I am slowly working my way through my list of "American classics". Most recently, I read Betty Smith's, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Written in 1943, it's the tale of an Irish-American family living in Brooklyn in the early 20th century.
I don't have much of a review of the synopsis (you can read it on wiki if you like). But I really enjoyed it! I have tried to talk the boy into reading it but so far he hasn't picked it up yet. It felt like reading a mix of the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Frank McCourt books. Not a terribly suspenseful story but the every day struggle of a family just trying to work and have enough money to pay the bills and raise a family.
Anyone who is a little house fan would enjoy this one too.