This is the powerful story of Valerie, a high school senior, who struggles to cope in the wake of an unspeakable crime committed by her boyfriend. OneThis is the powerful story of Valerie, a high school senior, who struggles to cope in the wake of an unspeakable crime committed by her boyfriend. One morning in the spring of their junior year, Valerie's boyfriend Nick brought a gun to school and opened fire in their high school commons, killing or wounding a number of their classmates, including Valerie. When she returns to school the following September, Valerie quickly realizes that the healing she needs isn't just physical. Caught in an inner storm of guilt and anger, afraid to morn the boyfriend she loved, Valerie must redefine who she is in this new reality - a reality in which she may have loved a monster.
I like that Jennifer Brown made this Valerie's story - a gut-wrenching look at how our choices (and the choices of those close to us) shape who we are - rather than simply a glorified story of a school shooting. Valerie's story is much more interesting, and the question of how (or even if) we can love someone who has done something terrible is a much more provoking question. In that way, it reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes, another book about the aftermath of a school shooting from the perspective of those left behind. And like Nineteen Minutes, those questions of guilt vs. innocence, good vs. evil, will linger with the reader long after the last page is read. ...more
Great realistic fiction - compelling story and sensitive treatment of a difficult topic. I was impressed with the way author Sara Zarr skillfully tackGreat realistic fiction - compelling story and sensitive treatment of a difficult topic. I was impressed with the way author Sara Zarr skillfully tackled this subject matter. For a book about teen promiscuity, it's remarkably chaste. Rather than delving into gratuitous physical details, Zarr transcends a simple discussion of teen sex by choosing to focus on the emotional fallout that results from Deanna's choices. The result is a very powerful book that questions what it means to be defined by our choices and if a single mistake should become a lifetime sentence.
A beautifully written book that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to my 7th and 8th graders.
MARCH UPDATE: It's the new favorite read in my classroom. My students can't get enough of Sara Zarr. This book is flying from reader to reader and they're still clamoring for me to get additional copies so no one has to wait even a day. One such student has barely read anything voluntarily this year; three weeks after reading this book, she's making plans to visit Barnes and Noble during our Spring Break. She told me she would just go to the library, but she wants to OWN these books. Sara Zarr is fantastic!...more
Different than I expected, but still enjoyable. An easy, quick-paced read in a case-files format that should appeal to fans of the Wimpy Kid books. NoDifferent than I expected, but still enjoyable. An easy, quick-paced read in a case-files format that should appeal to fans of the Wimpy Kid books. Not nerd-eriffic enough to be a great Star Wars book, but the origami Yoda instructions at the end somewhat make up for it.
As hard as it is to admit...I'm split on this book. On the one hand, I really liked the story. It felt real, thought-provoking, and entertaining all aAs hard as it is to admit...I'm split on this book. On the one hand, I really liked the story. It felt real, thought-provoking, and entertaining all at once. I plowed through it in two days. (And only because at some point I finally had to go to sleep and pick it up the next day.) Still, despite all my love for Gym Candy, a few things did keep tripping me up. Overall though, it’s definitely worth reading. For both sports fans and lovers of gut-wrenching realism, this book delivers.
The sports genre is a personal favorite, and this has some of the best football action I've read. The play sequences are richly crafted. The writing here has just the right amount of detail - enough to paint a clear picture, but not so much that it clogs up the flow of action. Deuker also sprinkled in enough football slang to make it feel authentic while not shutting out non-football readers with too much jargon.
Yet it’s not simply an adrenaline-fueled jock book. As strong as the football scenes are, they are well-balanced by the evolving relationships and emotional chaos that Mick experiences through the story. Mick’s reaction to his friend Drew in the wake of Mick’s beating in the weight room was heartbreakingly real, and my favorite scenes in the book.
My least favorite scenes involve Mick's mom - she's such a one-dimensional character! Her appearances are a clanging, off-key note in an otherwise bright symphony of characters. I just didn’t find her believable or interesting. She’s a plot point, only showing up when Mick needs a counterbalance to his dad’s ambition and testosterone. She’s also unbelievable as a wife to Mick’s dad. Over and over, I found myself looking for some glimmer as to why this woman would ever marry this guy, much less stay with him. (I’m still stumped.) The overall lack of any strong female characters was somewhat disappointing, but wouldn’t have been such an issue if the main female character didn’t feel so clunky.
The ending was a bit rushed, but I was happy with its uncertainty. Leaving it open-ended felt right for the story and more realistic for this subject matter. The remaining questions linger on for readers, just as they do for Mick. It’s a book that will have readers thinking, and talking, long after the last page.
Grade: Not quite on par with Chris Crutcher's best – but it’s in the ballpark. A- ...more