Sara Zarr’s debut novel Story of a Girl was a homerun with me. It’s definitely “unputdownable.” I enjoyed reading Once Was Lost, but it didn’t have th...moreSara Zarr’s debut novel Story of a Girl was a homerun with me. It’s definitely “unputdownable.” I enjoyed reading Once Was Lost, but it didn’t have that same “Wow!” factor. Zarr took her time developing Sam’s story and character before she threw in the twist involving the girl gone missing. I understand her reasoning, but it hindered my immediate enjoyment of the novel.
I’m still impressed, however, in Zarr’s ability to strongly develop a character. Even though I’m not a pastor’s kid, Zarr wrote Sam’s character in such a way that the reader can still relate with how she feels. Her life has been turned upside down, but Sam doesn’t feel like she can talk about any of it without being judged or misunderstood. Her dad won’t tell the congregation about her mom, and he won’t even talk about it with Sam. Who can Sam possibly talk to about doubting her faith when an outsider would expect her to be secure in her faith? Sam has these questions and fears running through her mind constantly as the book progresses, and any person who has felt lost or confused should be able to relate to this.
Overall, even though I haven’t been rating anything, I’d give Once Was Lost 3.5 stars. (less)
**Update--I read this a few years ago, but just re-read it as an audiobook to refresh my memory before seeing the movie. After finishing the entire se...more**Update--I read this a few years ago, but just re-read it as an audiobook to refresh my memory before seeing the movie. After finishing the entire series already, this is actually my least favorite now, but when I first read it I loved it.**
“There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end, there was a grave. I never even saw it coming.” Ethan Wate lives in a small, southern town where nothing exciting ever happens. That changes when Lena Duchannes arrives in town to live with her uncle, the town recluse. Ethan is inexplicably attracted to Lena, and soon discovers that they share an unusual bond. I decided to read this William C. Morris Honor Book when one of my students told me that Beautiful Creatures is better than Twilight. The different story lines make it difficult for me to fairly compare the two novels, but this is definitely one of my favorite paranormal fantasy novels. The southern setting adds an intriguing gothic element, and it’s refreshing to read a paranormal fantasy from a male protagonist’s point of view. Garcia and Stohl have created a richly layered story with wonderfully developed characters. I am eager to read the sequel, Beautiful Darkness, which is set to release in October. S.A. (less)
I can safely say this is one of the best books I’ve read this summer. I adore both John Green and David Levithan, and together, they are a dynamic duo...moreI can safely say this is one of the best books I’ve read this summer. I adore both John Green and David Levithan, and together, they are a dynamic duo! Both authors are extremely skilled at creating characters that come alive on the page. I really felt like I knew both the Will Graysons and even Tiny. While reading I laughed out loud and even became a little teary. I even read my favorite parts out loud to my husband!
Of course, I love the characters. But surprisingly, I think I enjoyed the minor characters even more than the main characters. Both Will Graysons are great, but, for example, who can deny how wonderful and fantastic Tiny Cooper is?! He’s very large person with a very large personality. In fact, I wish there really was a Tiny Cooper because I’d want to be his friend. I know deep down he’s insecure about his appearance and being gay, but he doesn’t let that show. He oozes confidence whether it’s real or not. He’s also a loyal friend to both Will Graysons no matter what happens between them. Plus, Tiny Cooper created his very own high school musical! He really steals the spotlight, pun intended.
The story is told from both Will Graysons, switching perspectives each chapter. As I mentioned, Tiny Cooper is gay and so is one of the Will Graysons. The really nice thing about Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the overwhelming success it’s had. It’s about time that a young adult novel featuring a gay character has been an overwhelming best-seller. Even better, is that both Will Graysons, despite their sexual orientation, are dealing with similar issues (and of course they are!). They both feel isolated, misunderstood, are afraid to love, etc. This is a novel that all teenagers should read, and because of how amazing it is, many teenagers will.
I can’t wait to rave about this once school starts. Really, the title should be Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Amazing, Amazing) (less)
Some Gracelings are top chefs, others are skilled warriors. Katsa’s Grace is the ability to kill a person with her bare hands; a Grace she discovered...more Some Gracelings are top chefs, others are skilled warriors. Katsa’s Grace is the ability to kill a person with her bare hands; a Grace she discovered at the tender age of eight. Katsa doesn’t enjoy having the reputation of a cold-hearted killer, courtesy of her king who uses her to do his bidding. Once she meets Po, Graced with skills in combat, her life begins to change. Katsa learns to open herself to others, while she learns some new truths about her Grace and her world. Kristin Cashore’s debut novel was a pleasant surprise. I don’t always enjoy fantasy novels, but Graceling had me hooked from start to finish. Cashore is a gifted story teller who has created an unforgettable world. S.A. (less)
Is there such thing as fate, or do we make our own destiny? This is a question Lani and her best friend Erin mull over quite often. The two girls are...more Is there such thing as fate, or do we make our own destiny? This is a question Lani and her best friend Erin mull over quite often. The two girls are total opposites, but after a near tragedy years ago, they’ve become inseperable. Although once Erin starts dating Jason, their friendship will be put to the test because Lani knows she and Jason are meant to be together. She can’t ignore their strong connection no matter how hard she tries. I previously read When It Happens and have a copy in my classroom. My girls in class love that book and have asked me to buy more of Colasanti’s novels. Since I enjoyed When It Happens, reading Something Like Fate was an easy choice; I have not been let down! Susane Colasanti does a great job writing stories girls can relate to and learn from. This novel teaches the important lesson of staying true to yourself and to others. S.A. (less)
Patrick Ness The Knife of Never Letting Go 479 pp. Candlewick Press. 2008 ISBN:978-0-7636-4576-2 (High School)
Have you ever wished you could read other...morePatrick Ness The Knife of Never Letting Go 479 pp. Candlewick Press. 2008 ISBN:978-0-7636-4576-2 (High School)
Have you ever wished you could read other people’s minds? After reading The Knife of Never Letting Go you will probably change your mind. Todd Hewitt lives in New World, and like all the men in Prentisstown, he contracted the disease that enables him to hear the Noise. This Noise is other men and animals’ thoughts; it is never quiet, even when they sleep. One day while Todd and his dog Manchee are wandering through the swamp, they hear something scary and unusual, they hear silence. There’s something dangerous about the silence that forces Todd to run for his life, leave everything he knows, and learn horrible truths about Prentisstown and the Noise. Patrick Ness’s dystopian novel is a clever mix of humor, suspense, action and drama. Not long after a particularly intense section does a character like Manchee provide some comic relief. Ness has crafted this novel into not only a journey for truth, but a journey for manhood and what that word really means. S.A. (less)
Johanna has been living her life always aiming for perfection: perfect grades, perfect daughter, perfect student. Her parents are extremely strict, an...more Johanna has been living her life always aiming for perfection: perfect grades, perfect daughter, perfect student. Her parents are extremely strict, and in Johanna’s eyes, cold and never understanding. For some time she’s had a crush on Paul, the boy in class who never fails to make people laugh. She’s determined to grab his attention and once she does things change. Unlike Johanna, Paul doesn’t care what others think. He does whatever makes him happy, even at the cost of others. For Johanna, keeping Paul in a good mood is a never-ending struggle. If he isn’t happy, Johanna receives the blunt of his anger. How far will Johanna let this go on before she loses herself and those closest to her?
I wanted to read this book for a couple of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is because Patrick Jones is from Michigan and most of his stories take place in Genesee County. My students have shown an interest in his books as well. In one of my YA Lit classes, a student book-talked Things Change because it’s similar in plot to Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn.
The story is told from two perspectives; most of it’s from Johanna’s perspective. We see Paul’s side of the story when he is drinking and writing to his dad. It took me a while to get into this book. Johanna is written as insecure, which works for the story, but her insercurities grew tiresome. After about 100 pages I was more interested in the book because Paul and Johanna’s relationship became more complicated and intense. I definitely recommend reading it, because the message Jones delivers is an important one. If you like Breathing Underwater and/or Dreamland by Sarah Dessen, then you’ll enjoy Things Change by Patrick Jones. (less)
When Grace was a little girl she was viciously attacked by wolves living in the woods behind her house. She doesn’t remember how, but she was rescued...more When Grace was a little girl she was viciously attacked by wolves living in the woods behind her house. She doesn’t remember how, but she was rescued before they killed her. Since then Grace has felt a connection to the wolves, especially the one with yellow eyes. Sam spends most of his life as a wolf watching Grace from a distance. Even when he’s human he doesn’t have the courage to speak to her. After a tragic event brings them together, life isn’t the same for Sam and Grace. How can their love last with Sam fighting to stay human and others fighting against them?
My students gave me conflicting opinions on Shiver, so I had to read it for myself. It didn’t take me long to fall into this book; the cover alone is beautiful and intriguing. I love that Grace is so independent and sure of herself and that Sam is such a romantic. I wish there were more confident characters like Grace and less “damsels in distress” in the abundance of paranormal fantasies being published. Another plus is that Maggie Stiefvater is descriptive in detail without being “wordy.” I could easily picture myself with them in Grace’s room or hear Sam reciting poetry to Grace. I’ve already read Linger and look forward to reading more books written by Maggie Stiefvater. (less)
Isabel is a shifter, a mystical creature meant to loyally serve the kings of Samorna when they call upon her. Isabel, unfortunately, can’t remember an...more Isabel is a shifter, a mystical creature meant to loyally serve the kings of Samorna when they call upon her. Isabel, unfortunately, can’t remember anything about who she is or the powers she has. Prince Rokan, the soon to be king of Samorna, has come looking for Isabel because he needs the Shifter to protect him. He needs her strength and supernatural abilities to shift into a wolf or even the mist. Prince Rokan can only he that she doesn’t regain her memories because if she does, Isabel will be his biggest threat. Isabel knows that he’s lying, but their bond forces her to remain loyal and continue protecting him. As startling truths are uncovered Isabel will be faced with difficult decisions that will threaten the relationship she has with her prince.
I put Mistwood on my 2010 Debut Author Challenge list and I’m happy that I did; I always enjoy a good paranormal fantasy :) Leah Cypess has a beautiful way of writing and a wonderful ability to develop characters. I love how complex Isabel is written. She’s insecure in her ability as a shifter, but she’s capable of instilling fear in those that may cause Prince Rokan harm. Isabel is trying to learn about herself as she also tries to determine why the prince is lying to her. Her search for answers leads to multiple challenges. Cypess has the story written so that we’re just as unsure as Isabel. There isn’t a simple answer to be found; as soon as one truth is uncovered, another question develops. Leah Cypess has written Mistwood as a compelling and intriguing novel with a great twist towards the end. (less)
Eleven teenagers, including skaters, a jock, and a girl with a secret, decide to attend an end of the year party. They each have their own reasons ran...moreEleven teenagers, including skaters, a jock, and a girl with a secret, decide to attend an end of the year party. They each have their own reasons ranging from needing to make a friend to getting over being dumped. “Everyone” is expected to attend this party, yet none of them expect to have their lives connect in so many different ways. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, giving the reader an opportunity to see the action from all angles.
I decided to read this book after reading a review that compared it to the Academy Award winning movie Crash (and if you haven’t seen that movie yet you must!). The first chapter is told from Beckett’s perspective, and I was instantly hooked by this character. She’s all alone in the world, yet extremely observant, and decides to attend this party because she needs to know she’s visible. Her character reminds me of Hannah Baker from Th1rteen R3asons Why only less harsh. As Beckett is deciding whether to show up at the party she sees her old best friend Ashley with another girl Morrigan. We find out why Ashley is her old best friend, what she thinks of Morrigan, and then the chapter switches to Morrigan. This carries on throughout the night until we have the full picture of the events as they play out.
I mostly enjoyed the differing perspectives because it made the story richer than just following one character. The only drawback is that I wanted more from some characters. Beckett’s view of the story ends after the first chapter, but we see her story play out as she encounters more characters during the night. A couple characters lack detail that I prefer when reading a story. Tommy, for example, didn’t strike me as a worthwhile character besides giving us more insight on how Josh copes with his breakup. I love Azize’s character and would have loved it if Tommy’s chapter was cut so we could have had more from Azize or even the lovesick, Max.
But, like I said, the different views give us a richer story. Morrigan, for example, is looked at in a variety of ways. Beckett sees Morrigan as her replacement with Ashley. Ryan looks at her as an overly drunk partier, and Josh sees her as the evil girl that dumped him out of nowhere. But then we get to read the chapter from Morrigan’s eyes and we know exactly what she’s thinking and feeling. We know how deep, hurt and confused she truly is. Of course, Morrigan isn’t the only rich character in Party. Tom Leveen has created quite a few rich characters, I only wish we could read even more about them.
Overall, I highly recommend reading Party by Tom Leveen. If you enjoyed Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher or if you enjoy how Ellen Hopkins brings characters together in her books like Impulse or Tricks, then you’ll really enjoy this novel. I’m looking forward to talking about this book with my students this coming school year! (less)