**spoiler alert** REQUIRED It took me quite a while to get into the story of Ponyboy. It just wasn't holding my attention. Very short recap: Ponyboy an...more**spoiler alert** REQUIRED It took me quite a while to get into the story of Ponyboy. It just wasn't holding my attention. Very short recap: Ponyboy and his two brothers are members of a small local gang who stand in for each other as family. One night he and a fellow gangmember (Johnny, described as the gang "pet") get jumped by a group of "socs", or rich kids. Trying to defend himself, Johnny accidentally kills one of the socs, and in a panic he and Pony go into hiding with the help of one of their friends. Though they decide to turn themselves in, things go even more badly wrong when their hideout catches fire and they attempt to rescue some trapped kids. Johnny is severely injured and Ponyboy is left trying to cope with the way his world has gone to complete shambles in a matter of a couple weeks.
In the end, what really pulled me into this story was the relationship with Pony and his brothers. I didn't care much about the social commentary, and the first person narrative style was fine. But Soda, Pony, and Darry had really interesting relationships that seemed very realistic.
Additionally, I found the huge prevalence of emotion interesting. I feel that in this way the book shows its age. Kids today are often portrayed as more cynical, more like the "socs", not feeling anything, numb, dismissive, or guarded. The way all the boys in the gang were constantly on the brink of breaking down or flying into a passion was interesting, though I felt rather different from modern kids.
Overall, I didn't love it, but I liked it well enough. (less)
REQUIRED Susan Bartoletti's book about the Hitler Youth was truly amazing. It was fascinating hearing the story of the war from the youth of the nation...moreREQUIRED Susan Bartoletti's book about the Hitler Youth was truly amazing. It was fascinating hearing the story of the war from the youth of the nation. She did a very very good job of accurately portraying not only the perspective of those young men and women who resisted Hitler, but also those who supported him. And even more impressive, she did so without condemning or villafying them. A quote toward the end about how the youth of the nation were betrayed by their leaders I think truly sums up the tragedy of their story. I couldn't help but make comparisons between the current society and that of Germany as Hitler was gaining power. The fact is there are some alarming parallels. And yet I couldn't help but think that America's youth are safe from the sort of brainwashing the Hitler Jungen underwent if only because of our extreme apathy. But is that really an improvement?(less)
REQUIRED _Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry_ is a book depicting a year in the lives of a black family in the deep south, as told from the perspective of th...moreREQUIRED _Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry_ is a book depicting a year in the lives of a black family in the deep south, as told from the perspective of the middle daughter. I thought it was a very good book that was told authentically. I read the note at the beginning from the author where she talked about how this was one of many stories from her family. I definitely thought the story felt real and grounded. One of my favorite aspects was the way this was an authentic family with a lot of very real resentment and mistrust of the white community, but at the same time they didn't blindly hate them. I really appreciated that. Overall, the lingering feeling that has stayed with me since I finished this book is a deeper attitude about human relations. It was really powerful reading this book right after the one about the Hitler Youth because of all the comparisons that were evident. I would definitely recommend this book to someone interested in race relations around the Depression. (less)
REQUIRED "Running Loose" is Chris Crutcher's first in a long line of "boy oriented" sport novels that, I suppose you could say, transcend the genre. In...moreREQUIRED "Running Loose" is Chris Crutcher's first in a long line of "boy oriented" sport novels that, I suppose you could say, transcend the genre. In this first book, the story of a young man named Louie whose life slowly starts to fall apart after he quits the football team and looses his girlfriend, you can see a lot of slightly less mature themes that develop later in Cruther's writing. I had mixed feelings about this story. I did very much like that the conflict and the issues were more subdued. Crutcher, a real-life counselor for troubled youth, has grown progressively more and more brutal in his stories. Such a progression is understandable from a man who has spent his life dealing the with after-effects of the worst kinds of behaviors. But it is nice to see a less morose view of humanity for once. However, I don't think in this his first attempt, that Crutcher had quite found his voice yet. I still feel that the best of his books are "Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes", "The Crazy Horse Electric Game", and "Whale Talk". If you really want the best of Crutcher I'd start with one of those. (less)
REQUIRED "Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith" is the story of the relationship between Charles Darwin and his family, particularly his religi...moreREQUIRED "Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith" is the story of the relationship between Charles Darwin and his family, particularly his religiously devout wife Emma. The book's stated purpose is to illustrate the balance the couple achieved between the religious and the scientific. I personally found the intentions of the book to be greater than its ability to deliver. The writing throughout suffers from a misunderstanding of its audience. Though it is aimed at the YA crowd, I think the Heiligman underestimated her readers' ability to appreciate solid prose. Juvenile vocabulary and awkward sentence construction abound throughout the book. Also, and rather more significant, the supposed primary purpose of the book was to describe the successful meshing of science and religion. Instead all it managed to do was describe the conflict between the two and with the Darwins' only solution seeming to be to ignore the question. Overall I struggled to finish the book and probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they were really interested in the Darwins.(less)
REQUIRED Whirligig tells the story of Brent, a young man who is desperate to fit in in his new school. After a terribly humiliating encounter with the...moreREQUIRED Whirligig tells the story of Brent, a young man who is desperate to fit in in his new school. After a terribly humiliating encounter with the popular kids at a party, Brent tries to kill himself by crashing his car. Instead he kills Lea, an innocent 18 year old girl. Her mother's only requested restitution is that Brent travel to the four corners of the country and build a whirligig, a thing Lea loved, as a way to spread her happy spirit. Interspersed through the story of Brent's journey are vignettes of the four whirligigs at undisclosed future moments, giving the reader a glimpse of the way they have evolved and how they have influenced people. Though I talked to several people who were confused by the format of the book I had no problem with it at all. It made complete sense to me. I really liked the story and the way it was told. I though Fleischman did a fantastic job of creating an interesting, well-developed, and evolving character. I also really liked the way he addressed the issues in his book, not ignoring them, but not wallowing in the dark side of them. But most of all I loved the idea of a trip like this. I'm in love with possibility of a trip around the country just to do something like build whirligigs. I am totally going to do something like that at some point.(less)