**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Liesel, is the book thief. Her first theft was The Grave Digger’s Handbook, which she stole from her brother’s graveside. A**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Liesel, is the book thief. Her first theft was The Grave Digger’s Handbook, which she stole from her brother’s graveside. After this theft, Liesel is taken to her foster family’s home on Himmel street. During the course of the book Liesel learns to read with her foster father’s help, makes friends with Rudi (the boy who perpetually wants a kiss), and begins to grow up in Nazi Germany. One day Liesel’s world is changed when her foster Father decides to hide a Jew named Max in her basement. During the course of his concealment Max and Liesel share their grief and inexplicable rage/sorrow forging a bond of words and friendship that would outlast all the bombs and beatings that Nazi Germany would throw at them. The longer Liesel goes without being able to articulate her grief/confusion and her secret the more she steals words- first by rescuing a book from a Nazi book burning, and then by breaking into the mayor’s wife’s library. These words sustain her through the war.
Review: I was entranced by this novel from the very first page. The use of Death as a narrator was wonderfully creative and offered a refreshing point of view not typically seen in young adult books. Overall a good read for readers of all ages. ...more
**spoiler alert** Synopsis: After his high school graduation 17 year-old Richie Perry joins the army simply because he couldn’t think of anything else**spoiler alert** Synopsis: After his high school graduation 17 year-old Richie Perry joins the army simply because he couldn’t think of anything else to do; college was too expensive, jobs were scarce, and his family had limited prospects in the projects of Harlem. Initially recruited to play basketball for the army’s professional team, Perry finds himself sidelined and shipped overseas after a knee-injury stops his sports career. Upon arrival in Vietnam Perry finds that his medical profile hasn’t made it to base; he is promptly assigned to a squad and summarily shipped out to the field for combat duty. In the field Perry is forced to become more than “just an observer in life” (p.35) and shake the malaise and passivity that has hallmarked his young adult life. Through his narration Myers’ addresses the racism to which Perry and his squad-mates are subjected to as they are assigned to increasingly dangerous missions. Moreover, through Perry Myers starts the reader on a journey to identify the meaning behind the war or rather the lack of meaning, which is a pivotal theme behind the 1960's and 1970's.
Review: I first read this book while I was in middle school, at the time I had never read any of Myers’ fiction, nor had I read any fiction about Vietnam. Upon revisiting the novel for this project I found myself just as entranced with the simple narration and evocative detail of Myers prose as I was when I first read it. The honesty and clarity of Perry’s narration and thoughts makes him an extremely sympathetic and insightful narrator capable of provoking reflection amongst even the most uninterested reader. The material may be disturbing to some young readers, however the narrative and character should appeal to both the young and adult reader. Moreover, the book makes an excellent addition to social studies curriculum and boy-oriented book clubs....more
**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Jin Wang is the American-born son of Chinese immigrants who finds himself displaced and marginalized by his peers when he m**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Jin Wang is the American-born son of Chinese immigrants who finds himself displaced and marginalized by his peers when he moves to a new city. Tormented by his classmates Jin makes friends with the other Asian kids and moves through the school years cringing each time someone makes a “chink” joke. After a time Jin develops a crush on one of the girls in his class and attempts to court her affections by adopting the hairstyle and mannerisms of his blond-haired, blue eyed classmate. Intermeshed with this narration are vignettes of the history of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, and the story of “Danny” and his cousin “Chin-kee.” Each of these stories mesh together to illustrate Jin Wang’s confusion about his identity as a fully Americanized and American-born Chinese who seemingly doesn’t fit in anywhere.
Review: I am not a fan of manga or comic books; it’s not that I believe that these items are “bad” influences or inferior to traditional novels, but rather the fact that from a very small age I have been a voracious reader and simply plow through the comics/manga way too fast. That being said Yang’s book was an absolute joy to read; his story was engaging and captured the agony and shame that growing up not liking yourself or heritage brings to a young child’s mind. He treats his subject with a mixture of sensitivity and humor- making sure the reader identifies with Jin throughout the entire book. Moreover, Yang treats the subject with the perfect mix of humor and respect while actively engaging the reader head on through his vivid illustrations and smooth prose....more
**spoiler alert** Synopsis: As an orphan with cerebral palsy Ben has been raised by his prim and proper Grandmother and has existed the past 16 years o**spoiler alert** Synopsis: As an orphan with cerebral palsy Ben has been raised by his prim and proper Grandmother and has existed the past 16 years of his life as a loner who watches old movies at the local theater. One day his routine is shaken by an accidental run in with the local drug-addict Colleen (i.e. the girl who will do anything high). Ben becomes infatuated with Colleen (she’s the only person who has ever touched him without recoiling that was not his Grandmother) and eventually the two start dating. As their relationship evolves Ben leaves his self-imposed isolation and interviews his classmates, gaining new perspectives on himself and the world around him. Ultimately Colleen returns to a life of addiction while Ben (who is no longer a self-conscious hermit) moves forward with his lifelong wish to become a director.
Review: I didn’t find Ben to be too much of a sympathetic character. He was likable, but only in a very "realistic way." He comes off as a realistic narrator, one who is self-involved in that way only teenagers can be. Koertge’s topic of addiction and teenage angst is admittedly a hard one for YA writers to address, however he handles it fairly and gives his characters life without glamorizing their problems. In Koertge's world the addicts genuinely act like addicts, something which might disturb parents and teachers who fancy YA books that record a happier world. Ultimately, the story provides little in the way of substance save for a vague cautionary tale about the perils of drugs and primarily acts as an instructional memoir on how not to be self-involved. ...more
**spoiler alert** Synopsis This book is told from the perspective of Shawn McDaniel. Shawn has a severe case of cerebral palsy; he cannot move or contr**spoiler alert** Synopsis This book is told from the perspective of Shawn McDaniel. Shawn has a severe case of cerebral palsy; he cannot move or control any part of his body, he cannot speak, eat on his own, or talk in any way. Shawn is the only person who knows that he’s even “aware”- he is unable to communicate his awareness (awakeness, presence) to anyone. Most people, including his family, think Shawn is profoundly developmentally disabled. What they don’t know is that Shawn has learned to read from watching his sister pretend to teach school and that he can hear everything said around him and he knows what’s going on. One day Shawn starts to suspect that his father (who has since left his mother- because living with Shawn just hurt too much) is trying to kill him. Shawn believes it’s not out of malice- but rather because Shawn’s dad thinks that Shawn is in pain from the seizures he has. Unfortunately, Shawn has no way of communicating to his father that his seizures don’t hurt him and are the most wonderful “gift”- because during the seizure he can free his mind and wander around his house. Shawn doesn’t want to die, but his life is completely dependent on trust because he has no way of voicing his opinion.
Review: Trueman’s novel is well-written and extremely thoroughly crafted. Her subject is very difficult and treated fairly for one has no way of knowing if a severely brain damaged child is aware/sentient, or the pain of deciding to end a life (be it medical euthanasia, or simply end-of life DNR). I was alternately captivated and horrified by what I read. ...more
**spoiler alert** Synopsis Paul is gay; his whole family, his school, and his town has always known that Paul is gay since the day his kindergarten tea**spoiler alert** Synopsis Paul is gay; his whole family, his school, and his town has always known that Paul is gay since the day his kindergarten teacher Mrs. Benchly wrote on his report card: “Paul is definitely gay and has a very good sense of self” (p.8). For the most part no one gives Paul a hard time about being gay- after all he lives in a town and attends school where the football team’s quarterback is a transvestite, there’s a large GLBTQ-Straight Alliance, and the cheerleading team is a biker gang. In Boy Meets Boy Paul falls in love with the new kid Noah (who is also gay) but ends up crossing wires with his former Ex (Kyle- who is bisexual) and getting into a major fight with his best friend Joni over her new boyfriend Chuck (who hates the dragqueen quarterback because she wouldn’t date him). In the meanwhile Paul’s friend Tony, who is homosexual, has come out to his strict-homophobic parents and finds himself under house arrest- which Paul and his friends decide to rectify. Hilarity ensues as Paul gets sucked into the social webs that make up every high school “dramadiy,” but in the end Paul and Noah have their happily ever after.
Review/Response: I found the book to be a wonderfully fun trip through the near-perfect world that every GLBTQ teenager would love to live in. It was refreshing to read a novel about growing up “gay” which wasn’t depressing, ostracizing, or depicting a life of tremendous grief and hardships. Instead Levithan gave the reader a glimpse into what being a self-confident GLBTQ teenager should be all about; confidence, love, happiness, and self-acceptance. That being said, the book made me a little bitter because so often the reality of the GLBTQ student/young adult is negative and hurtful like the stressful situation experienced by Paul’s friend Tony and his parents refusal to accept his sexual-orientation. Great book for the well-adjusted teen and angst ridden youth alike. ...more
**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Set at the start of the 2001 war in Afghanistan Nusrat, an American-Muslim teacher in Pakistan is waiting for word of her h**spoiler alert** Synopsis: Set at the start of the 2001 war in Afghanistan Nusrat, an American-Muslim teacher in Pakistan is waiting for word of her husband Faiz, a doctor who is working in refugee clinics in Afghanistan. Hundreds of miles away a poor Afghani girl named Najmah, has lost her brother and father to Taliban conscription gangs. Left alone to take care of her pregnant mother Najmah attempts to protect her father’s land and flocks from the greedy eyes of her Uncle, a Taliban sympathizer. After American bombs destroy Najmah’s village and kill her mother, Najmah is found by a neighbor’s brother and his family and smuggled across the border into Pakistan, there Najmah and Nusrat’s paths intersect after the refugee director enrolls Najmah in Nusrats school.
Review: Nusrat and Najmah’s voices are achingly clear and beautifully crafted. Staples’ description and prose bring these two vastly different characters to light and create a wonderful opportunity for the reader see from the perspectives of characters which have remained un-seen from the news reels. I was impressed by the depth of understanding Staple displayed when she wrote about Muslim identity and the fierce pride that is inherent to the tribal people of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and the Pashtun people of both Afghanistan & Pakistan....more