Sean Beaudoin's novels always have such a unique voice. His style of writing is like no others, and that is truly impressive. Although Infects is stil...moreSean Beaudoin's novels always have such a unique voice. His style of writing is like no others, and that is truly impressive. Although Infects is still my favorite, this one was quite entertaining. (less)
This book is about depression, friendship, poetry, music, loyalty, teachers, and family.. It is amazing that through Sam’s interactions with Luis and introduction to poetry, he goes from trying to be invisible on purpose to having a whole different view of his surroundings. Luis changes how he sees the world because Luis ends up being everything he thought he wasn’t.
This book surprised me. I didn’t know what it was about when I started, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. At first Sam seems to just be a slacker that is hard to connect with, and I thought it was going to be similar to many other books with a bully that I’ve read. But it ended up being like Luis was to Sam–everything I thought it wasn’t going to be, and it was so unpredictable. From page 1, the author had me. The images just jumped out at me. And that was just the beginning of me being thoroughly impressed with the book. Both of the voices in this book resonated with me for a long time after (As much as I end up liking Sam in this book, I think Luis may be one of my favorite characters ever. He has a beautiful voice, and I felt privileged to meet him.). It was one of those books that I had to let marinate before I could pick up another one because it was still banging around inside of my head (and I couldn’t stop hearing Sam and Luis’s voices).(less)
Dr. Bird’s is a very special book. On a Top Ten Tuesday list, I wrote that I wished there were more books about kids with chemical imbalances, and Dr. Bird’s is the closest I’ve read yet. Evan Roskos captures the feeling of a manic depressive state. The energy of the writing actually changes as James’s state of mind changes: anxious, manic, depressed. However, what makes it truly special is that even in the end, there is optimism. Although James is fighting his own chemical imbalance, he keeps doing just that—fighting.
Another thing I adored about this book is the idea of art and writing as therapy. James finds solace in photography and poetry, which is a positive lesson for teens because it shows the power of art, writing, and poetry.(less)
This is such a great book! It is written well, very funny, smart, and has an important theme. What blew me away the most is how it was so humorous when dealing with a tough subject, but never lost its maturity and importance. Sometimes if you add humor to a novel, it becomes slap stick or more of a novelty, but Bill Konigsberg does it perfectly in Openly Straight.
As a teacher, what I immediately find myself connecting to was the journal entries from Rafe followed by Mr. Scarborough responses. Mr. Scarbourgh becomes quite an important person in Rafe’s life, and I feel that only through these journals, reflections, and responses that Rafe was able to make it at the new school. I think much of what Mr. Scarborough does with Rafe could be transferred directly into most classrooms.(less)
This book has multiple levels going on at the same time. There is the story of Eleanor and Pearl’s friendship and their first speed bump. Then there is Eleanor getting the lead in the play, and dealing with the fear of singing a solo. Eleanor dealing with her puppy having trouble getting house trained. And finally, the Eleanor and Nicholas story. But Sternberg balances it all because it is just all part of Eleanor’s life. Julie Sternberg is so great at writing in an elementary student’s voice. It is so authentic and well done!
What I love so much about all of the “Eleanor” books are that they are written in verse, and Eleanor is an amazing poet. I love that it is free verse and includes such beautiful language, but it never comes off as anything but authentic. Teachers could definitely take Eleanor’s writing and use it as a mentor text for students to write about their own experiences.(less)
Imogen is broken and she must overcome this feeling of hopelessness that surrounds her constantly. What an intense way to introduce us to a character? We then go on a journey with Imogen as she tries to rebuild her life, her memories, her friendships, and her family.
At first I struggled with this book because the timeline was choppy, and Imogen was hard to pinpoint. But then, through the flashbacks, Imogen starts to become clearer to us, the reader, and Imogen’s memories start to become clearer to her. Then you are so sucked into wanting to know everything, and you can only know everything if you stick with the book and see Imogen’s memories as they are revealed. This is a pretty brilliant tactic in making the reader feel like they are in the protagonist’s brain.
Bruised actually reminds me a lot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Both young ladies are thrown into a tragedy, let that tragedy eat away at their hearts and souls, and have to figure out how to find themselves again. Truly a remarkable journey to go on with a character. And, like Speak, there are some intense topics/themes dealt with in Bruised that will definitely grab a teen’s attention: sibling rivalry, a disabled parent, disconnected family, friendship, sex, love, survival, and martial arts. It is one of those books that teens need to read, so they can learn to become resilient and to overcome whatever is in their path.(less)
Another novel filled with smart high schoolers—that makes me so happy!! I hope this is a trend because I love seeing brainy characters in my book and not stereotypical ones. The Beginning of Everything is described as witty, and it is very much so. The sarcasm and wit just bleeds out of this book. I found myself laughing out loud at parts, and usually just because a character had the audacity to say something they shouldn’t have.
In The Beginning of Everything, I actually connected more with the secondary characters than the protagonist. They were so well established and had such unique voices while Ezra sounded like any good-0le boy; however, I will say that by making his voice less distinct allowed for him to grow even in his prose. As he found his new, true identity, his voice became to ring out more true. I am not sure if the author did this on purpose or not, but either way it worked!
Oh, and the final pages. Guys, they were so good! Although it felt a bit rushed to me, the lyrical writing got me in the end. Perfect.(less)
*Loved this book. A perfect combination of Spinelli's Stargirl, a John Green book, and a rom-com. Loved the voice, quirks, characters, and plot. A sleeper title from 2013 that you should read.
A couple things I really loved about this book: -The characters are such good people. Although they evolve, they never were kids I wouldn't want my son to hang out with. -A romancey book from a boy's point of view! -Camilla is so cool yet so uncool and just shows how the labels and cliques and such of high school are just so stupid. Oh, and that you cannot judge a book by its cover. -The writing, music, and movie references. Just a bit of geeky, but not too much.
I think first and foremost, this book needs to be in libraries so that kids (and adults!) can get their hands on it. In the classroom, it can definitely be used as for a mentor text. I think it is perfect for an example of character development and voice. The characters in this book are so strong and there are lines and passages throughout that show the characters’ personality. There are also parts that deal with writing poetry/music and would be great passages to talk about writing with students.(less)
Overall a good book, but I just had some issues with it. First, I had a very hard time finding a connection to the protagonist. She is having trouble...moreOverall a good book, but I just had some issues with it. First, I had a very hard time finding a connection to the protagonist. She is having trouble with her identity and that is evident in the lack of voice in the book. I was impressed that as Cass found her "voice" so did the book. However, I think it was trying to do too much in one book: identity, religion, bullying, tarot cards, friendship, sexuality, first loves, etc.. It was just too much and I didn't feel like it was able to focus enough on one of them. (less)
Now, this is not a "normal" Chris Crutcher book, but like all of his books, it is raw, true, and sports plays a role of some sort. And this one is SO full of suspense for the last 25%. It is a hold your breath, read as quickly as you can kind of book there at the end. (I do wish that this suspense had been spread out to 50% of the book. This would have helped the pacing a bit and I think it would have given Crutcher more time to give information into the crime. Although the quick pacing at the end adds to the suspense, I think spreading it out a bit would have kept the suspense and given more time to delve further into the bad guys and the mystery.)
I, personally, really loved how he chose to tell the story in 3rd person. Although it doesn't give as much insight into one character, it gives you a little bit of insight into each one, and as you are trying to figure out what is going one, it is really fun to hear from all the different characters. (Some readers and reviewers have stated that having the multiple 3rd person point of views made it so the reader didn't really know anyone, but I think it actually helped me get to know everyone a little bit. It also allows for the reader to get snippets of not just the mystery but of the characters allowing you to build the complete character in your head.)
Another brilliant think Crutcher did was include foreshadowing scenes right at the beginning of the novel that did not make sense until the end and then I had to go back and read it. Well done!
Also, if you ever need a mentor text on complex sentence structure or descriptive language--Crutcher is for you!
Mostly, though, this book will find its home in teens' hands. It will be as loved as other Crutcher books.
We flagged: "He hits the water, involuntarily sucking air as the cold leaks in. The colder the better. He deserves this. Even so, he pees in self-defense, his only means to counter the ice-watery fingers creeping around his ribcage and into his crotch. He swims away from shore for about a hundred yards as his body heat warms the water inside the suit. He turns parallel to the shore and strokes, finding a candence he can hold over the next two hours. He knows how to play games to allay the monotony; fifty stroke hard, fifty strokes easy; a hundred strokes hard, fifty easy; a hundred-fifty hard, fifty easy, and on and on. An hour up and an hour back. He has taught himself to breathe on either side in order to keep the shore in sight and swim a relatively straight line. On this morning, working on zero sleep, he holds an even pace; no intervals. Just his sweet Hannah wedged in his frontal lobe. His gone Hannah." (p. 3-4) (less)
*A very unique idea and executed very well. I loved how the back story of the characters were revealed through "shots" from the past documentaries. Ea...more*A very unique idea and executed very well. I loved how the back story of the characters were revealed through "shots" from the past documentaries. Each scene gave a little bit of insight. I also really connected with the main character who was just trying to figure out who she was and didn't know if she wanted the whole world to be part of her search. (less)
You know a book is good when in the first 5 pages you already know and feel for you main character. Cath is like many college freshman--afraid. She has known one world for so long and everything around her is changing. This book is about her figuring out her way. Anyone that went to college will connect with Cath and her struggles of finding a balance between who you were in high school and who you are becoming. I really appreciate Rainbow Rowell's main characters and how they are not perfect--this makes them so much more relatable. (I just give a shout out to the Emergency Dance Party scene--this made me love Cath so much!)
Oh, and the dialogue! I love the way her characters converse. The banter is hilarious and just perfect. Also, I cannot review this book without giving props to the secondary characters. They are so solid and thought out. Although Cath is the main character, no one feels like Rainbow Rowell didn't put love and time into them. I especially love their father who is probably the most flawed character but is so full of love. (Oh, and Levi. Who cannot love Levi?!?!?!)
[As a teacher, I also liked the look into Levi's struggle with reading yet his amazing intelligence. I think it is a great conversation starter and a great example of many of the students I encounter. Pg. 168 is Levi's explanation of his struggles--powerful.]
And all of the book love! Anyone who has ever loved a book or series will adore the fangirl moments. Although an obvious allusion to Harry Potter, Cath and Wren's love of Simon Snow will make any reader think about their favorite novel which they lose themselves in.
Also this book is about writing: the beauty of good writing and the struggle of good writing. Cath can write in the world of Simon Snow, but struggles in finding her own world. This actually runs parallel quite beautifully with her finding of her self. She is literally and figuratively trying to find her own voice. (And I love that a teacher plays a role in this.)
Overall, a just-right book. I read it in one sitting and didn't want to put it down. Does remind me a lot of Anna and the French Kiss (maybe that's what is keeping me from giving it a straight 5 stars?), but it really was a solid story filled with just enough love, nerdy, and soul searching.
Teacher's Tools for Navigation: I can see how many aspects of this novel could be used in a creative writing course. So much of Cath's story revolves around writing and different scenes or pieces of fanfiction could be pulled out to use in class. I especially like the discussion about "Why write fiction?" on pg. 21-23.
I also would love to analyze more the excerpts that are put before each chapter and how they connect with the chapter. Many have theme connections or direct character connections. They were placed very intentionally and discussing why would be so interesting.
We Flagged: "Cath wasn't sure how she was going to keep everything straight in her head. The final project, the weekly writing assignments--on top of all her other classwork, for every other class. All the reading, all the writing. The essays, the justifications, the reports. Plus Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays writing with Nick. Plus Carry on. Plus e-mail and notes and comments... Cath felt like she was swimming in words. Drowning in them, sometimes." (p. 100)