"Bitter End" is such an honest, raw, and heartwrenching novel that once I started, I could not put it down. From the very first chapter, I was pulled"Bitter End" is such an honest, raw, and heartwrenching novel that once I started, I could not put it down. From the very first chapter, I was pulled into Alex's story. Judging by the cover, I had initially thought there was no way I would like the book. I'm not into romance stories or books about relationships, but this book far exceeded by expectations. It's not a sappy romance novel or typical teen book about first boyfriends. It is a very real account of a young girl who becomes wrapped up in the cycle of abuse and cannot seem to find her way out.
I think what struck me the most about reading this book was that I saw aspects of myself in Alex. She is a very different character than me, and I have not had the same life experiences she has had, but I could definitely see why it was so hard for her to break up with Cole or tell anyone what was going on. She wanted so much to make him happy. I think that is something that many young girls struggle with, especially when they are first starting to find boyfriends.
Jennifer Brown does an absolutely fantastic job of weaving such a believable narrator and such real characters. Zack and Bethany, for example, are more complex than one first believes. They are not just minor stock characters. They have a long and complex history with Alex, and their relationship changes dramatically throughout the course of the book. It is all very realistic. Another example is with Cole, as well. Brown does not justify his actions, but she does give the readers clues as to why he is the way he is. He has learned a lot of nasty habits from his parents. At times, just like Alex, I felt myself feeling sorry for Cole, but other times I was just as chilled and afraid as Alex would have been when I could tell he was about to lose his temper. Books don't always make my heart pump faster or make me cry, but this one did.
I don't have a single negative criticism of this book because I felt it was so well written. It is definitely worthy of a YA award. It is a powerful book, and I highly encourage teen girls to read it. It's possible it could save their life one day. The book also contains resources and hotlines to call for anyone who is struggling with an abusive relationship. Parts of this book are really tough to read and get through, but Alex's story is a story that needs to be told and read and passed on to others....more
First off, let me just say, if you like a happy book, don't read this one. Be aware that this book deals with extremely mature subject matter and canFirst off, let me just say, if you like a happy book, don't read this one. Be aware that this book deals with extremely mature subject matter and can open your eyes to a world you may wish you were still ignorant of. Told in verse, "Sold" details the story of a young Nepalese girl who is sold into prostitution. Lakshmi's harrowing story is extremely heartbreaking and may leave you emotionally drained, especially when you read the Author's Note at the end and realize that this book details a very real problem in our world today.
There are quite a few parts of this book that were incredibly hard for me to stomach. First off, the idea that Lakshmi's stepfather would sell her for what is equivalent to US$18 is absolutely horrendous. Secondly, the treatment of the girls by Mumtaz at Happiness House is so unbearable. I cannot fathom how Mumtaz, or anyone, could ever be so evil and mean to another person. It makes me sick to think that young girls are being treated like this around the world every day.
Despite the difficult subject matter of the story, Patricia McCormick did an absolutely fantastic job of constructing a beautiful novel told in short vignettes. McCormick uses lots of descriptive writing to create images for the reader. I kept a collection of quotes as I read this book, and there were quite a few I wanted to write down from this book because of their vivid imagery. Also, I love how the story is told through vignettes because it leaves a lot left to the imagination. The reader must read between the lines and make inferences. McCormick does not tell us all the gristly details (which is a good thing because the book is already hard enough to swallow). Telling Lakshmi's story through a series of vignettes is incredibly appropriate.
I'm not sure who I would recommend read this book. In a sense, it almost seems like it's more appropriate for adults. However, I can see more mature high school students reading this book. I would caution anyone younger from reading this book just because it does deal with such mature themes, and it is quite graphic. However, considering that this book deals with a real injustice in our world, it is important for this story to be read and passed on to others so a change can be made in this world....more
I will admit that I am biased because Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite authors. She has a knack for writing about tough issues in such a raI will admit that I am biased because Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite authors. She has a knack for writing about tough issues in such a raw, honest way, and she is a master at capturing the complex feelings of her characters. "Speak" is my favorite book, and while "Wintergirls" does not come nearly as close, it is still an extremely searing look at a very difficult issue faced by many girls today.
I am constantly amazed by Laurie Halse Anderson's ability to capture such lifelike characters and portray them in a book. It's like she truly understands what her characters are going through. I was amazed at the honest portrayal of Lia in "Wintergirls." Her words, actions, and thoughts are just like those of a girl who is truly struggling with an eating disorder. Some of the most powerful parts of the book for me were when she admitted how hungry she was and how much she wanted to eat, but then crossed out all of that text, and wrote how thin was power and she must not eat. I can see her struggle clearly throughout the book, and I feel for her so much.
I have read several reviews from other readers who have expressed that they didn't like the stylistic quirks Laurie Halse Anderson included in "Wintergirls." I disagree. I say bravo to Anderson for being creative and trying something new. I felt that these "quirks" added to the story and helped to show the reader just how sick Lia really was.
Since "Wintergirls" deals with some very mature themes (eating disorders, cutting) I would recommend it for more mature readers in middle or high school. I would not necessarily recommend this book for anyone who is currently struggling through an eating disorder. This book is not a therapeutic book to help anyone with their struggles. Instead, it is more of a portrait for others to understand what it is like to struggle with an eating disorder.
I have no critical comments of this book because I liked it so much. I hope someday I can write like Laurie Halse Anderson....more
At first, I didn't think I was going to like this book much. I knew it was written from the perspective of a pastor's daughter, and I knew it dealt wiAt first, I didn't think I was going to like this book much. I knew it was written from the perspective of a pastor's daughter, and I knew it dealt with themes of faith and spirituality. Because of that, I had some preconceptions that tainted my view of the book before I started reading. I was sure that the book was going to be pushing a religious agenda on readers. However, after I started reading, my preconceptions melted away as I discovered that the book was nothing like I had originally anticipated. In fact, it was a surprisingly wonderful read.
What I loved most about "Once Was Lost" were the dynamic characters. Not a single character in the book was entirely good or entirely bad. We see elements of both in each character. For so much of the book, I wanted to dislike the dad because he was not being a very good parent to Sam. However, throughout the book, we see how he is a great pastor for his church, and he is very human, too, and faces real world temptations. I also like how Sam's mom did not fit the stereotype of the traditional "pastor's wife." She has a drinking problem and severe insecurities and needs to deal with her issues so she can be a more effective mother and wife. Even Sam is not the traditional pastor's kid. She didn't even go on the mission trip with her youth group, and she doesn't participate in the Sunday School discussions or share her heart with her peers. I loved all this because it painted the family in a very real, human light. So many times, it seems that pastors and their families are idealized as perfect models, yet they are humans, too. I like how this book portrayed that.
I also liked the book because there was a plot and a mystery underneath all of it. This book isn't just a character sketch, it has a story, too. A young girl is kidnapped, and the whole town is devastated by her loss. It made me want to continue reading because I wanted to know if Jody was ever going to be found and, if not, how that would affect everyone.
I would not hestitate to recommend this book at all. I think middle school and high school aged readers would gain the most from the book. There is nothing inappropriate in the story that would caution me from recommending it to certain age groups. Since it is told from the point of view of a girl, females may be more interested in reading the book than males....more
Since many of my students are Hispanic and have immigrated to the United States, I am always looking for books that might speak to their experiences aSince many of my students are Hispanic and have immigrated to the United States, I am always looking for books that might speak to their experiences and validate their culture. "La Linea" by Ann Jaramillo is one of those books. I started reading the book and immediately became swept up in the harrowing story of Miguel and his sister Elena and their trip across the border. I have heard stories about people trying to cross the border and the difficulties of the trip, but never before had I actually considered all of the possibilities that could go wrong. The entire time I read, I was rooting for Miguel and his sister to succeed, and I kept wondering if they ever would because it seemed one thing after the next would go wrong. This book did change my perspective on immigration, a bit, because I realized how difficult the journey of crossing the border can be.
My biggest gripe about this book is the very last chapter. Up until that point, Miguel and Elena had faced so many trials and tribulations, yet they finally made it through all of them. Then, the last chapter completely changes in tone. It makes it sound as if once Miguel and Elena made it to America, their lives were wonderful, happy, and perfect. I feel like the last chapter gives in to and perpetuates the idea of America as the ideal place where streets are paved of gold. It is incredibly unbelievable to think that Miguel, a high schooler, would be able to learn enough English in his couple years in America that he could graduate high school, go to college, and earn a degree in English. It is almost laughable. I thought Jaramillo should have ended the book right before the last chapter. The last sentence was a good one, and the last chapter did not add anything. In fact, in my mind, it really detracted from the book and was part of the reason why I gave this work only a three rating instead of a four.
My other complaint has to do with all the troubles Miguel and Elena faced on their journey. I understand that crossing the border can be incredibly dangerous and fraught with many perils, but it seemed like Miguel and Elena experienced every single possible problem that could have gone wrong. It was like Jaramillo was combining the experiences of multiple people and making Miguel and Elena go through all of it. It makes for a dramatic read, but I question the credibility and believability of it all.
This book is appropriate for students in middle or high school and will probably resonate most with students who have had immigration expereinces. However, all students, no matter their nationality, could gain new perspectives from reading this book. There is a heavy inclusion of Spanish words and phrases throughout the story, which may detract some readers. However, I believe it only adds to the lifelike quality of the book, considering that the main character lives in Mexico. I would definitely recomend this book to others, despite my few criticisms....more
Very rarely do I not like a book. Unfortunately, this is one of those rare books. I will admit that I am biased, and I dislike girly books about boyfrVery rarely do I not like a book. Unfortunately, this is one of those rare books. I will admit that I am biased, and I dislike girly books about boyfriends and relationships, which is perhaps why I didn't like this book from the begining. However, as I continued to read, I did not find any redeeming qualities to this book at all.
My main issue with this book was how unbelievable it was. It is basically about three girls who date the same "bad boy," and their relationships end horribly. However, each girl seems to recover from her relationship with the bad boy awfully quickly. This really concerns me because two of the girls have sex with the "bad boy" before things go awry. For many girls, getting dumped after giving herself over completely to a guy is not just something that she can recover from quickly. It can leave lasting, damaging scars that could take awhile to heal. Each girl had about one or two pages devoted to how sad and depressed they felt after their relationship ended, but after that, they suddenly felt empowered and happy and better off than they had before the relationship. I almost feel like the message of the book was that girls should go out and have sex with bad boys because they can learn from the experience and will be better off because of it. This is not a message we want to be sending to young teen girls.
Secondly, I did not like how this book was written in verse. It seemed far too short for me, which is perhaps why I had issues with the believability. I didn't feel I could really connect with any of the characters or get to know their true, inner feelings. Plus, I didn't like the idea of how it was narrated by three different girls. If the book had just been narrated by Josie and had been an in-depth look at her relationship, the mistakes she made, and how she grew from it, perhaps I would have liked the book more. However, it felt so rushed, and, as a consequence, unbelievable.
I'm not sure the appropriate age group for this book. One of the characters is a freshman, but I do not feel like this book is appropriate for such a young audience. There are several sexual scenes which make this book better off for older readers. I, personally, would not recommend this book to anyone, though, just because of my issues with the believability and the message it seemed to send....more
If you are the type of person who loves a fast-paced book with a twisting plot, this is not the book for you. However, if you are the type of person wIf you are the type of person who loves a fast-paced book with a twisting plot, this is not the book for you. However, if you are the type of person who loves a detailed, in-depth character sketch of a young man coming to terms with his identity, then this is a highly recommended read. "Mexican Whiteboy" is one of those well-written books that is like a window, allowing the reader to glimpse the lives of others and to see life from another perspective. This book deals with a myriad of themes, including friendship, family, race, culture, identity, loss, and pain.
For me, what I loved most about this book, was how true it rang out to me. Each character is extremely complex and does not fit nicely into any stereotypes. I particularly liked the characterization of Danny's cousin, Sofia, who, at one moment, can be laughing and cracking jokes with her friends and the next moment, mothering Danny and sticking up for him. I also really liked the dichotomy between the main character, Danny, and his friend, Uno. Both boys are bi-racial and have family and identity issues, yet they form an unlikely friendship and end up supporting each other in more ways than one.
This book contains quite a few Spanish words, phrases, and dialogue, that may turn off some readers. However, I felt that this was an added spice that gave flavor and verismilitude to the book. The opening dialogue between Sofia and her friends reminded me so much of the conversations I've heard my Hispanic students have with each other before.
This book also deals with some mature themes, and there are some violent and graphic scenes that are not appropriate for younger or queasy readers. However, I feel these scenes are necessary because the book is, as I have mentioned before, a portrait of a life of a young man, and it is a very realistic portrait. Toning down these scenes would only detract from the book. I would encourage older high school students to read this book. This is one of those pieces of literature that can be read again and again and again....more
I started reading "Thirteen Reasons Why" and could not put it down. I was completely intrigued with the whole premise of a girl who had committed suicI started reading "Thirteen Reasons Why" and could not put it down. I was completely intrigued with the whole premise of a girl who had committed suicide who had recorded tapes and sent them to all the people whom she blamed in her suicide. Narrated by one of the boys who receives the tapes, the reader is immediately pulled into the drama and action and, like Clay, cannot stop listening (or reading), no matter how harsh the tapes may be. This book really makes a person stop and consider exactly how their actions affect others in ways that they may never even know or realize.
I was completely drawn into Hannah's story, told through her tapes, and I felt so much for the poor girl. So many things had happened to her to completely break down her spirit that she finally felt she needed to end her life. Suicide is an issue that is very prevalent and real for high school students, which makes this book an appropriate read for high schoolers. There are a couple scenes that deal with mature sexual themes, thereby making this book more appropriate for older, mature high school students. However, it is a good book for students to explore what can drive a person to end their life and what others could have done about it.
My only complaint about this book (and why it received three stars instead of four) is that much of the story is confusing to read because it alternates from Hannah's story being narrated on the tapes to Clay's thoughts while he is listening to the tapes. Sometimes, the two are very different. Hannah will be talking about an experience that happened to her, but Clay will be thinking about when he first met her. Although Hannah's narration is written in italics, the interspersal of Clay's thoughts was still confusing and detracted from the story. I would have prefered to have read a chapter of Hannah's narration, and then a chapter of Clay's thoughts. I did get used to the back and forth exchange after awhile, but it still bothered me.
Despite my one criticism, I still recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good realistic fiction story about issues that are prevalent for teens today....more
At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read Terry Trueman's "Cruise Control." As a requirement for a class, I had to either read "Stuck in Neutral" orAt first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read Terry Trueman's "Cruise Control." As a requirement for a class, I had to either read "Stuck in Neutral" or its sequel, "Cruise Control." The only book I could find available was the latter, and I was hesitant about reading it because it was a sequel. I don't like reading the second book if I haven't read the first. However, after reading the first page, I was immediately hooked into this book. As it turns out, this book stands well on its own. There is no need to read "Stuck in Neutral" first, although it would certainly be worthwhile. From page one, the reader gets a real strong sense of the main character, Paul, and the rage he holds inside. Trueman did an absolutely fantastic job of creating a very real, very human character (and family) in the book. There are several tense scenes in which the family undergoes some stressful moments and the characters snap at each other. Those scenes were so lifelike to me because they remind me of how people can sometimes lash out when they are stressed and say things they don't mean.
Although I do not have a sibling with a disability, I felt tons of empathy for Paul and what he was experiencing. I think readers who have siblings with disabilities could really identify with Paul and might find a refuge within this book. This book is completely appropriate for high schoolers and is a great book to spark discussion....more
Last year I heard about a new type of book that integrated video clips into the reading experience. I thought it was an intriguing idea and a great waLast year I heard about a new type of book that integrated video clips into the reading experience. I thought it was an intriguing idea and a great way to entice kids to read, but I never read one of these books myself. A year later, as a requirement for a class, I found myself reading Patrick Carman's "Skeleton Creek." I loved scary stories as a kid, and I went through a whole horror movie phase in my teenage years, so I was immediately intrigued with the book from the beginning. Carman starts the reader off with a lot of unknowns and a sense of foreboding dread that only increases as the plot thickens. The video clips made this book come alive, and they were fun to watch, albeit the acting was subpar. My only complaint about this new format was that I didn't like having to stop reading, turn on my computer, and watch a video clip. I like my reading experience to be uninterrupted. After awhile, I got used to it, though, and just kept my computer on and near me while I read this book.
I liked how the story was told from a first person perspective, although it was unbelieveable in some aspects. In one scene, the narrator is sneaking into his parents' room, while at the same time narrating what he is doing in his notebook. Not believable at all, but it's a writing technique that makes the scene far more suspenseful. After I read this book, I knew I had to share it with my fifth graders. I read it aloud to them, and after watching the first video clip, they were hooked. It became an obsession for them, and they couldn't wait until the end of the day when it was read aloud time. I had never before seen my students get so wrapped up in a book. Even many of my lower readers who normally don't pay attention when I read aloud were making complex predictions and character inferences. I would highly recommend this book as a whole class read aloud for children in upper elementary school or middle school. Kids will love it!...more