Rhode Island poet Peter Johnson's first novel is a short, intriguing tale about two brothers and the aftermath of a hit-and-run car accident that leftRhode Island poet Peter Johnson's first novel is a short, intriguing tale about two brothers and the aftermath of a hit-and-run car accident that left a local homeless drunk dead. It's also about the lasting effects of a mother's death and a father's disappearance on two sensitive young boys in serious trouble, but without much support at home.
As cold as a midwinter's night in Buffalo, NY, where the book is set, the somber, searching tone of the prose, and its jarring images and rhythms, evoke the depressed, anxious, almost dissociated state of the book's young narrator. The book does this while keeping up an engaging plot involving the driver of the car and his rich, psychopathic father who wants the two brothers to "forget it ever happened." There are some touching moments, reflections on loss and the chaos of living, that had the poet's touch, and the setting was really effective. Recommended for anyone looking for a story that's realistic on its surface, but has emotional flights of language that take story and character to a deeper realm....more
Seventeen-year-old Samar (known as Sam to her friends) knows very little of her Indian culture or Sikh religion. Her single mother has raised her to fSeventeen-year-old Samar (known as Sam to her friends) knows very little of her Indian culture or Sikh religion. Her single mother has raised her to fit in as an American teen; her mother has also kept her from getting to know her uncle and “old-fashioned” grandparents. That was all before 9/11.
Shortly after that, a stranger arrives at her front door in a turban, startling Sam at first glance. It turns out he is her Uncle Sandeep, and he is eager to reconnect with Samar and her mother. When Uncle Sandeep drives Sam home from school and their car is pelted with bottles by Sam’s classmates who chant “go back home Osama,” her worldview begins to shift. Then Sam is at her best friend Molly’s house with Molly’s large, extended family, and Uncle Sandeep comes to pick her up. When he enters the house, Sam is acutely aware of the stares, of assumptions made about her uncle in his brown skin and turban.
Feeling adrift, Sam decides to learn about Sikhism, about her heritage, and spends time with her uncle and grandparents in spite of the differences between them and her mother. As she explores and questions her identity, she no longer wants to be a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside....more
Remy, a talented, seventeen-year-old auto mechanic, questions his decision to join his girlfriend when she starts college in Pennsylvania after a visiRemy, a talented, seventeen-year-old auto mechanic, questions his decision to join his girlfriend when she starts college in Pennsylvania after a visiting artist helps him to realize what his family’s home in a dying West Virginia mountain town means to him....more
Seventeen-year-old cynic James rants against our consumerist culture and thinks there’s not much that can be done to save the sorry state of the envirSeventeen-year-old cynic James rants against our consumerist culture and thinks there’s not much that can be done to save the sorry state of the environment. That’s before he and Sadie break up. Sadie, on the other hand, is an optimist/activist who is busy actually working for social change. Maybe there’s something to Sadie’s political views and philosphy, but James is too busy inflicting his particular brand of nihilism on his junior year AP English teacher by exploring his emergent philosophy in his English essays to notice… yet. Essay #1: Destroy All Cars!! ...more
Jimmi is a street poet. Jimmi is a street junkie. It just depends on who you talk to. If you see him skatebJimmi, Mik, and Fatima. Before the hanging:
Jimmi is a street poet. Jimmi is a street junkie. It just depends on who you talk to. If you see him skateboarding and hear him reciting his verse, he’s without doubt a poet. But if you know that he’s already been to a desert war and back at the age of 18, and his ex-girlfriend killed herself, you also know there are memories he just has to block out.
Tamika, who prefers “Mik” that rhymes with Nick as opposed to Meek-a (yuck), is partially deaf. She wears woefully out-of-date hearing aids that she frequently turns down if not off. Blocking out noises is more pleasing to Mik than actually hearing them. Who needs to hear Shanelle’s taunting and threats of violence, Jaekwon’s come-ons, or all the other intrusive noise and harassment. Mik loves drawing and she’s good at it, and she’s not even sure she really wants the surgery that could improve her hearing, even though there’s absolutely no money to be had for that so-called surgery about which her mother keeps dreaming.
Fatima sells newspapers on the street corner by day. She wears a head scarf that partially covers a scar that runs across her cheek. She effortlessly folds beautiful angels out of newspapers. If you look closely while she’s folding, you’ll see she’s missing a few fingers. Fatima, 16, is trying to make it on her own in New York City. She has to. And she especially has to avoid the immigration police.
Mik, Fatima and Jimmi form a friendship that shines right through the orange houses that are not really orange but “beaten brick the color of the sky this drizzly dusk.” Mik and Fatima, introduced by Jimmi, bond over their artistic talents which they share as volunteers at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital.
Bullied constantly during his freshman year in high school, Cameron’s anger and isolation grows, leading to deadly consequences. Intense, urgent, andBullied constantly during his freshman year in high school, Cameron’s anger and isolation grows, leading to deadly consequences. Intense, urgent, and shocking, this brutal novel furiously races across the page as fast as Cameron’s tortured thoughts. You’ll never feel safe in a locker room again after reading this portrait of a boy going up in flames....more
What would you do with your life if you knew you only had a year to live? That's the question Ben Wolf, the hero of Chris Crutcher's excellent novel,What would you do with your life if you knew you only had a year to live? That's the question Ben Wolf, the hero of Chris Crutcher's excellent novel, Deadline, must ask himself when, early on in the book, he is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. His answer? Tell no one, go out for varsity football (despite being rail-thin, short, and the brother of the star QB), and pursue Dallas Suzuki, the most confident, athletic, and beautiful girl in school. Oh, and tirelessly challenge that thoughtless, conservative, authoritarian American Government teacher who's always getting on his nerves. This moving, funny, and compassionate book is that rare beast: a gripping, plot-driven read that weaves in heavy, controversial topics for discussion without once feeling didactic or forced. Ben's voice is irreverent, sarcastic, and independent. He's in a race to make life mean something and in only a short while (because that's all he's got) learns something about mistakes, weakness, selflessness and compassion for even the lowest of God's creatures. Crutcher's book is packed with memorable characters, touching relationships, and philosophical hot potatoes you'll be turning over for days. This is Crutcher at his very best. ...more
Terra Nullis (empty land): Mapmaking runs in 17-year-old Terra’s family. Her father is a failed and bitter cartographer who is verbally abusive. TerraTerra Nullis (empty land): Mapmaking runs in 17-year-old Terra’s family. Her father is a failed and bitter cartographer who is verbally abusive. Terra, on the other hand, makes collaged maps, expressing a different kind of landscape, finding beauty in stories and experience. Self described as stunning from afar, extremely fit with long golden tresses, Terra tries to cover as much of her facial birthmark (referred to as a port-wine stain) as she can under heavy makeup. At the encouragement of her artist mentors at the gallery where she works, Terra has hatched an external escape map of sorts, one that points straight to early admission to college with a top-notch art program that is at least 5 hours away from home by plane. Far away from the cruel taunting of her father.
Terra Incognita (unknown land): Internal compass points are always trickier. As Terra and her mother are making the 4-hour drive home from Seattle in a snow storm after yet another surgery on her cheek, in walks Jacob. No, rather, Jacob enters her life after she nearly runs him over. More visible than ever, Terra’s birthmark, raw and swollen from the surgery, doesn’t seem to phase Jacob. It’s as if he’s saying, “why would anyone refer to a birthmark as a stain, as in ‘port-wine stain?’” It’s hard not to like Jacob right away. And Terra notices a few things about Jacob, surface things; he is Asian American, goth, and has a cleft lip, which doesn’t seem to phase him. But what does that really tell her about him? Hardly anything, as it turns out.
Terra Firma (solid ground): As Jacob and his mom drive Terra and her mom back home, a friendship immediately forms. Terra can’t ignore her feelings for Jacob. The 4 of them make big plans: a life-altering trip filled with adventure including geocaching. Terra’s internal compass shifts: “Like world describers before me, those mapmakers in the seventeenth century, I had laid down my first faintly drawn border. With that one tentative mark, my world expanded by a few freeing degrees.” She’s finding firmer ground, somewhere north of beautiful: When Jacob asks Terra to define true beauty, she says, slowly:
"Well, it seeps into you. It doesn’t make you forget yourself, but totally the opposite…It connects you with everything and fills you with awe that you share the same space with something that glorious. Like a sunrise or a clear blue day or the most extraordinary piece of glass. And then suddenly — you have this epiphany that there’s more to the world than just you and what you want or even who you are."
What is it like to be a wintergirl? ”Caught between (two) worlds . . . (freezing your butt off,) a ghost with a beating heart.” All I have to say is iWhat is it like to be a wintergirl? ”Caught between (two) worlds . . . (freezing your butt off,) a ghost with a beating heart.” All I have to say is it’s got to suck. Lia looks like a haunted toothpick, and Cassie is totally dead. This book is about them. It’s wicked good. That’s why I’m blogging about it.
Cassie will be hot gossip for another couple days. Maybe she od’ed on heroine. They found her in a seedy motel all alone. It is so tragic. Lia used to be her best friend, but they stopped talking like 8 months ago. Who knows why.
I heard they made a pact to be the skinniest girls in school. Cassie was tiny, but Lia is all skin and bones. So not hot.
Anyhoo, Lia lives with her dad and step-mom and their daughter Emma when she’s not in rehab with hoses in her nose being stuffed like a pig. Why can’t she just eat and be healthy? What is her deal?
The other latest that I’ve heard is that Lia started cutting again. Even I have bad days, but cutting my own skin is gnarly. I’d never go there.
“Wintergirls” glitters if you put it in the light just right; just don’t read it without someone to talk to. I am totally here if you want to talk....more
Anke feels like furniture, always there but rarely noticed. She is but a footstool in a house full of anger and violence. Is it horrible to want to beAnke feels like furniture, always there but rarely noticed. She is but a footstool in a house full of anger and violence. Is it horrible to want to be noticed at any cost? Anke wrestles with these dark feelings while observing her father abuse her brother and sister. But volleyball becomes a powerful outlet for Anke, and through it she learns how to be noticed. If you like Ellen Hopkins's books, try this one!...more
This is a page turner! Although the end was predictable, it still held my interest and maintained the suspense. The protagonist tells the story from aThis is a page turner! Although the end was predictable, it still held my interest and maintained the suspense. The protagonist tells the story from a coma, which should boost its appeal given the current craze of dead or almost-dead or immortal protagonists....more