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Saddleback Educational Publishing: Intervention for Struggling Learners

Reading Level: 3.5
Interest Level: YA
15 Books

Written for young adults, the Urban Underground series confronts issues that are of great importance to teens, such as friendship, loyalty, drugs, gangs, abuse, urban blight, bullies, and self-esteem to name a few. More than entertainment, these books can be a powerful learning and coping tool when a struggling reader connects with credible characters and a compelling storyline. The highly readable style and mature topics will appeal to young adult readers of both sexes and encourage them to finish each novel. These are high interest, low reading level books. Paperback books look and feel like a trade edition and are complete in just under 200 pages.

Criticisms of the series and Schraff's writings are that the books do not provide a clear "hook" for teen readers.
"With obvious moral messages, these books might not have a strong following in general YA collections." Corinda J. Humphrey, Los Angeles Public Library
In addition, although the issues raised are worthy, they tend to be resolved quickly and too neatly to be realistic. See the School Library Review by Amy Cheney, January 1, 2011 for reviews of two books from the series.

This is a book trailer created by students at Myrtle Grove Middle School.

Titles include:

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Outrunning the Darkness:
Between his father's pessimistic moods and his mother's "put on a happy face" attitude Jaris Spain feels trapped. Jaris hides his own darkeness from his parents: How hard he has to work for good grades. How quickly a teacher's pen stroke sends him slipping. How he tries out for every sport at Tubman and fails. And then there's Sereeta's scorn...

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Shadows of Guilt:
Maya Archer is at the wrong place at the wrong time when "pop, pop, pop" sounds ring out in front of a popular teen hangout. Is DeWayne Pike the true target? Does he duck before the shots ring out as Jacklyn claims? If true, DeWayne is putting them all at risk, but especially Sereeta, and Jaris Spain is determined to discover the truth.

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A Boy Called Twister:
Kevin Walker is resolute. He will be a loner at Tubman High- he doesn't want anyone asking too many questions about his move from Texas. His terrible secret could destroy any chance of remaining anonymous. Running like the wind helps him forget his troubles, but his star turn on the track team brings a lot of attention.

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If You Really Loved Me:
Destini Fletcher hates Tubman High from day one. When Tyron Becker singles her out, Destini is thrilled to be a part of Tyron's crowd. But he scorns her budding friendships with Alonee, Jaris, and Sami, and mocks her attempts to earn good grades. Do her excuses for Tyron's increasingly brutal behavior and bad attitude put her at risk?

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One of Us:
In the alley on his way from work, Derrick Shaw witnesses a murder. To save his life, Derrick promises not to reveal the identity of the shooter, a former Tubman student. But he feels sick and guilty about his vow of silence. It would have been easier if Rafe Wexford was a gangbanger, shot dead, but Rafe was a good guy attending City College.

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Like a Broken Doll:
Accusations fly when a string of thefts hit Tubman High School. Suspicion falls on Sereeta Prince, whose family life is unraveling, sending her into a deep depression. Treated like a stranger by her mother, an enemy by her stepfather, and a thief by her classmates, she retreats to a place where even Jaris is not welcome.

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The Quality of Mercy:
At first the vandalism seems petty: a trash can fire, an attempted break-in. But that quickly escalates. Who is targeting Mr. Buckingham, a particularly tough and aloof science teacher? Oliver insists that Alonee take a leap of faith and trust his instincts. She isn't so sure.

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The Fairest:
The Princess of the Fair contest is suppose to infuse and inspire students with school spirit. The winner should embody the qualities of Harriet Tubman, the school's namesake. But everyone knows it will turn into a nasty popularity contest where mean girls like Jasmine Benson will stop at nothing to win.

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To Be a Man:
Trevor's mother is dead set against Vanessa Allen. Trevor knows the angry frown will come back quickly if she learns that Trevor has been seeing Vanessa behind her back. Even his brother Tommy thinks the high school dropout is bad news. But Trevor is almost a man, and he isn't listening to everyone's warnings.

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Chelsea Spain bridled under her father's harsh rules. But she was growing up too fast. Someone had to rein her in until she had enough sense to handle herself better. Whenever there was the temptation to take a risk, she went for it. Egged on by her immature friends, was it too late to learn that some risks are just not worth taking?

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The Stranger
Ernesto Sandoval begins his junior year at Cesar Chavez High School a virtual stranger. He didn't want to move back to the barrio aftera decade in Los Angeles. After all, he had a lot of friends and even a girlfriend. But then he spies Naomi Martinez- the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. And he falls hard.

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Dark Secrets
At school it looks like Naomi and Clay are just a happy couple. But there's a darkness in Clay. He doesn't treat Naomi right. He's jealous and spiteful. So why does Naomi put up with a guy like Clay? Dark Secrets, every family has them, but some are darker than others.

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No Fear
Naomi's mother chose to live in the shadow of bully and abuser. Ernesto hoped that someday she would live with no fear. Naomi Martinez broke the cycle of abuse in her family. She stood up for what was right. But will Ernesto now win her heart or will Clay always be between them?

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To Catch a Dream
Dad was always depressing Abel with his pyramid stories. He always dooming Abel to a life at the bottom of the pyramid with all the other miserable losers. No matter how much Abel struggled and clawed, he'd never get the pinnacle of the pyramid. And his mom was absolutely sure of Abel's incompetence at whatever he tried.

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Time of Courage
Carmen Ibarra's larger-than-life father is running for city council against Monte Esposito, the corrupt incumbent--and Noami's cousin. Ernesto is a little nervous. Deep in his heart he knows that Esposito is not good for the barrio. But he isn't about to upset Naomi's family. So he keeps his mouth shut.

Other Titles From the Series:
Deliverance (Urban Underground) [Not yet published]
Leap of Faith (Urban Underground) [Not yet published]
The Lost (Urban Underground) [Not yet published]
The Unforgiven (Urban Underground) [Not yet published]
The Water's Edge (Urban Underground) [Not yet published]