrets of their own. The attraction between Tessa and fiery Will takes center stage. But the quiet, mysterious Jem also falls for her, as Will pushes her away. Which handsome young man will get the girl in the end? Can a Team-Jem versus Team-Will fan split be far off?

If you like Robin McKinley

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. You can browse our book matches here.

If you haven't read Robin McKinley's newest book Pegasus (published in 2010), you might want to check it out :

Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylvi is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday, but the closeness of their bond becomes a threat to the status quo and possibly to the safety of their two nations.

If you're looking for some other prolific authors, you might also enjoy Vivian Vande Velde and Donna Jo Napoli, who don't write entirely fantasy but are excellent writers in that genre and others.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Fifteen-year-old Dashti, sworn to obey her sixteen-year-old mistress, the Lady Saren, shares Saren's years of punishment locked in a tower, then brings her safely to the lands of her true love, where both must hide who they are as they work as kitchen maids.


 

Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski
Cabinet of Wonders
by Marie Rutkoski
Twelve-year-old Petra, accompanied by her magical tin spider, goes to Prague hoping to retrieve the enchanted eyes the Prince of Bohemia took from her father, and is aided in her quest by a Roma boy and his sister. (An exciting mix of fantasy, historical fiction and adventure!)


 

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth Bunce
Upon the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Charlotte struggles to keep the family's woolen mill running in the face of an overwhelming mortgage and what the local villagers believe is a curse, but when a man capable of spinning straw into gold appears on the scene she must decide if his help is worth the price. (This is an amazing retelling of Rumplestiltskin)
 

Hero by Mike Lupica

Hero by Mike Lupica

Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman lives in New York City with his mother and father.  He has been living the life of a typical teen until his father is killed under mysterious circumstances. In Mike Lupica's book Hero, Zach decides that following the devastating loss of his father, he wants to get to the bottom of the story.  He knows that his father was powerful and had the ear of the President of the United States.  He knows that his father was very skilled in his job of "getting things done."  Zach suspects that his father's death was no accident but a premeditated murder by an organization known as the "bads."

Zach's mother decides to throw herself into the presidential campaign for the candidate that Zach's father supported.  Though Zach supports his mother's political efforts, he decides to turn his energies towards the investigation of his father's death.  He starts asking questions.  He also begins to notice that he is being followed.  While walking though Central Park he is approached by a mysterious stranger who has information for him.  When Zach tells his beloved Uncle John about this man, he warns him to stay away from the stranger.  Who should Zach believe?

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Sam LaCroix has got some serious issues. He’s a college dropout working a dead-end job in fast food and an elderly next-door neighbor who has more of a night life than he does. But at least none of Sam’s problems verge on the darker side of paranormal…until now.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride, is the story of one man’s journey from slacker to soul reaver. The only things Sam has going for himself are playing hockey with potatoes in the parking lot and betting when the rookie employee is finally going to crack under the pressure. This all changes when a renegade tater obliterates a car’s tail light.

If you like Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. You can browse our book matches here.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Eldest of three sisters, in a land where it is considered to be a misfortune, Sophie is resigned to her fate as a hat shop apprentice until a witch turns her into an old woman and she finds herself in the castle of the greatly feared Wizard Howl.

If you like Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, you might like:

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
Dark Lord of Derkholm
by Diana Wynne Jones
Derk, an unconventional wizard, and his magical family become involved in a plan to put a stop to the devastating tours of their world arranged by the tyrannical Mr. Chesney.

 

 

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass
by Philip Pullman
Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.

 

 

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl
Goose Chase
by Patrice Kindl
Rather than marry a cruel king or a seemingly dim-witted prince, an enchanted goose girl endures imprisonment, capture by several ogresses, and other dangers, before learning exactly who she is.