If more memoirs were written like Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler, I would read more memoirs. His debut novel is...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
If more memoirs were written like Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler, I would read more memoirs. His debut novel is humorous, heartfelt, and honest.
Something I like best about Aaron’s story is that it exposed me to a world I’m not very familiar with. I did have a friend in elementary school who was a very strict Baptist, but even her lifestyle wasn’t as extreme as Aaron’s. I grew up in a religious home, so I understand and appreciate the importance of it, but reading about Aaron’s family and their beliefs was eye-opening and also frustrating. I can’t imagine getting into an argument with my dad about whether or not I wore socks to church. My parents were strict about the music I listened to, mostly when I was younger, but I was never made to feel guilty or ashamed about it. Aaron Hartzler does a wonderful job helping the reader understand where his parents are coming from, but he also does a fantastic job making the reader feel for him. I can’t tell you how many times his parents made me angry while reading this memoir. I will admit, however, that I sometimes felt bad for being angry at them since I know they felt they were doing what’s right.
I hope some of my students will read Rapture Practice. First, it will most likely be an eye-opening experience for them just as it was for me. Second, I want them to read more memoirs and this is a great book to get them started and help them understand what a memoir is. Third, Aaron Hartzler’s story will probably resonate with many of them. Even if they aren’t living in a strict religious household, I’m confident many of them are questioning religion, rebelling against their parents, figuring out where they fit in the world, etc. They’ll likely find a piece of themselves in this book.
I do, however, wish Rapture Practice included more about Aaron realizing that he’s gay. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to read his memoir. Unfortunately, this part of his life is brought up, but it’s not as fleshed out as I wanted. I’m assuming his real revelation happened after this book ends, but I’m not entirely sure about that. I’d love it if he chose to write a second memoir which goes into more detail about his self-discovery and how that affected his life and family. I’d read another one of Aaron Hartzler’s books regardless of what it’s about.
I know our reading lists are long, but I recommend taking the time to read Rapture Practice. It’s easy and enjoyable to read; it’s written very well. Aaron Hartzler is an author I’ll be looking out for in the future.(less)
This is my new favorite audiobook; it made the book come alive completely. I was hoping for an ending with more closure, but I still appreciate it eve...moreThis is my new favorite audiobook; it made the book come alive completely. I was hoping for an ending with more closure, but I still appreciate it even though it made me cry. (less)
I need to collect my thoughts. I made it to the heartbreaking part of the book, and yep, it's heartbreaking. I'm buying a couple copies of this for my...moreI need to collect my thoughts. I made it to the heartbreaking part of the book, and yep, it's heartbreaking. I'm buying a couple copies of this for my classroom. Full review to come.(less)
The Infinite Moment of Us is a beautiful, real love story. But really, Lauren Myracle has written more than a love...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
The Infinite Moment of Us is a beautiful, real love story. But really, Lauren Myracle has written more than a love story. She’s written a story about finding yourself and allowing others to care. It’s a story of discoveries: life, love, and self.
I’m really picky about third person point of view, but the third person in this really worked. Lauren Myracle wrote this from both Wren’s and Charlie’s points of view so we can get a full picture of their story. I finished reading The Infinite Moment of Us feeling like I knew both characters really well. I knew all the ins and outs of the story. Even the ending, which I know will probably upset some readers, left me feeling happy because I still had an idea about what the “real” ending is.
The Infinite Moment of Us is sexually mature and not one I would hand to middle school readers. The sexuality is handled well though. It’s steamy, but it’s also authentic. It didn’t strike me as being sexy to be titillating. It does take up a large part of the story, but like I said earlier, the story is more than about sex. And let’s be honest, these are high school seniors; they’re hormonally driven. I have seniors this year and have already pre-ordered a copy of this to share with my students because I love it so much. If I had freshman I would still share this with them, but with the warning about its mature content.
This is a relatively short review, but it’s difficult to put my love for this into words. I read Forever by Judy Blume when I first discovered YA and am so excited to have read a sort of updated version of it. I’m really looking forward to discussing this with my seniors this year.
Book Pairings: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Forever by Judy Blume(less)
It took me some time to get into this book both physically (my first attempt at reading it) and au...moreReview originally posted on YA Love
It took me some time to get into this book both physically (my first attempt at reading it) and aurally. I’m so thankful I kept with the audio because it is one of my favorite audiobooks. To put it simply, the narration is wonderful. Khristine Hvam used a believable accent and differentiated between each character so well that I was never questioning which character was speaking. I love listening to audiobooks when I’m getting ready for work, driving to and from work, and getting chores/cooking done. I know I really love an audiobook when I find myself making excuses to drive somewhere or to get more cleaning done, which is what I did while listening to Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
The first thing I want to say about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that I love Laini Taylor’s beautiful use of vocabulary. Her writing is lush and vibrant. I don’t know if I would have appreciated it as much if I wasn’t listening to the audio, but it’s seriously wonderful. I’ve never read a book that uses vocabulary and description to the degree that Taylor does, at least not recently.
The story itself is layered and engrossing. I love Karou and the incredible life she leads. She’s feisty, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but she’s vulnerable as well. I was a little lost during the Akiva back story, but when everything came together I was so impressed and excited. I’ll admit that the back story was beginning to bother me since I didn’t know where it was going, but it did make me love Akiva that much more.
I’m not sure if any movie rights for Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been purchased, but I would love to see this story come to life on the big screen. I know a movie wouldn’t do it justice (they rarely do), but I think I’d still enjoy it just the same.
If you decide to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I hope you, make sure you have a copy of Days of Blood & Starlight handy because you’ll want to start reading it as soon as you can!(less)
Do you enjoy laughing out loud? (I’m going to assume your answer is yes.) Then you need to read Swim the Fly by Don...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
Do you enjoy laughing out loud? (I’m going to assume your answer is yes.) Then you need to read Swim the Fly by Don Calame, or even better, listen to the audiobook. Seriously. Do it right now. ;)
I’m pretty sure Swim the Fly was first brought to my attention a year or so ago when someone posted a link about the author and how popular he and his book was at some middle school. I read the article and decided I needed to add this book to my classroom library since it holds so much guy appeal. Why did I wait so long to read it?! I was in an audiobook lull when I decided to give Swim the Fly a shot. I am SO HAPPY I did.
Nick Podehl is now my favorite audiobook narrator. He’s simply awesome. I love that he had a different, distinguished voice for every single character and never slipped when switching characters. Listening to him narrate Don Calame’s story was like watching a movie, a completely hilarious and entertaining movie. Honestly, I keep wondering if the book is as funny when reading traditionally as it is when listening to the audiobook. I have a feeling Nick Podehl read it exactly how Don Calame heard it in his head when he was writing it.
The guy appeal in Swim the Fly is fantastic. It’s full of “bathroom” humor which may or may not appeal to you, but while I’m being honest, I loved it in this book. It’s honest humor. I have a younger brother, so I easily remember the gross jokes he and his friends would tell. I overheard plenty of their conversations. Their jokes and conversations very much match the tone, situations, jokes, etc. found in Swim the Fly. Besides the humor, it has quite a bit of heart too. Matt may not have the most honorable intentions for his summer, but he’s kind and really a good guy. He’s loyal to his friends and close with his mom, brother, and grandpa. The scenes with his grandpa are priceless. I laughed the hardest because of some of the things his grandpa said and did. I loved seeing the different sides of Nick that presented themselves when he was with different characters. He’s stumbling and awkward when he’s around Kelly, but at ease and himself when he’s around Valerie. He holds back and does his best for his mom. He’s usually a voice of reason when he’s hanging out with the guys.
The plot is kind of predictable, but I think you’ll be able to overlook that since the story itself is so entertaining. I’ve only experienced Swim the Fly as an audiobook, so I can’t say how entertaining it is traditionally, but my students have been reading it like crazy. I honestly think you should listen to the audio if you have the means because it’s that good. As soon as I finished it I bought the next book, Beat the Band, which takes place at the end of the summer and is told from Coop’s point of view this time. (Side note–it’s also super funny.)(less)
I’m really tempted to simply write, “Eleanor & Park is fabulous. You must read it now!” and leave it at that. I...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
I’m really tempted to simply write, “Eleanor & Park is fabulous. You must read it now!” and leave it at that. I’m not, however, because I really want to gush over everything I love about it.
I felt such an array of emotions while reading Rainbow Rowell’s YA debut. I laughed plenty of times, and I think I teared up just as many times as I laughed. Eleanor and Park come alive on the page and I couldn’t help but love them. There were so many times that I wanted to hug Eleanor. She needs lots of hugs. Park is absolutely adorable and so real. And his parents?! I ended up loving them big time.
Something that surprised me about Eleanor & Park is that it’s written in third person. I didn’t even realize it at first because it’s *that* well done. I never felt like I was reading it as an outsider; I always knew exactly how Eleanor and Park felt. I’m often turned off by books written in third person because it distracts me. The characters in third person novels don’t always stick with me, but that’s not the case with Eleanor and Park. Rainbow Rowell wrote third person the way it should be written.
I love that Eleanor & Park is a love story, but it’s not an overly mushy love story. It’s a love story that’s sweet and tender. It’s even bittersweet at times. But it’s also a story about self-discovery and opening up. Both and Eleanor and Park are discovering who they are, and they’re discovering it through each other and through their relationship. Park doesn’t need to be like his friends and who his father wants him to be. Eleanor discovers what a family really is and how to love herself. Really, Eleanor & Park is simply perfect and you need to read it.
I have Eleanor & Park labeled as historical fiction since it takes place in 1986. It’s awful labeling that time period as historical fiction, but for today’s teens, that is historical fiction. There isn’t a big moment in history taking place in this book, but there are plenty of 80s allusions present that I’m sure many of my students will wonder about.
To sum this up, Eleanor & Park is already a favorite of 2013. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. Rainbow Rowell can’t write another YA novel fast enough because I want to read everything she writes. Thankfully she has some adult/new adult novels out that I can read.(less)
Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love and discovering who’s really important in...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love and discovering who’s really important in your life will resonate with readers who want their stories authentic and utterly true. Where the Stars Still Shine left me breathless and at a loss for words in the best possible way. Honestly, I don’t feel like I can accurately express how much I love this book. It’s beautiful.
I tear up when I read books, but it’s rare for me to actually cry when I read a book. I cried while reading Callie’s story. I had to email friends who have read this book to make sure certain things were/were not going to happen because I couldn’t read it fast enough. I was INVESTED in these characters. I still am. As I’m writing this review it’s been a month since I’ve read Where the Stars Still Shine and I’m STILL invested in these characters. I feel like they’re part of my life. I care about them and want the best for them. That kind of story is the best kind of story. Trish Doller has written an excellent story.
Something that really made me happy while reading Where the Stars Still Shine is that Callie is such a strong and independent character. She has to be because of how she’s grown up. But even though she’s strong, she’s also vulnerable. Callie has a tough time asking for help and recognizing familial support. And her family? They are amazing. Her father, Greg, is what I wish more fathers in general and in YA are. Callie also has an incredible grandmother and cousin. These supporting characters not only add a real depth to the story and excellent familial element, but they also showcase how strong yet vulnerable Callie is. She’s not use to relying on anyone but herself, but now that she has this new family she learns a new and better definition of the word family. Her mother isn’t really a mother, but it’s all she knows of family.
If I’m going to bring up Callie’s independence and strength, I need to bring up sexuality. Callie hasn’t had the best experiences with sex in her life; in fact, at least one experience was detrimental. Her relationship with Alex is positive and is written really well. I like that she takes ownership of her thoughts and desires about sex. Not that many books write sex in this way, so I’m happy to read one that does.
Speaking of Alex, I want to know more about his back story. I would love it if Trish Doller wrote a book from his point of view. I know that’s wishful thinking, but there it is. I want more from Alex.
I will admit that I wished for a slightly different ending, but it works for the characters and the story. It’s an honest ending. Trish Doller writes magic, and I HIGHLY recommend that you read Where the Stars Still Shine. I read it in one sitting and can’t wait to share it with my students.(less)
I can’t find the right words to review this. One for the Murphys is a fairly short book containing 224 pages, but i...moreReview originally posted at YA Love
I can’t find the right words to review this. One for the Murphys is a fairly short book containing 224 pages, but it made me feel SO MUCH within those pages. Lynda Mullaly Hunt has written a stellar debut.
One of the many things I like about One for the Murphys is that although it’s middle grade, I know many of my high school students will enjoy this. Actually, I’d love to read this aloud to them even though I know I wouldn’t be able to do it without crying. Carley has a mature voice despite being twelve; she’s experienced more trauma and turbulence in her short life than most adults do. She’s rough around the edges, whip smart, and has more potential than she’s aware of. Middle school and high school students alike will be able to connect to Carley.
I can’t write this review without bringing up Mrs. Murphy. She’s patient, kind, and has a heart of gold. She’s the kind of mom and woman my mom is. The way Mrs. Murphy loves and cares for and understands Carley made me think of my mom because I know my mom would be the same way. I wish more parents, whether they’re biological or not, would be written so strongly in young adult and middle grade novels more often.
My one critique about Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s debut is that some parts of timeline and story jump quickly. I never really had a sense of how much time had pass, despite Carley marking off the number of days she’s been with the Murphys. After one incident, which came out of no where, it was apparently the day before Easter. And then it was Mother’s Day. Little details like that caught me off guard when I was reading. They were convenient to the movement of the plot and the character development, but they would have served the story better with a little more editing.
Quite a few of my friends have already read this, so if you’re one of the apparent few who haven’t, I hope you read One for the Murphys soon. Carley and the Murphys are going to stay with me for a long time. I took my friends’ advice when I read this, and I hope you’ll take this same advice: make sure you have a box of tissues handy while reading.(less)
I’ve read quite a few rave reviews for Trish Doller’s debut Something Like Normal, so I looked it up on NetGalley...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
I’ve read quite a few rave reviews for Trish Doller’s debut Something Like Normal, so I looked it up on NetGalley to request a copy. As soon as I received the approval email I downloaded Something Like Normal to my Kindle and started reading. If I hadn’t started it while visiting my grandpa in the hospital, I would have finished this in one sitting because it’s that good. If I could get away with writing a review that says “READ IT!” I would just do that because it’s hard to form words for such a wonderful story.
Over the years I’ve learned about myself that if I can’t connect with a character then I won’t enjoy the book. I’ve also learned that I mostly prefer first-person point of view. Something Like Normal fits both of those preferences, plus it features a male protagonist which is something I’m always looking for. Travis is on leave from the Marines and he’s really suffering after witnessing the death of his close friend Charlie. He’s also dealing with coming home to a family that’s been falling apart since his deployment. I really like that Trish Doller wrote Travis the way she did because he’s not written as a hero. He’s written as a suffering young man who’s trying to recover and make amends. He’s trying to become a better man, a man he can be proud of. I can see a number of teenage guys relating to Travis, especially if they’re considering joining the Marines or another part of the armed forces. Many of my seniors that enlist do so because they hope it will shape them into a better person; they hope it will provide some guidance in life. Travis says he really doesn’t know why he joined, but his character made me think of past seniors I had in class that enlisted because they wanted guidance or a sense of direction in their lives. I always appreciate a story with a hero, but there’s something about a story with a flawed character that a reader can’t help but love. Travis’s voice is real and authentic; it’s how I imagine many teenage guys think and feel and act.
I’ve noticed that more Y.A. novels are featuring characters who have graduated from high school. I hope to see more published like this because it’s an excellent way for upperclassman to relate to what’s in their future. It’s also a way to keep teens reading Y.A. beyond high school. Even though Travis is done with school and has been in situations and done and witnessed things most adults never will, he’s still dealing with family drama and common relationship insecurities/dilemmas. I doubt Travis returned home expecting to fall for a girl, especially when his ex-girlfriend has moved on to his brother. His life is complicated, but after running into Harper everything starts to turn around. As I was reading Something Like Normal, I didn’t know what to expect from Harper, but I ended up loving her character. Really, I love Travis and Harper together as a couple. They form the kind of relationship where they work off each other. They mesh in that perfect, awkward, kind of rough around the edges way, but those edges begin to smooth over. Travis isn’t perfect, far from it actually, but his effort to become better is endearing. We see these efforts in his relationship with his mother and with Harper. Both of these women make Travis want to become a better person which is when we see the rough edges smooth over.
Trish Doller includes flashbacks and nightmares in Something Like Normal which give us an idea of the suffering and experiences Travis goes through. I appreciate these scenes for two reasons. My first reason is because it breaks up the family and relationship drama Travis is going through at home. I know many readers enjoy romance and relationship issues in the books they read, but for the readers that want a little less of that, these flashbacks and nightmares will add a welcome break. The second reason I like these scenes is because it gives us a more well-rounded idea of who Travis is and what life is like for soldiers in Afghanistan. I can’t imagine returning home and constantly searching the floor for bombs. Or preferring to sleep on the floor rather than my bed. Or feeling vulnerable without my gun in my hands. These scenes are an invaluable layer to the story.
My only issue with Something Like Normal is that I’m done reading it and I don’t have another book by Trish Doller to read next. I feel like I haven’t expressed enough how completely fantastic this debut is. There isn’t anything I disliked or would change. It’s an engrossing story that I predict will be a huge hit in my classroom. Actually, I wish it released earlier than June 19th so my current students could read it since I don’t have a physical ARC to share with them.(less)
The Raven Boys is getting LOTS of early buzz and rightly so since Maggie Stiefvater is a writing genius. Since I know many of you will be reading rave...moreThe Raven Boys is getting LOTS of early buzz and rightly so since Maggie Stiefvater is a writing genius. Since I know many of you will be reading rave reviews for the start of her new series, I’ve decided to make a list of the reasons I love this book. It doesn’t hurt to get straight to the point from time to time, right?
*The third person point of view, while confusing at the beginning, ended up being completely fantastic and engrossing. I wanted to really know every single one of these characters and Maggie Stiefvater delivered. *Speaking of characters, The Raven Boys is full of elusive, interesting, dynamic characters. So much is discovered about all of them, but at the same time, so much is still left to learn in the second book. Let me know what you think of Ronan when you finish reading. Mysterious much?! *The setting and the mood is magical and just the tiniest bit creepy. Maybe even a little romantic at times, but the book isn’t full of romance. I know that probably sounds goofy, but it’s true! There’s one scene in particular that involves a wooded area (I’m not going to spoil anything) and some magical/mystical events including Gansey and Blue that made my heart ache. It’s a quick, foreboding scene, but it’s full of emotion and vividly beautiful writing. *Plan on reading The Raven Boys when you have a long afternoon ahead of you because you won’t want to put it down. Like I said, I had trouble following the story in the beginning because the writing took a bit of time to get used to, but once I did I was hooked. I finished reading and wanted the second book immediately while also wanting to re-read it because I loved it so much. Honestly, I was sad that I finished it. *I simply can’t get over that ending. (It needed to be stated again. It really did.) *I’m still not sure if the women living with Blue and her mom are aunts or her mom’s friends, but regardless of who they are, I thoroughly enjoyed their scenes. Their supernatural abilities add so much suspense and intrigue to the story. There’s a scene when Gansey and his friends get tarot readings which had me on the edge of my seat. I kept thinking back to the scene over and over as I continued to read the story. *It reminds me a little bit of both the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl and Nevermore by Kelly Creagh. *The Raven Boys is by far my favorite Maggie Stiefvater novel. Plain and simple. *Gah! Ronan! :) (less)
Prepare for some gushing because I positively loved Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood! I read a number of glowing...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Prepare for some gushing because I positively loved Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood! I read a number of glowing reviews for Jessica Spotwood’s debut, but I wasn’t sure if it would work for me. It’s weird, but even though I have a minor in history, I don’t always enjoy historical fiction. The paranormal twist in Born Wicked really grabbed my interest, so I decided to give it a whirl. I’m happy to say that within the first couple chapters I was hooked!
Jessica Spotswood has written a novel with lush imagery. The Cahill sisters live outside of town in the country. Cate loves to be outside working in her garden, so we get wonderful descriptions of the roses, the trees, and the rest of her garden. Cate and her sisters often practice their magic in the rose garden, so I often felt like the setting was another character in the novel. Much of the story takes place in the fall, but with the girls’ magic it often transformed into a spring garden. I’m always impressed when an author takes the time to describe the setting, especially when this is done without being verbose. I love the late 1800s time period; Cate’s world is one I’d like to spend a day in.
Like I said, I’m not always instantly drawn to historical fiction, but Born Wicked had me captivated. A number of my students really enjoy historical fiction, but it isn’t as popular as paranormal fantasy. The easy blend of these two genres in Born Wicked could easily appeal to both my historical fiction fans and paranormal fantasy fans. I’m actually really considering using this debut in my Young Adult II class which will focus on the study of different genres.
I’ve never read Sense and Sensibility, but I love the movie with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. I bring this up because I kept thinking of this movie while I was reading Born Wicked. The Cahill sisters reminded me of the Dashwood sisters because both sets of sisters are in need of finding a good husband. The restraints are similar in the sense that they need to marry well-off men, appearances are everything, and women don’t hold much power. Born Wicked is similar in this regard, but the added supernatural twist and the lore of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood really add to the plot. Because Cate and her sisters are witches, they are even more intimidated by the Brotherhood because they know they’ll be severely punished if their secret is discovered. It’s not easy being witches, especially since they’ve grown even more into their powers since their mother’s death. There are so many secrets and suspicions that really drive Jessica Spotswood’s novel. Cate doesn’t have many marriage prospects because she’s more concerned with protecting her sisters, but if she doesn’t choose soon she’ll either have a husband chosen for her by the Brotherhood, or she can join the Sisterhood. Because both groups focus so much on religion and are against witchery, neither options are very appealing to Cate. It doesn’t take long for some very interesting options to become available and some very unsettling secrets to be unveiled.
I couldn’t put Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood down, and then when it ended I couldn’t believe it. There’s a jaw-dropping ending that has left me feeling desperate for the second book in the series. The world of YA is saturated with paranormal fantasy, but Born Wicked is not one to pass up or ignore. I highly recommend reading it as soon as possible!(less)
The Demon King is one of the first high fantasies I read when I decided to read more high fantasy and I loved it! It’s full of magic, mystery, and int...moreThe Demon King is one of the first high fantasies I read when I decided to read more high fantasy and I loved it! It’s full of magic, mystery, and intrigue; it’s a page turner despite how long it is. It’s written in third person, which isn’t always my favorite, but Cinda Williams Chima really makes it work in this series. Just about every other chapter focuses on either Han or Raisa which I really enjoyed. The set up made me wonder when the characters would come together and connect. It also gave me more insight to their very different backgrounds which really adds to the world building. I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but based on what I know from the movies I think fans of that trilogy would like this series. I highly recommend this series!(less)
**Update--I read this again as a read aloud with my YA Lit class. I enjoyed reading it again, but I'm not sure if the class liked it as much as other...more**Update--I read this again as a read aloud with my YA Lit class. I enjoyed reading it again, but I'm not sure if the class liked it as much as other classes have.**
I teach mostly freshmen every year, so when Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters was pitched to me I knew it would be a good fit. I saw the book trailer before I read the book, and after watching it I knew I needed to read Meredith Zeitlin’s debut right away. Kelsey Finkelstein is melodramatic, and I loved it! I couldn’t get enough of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters; I started it and finished it in one day.
Kelsey Finkelstein is now one of my favorite snarky characters. Like I said, she’s incredibly melodramatic. Like many of the girls in my freshmen classes, and very much like I was at fourteen, Kelsey makes seemingly insignificant things into a big deal. One example of this is how upset she gets over the mysterious photographer that keeps including less than flattering pictures of her in the school newspaper. I enjoyed her reactions to these pictures because most of them aren’t even actually of Kelsey, but she’s usually in the background. Of course Kelsey’s mortified and her friends won’t let her live the pictures down. I know I’d feel the exact same way, especially about the picture where she looks like a cafeteria worker. I really liked everything about Kelsey. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she still faces consequences in one fashion or another. Even the way she describes things is enjoyable. Kelsey has a little sister named Travis who she finds incredibly annoying. Nine pages in we meet Travis and Cassidy, one of Kelsey’s best friends, is cooing over Travis’s pajamas. “‘You look so adorable! What a Twizzler?’ Oh, lord. My sister is like a spaniel–once you feed her, she’ll never leave.” I had already laughed a couple of times before this page, but this Kelsey quote made me snort. The snorting and laughing continued through the entire book.
Meredith Zeitlin did a really nice job including realistic issues that not only teens face, but freshmen face as well. In the beginning of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, the girls are discussing how they’re going to start their freshman year and make it the best year ever. They’re really focused on having a good high school experience. I’ve been working with freshmen for five years, so I know many of them have the same thoughts and feelings as Kelsey and her friends. I see it in their faces on the first day of school. I hear it in the halls. (My classroom doesn’t have a number next to the door, so I’m always reeling lost and frantic freshmen into my room on the first day of school. Getting lost is one of the girls’ concerns.) I’ve touched on some of the insecurities in regards to Kelsey and the random photos. Kelsey and her friends worry about their appearance, losing their friends, boys, etc. There are fights and the threat of losing a best friend, feeling disgusting and smelly while wearing protective sports padding, and the worry associated with being a bad kisser.
I’m positive that I’ll be able to hand this to most of the freshmen in my class without complaint because Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters appeals to so many readers. My sports fans will enjoy reading about Kelsey’s soccer experiences. My drama fans will love how everything goes down in the school’s version of Fiddler on the Roof, including a beard that looks like a “skinned rodent” and all. My readers looking for romance will enjoy Kelsey’s highs and lows in the romance department. And if any of my students want to read something funny, I’ll instantly think of this debut. I’m actually really considering Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters as a read aloud at some point.
I couldn’t get enough of Meredith Zeitlin’s fabulous debut, and I look forward to reading more of her work. Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a must read.
Similar Reads: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Frankie is another favorite snarky character) / Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Sophie and Kelsey have similar personalities, even though Sophie’s a witch)(less)
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick is the first book I’ve read by this author. A friend of mine told me that she read After Ever...moreCurveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick is the first book I’ve read by this author. A friend of mine told me that she read After Ever After to one of her classes, but other than that I haven’t heard much about Jordan Sonnenblick’s work. After reading Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, I feel let down that I didn’t know about his other books before. I adored this book. I loved the characters, the plot, the balance of sports and family and art, everything. I just looked up some of Jordan Sonnenblick’s other books and found them at my local Barnes & Noble, which means I have a trip to the book store scheduled for today. If his other books are great like Curveball, then I can’t go wrong!
Like I said, I love the characters. Usually when I can’t finish a book, it’s because I don’t connect with the characters. Peter is a likeable character. He’s entering his freshman year of high school, and he and his best friend A.J. have big plans. Peter and A.J. have always played baseball together, and they know they can dominate in high school. Sadly, Peter’s dreams of playing high school baseball are crushed because of an injury. This unfortunate injury really sets the pace for Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, because at the very beginning of a new chapter in Peter’s life, he is forced to change more than he planned. Peter has always identified himself as a baseball player, but now he doesn’t know what to do or who he’s going to be. Thankfully he has his grampa (an odd spelling, but that’s how it’s spelled in the book), who is a well known photographer. Peter’s grampa has been teaching him about photography for almost as long as Peter has been playing baseball, so it’s second nature to him. No more baseball and a depressed Peter leads him to taking a photography class (so he can find something else to focus on) where he meets the lovely Angelika. Jordan Sonnenblick has a great cast of characters here. A.J. is completely focused on him and Peter playing baseball together, but Peter can’t find the words to break the bad news to him. He’s not an overly heavy presence in the book, but when he’s in a scene with Peter, it’s great and usually funny–especially when A.J. wants to give Peter love advice. Angelika is Peter’s love interest, and while she makes him incredibly nervous, she’s very level-headed and really helps Peter.
While I love all the characters, I need to touch on Peter a little more. He’s obviously a very talented baseball player, but he’s also very talented in the field of photography. I love this balance because a majority of the YA I’ve read usually focuses on one ability, like art for example. Because Peter can’t play baseball anymore, he needs to find a new focus and consequently finds that he’s really good at photography after everything his grandfather has taught him. Teens who enjoy reading about sports will still enjoy Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip because even though Peter isn’t playing baseball anymore, it’s still a big part of who he is and also because he takes pictures at sporting events. Peter is simply an endearing character. He’s loyal to his family and friends and really cares about them. Readers will love him.
Sonnenblick tackles some big issues in this book, but he does a fantastic job of balancing these issues with humor. Not all of the humor is laugh out loud funny, but it’s enough to make a reader giggle. In one scene, for example, Peter’s talking to Angelika and getting ready to take some photos of her. “‘I think it makes sense to try for some, uh, full-body shots’–UGH, that sounded sleazy–’and then, if we don’t like what we’re getting, we can get a little closer in. With this telephoto lens, I mean. Not like I’d be, uh, getting closer to you. Uh.’ That’s great, I thought. End a freaking sentence with ‘Uh,’ why don’t you? Smooth.“ Peter’s insecurity around Angelika really brought out some fantastically funny lines and scenes. A.J.’s advice is an excellent source of humor. “‘Because, as your wingman and personal hormonal advisor, I have to analyze your moves, her countermoves, your counter-countermoves, her counter-counter-countermoves. . . . Wow, this is really complicated stuff. Maybe we should stop by Staples on the way home so I can buy a clipboard and some graph paper.” I read this part at the end of SSR, and one of my freshmen noticed my smiling and giggling to myself. He asked about it, so I read it to my class. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip has been added to my future read alouds list because the characters in this book are funny and their voices are very well defined.
I don’t want to get into the heavier topics because it will spoil a big part of the book. If you want to read a novel full of humor and heart, then I can’t recommend Jordan Sonnenblick’s newest novel enough. I absolutely love Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip and can’t wait to read more of his books.(less)
Have you ever started reading a book and knew right away that you were going to love every single page? That’s ho...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
Have you ever started reading a book and knew right away that you were going to love every single page? That’s how I felt when I started reading In Honor by Jessi Kirby. I can’t explain what about a book wins me over when I have this experience, but I’m happy about it nonetheless. I felt similarly when I read Jessi Kirby’s debut Moonglass as well. Her writing draws me in and doesn’t let go until I’ve finished her book.
I love that In Honor starts with Honor describing taps being played and the 21-gun salute. If you’ve been to a funeral when taps has been played and the salute is given, then it’s easy to relive it while reading someone’s experience. It’s an emotional experience which becomes an emotional reading experience. I don’t have an immediate family member serving, but I have former students serving, I have cousins serving, I’ve had friends serving. I may not know what it feels like to lose a brother in the war, but I can certainly empathize with Honor and Rusty as they navigate through their grief. In Honor is an emotional read, but it’s balanced with love, hope, and humor that many readers will appreciate.
The road trip setting gives In Honor a lighter mood despite the circumstances which I really appreciated because it made the emotional scenes even more powerful. Road trip books are entertaining because characters are forced to interact with one another, given the close quarters, which provides more character development and insight. Honor pretty much wears her heart on her sleeve, but Rusty is harder to read. Honor and Rusty don’t get along very well and the tension is palpable, but there’s something just beneath the surface that lets the reader know that there’s more to Rusty than meets the eye. Besides the fact that I had a character crush on him, I really enjoyed watching his character grow and discovering his secrets as their journey to California progressed. He and Honor are learning more about each other, but they’re also learning about themselves through this entire ordeal.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but reading In Honor made me wish I could either live in Texas or at least visit Texas. I love living in Michigan, so maybe I just wish I could have gone to Texas years ago and met a cute guy like Rusty? I don’t know, but the whole southern atmosphere described was alluring. I have been to Sedona (a pit stop Honor and Rusty have to make), so I know how beautiful it is and really want to make a return visit. More than anything, I think this awkward paragraph just goes to show how well Jessi Kirby created the atmosphere and setting of In Honor. So many elements of this book won me over and made me feel like I was there with Honor and Rusty.
If you take anything from this review, know this: In Honor is a book that will resonate with readers. The characters are dynamic and true and ones you’ll wish you could meet in real life. Jessi Kirby wrote a wonderful debut, but her sophomore novel, In Honor, is even better. Without a doubt, In Honor will be extremely popular in my classroom and I really hope you read it.(less)
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky is a prime example of great contemporary Y.A. literature. Keek has a true, authentic...moreActually 4.5 stars
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky is a prime example of great contemporary Y.A. literature. Keek has a true, authentic voice, which I enjoyed immensely. I’m actually struggling right now trying to find the words to write this review because I loved this book that much.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if And Then Things Fall Apart was a book I wanted to read when I first heard about it. I hadn’t read that many reviews, and I’ve never finished reading The Bell Jar, so I didn’t know if it was a book for me. When I was at NCTE, Arlaina Tibensky was signing, so I figured I’d buy a copy and get it signed for my classroom. Since then it’s been sitting on my shelf. Recently I bought a copy of Saving June by Hannah Harrington for my classroom, another book I haven’t read, and one of my freshmen read it. When she finished she told me she loved it and needed another book like Saving June. Since I haven’t read that one yet, I was at a loss, so I consulted Twitter. Thanks to Kelly at Stacked, I had a couple book recommendations for my student which included And Then Things Fall Apart. I didn’t have that in my classroom at the moment, so I gave my student the other recommend book and decided to read And Then Things Fall Apart. I know this is a long-winded story, but I’m SO GLAD I read it! Based on what my student said about Saving June and then Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (which was the other read alike), I’m almost positive she’ll love And Then Things Fall Apart.
Anyway, back to why I loved this debut. I need to bring up Keek. She’s sick in bed with the chicken pox during summer vacation. Chicken pox become worse with age, so Keek is really suffering. To make matters worse, her mom is out of state, and her parents are about to get divorced, so she’s trapped at her Grandma’s house without any technology to interact with the outside world. But she does have a typewriter and her worn-with-love copy of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. To give herself something to do, she decides to start writing. Arlaina Tibensky’s novel is essentially Keek’s book. She has a wonderful sense of humor that’s made up of mostly snark and wit. Her voice is authentic, so it’s easy to picture Keek. There isn’t much dialogue because Keek is isolated for the most part, but also because she’s a character that really lives in her head. The lack of dialogue didn’t bother me at all, and it wasn’t something that I noticed until I saw some reviews on Goodreads after finishing. Keek, who’s real name is Karina, is very mature for her age in the way that she thinks. But on the other hand, she’ll sometimes act immature when it comes to her boyfriend Matt and her reactions to her parents. Teens that view themselves as being more mature than their peers will really identify with Keek.
While Keek is mature and a deep thinker, she’s inexperienced with boys, which adds to her insecurity with Matt. When she’s confronted with moving forward sexually with Matt, she often consults The Bell Jar for advice. Her virginity is always on her mind, as is Matt. At times Matt drives her crazy and she can’t stand him. Other times she’s thinking about times when she was madly in love with him and her hormones were driving her actions. Keek’s really conflicted; she doesn’t know if her feelings are real and why she’s so scared to have sex with Matt. Some readers might be put off by Keek’s thoughts about sex and her virginity; they might see it as being too mature for some readers. I read Keek’s memories of Matt and her thoughts about her virginity as very real and what many teens probably go through and think about.
The only fault I found with And Then Things Fell Apart, is that sometimes Keek’s voice and thoughts felt off character. She started to sound more like an adult, or like I was reading a non-YA novel. I normally wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, but Keek at times was too smart for her age.
Overall, if you want to read a fantastic example of contemporary Y.A., then I can’t recommend And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky enough. It’s humorous, honest, and just all-around great. I can’t wait to read more books written by Arlaina Tibensky.
P.S. If you’re currently on a budget, you’ll be happy to hear that this was released in paperback.(less)
**I reviewed this on my blog in NOVEMBER and apparently I forgot to post it here as well. Sorry!**
Prepare for gushing because this novel is beautiful...more**I reviewed this on my blog in NOVEMBER and apparently I forgot to post it here as well. Sorry!**
Prepare for gushing because this novel is beautiful and amazing. I’ve been a fan of Sara Zarr since a family friend gave me a copy of Story of a Girl as a college graduation present. Story of a Girl has remained my favorite up until now. How to Save a Life is such a strong novel and very different from Zarr’s other novels.
All of Zarr’s novels are strong in story and characters, but there’s a different feel to How to Save a Life. I finished reading it thinking, “Wow. This is her stand out, best book yet.” The two point of views are seamless, dynamic and natural. I could picture Jill and Mandy perfectly, but I could also picture her mom, Dylan and Ravi with ease as well. I finished this yesterday and I’m still thinking about Jill and Mandy; I connected with them on such an emotional level. Mandy is naive and often socially awkward; I often felt awkward for her, especially at the beginning. She is also understanding, compassionate, and true. Jill is grief-stricken and sometimes harsh, but she wants to open up and be a new, friendlier Jill. I couldn’t help but fall for these girls. So often I was willing them to communicate with one another and with the people around them. Watching them develop a friendship and begin to trust others was one of the best parts of the novel. Sara Zarr really did a fantastic job writing these characters.
The story itself is beautifully layered and more than just a story about a girl giving her baby up for adoption. This is a story about the many ways of dealing with grief. Jill has isolated herself. Her friends aren’t easy to get back, her relationship with her boyfriend is strained, and she doesn’t know how to connect with her mother. The relationship between Jill and her mother, Robin, is believable. Sometimes these relationships are exaggerated in novels, but I never felt like either of their interactions or reactions were over the top or unbelievable. And this is a side note, but even though I’ve never met Sara Zarr, I kept picturing her as I read Robin. Maybe that’s weird, but I did. Mandy is of course battling the conflicting emotions involved with giving up her baby. This conflict is made deeper because of her own need for a mother. Mandy’s mother is absent, cold and simply not what a mother should be. She’s still connected to her and often recites her advice, but her need for someone like Robin is obvious. Mandy broke my heart more than once. I love a book like How to Save a Life because I can offer it to more students considering the rich layers. I can hand this to a student looking for a book about teen pregnancy, grief, strained relationships with mothers, losing a parent, finding ways to trust again, and I could go on.
Sara Zarr has written a phenomenal book. I absolutely loved it, and of course that means I’m struggling to write the review. I hope I’ve found the right words to express the awesome that is this novel. How to Save a Life is an emotional novel that will warm your heart.(less)
Plain and simple, Boy21 is a GREAT book. I was on the search for a quality read aloud for my freshmen English classes, so I picked up Boy21 on a whim. I wanted to read it anyway, but I kept thinking about my 3rd hour freshmen class that’s primarily boys who don’t enjoy reading. Boy21 seemed like the perfect fit for them, so I went with my hunch and started reading it. As soon as I read the first couple chapters I knew I made the right decision.
Finley’s voice really stands out on the page, which is ironic considering he doesn’t like to talk much. He actually reminds me a little bit of Lucky Linderman from Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King. Both Lucky and Finley have a sort of innocence about them. They both have trouble speaking up for themselves, and they also want what’s best for those around them. Just like Lucky, Finley is an admirable character.
One of the reasons I like Finley is because he’s so loyal to his friends, coach, and family. When his coach approaches him about helping Boy21 (Russ), Finley doesn’t hesitate to offer his help. He trusts his coach, so even though he worries that Russ could take his starting position on the basketball team, he still tries to make friends with Russ. Russ has an obsession with space and refers to himself as Boy21, but he and Finley pair up well. They’re both amazing basketball players, even though Russ doesn’t show this right away, and they both deal with unfair treatment. They’re both treated poorly for different reasons, much of which is based on race and rivalry, but it still serves as a bond. After a startling and tragic turn of events, Finley really grows as a character. His loyalties are tested and he begins to doubt what’s truly important in his life. He begins to question his life, where it’s going–if anywhere–and what really happened years ago that caused him to be such a quiet, good kid. I love being able to witness this kind of characterization, which is one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Matthew Quick’s novel so much.
Boy21 by Matthew Quick is a novel that appeals to a variety of readers. My basketball players and sports fiction fans will enjoy the basketball scenes and references in Boy21. My fans of great contemporary realistic fiction will recognize what a superb example this is of that genre. Readers will connect with Finley, Erin, and Russ. They’ll feel the tension and suspense, they’ll laugh out loud, and they might even cry (I did).(less)