Nine year olds Jennifer and Cameron are the outcasts at their school. Jennifer is overweight, shy, and withdrawn, and Cameron, who comes from an abusiNine year olds Jennifer and Cameron are the outcasts at their school. Jennifer is overweight, shy, and withdrawn, and Cameron, who comes from an abusive home is just well—different. Both are endlessly teased, and they somehow find each other and form a deep connection. Until one day Cameron doesn’t show up at school, and the teacher says he moved. To say Jennifer is hurt because he didn’t say goodbye is an understatement. She’s crushed and just doesn't understand. Then one day the bullies at recess tell her that Cameron died. When her own mother doesn’t tell her differently, Jennifer is devastated and decides that the only way she can survive is to bury the person she is with him.
Eight years later, Jennifer is now Jenna, and she’s completely reinvented herself. She’s in great shape, goes to a different school, and has lots of friends, including a boyfriend Ethan, the handsomest boy in school. Externally, she seems happy and seems to have the perfect life. Internally, she struggles to keep “Jennifer” inside and is haunted by a terrifying experience that occurred at Cameron’s house on her ninth birthday. On her seventeenth birthday, she discovers that Cameron did not die and that he’s in her town. Memories and suppressed feelings come flooding back as she struggles to cope with this news.
Has their connection remained strong after all these years? Why didn’t he try to contact her before? Why didn’t her mother tell her the truth? What exactly happened at Cameron’s house so many years ago? Do Jenna and Cameron still have such a strong connection after all these years? Will Jenna leave Ethan for Cameron? Can she keep Jennifer inside? Sara Zarr’s second novel Sweethearts answers all these questions through a profound and gut-wrenching story.
Zarr does an exceptional job of drawing you in and make you FEEL Jenna’s emotions. As I was reading, I felt a lump in the pitt of my stomach as Jenna relived the horrifying day at Cameron’s house. I felt anger, confusion, heartache, and fear as Jenna struggles with Cameron’s return and all of the emotions that come flooding in with it. ...more
Kira-Kira is the story of the Japanese-American Takeshima family, told from the point of view of Katie, the youngest daughter. We learn in the openingKira-Kira is the story of the Japanese-American Takeshima family, told from the point of view of Katie, the youngest daughter. We learn in the opening passage of the story that Kira-Kira means “glittering” in Japanese, and that it was Katie’s first word, taught to her by her older sister Lynn. It’s obvious from the beginning that Katie adores Lynn.
Born in Iowa to Japanese immigrants, Katie and Lynn have a nice childhood, but everything changes when the family’s Asian food store goes out of business, and they move to Georgia to become factory workers in a poultry processing plant. It’s here that Katie realizes for the first time that she is different. Shunned by the white Georgians, the Japanese community in Georgia is tight knit, but life is very difficult. Katie and Lynn’s parents work extremely long hours under harsh conditions. Katie and Lynn rarely see their father, and when they do, he’s exhausted. Their mother is forced to wear “pads” because bathroom breaks are not allowed in the factory. When their baby brother, Sammy, is born, the girls and a next door neighbor pretty much raise him. Just when things can’t get worse, Lynn becomes very ill, and the family’s bonds are tested.
This heart wrenching story is one that I will soon not forget. Cynthia Kadohata expertly gets into the mind of a girl Katie’s age who has to deal with some very adult situations but does not quite understand them. An example of this is when Lynn is very ill, and despite appearing very strong and brave in front of Lynn, Katie needs a moment alone and breaks down:
“I cried and cried. For a while as I cried I hated my parents, as if it were their fault Lynn was sick. Then I cried because I loved my parents so much. Then I didn’t feel like crying anymore. I just felt barren, my eyes felt dry. They sky was still gray. Everything was gray, the sky and the store and even my hand when I held it out in front of myself. I wondered in anyone else in history had ever been as sad as I was at that moment” (p. 199).
We also see racism, prejudice, and the unfair treatment of the factory workers through Katie’s eyes. While some have criticized this book and being slow and uninteresting for young adults, it would have been right up my alley when I was younger. Certainly, it’s not for every kid and may appeal more to girls than boys, but it’s a story that I think will impact many. It was completely deserving of its 2005 Newbery Medal win....more
In Confessions of a Serial Kisser, Evangeline has always been a "good girl," receiving good grades, hanging out with "good friends." She now lives witIn Confessions of a Serial Kisser, Evangeline has always been a "good girl," receiving good grades, hanging out with "good friends." She now lives with her mother in a tiny apartment having moved out of her childhood home after her parents' separation. One day she's cleaning in her mother's room and finds a box of romance novels under her mother's bed. One of these books, A Crimson Kiss, draws her in, and she sets upon a mission to get her own crimson kiss. This mission soon becomes an obsession as she kisses nearly every boy who crosses her path, including her best friend's boyfriend. As her reputation and relationship with her friend are damaged, she's coming to terms with her father's betrayal and his attempt at reconciliation with both her and her mother. Her life seems to be spiraling out of control as she searches for her crimson kiss.
While it's a good idea to expose teenagers to classic, thought-provoking literature, to truly make them lifelong readers, they need to have fun with reading. Give them the opportunity to read fun books that interest them because if reading always seems like homework, they will quickly get turned off. Confessions of a Serial Kisser is a light-hearted book whose title and pink cover with the big red lip print will beg girls to pull it off the shelf. Though it is funny at times and a fast read, its flaws will prevent it from becoming as well loved as Van Draanen's Flipped.
Many readers will find Evangeline annoying. She kisses boys without thinking of the repercussions, and she's super quick to judge others when she herself is not a model of good behavior. Robbie Marshall is a "dumb jock," Eddie Pasco is a "stoner," and she's downright cruel to poor Roper Harding who has obvious personal hygiene issues. Speaking of Eddie Pasco, there's this weird, overwhelming and forced anti-drug messaging in book. Eddie is one of Evangeline's "victims," and when she realizes he's a stoner, he becomes the scum of the earth while, Izzy, the creepy record store owner seems like a likely stoner himself. It almost felt like a cheesy PSA at times.
There were also some awkward passages that didn't really seem to fit. Evangeline is a rock 'n roll girl, and it's rock 'n roll that helps heal her relationship with her father in the end. She identifies with music and listens to it constantly, which is a truly believable characteristic. However, there are times in the book when Evangeline is listening to music, and she throws out the name of the band, the album, and all of the songs. It interrupts the flow and seems more like Van Draanen's, (a professed fan of rock 'n roll as indicated in the jacket flap) homage to her favorite bands. Also, the fact that Evangeline seems to be a self-taught master hair stylist is also a little unbelievable, and that she has to "babe herself up" to get guys is also a disappointing.
To be a truly good book, the reader really has to identify with the main character, and many girls won't be able to do this with Evangeline. While the concept is entertaining, the execution of a believable, likable character is not there. ...more
Those are the three words that come to mind when I think of Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl. After finishing it inTerrifying. Devastating. Tragic.
Those are the three words that come to mind when I think of Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl. After finishing it in one sitting late last night, I'm still trying to catch my breath and desperately trying to get rid of the weight that seems to have settled on my chest. But I think it will be a long time before this happens because what has happened to "Alice" in the book can happen to a child in real life...probably has happened.
The book is told from the point of view of "Alice" a fifteen-year old girl who was kidnapped on an elementary school field trip when she was 10. Her captor, Ray, has sexually and physically abused her every day since he kidnapped her. He starves her because he doesn't want her to physically mature, he terrorizes her and tells her that he'll kill her parents and burn their house down if she tries to escape. I'm putting "Alice" in parentheses because that is not her real name. It's the name Ray gave her, the same name he gave the girl he kidnapped and killed before he kidnapped the second Alice.
Alice calls herself a "living dead girl." She's numb inside, she's hungry, she's been tortured so much that she wishes for death. She's waiting for it, hoping for it, expecting it any day; but Ray has something different in mind that is even more terrifying to the reader, and he needs Alice's help.
I've always heard stories about people getting kidnapped and having many opportunities to escape, but they don't. This is Alice's case. There are multiple opportunities for her to tell someone, to run away, to ask for help, but Ray has instilled so much fear in her that she doesn't even think about it anymore.
She truly believes that he will kill her parents, and at one point she says, "I could run, but he would find me. He would take me back to 623 Daisy Lane and make everyone who lives there pay. He would make everyone there pay even if he didn't find me. I belong to him. I'm his little girl. All I have to do is be good" (p. 34).
What is most profound is that Ray has brainwashed her to the point of her believing that she's bad, she's selfish, and that it's all her fault. On the day of the kidnapping, she wouldn't share her lip gloss with her friends. They walked away from her, leaving her alone and exposed to a monster, but she blames herself, thinks if she wouldn't have been so selfish, her life would be different. It's truly heartbreaking.
But the worst part is that people look the other way. They know something's not right, but don't step in.
Scott's writing is gripping, captivating, and horrifying. She draws you in from the very beginning, and Alice immediately becomes real, someone you ache for, someone who you want to make it, someone you want to pluck out of this nightmare of a life. If you're wondering about the language and descriptions in the book, it is evident that Ray is sexually abusing Alice. It's evident that sexual acts are being performed, but the language itself is not graphic.
When discussing why she wrote Living Dead Girl, Elizabeth Scott says, " I wrote Living Dead Girl because it demanded to be told, and I hope it speaks to you as strongly as it did to me." (read more at Simon & Schuster's website).
Did I like the story? Honestly, no. I don't like stories about children being sexually abused. Was it well-written? Absolutely. Should every parent read it? Absolutely. Should teens read it? I want to say yes. I want to say that it could potentially save lives, but it's scary. All I want to do is scoop my daughter up and never let her go.
Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie is the sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception.The book picks up where Lament left off. James and Dee are at theBallad: A Gathering of Faerie is the sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception.The book picks up where Lament left off. James and Dee are at the music school Thornking-Ash, and it seems as if they cannot escape the devious and murderous fey that nearly killed James in Lament.
Ballad is told from the point of view of James, and I think Maggie Stiefvater made a smart choice in doing this because get an up-close-and-personal look into the mind of a wonderful character. Not only is James being tormented by his near-death experience and love for Dee, but he can't help but feel himself getting attracted to Nuala, a homicidal faerie who can only gain strength by sucking the life out of talented humans, and James is her target. But something is different this time. Nuala develops feelings for James, and as Halloween approaches, James is forced to choose between the lives of Nuala and Dee.
As I've come to expect with Maggie Stiefvater's works, Ballad is beautifully written. The plot is fast-paced and heart-pounding up to the end, and Stiefvater has a way for making you truly care for all of the characters you're supposed to care for, even the minor characters like James' roommate Paul and the English teacher Mr. Sullivan. Dee is more of a minor character in this book, and we mostly see how she is dealing with the absence of Luke (the homicidal faerie SHE fell in love with in Lament) through unsent text messages to James that are scattered throughout the book.
I especially loved Nuala's character and loved the sections that were told from her point of view. She's lovable, feisty, and of course, a little evil, and Stiefvater did an exceptional job of illustrating the change in Nuala throughout the book.
Fans of Lament will NOT be disappointed with Ballad....more