This debut has received a ton of hype in the past few months and it completely lives up to the hype. I absolutely devoured this story; I couldn’t putThis debut has received a ton of hype in the past few months and it completely lives up to the hype. I absolutely devoured this story; I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up late and read until my eyes were so heavy I had to close them, then woke up early enough to pick it right back up and finish it (thank goodness for the weekends!). Michelle Hodkin is most certainly an author to watch because she not only weaves an engrossing tale, but she incorporates the perfect mix of mystery, snark, romance and humor–extra emphasis on mystery.
Michelle Hodkin hooks us with an eerie letter from our main character, Mara Dyer, only Mara says “My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something. A pseudonym.” The letter goes on to mention murders and warning us so we’re not next. Talk about grabbing our attention, right?! The thing is, now that I’m done reading this book, I’m wondering what her name really is because everyone calls her Mara. This is part of what I love most about The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer–the mystery. I know readers are calling this paranormal, but I’d rather call it magical realism or something. There are some strange things happening to and around Mara, many of which we don’t fully understand until the end or are still left wondering about until the next book. Normally I prefer an ending that leaves the book feeling like it could be a stand alone, even in a series, but this ending worked for me. Was I confused and did I want answers immediately? Yes. But the ending kept me thinking for days. I let one of my students borrow my ARC so I could discuss it with someone. An ending like that is worth the mystery and me eagerly waiting for the second book, even though the first hasn’t even officially released.
I’m a big fan of the characters in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Mara Dyer isn’t a reliable narrator, but she’s snarky, mysterious and just as confused as I was. I love that I, as a reader, am on the same page as Mara when it comes to the confusion over everything. She doesn’t remember much of the accident when her friends died and she lived. She and her family move to Florida to get away from everything which is when life gets a little weird for Mara. This is also when she meets Noah, who I adore. Oddly enough, some of the strange events happen whenever Noah is around. There’s something unique between these two that I can’t wait to learn more about in the second book. At first I didn’t think I was going to like Noah because he came off as the typical bad boy. That’s not the case. Just like Mara, there are some complex layers to Noah’s character that make him stand out from the rest of the paranormal genre love interests.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to write a review for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer without giving away major plot points. There are scenes with dogs, alligators, a gun, and a guy named Jude I want to talk about. But if I do, you’d be mad at me because I’d give away all the good parts, or at least some of them. This is a book that needs you to suspend your disbelief, and if you can then you’re sure to enjoy it. I flat out love it. I don’t say this very often, but I would re-read this debut because it’s that good and I want the answers to my questions. I definitely recommend getting yourself a copy, and make sure a friend reads it as well so you can try to work out the details and mystery to Mara’s story....more
If you know anything about me, I’m a YA-loving teacher who’s always on the look-out for great guy books. I am so stinking happy that I read Stupid FasIf you know anything about me, I’m a YA-loving teacher who’s always on the look-out for great guy books. I am so stinking happy that I read Stupid Fast because it is destined to be a winner with my boys! I’ve already had some success with Stupid Fast because before I even had a chance to read it, one of my freshmen boys asked to read my ARC. I had to say yes because he’s one of my reluctant readers. He isn’t reluctant anymore! He tore through this book and was so proud when he gave it back to me; he finished the book and wanted to read another. As a teacher or librarian, does it get any better than that?!
I’m not surprised my student enjoyed Stupid Fast as much as he did. It’s hilarious! Felton wants to be a comedian, but he doesn’t think he’s funny enough. Um, he’s wrong. I can’t tell you how often I was cracking up over his comments. It was about impossible to not laugh out loud during SSR. I would have snorted if I tried any harder to keep it in and that would have just been embarrassing. Felton is wonderfully awkward which fuels his humor. For instance, Felton has to take over his friend’s paper route and one of his stops is at a nursing home where he has the unfortunate experience of seeing old ladies in their underwear. “Oftentimes, the old ladies were wearing old lady robes or morning dresses or whatever, and the clothing wasn’t tied right or it had slid down wrong, and I got to see their Old Lady Underwear with an Old Lady in it, which made me very sad. What also made me sad was the very fact that nursing homes even exist because they’re hot, stinky prisons for innocent old ladies who have lived too long (like that’s a crime).“ He’s just so honest in his observations that you can’t help but giggle. And I love that while reading, it felt like Felton was talking to me. So wonderful.
Teen guys will be drawn to Stupid Fast because it involves sports. Quite a few of the sports-related novels I’ve read are a little more on the serious side and really revolve around the sport. Much of Geoff’s debut focuses on Felton’s experience with football, but his book goes deeper than that. While Felton is discovering himself as an athlete and friend, he’s also uncovering secrets about his family. This part of the story is really touching. He can’t understand why his mom has suddenly become depressed and he doesn’t know what to do about his weird and annoying little brother. Even though I felt bad for Andrew, Felton’s brother, I found myself laughing at their banter and insults towards one another. Felton is left in a position where he’s the “adult” because his mom has become an absent parent. What teenager is going to handle that well? This is where the honesty of this story really shines. We get to watch Felton mature and try to find a way to correct this situation, while navigating through his new role as jock and boyfriend.
If you want to read something fantastically funny, pick up Stupid Fast. If you want to read something honest and refreshing, pick up Stupid Fast. I can’t recommend this debut novel enough. Geoff Herbach has really impressed me and I CAN’T WAIT to read more of his work! ...more
Review originally posted at YA Love You can also sample the audio in my blog post.
Audio review: I decided to listen to the audio for All the Bright PlReview originally posted at YA Love You can also sample the audio in my blog post.
Audio review: I decided to listen to the audio for All the Bright Places because my friend was listening to it and enjoying it and because I don’t always have time to sit and physically read a book. I’ve discussed this lack of time to physically read here at the Nerdy Book Club blog. Anyway, overall I enjoyed the audio. Both narrators sound like teenagers–which is something I’m often critical about–and I felt their emotions. This is a very emotional debut novel and I think the narrators’ ability to convey these emotions so vividly is a large reason why I enjoyed this book so much. Finch and Violet are suffering deeply and I empathized with them so much that I ugly cried on my way to work one morning while listening to this. I’ll admit, though, that I wasn’t sure how much this book was pulling me at the beginning. Thanks to the publisher and Listening Library, I have an excerpt of the audio for you.
Book review: First, I commend Jennifer Niven for writing a book that deals with mental illness, depression, and suicide. These topics simply aren’t openly discussed enough when they should be. Niven has included a wonderful author’s note at the end of the book where she writes about her personal reasons for writing All the Bright Places. I wish this note was at the beginning of the book, even though I understand why it isn’t, because I don’t think students will read it. They too often ignore important additions like this, often because they simply don’t realize that they should pay them any attention. But this is a note that they should pay attention to, especially if they’re suffering or know someone who is.
Finch’s suffering, especially, broke my heart. Niven takes us through his cycle of depression and his efforts to avoid it. Violet is suffering at the beginning of All the Bright Places, and she is for much of the novel, but while Finch is falling deeper and deeper, we watch Violet begin to climb out of her depression. I was concerned about the depiction of their relationship, though, and whether it’s a misleading portayal because of how light they are. The tone didn’t seem to fit the seriousness of the situation, but my mind did change as I continued reading. And really, there isn’t any reason why someone suffering from depression can’t have moments of lightness with another person, right?
The reason I didn’t give All the Bright Places a five star rating, however, is because I couldn’t look past some plot holes. Finch’s mother and family are the biggest problems I have with the story. They’re just so absent and oblivious. I know that not all families are aware or choose to be aware. I get that. But some of the inaction seemed more like it was included to drive the plot forward more than anything else. I want to say more, but to say more, I would have to spoil the book and I don’t want to do that. I had a conversation about this yesterday afternoon with Jenn Fountain as she was finishing the book, and I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. It made me SO ANGRY that I was yelling out loud at the book while driving to work on the same day that I was ugly crying. It wasn’t pretty when I pulled into work that morning.
Anyway, I highly recommend reading All the Bright Places. There are flaws, but overall this is a book that should be read and discussed. I don’t think the comparison to The Fault in Our Stars is very accurate, but I agree with the comparison to Thirteen Reasons Why. If I’m only thinking about characters, then I guess Eleanor and Park is a good comparison, but I’m not sure that I would hand this to a student who just finished Eleanor and Park and was looking for something just like it. ...more
I know “hate” is a strong word, but I positively hate it when I can’t get into a book and end up not finishing it. Unfortunately, I’ve been running acI know “hate” is a strong word, but I positively hate it when I can’t get into a book and end up not finishing it. Unfortunately, I’ve been running across quite a few books in that category this year. And since I’m not going to fully review them since I didn’t finish them, I think I’m going to post why I simply couldn’t get into them.
My alumni book club and I went to the launch party for Courtney Allison Moulton’s debut novel Angelfire. She did a great job at the launch, we all bought books and had them signed, and agreed we’d read her book for book club. We had a couple books lined up before hers, so we’re just now reading Angelfire for our next meeting. I started reading it on Thursday or Friday (it’s been a busy week, so I can’t remember) and gave up yesterday.
Whenever I’m reading a book and feeling a little dicey about it, I try to give it at least 100 pages before I finally make up my mind. I decided to stop at page 108. Granted, this is a 453 page book, so maybe that’s not enough of a chance. But let me explain it first.
The biggest problem I’m having is that it doesn’t feel like any kind of plot is being developed. Ellie has discovered that she’s been reincarnated hundreds of times as a Preliator, or reaper killer. She also knows that Will has been her Guardian for 500 or so years. And after 108 pages, that’s it. She fights and kills reapers. So… What’s the point? Why should I keep reading? What’s her major problem besides realizing at 17 that she’s been reincarnated and has to kill reapers with the help of Will? Maybe I’m missing the point, but how can I be 108 pages in and not really know where the story is going? This explains the weird dreams she’s been having and that’s about it. I need to feel like there’s more to the story to keep me reading. I’m a teacher with tons of papers to grade and lessons to plan. I’m a grad school student with intense classes and reading to complete. I’m a blogger with other books on my shelf waiting to be read and reviewed. I don’t want to sound mean, but I need a reason to keep reading a book. And Angelfire simply wasn’t providing it :(
Besides the plot, I couldn’t get over the writing style. It’s pretty choppy and there isn’t as much internal dialogue as I prefer from a first-person point of view. I really don’t have a good feel for who Ellie is as a protagonist and I should by now. And then there were the typos… I’m an English teacher and I can’t ignore them. I know they happen (I make them in my posts too!), and I catch them pretty often. A few here and there I can ignore and they don’t change my opinion of the book. But I was left wondering how much attention this book received before it was published.
I have an extra copy of this book in my classroom already and a couple of students have read it and loved it. I think that’s fantastic, because I know not everyone feels the way I do. And I’m sure some of my boys who enjoy fantasy will like Angelfire because of the violent and bloody fight scenes. So this book definitely has appeal, just not for me.
If you’ve read Angelfire, I’d love to know what you think. Does it get better soon? If so, let me know and maybe I’ll give it another chance this summer. If you feel the same way, I’d like to know that too....more
I've lost count of how many times I've read Speak aloud to my students. Just like every time I finish reading this popular novel, I choked up at the eI've lost count of how many times I've read Speak aloud to my students. Just like every time I finish reading this popular novel, I choked up at the end and loved it even more than I did the first time I read it back in 2006. ...more
Newbery contenders aren’t often on my radar since I teach high school students, so the fact that I read two out ofReview originally posted on YA Love
Newbery contenders aren’t often on my radar since I teach high school students, so the fact that I read two out of the three books blew my mind. I was sitting in my pajamas watching the live stream since we had a snow day and I threw up my arms and cheered when The Crossover was announced as the winner.
Kwame Alexander’s newest release has been on my radar for quite some time for many reasons despite its younger audience. I adore novels written in verse and have been waiting to find one that appeals to boys. The Crossover is the book I’ve been waiting for. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching freshmen or seniors, the boys in those classes often want to read a book with a story line revolving around sports. The fact that I can now offer them a “sports book” that’s written in verse is really exciting. The Crossover will hopefully be the exposure to verse novels that these students need.
Speaking of the verse, Kwame Alexander’s verse impresses me just as much as Lisa Schroeder’s does. It’s rhythmic and smooth and even visually appealing. The verse in Brown Girl Dreaming is beautiful, but the writing in The Crossover bowled me over. It’s playful, it’s poignant, and at times it even rhymes. It’s a prime example of why I love novels written in verse.
In years past I’ve noticed that many of the books honored at the ALA Youth Media Awards aren’t always books that my students will immediately gravitate to. The books honored this year are more accessible. The Crossover may have won the Newbery, and Josh may be a twelve year old character, but this story is one that appeals to a wide range of readers young and old. Many readers will connect with Josh and his close relationship with his twin brother. Readers will empathize with Josh as he faces the dilemma of choosing between family and sports. As he realizes how truly important family is. I can’t wait to share this with my students....more
I need to start off by saying that I enjoyed Game even more than I enjoyed I Hunt Killers. Barry Lyga has done an eReview originally posted at YA Love
I need to start off by saying that I enjoyed Game even more than I enjoyed I Hunt Killers. Barry Lyga has done an excellent job building Jazz’s character and creating an intense and thoroughly enjoyable story. It’s still gory like I Hunt Killers, so be prepared.
What I liked about Game by Barry Lyga:
**The mystery and thrill. The third person narrative switches from Jazz to other characters, but the best is when it focuses on the killer. I love it when murder mysteries switch to this perspective because it adds an extra amount of intensity and creepiness. **Connie. I enjoyed her character in I Hunt Killers, but I love how much more we get to know her in Game. She’s smart and witty and really balances Jazz. And her bigger role in this book adds so much more to the plot. **The pacing. I took my time reading Game because I was enjoying it so much and I started it so far before the release date, but the pacing makes it a fast read. I usually had to force myself to put it down. There’s twist after twist in this story, which made it so much fun to read. **New characters. I don’t want to give too much away, but an added character midway through the story kept me on my toes. I kept second-guessing my thoughts about this character and if there was more to this person than I originally thought. **The ending. What. A. Cliffhanger! Can I have the third book now please?
What I disliked about Game:
**There isn’t anything I disliked about Game :) ...more
I went to the Fierce Reads author event in Lansing on Friday planning on buying only two of the books featured. Of Poseidon by Anna Banks was featuredI went to the Fierce Reads author event in Lansing on Friday planning on buying only two of the books featured. Of Poseidon by Anna Banks was featured, and I didn’t plan on buying it because I didn’t know much about it and I’m not always sure about “mermaid books.” Once it was Anna Banks‘ turn to discuss her book, however, my plans changed. She started out saying that she wanted to write a Sasquatch love story but didn’t think the world was ready for that yet. I knew at that moment that I wanted to read her book. Her sense of humor only continued to get better and by the end of the event my friend who came with me and I decided that we were reading Of Poseidon first.
When I began reading Of Poseidon I could easily hear Anna Banks’ voice and sense of humor coming through. This book isn’t a laugh riot or anything, but it’s extremely entertaining and full of moments that made me snort with laughter, as unattractive as that is. The blend of romance, mythology, mystery, and humor makes Of Poseidon a book that’s difficult to put down. Another appealing aspect to Banks’ debut is that the chapters alternate between Emma and Galen’s points of view, but Emma’s is told in first person and Galen’s is told in third person. It took me a second to realize that shift from first to third person point of view, but it never bothered me like third person will sometimes.
The characters in Of Poseidon are endearing and really come alive on the page. I love Emma’s witty sense of humor and how awkward and clumsy she can be, but also how smart she is too. Understanding her Gift isn’t easy at first, especially since her feelings for Galen keep distracting her. Galen is really protective of Emma because he’s drawn to her, but also because she and her Gift are so important to the Syrena (don’t call them mermaids). It’s refreshing that while Galen is protective of Emma, she isn’t completely submissive and he isn’t overbearing. The tension between these two characters is palpable and had me saying out loud, “Just kiss her already!” I even texted my friend that while I was reading because I knew she was ahead of me in the story. Galen’s sister Rayna and her “mate” Toraf are fun minor characters. They add that extra bit of humor and intrigue that made Of Poseidon so much fun to read.
I do need to warn you though. Anna Banks left her readers with a crazy cliffhanger! I’ve already written it down as an ARC to look for at NCTE this fall. I’ve made a number of predictions about the ending and what’s going to happen next, so hopefully I’ll be lucky and get to read an ARC.
If you’re looking for a light, engrossing book to read this summer, I highly recommend picking up Of Poseidon by Anna Banks....more
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)....more
I. LOVE. This. Book!! Yes, some people may not be able to handle Bianca and all of her sarcasm and cynicism, but considering one of my best friends inI. LOVE. This. Book!! Yes, some people may not be able to handle Bianca and all of her sarcasm and cynicism, but considering one of my best friends in high school could have been her twin, I totally understand her. Bianca sure is angry at the world, but with everything that’s going on in her life, I don’t blame her for being a little “snarky.”
When Wesley first referred to Bianca as a DUFF I was utterly shocked. He disgusted me and I wanted to punch him for Bianca; I completely understood her hate for him. After that, who cares if he’s a charming hottie?! But with all the frustrations dominating Bianca’s life, and as much as she wants to think “she’s fine,” she ends up making out with him during their next encounter to relieve some stress. Once this “enemies-with-benefits” thing starts, I was concerned about Bianca. Starting a physical relationship without strings attached isn’t a healthy outlet. But Bianca, along with all the girls that will and should read this, discover the consequences and other ways to handle stress. On the lighter side, I really enjoyed Bianca and Wesley’s banter. Bianca isn’t afraid to be herself around him, cynicism and everything.
Young adult novels almost always include the main character’s best friend(s), but it’s rare to see something as true-to-life as Bianca’s friendship with Casey and Jessica. The dynamics of their friendship is dead on– the jokes and conflicts, for example. They genuinely care about each other and look out for one another.
I truly hope teenage girls read this novel. There is so much to be learned about self-esteem and the perception of yourself and others. Once Wesley calls Bianca a DUFF, that’s all she can think about. But doesn’t everyone feel like the ugly friend once in a while? Despite Bianca feeling this way, all I focused on was how smart and dynamic she is. She notices things about the people around her that most miss or ignore completely. Then there’s Wesley, he’s the popular rich guy who has it all. But as Bianca spends more and more time with him, she learns that maybe his life isn’t so perfect after all.
The DUFF is one of the best books I’ve read, and I absolutely can’t wait to read another novel by Kody Keplinger. I’m even more impressed by this novel after learning that Keplinger is only 18 years old!! Talk about impressive! Once I started reading this, I couldn’t put it down even though I had a stack of papers to grade. In fact, I was sad when I finished because I wanted to keep reading :) Congratulations on a job well-done, Ms. Keplinger! ...more
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 myI 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....more
The Pull of Gravity is sweet, honest and touching. It has moments that will make you laugh out loud and even become teary. Those teaching Of Mice andThe Pull of Gravity is sweet, honest and touching. It has moments that will make you laugh out loud and even become teary. Those teaching Of Mice and Men will want to read this and add it to their library, if not their curriculum. John Steinbeck’s novel isn’t part of our curriculum in my district, but I will be including The Pull of Gravity in my classroom library.
My favorite character is the unique and completely honest Jaycee Amato. Her witty dialogue and comebacks with Nick had me giggling multiple times throughout the book. She’s the one that introduces Nick to Of Mice and Men by reading it to him as they head out on their journey to fulfill the request of The Scoot, their dying friend. They’re looking for Scoot’s father (without telling their parents), and the chances of finding him are slim, but Jaycee is prepared and optimistic. You’ve gotta love a girl who can plan an entire secret trip and stay optimistic while doing so. :)
The trip itself is fun to read because so many aspects of the story unravel and come together there. Besides Nick and Jaycee looking for Scoot’s dad, we watch Nick take chances (on love and his family) and become more independent. And even though Scoot isn’t on this journey with him, we get to find out more about his life and character. Plus, there’s all of his great Yoda and Star Wars references. Steinbeck and Yoda together?! AWESOME! If you’ve read John Green’s Paper Towns (I’m thinking of Quentin’s journey to find Margo), you’re sure to enjoy The Pull of Gravity.
A great element to the story are the emails Nick receives from his dad. Nick and his dad lack a strong relationship because his dad has pretty much checked out as a father. The emails appear in between some chapters and give us insight that we otherwise wouldn’t have. We know why Nick is upset with his dad, but I wish these feelings were more developed before we read the emails. I also wish we could have read more of his emails simply because they’re a cool element to the story.
I definitely recommend reading this. Girls will enjoy the relationship between Jaycee and Nick. Boys will love the Star Wars references and will easily relate to Nick. Teachers and librarians will, of course enjoy the story, but will also appreciate the ties to Of Mice and Men and Gae’s wonderful writing! Congrats on your debut, Gae, and I eagerly look forward to more of your books!
Reading Warped was like eating the best kind of comfort food; it left me feeling cozy and happy. When I was in upper elementary and middle school I loReading Warped was like eating the best kind of comfort food; it left me feeling cozy and happy. When I was in upper elementary and middle school I loved reading fantasies of all kinds, but especially stories with unicorns. This isn’t a unicorn story, of course, but it still holds the elements of fantasy that I love. There are quite a few fantasy novels out there, but Warped quenched my thirst for what I’ve been missing all these years.
I need to give major kudos to Tessa and Opal’s friendship. Opal is Tessa’s quirky best friend, but what I love most about her is that she never doubts Tessa. How many of you can honestly say that if you told your best friend “Hey, you know that unicorn in my tapestry? Well, it’s actually a guy that just jumped out and landed in my room” she would totally believe you and come straight over? Yep, that’s what I thought. I don’t think too many of us are blessed with a friend who is so loyal and, well, awesome. I know my best friend loves me, but I think she’d come over to make sure I didn’t have a concussion or something… Anyway, Opal is simply awesome and I love how she and Tessa interact with one another.
Of course I’m a fan of Will and an even bigger fan of him and Tessa together! Tessa doesn’t admit right away that she’s attracted to him, but I certainly knew she was! Their banter is enjoyable, but I did feel bad for Will at times. He’s coming from a different century, so while I giggled when Tessa would tease him for things he said or sarcasm he didn’t get, I felt bad because it’s not like he’s dim-witted or anything. However, this dynamic of their relationship made them more believable and lovable. I was definitely rooting for them!
My students who enjoy fantasy will definitely enjoy Warped, but I also suspect that those who like mythology will as well. Maurissa introduces the story with the Norn, otherwise known as the Fates. I like how she weaves them into the story (pun intended? I think so!). Their presence doesn’t overpower the story, but they add an element of suspense and intrigue–especially at the end!
I can’t recommend this debut novel enough. My students interviewed Maurissa in my Students Want to Know feature, and while she did say she isn’t planning a second book, I wouldn’t mind a sequel one bit!
Shawn Goodman’s sophomore release, Kindness for Weakness, made me feel an array of emotions: hope, grief, dismay, aReview originally posted at YA Love
Shawn Goodman’s sophomore release, Kindness for Weakness, made me feel an array of emotions: hope, grief, dismay, and more. I absolutely loved Something Like Hope, so when I featured Kindness for Weakness on Waiting on Wednesday, Shawn offered to send me an ARC of it. I had requested a copy via NetGalley, and hadn’t received a response yet, so I accepted his kind offer. Regardless of how I received a copy of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to offer it to my students.
What I like most about Shawn Goodman’s writing is how honest and real it is. He works with troubled kids as a school psychologist and it’s evident in his writing. He really understands what teens are going through and how much they suffer. He understands what a bad home life can do to a teen. He knows how difficult it is for troubled teens to trust themselves and others. The characters in Something Like Hope and Kindness for Weakness display this deep understanding.
James is a character I cheered for while reading. He’s really trying to find his way and learn what it means to be a man, to stand up himself, and how to trust himself and those around him. His mom is basically absent, her boyfriend Ron is abusive, and his brother isn’t the best role model. Thankfully James has an encouraging English teacher, but he’s really the only supportive person James has at the beginning of the story. He has so much potential if only he believed himself and had support outside of school. James’s character made me think of students I have at school. He’s a good kid that’s stuck in a bad situation and ultimately makes poor choices because of this. The reader, fortunately, can see his potential and goodness even if James can’t.
I had a difficult time reading this because of the guards at Morton (the juvenile detention facility). They are brutal and horrible. There are some shining characters there like Samson and Mr. Eboue who really make a difference for James and some of the other characters. I hope the brutality at Morton is an exception and not the rule, but part of me thinks that’s not the case. I have had students like James and like the other characters in Kindness for Weakness. They may make bad decisions, but I know they need guidance and someone to believe in them. I don’t work in a detention facility so I can’t understand what that’s like, but the teacher in me hopes they can and are better than Morton. The setting Shawn Goodman created in Kindness for Weakness really plays a pivotal role in the book.
I will admit that I had a difficult time keeping all of the characters straight and probably could have done without a couple of them. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The last few chapters had me racing to finish, but also cringing at the brutality. The ending, however, shocked me. I’m not sure what to think, and even though I was upset, the ending works. I’m even tempted to read The Sea Wolf by Jack London which plays a strong part in James’s development and the development of the story.
Kindness for Weakness definitely has a place in classrooms and libraries. I highly recommend reading it and handing it to a teen reader....more
I’ve read quite a few books recently that teachers and librarians should have in their libraries, but Something Like Hope is the first book I’ve readI’ve read quite a few books recently that teachers and librarians should have in their libraries, but Something Like Hope is the first book I’ve read in a while that, if I had the money, I’d buy for all of my teaching friends to read and include in their libraries. Some of us may not have a student like Shavonne right now (that we know of), but who’s to say we won’t in the future. Shawn Goodman wrote this poignant novel in response to his experiences working in juvenile detention facilities. Unfortunately, many people across the country have had experiences like Shawn. This is why it’s so very important for people to know about Something Like Hope. I hope that many readers (teens, parents, educators, etc) will read this novel.
Shavonne’s exterior tough attitude reminded me of some of the students I’ve had. She’s suffered from all types of abuse from when she was living with her mom, living in foster care and living in the detention center. It’s no wonder that Shavonne has built up this wall to protect herself; she’s constantly preparing herself for fight or flight. The abuse she suffers at the juvenile detention facility is the most haunting of all. Any time something happened to her or to another character, I wanted to bust through those doors and have someone arrested! Thankfully Shavonne finds some solace in Mr. Delpopolo. He’s straight-forward and honest with her, which both throws Shavonne for a loop, but is also something she desperately needs. Mr. Delpopolo shows Shavonne compassion, which so many teens–troubled or not–crave. The therapy Shavonne receives from talking to Mr. Delpopolo allows her to feel. She feels more than just pain and fear. She starts feeling sympathy and love and concern for her new roommate Mary. She starts feeling trust for those in the center who have helped her. Like the summary says, Shavonne starts feeling hope.
Knowing that Shawn has experiences like Mr. Delpopolo boggles my mind. I’ve listened to some of my students’ heart-wrenching stories, but I haven’t heard anything like Shavonne’s story. I had a difficult time not crying while I was reading Something Like Hope. Shawn deserves high-praises for the work he’s doing with troubled teens and for writing such a powerful and tragic, yet hopeful novel. It’s my hope that Something Like Hope gets the attention it deserves and consequently more troubled teens get the help they so desperately need. This is a five-star debut novel without a doubt!...more
Hmmm...I liked this and I enjoyed the audio. I'm not sure really how I feel about it as a whole. I'm not satisfied with the ending at all. For such aHmmm...I liked this and I enjoyed the audio. I'm not sure really how I feel about it as a whole. I'm not satisfied with the ending at all. For such a long book, it still feels like there are too many loose ends. Maybe I was expecting too much because of all the hype, but it didn't meet my expectations. I'll have to try Landline and Attachments and see how I feel about those.
Dead Rules is a fun, creative take on what happens to us when we die. As soon as I read that Jana died from a bowling accident, I was intrigued. My imDead Rules is a fun, creative take on what happens to us when we die. As soon as I read that Jana died from a bowling accident, I was intrigued. My imagination went wild until I started the book and found out what happened. (And I’m not giving that away. You’ll have to read it!) The idea of Dead School doesn’t sound thrilling, especially since I’m a teacher and already spend five days a week in school! But Jana discovers that there’s more to Dead School than she realized, which makes the story even better.
Jana’s obsession with her boyfriend (ex-boyfriend, now?) fits very well with the comparison to her as a modern Juliet. The problem is that Michael didn’t follow her lead and act the part of a lovesick Romeo. This becomes the driving force behind Jana’s need to make contact with Michael. Mars Dreamcote becomes an important character in the story because, as a Slider, he can help Jana make that contact. Honestly, I was rooting for Mars the entire time I read Dead Rules. And maybe that’s odd because he’s dead. Yeah, that’s probably odd, but he’s such a cool and mysterious character. He’s looking out for Jana even though she, as a Riser, shouldn’t be hanging out with him. The mystery behind Mars won me over and took the story to that extra level.
I can’t write this review without discussing the deaths. At Dead School it’s pretty typical to discuss how you died. And I don’t want to give any of these stories away, but the creativity! Birds and yard darts?! Some simply made me crack up, while others shocked me and caused me to cringe. Any story that gets me to react in those ways is a winner.
It’s difficult to write this review without giving away major plot points. Randy has written a fantastic and original debut that I look forward to recommending to my students and friends. And if I ever go to Dead School, I’m pretty sure I’ll want to be a Slider. ...more
READ THIS BOOK! Would it be okay to stop there? Because seriously, WOW! I’m still reeling and it’s been probably 8 hours since I finished. I can’t getREAD THIS BOOK! Would it be okay to stop there? Because seriously, WOW! I’m still reeling and it’s been probably 8 hours since I finished. I can’t get Tris and Four out of my head! How much longer until Insurgent comes out? I know I’m rambling and maybe not making much sense, but Divergent is so amazing it will do that to you.
When I initially heard about Divergent it was being compared to The Hunger Games. I was impressed but skeptical because it seems like all dystopian novels are being compared to that trilogy. While Divergent definitely lives up to the hype, I wouldn’t exactly compare it to The Hunger Games. I’m sure if you like that trilogy, you’ll enjoy Divergent. Tris, like Katniss, is a strong female protagonist that male and female readers will like and probably relate to. Other similarities are uncovering secrets, being separated from family, survival, problems with government, etc. The story lines are so different, though, it’s hard for me to really think of them as comparable. Hopefully that makes some sense.
One of my favorite aspects about this book is that we get to know Tris so well via the initiation tests. We learn her physical and emotional strengths and weaknesses. We watch her utilize her strengths and try to overcome her weaknesses. It’s not very often that a reader gets to know a character so thoroughly. We get to know her trainer, Four, pretty well also; not quite like Tris, but close. I think that’s why I’m still thinking about both of them–I developed strong connection with these characters.
Learning the ways of a faction that’s new to her, Tris does enjoy some victories through initiation, like being the first jumper, but she suffers through so many losses and obstacles. This, however, makes the story that much more compelling. The faction she joins is so different from what she grew up in, that it’d be impossible not to suffer and face challenges. She wants to be brave, battles with being selfless, and constantly thinks of what her mother or father would say about her actions. I can’t imagine just up and leaving my entire upbringing behind, to learn a brand new way of thinking, acting, and living. As Tris goes through all of this, I cheered, cringed and cried.
I realize this review is lacking some meat about the story. I want to delve into the big plot points, but they’ll end up being spoilers. Take my word for it, this is an awesome book that’s so worth reading....more
Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love and discovering who’s really important inReview 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....more
Audiobook Review: I decided to read 99 Days via audio despite having the eARC mostly because of how much easier itReview originally posted on YA Love
Audiobook Review: I decided to read 99 Days via audio despite having the eARC mostly because of how much easier it is for me to listen to audiobooks at this stage in my life. I’m trying to keep up with blog tour reading requests and my own personal reading desires, so sometimes I’ll take the easiest route and experience a book via audio. Also, I’ve recently been contacted by Scribd to give their platform a free one month trial and figured, why not? Katie Cotugno’s book was right there and I’ve been wanting to read it. The stars aligned and I made it happen.
At first I wasn’t quite sure about Allyson Ryan as the narrator. She doesn’t really sound like a teenager to me and sometimes her voice went a little flat, but somehow that worked for Molly’s character. Molly is sometimes a tough character to like so it worked for me that I didn’t always like Ryan’s voice. A number of people have abandoned this book because of the content and characters, so I think those readers should give the audio a try. It’s not my favorite audiobook because of the narrator, but I enjoyed the story itself.
Book Review: Like I said, 99 Days has been receiving a lot of criticism, mostly because the story features characters who cheat on one another. Honestly, I don’t think those reviewers are being fair. I 100% understand being against cheating, but I think we have to recognize and remember that even though it’s ugly and messy, it happens more often than we’d like it to. For that reason, I think Katie Cotugno deserves more credit for writing this book. She could have written another story about a guy or a girl getting cheated on, but instead she wrote it from the point of view of the person being unfaithful. This is a young adult novel and young adults are going to connect with Molly, Patrick, and Gabe for one reason or another. Every reader deserves to find her or himself in a book even if that book contains subject matter that some readers don’t like.
Do the characters in this novel make poor choices? Yes. Do they make poor choices over and over again? Yes. For me, this heightened the story and made those characters stand out on the page. I like flawed characters; they’re interesting and engaging. So many times I cringed over Molly’s decisions, but I also recognized that she’s just finished college and is at an age when she’s going to make mistakes. I think one of the best parts about her story is that she learned from those mistakes. Her entire summer was about figuring out who she is and how and who to love. She needed to figure out how to make friends and how to trust her mother again. She needed to figure out what she wants out of college. Molly figured out much of those problems, but it wasn’t a neat and tidy process that resulted in a gift with a big fat bow. She stumbled, she lost friends, and she learned some important lessons about life and relationships.
Personally, I couldn’t stand Patrick for most of the book and could not understand Molly’s attraction to him. Gabe has a little more going for him, but even he didn’t always seem right for Molly. Molly struck me as an insecure teen trying to find her way and in need of positive attention. I know teens like Molly and I know they’ll appreciate what Katie Cotugno wrote.
I do, however, like Molly’s close friend Imogen. She’s the type of friend I think most people desire because she’s loyal and honest. She stands by Molly and sticks up for her as Molly endures endless slut-shaming, but she also calls Molly out when she thinks she’s making a huge mistake. People need friends like that in their lives because they keep us balanced. I’m glad Cotugno wrote Imogen’s character the way she did.
Another element to the story I enjoyed is the summer atmosphere. I can’t wait for summer and warm weather and reading on my deck, so listening to 99 Days while I drove to work in the morning literally brightened my day. It felt like summer while I read this even though the temps weren’t quite summer-ish....more
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga is an edgy thriller that I really enjoyed. I love finding YA crime novels because so many of my students enjoy mysteriesI Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga is an edgy thriller that I really enjoyed. I love finding YA crime novels because so many of my students enjoy mysteries and Dean Koontz novels. Many of my Dean Koontz fans have a hard time trying YA, so being able to hand them a couple of good YA mysteries or crime novels is always appreciated. One thing to keep in mind about I Hunt Killers is that considering the very nature of the book, it’s sometimes very graphic and descriptive. Jazz has lived a horrific life that I can’t imagine any child experiencing. His memories and the crime scenes are often gruesome. I believe in allowing students to self-censor, but knowing my students and having read this book will help me recommend I Hung Killers to the right students. If you plan on adding Barry Lyga’s newest novel to your library or class library, which I hope you do, I recommend reading it first.
Because of Jazz’s upbringing, and the way his father has practically brain-washed him, Jazz is a complicated character. He’s incredibly scared of becoming a serial killer, but he’s also sometimes intrigued by the idea of being a serial killer. These conflicting emotions force him to keep his best friend and girlfriend at a safe distance. He can imagine how easy it would be to kill both of them, but then he’ll talk himself into believing that some serial killers have feelings and care for others. Jazz is lucky to have his best friend Howie and his girlfriend Connie because they believe in him and trust him. Despite Jazz’s internal suffering, I never lost hope in him that he’s ultimately good. I’m really impressed with his character.
I wasn’t really bothered by the graphic scenes, but I can imagine some of my students having a hard time with them. Fortunately there really aren’t too many scenes like this depicted. The tension, however, is almost always present. It kept me turning the pages because it’s so well done. I’m really happy Barry Lyga included Howie’s character because he adds the perfect amount of comic relief. He’s a great side kick character that I kept rooting for. It doesn’t seem to matter how many dangerous or bad situations he gets into with Jazz, because he never gives up on him. If it weren’t for Howie, the tension and suspense in I Hunt Killers would probably become overwhelming.
Throughout I Hunt Killers we get the killer’s point of view which added another element of mystery and intrigue to the story. It reminded me of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series because we also get to read the killers’ point of view. These two novels would pair well together, although if you’re a fan of The Body Finder because of the romance, it’s important to note that there really isn’t much romance in I Hunt Killers....more
I’m really tempted to simply write, “Eleanor & Park is fabulous. You must read it now!” and leave it at that. IReview 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....more
I read If I Stay at the end of 2009 and really enjoyed it. I booktalked it and encouraged my students to read it, and I think my students enjoyed it eI read If I Stay at the end of 2009 and really enjoyed it. I booktalked it and encouraged my students to read it, and I think my students enjoyed it even more than me. When I learned that Gayle Forman was writing a sequel, I was definitely pumped and intrigued. I hate the word “closure”, but that word came to mind when the summary was released. And, well, I barely have words to adequately express how much I LOVE Where She Went.
I know I get gushy often, and I’m always sincere when the gushiness happens, but seriously! Many people will say that when they really love a book they’ll read it again. There are simply too many books for me to read one more than once, but I will read Where She Went again, maybe even a third time. I love it that much.
I’m a big fan of Elsewhere and The Lovely Bones, so If I Stay was a big hit simply because of the setting and premise. And I enjoyed Mia and really felt for her. But Gayle Forman hit a home run writing this from Adam’s point of view. He is so real and troubled and lovesick. He came alive on the page. When I had to put the book down to perform important functions like eating, Adam stayed on my mind. It’s not that often that characters and a story stay with me as long as Adam and Mia did in Where She Went.
Gayle Forman solidified how talented she is with this novel. And honestly, I enjoyed her writing from a guy’s point of view more than a girl’s. I hope she writes more about guys! The story moved flawlessly and is full of heart-wrenching emotion. This is a five star, must read!...more
You worked for me as a young adult lit reader, but it worked for me even more as a teacher always on the look-out for great guy books. I’m going to beYou worked for me as a young adult lit reader, but it worked for me even more as a teacher always on the look-out for great guy books. I’m going to be book-talking this book like crazy, but the cover alone will help draw in readers; it’s what grabbed my attention! The cover fits perfectly with the story and is incredibly intriguing. As soon as I started reading, Kyle reminded me of so many of my male students. It’s sad but true. It doesn’t take much for a student to end up like Kyle; a few missing assignments can drop a grade enough that it feels impossible to bring up. Then the nagging parents enter the picture, that is if they’re even involved. When grades start dropping privileges begin flying out the window. When all of this adds up, students often fall through the cracks- especially boys. I have boys like this in my classes and I’m constantly trying to find books for them to read and ways for them to succeed. You is going to be a huge hit with my boys.
Guy readers will enjoy this (and girls too!) because they’ll be able to relate with Kyle. Even if you haven’t been in the same position as Kyle, most teenagers can relate with parents constantly lecturing and asking questions. They can relate to liking someone but not knowing how to act on it. They can relate to feeling frustrated in class. Kyle, unfortunately, is dealing with all of this at once, plus some. I just wanted to reach out and help him.
I love the pacing of this novel. Benoit wrote a fast-paced, suspenseful novel. The very first lines should hook everyone: “You’re surprised at all the blood. He looks over at you, eyes wide, mouth dropping open, his face almost as white as his shirt. He’s surprised, too.” I couldn’t put this down after that first page. I absolutely devoured this book; it was done in about four hours or less. Amazing!
If you’ve read Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Right Behind You by Gail Giles or Breaking Point by Alex Flinn, you’ll enjoy You by Charles Benoit. This is a five star novel that begs to be read and discussed.
Jessi Kirby is hands down one of my favorite authors of realistic fiction. Every one of her books pulls at my heartReview originally posted on YA Love
Jessi Kirby is hands down one of my favorite authors of realistic fiction. Every one of her books pulls at my heart strings and Things We Know by Heart is no exception. I literally cried within the first two pages.
One of my favorite parts of this book is the inclusion of different quotes relating to hearts at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the quotes are profound, many are scientific, and others are dealing with love. I especially appreciated how each quote specifically connects with events in the chapter it begins. Unfortunately I didn’t mark some of my favorite quotes like I now wish I would have.
I also really liked Quinn and Colton; they’re simply incredibly likable characters. Sometimes books dealing with the loss of a loved one will feature characters trapped in the past, but Quinn isn’t like that. She’s understandably afraid to move on from Trent, but she shows growth and allows herself to let go and try new things when she’s with Colton. Both characters shine when they’re with each other and I couldn’t help but fall for both of them.
There were times when I was uncomfortable and tense while reading Things We Know by Heart, but that’s natural considering the plot. Quinn already knows Colton before actually knowing him. She’s at an unfair advantage in the relationship and as a reader I kept waiting for the moment when that would come to light. So of course parts of the story are predictable, but that never drew away from my complete and utter engagement and enjoyment. I rooted for Quinn and Colton the entire time I read this book, especially as I stayed up until close to midnight on a school night so I could finish reading their story. I may have even shed some tears as I read the last 10-15% of the novel.
Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby made my heart swell. It’s one of my favorite books of 2015; I hope you’ll read it soon if you haven’t already....more