As an avid reader, I've come to appreciate the aphorism that says, "Read books. Don't believe them." Some of the most powerful books young adults findAs an avid reader, I've come to appreciate the aphorism that says, "Read books. Don't believe them." Some of the most powerful books young adults find - Go Ask Alice, A Child Called "It" - aren't quite what they claim to be. While they document serious subjects, they aren't clouded with complexity or nuance. By drawing a lineage from "Breath to Breath" to these earlier books, I mean it as both compliment and criticism. All three are simple and earnest; again, that can be for good or ill.
The verse novel moves along simply and without difficulty. William, about to be a senior in high school, has arrived in sunny California to live with his estranged dad, fleeing some tragedy in Kansas (problems with the law, dead Grandfather, etc.). William struggles to build a new life. While there's some friends, a job, and athletic success, he's also dogged by some very strange omens that he can't quite shake. The tension builds nicely, even if the climax is over-the-top and a little problematic. While the story does a good job rendering the contradictory thoughts and behaviors that sometimes bedevil young men, the resolution is pure white-knight fantasy over sinister villainy. That is to say: completely unrealistic.
Even though the story orbits around violence, abuse, and sexual assault (kudos for depicting a male survivor), it offers hope and lots of "if in need of help, contact...." resources at the end. The 'inspired by a true story' tag on the cover feeds into the need some teens have for authenticity in their reading, as does the explicit depiction of abuse.
My chief complaint is that the climactic heroism at the end is superhero-style wish fulfillment of the sort that makes for spiffy Hollywood endings, but isn't available in reality. (view spoiler)[William gets his triumphal revenge, conquering his abuser and 'saving the children' in a scene that's almost "Pulp Fiction" like. But he's beaten up a younger boy, stolen a gun, and stalked a preschool class. These bad behaviors are swept away with "nobody wants to prosecute a hero." I wanted him to have some greater insight to his own actions and take responsibility for them, but instead he gets away with high crimes because he meant no harm and it all turned out right in the end. I think a lot of young men get into trouble thinking that way. I wish Lew had been a bit better about this. (hide spoiler)] Teens who read this sort of story want to believe it, however unbelievable it may be. Give to readers of Crank and Street Pharm.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A sharp collection of poems, stitching together fairy tales and themes of girlhood, coming of age, and more. Many of the poems stunned or shocked a liA sharp collection of poems, stitching together fairy tales and themes of girlhood, coming of age, and more. Many of the poems stunned or shocked a little, demanding re-reading. There isn't really a narrative, but together Heppermann's writing feels urgent and true and mysterious and dangerous. Short - if not sweet - this is a worthy read that many readers will love....more
Unlike many verse novels, this stands up as poetry. At less than 90 pages, the story is a thin slice of the lives of Rita and Jimmy, who live hard livUnlike many verse novels, this stands up as poetry. At less than 90 pages, the story is a thin slice of the lives of Rita and Jimmy, who live hard lives, love each other while moving closer and further apart. Fans of Ellen Hopkins may move onto this eventually, but Addonizio isn't as generous with narrative. Hopkins tells a story; Addonizio hints at hers. Readers have to connect the dots, piecing together the story from bits and shards.
The explicit nature of the book will make it unlikely for most High School collections, but fans of gritty love stories may find this one worth investigating to see what a gifted poet can do....more
I liked this debut. Alexander introduces us to a twin brothers who may be in 8th grade, but who read a bit older, and their relationship is great. TheI liked this debut. Alexander introduces us to a twin brothers who may be in 8th grade, but who read a bit older, and their relationship is great. The play on the same team, except when they fight like only brothers can. Towards the beginning, I was a little confused as to who narrates the story; at first I thought that it alternated between the brothers, but I think only one actually talks. This title could easily work for Freshman and Sophomore readers who love basketball, family, and don't need R-rated activity. There's a honest, even earnest heart to the story that moved quickly and heartrendingly to the end. I might suggest following this with Boy21 for those who like the b-ball angle, Coaltown Jesus for those who like the message.
Props for having a mom who's the Vice-Principal. There's also a small but interesting female character who plays hoop, so there's plenty of cross-gender appeal, even as this works for guys who might be disinclined to the likes of Sonya Sones and Lisa Schroeder.
I hope Alexander has a few more of this sort in the fire. I know that he has a readership ready to embrace his stories if this is any indication of what's to come. ...more
A 120-page verse novel that packs a solid punch, though not a knock-out. The fourteen-year-old protagonist, Walker, is grieving for Noah, his older brA 120-page verse novel that packs a solid punch, though not a knock-out. The fourteen-year-old protagonist, Walker, is grieving for Noah, his older brother who died too young but had also made life hard on their single mom. Then Jesus appears.
Normally, this wouldn't be a set-up for my kind of story, but Koertge's Christ is closer to Christopher Moore's than Sunday School. The two guys - Jesus and Walker - work out some metaphysics, crack some jokes, and our protagonist's life makes a bit more sense by the end.
This book would make a great whole-class text: short, readable, and provocative. There's nothing controversial - beyond the all-too-human, wise-cracking Jesus - and there's plenty of thoughtful moments to ponder. Kids looking for a semi-serious book may also appreciate this take on the All-Mighty. ...more
A surprisingly strong entry in the teen-prostitution sub-section of YA (Tricks, Chloe Doe, Trafficked, Sold). The story is familiar: sixteen year oldA surprisingly strong entry in the teen-prostitution sub-section of YA (Tricks, Chloe Doe, Trafficked, Sold). The story is familiar: sixteen year old Angel, grieving over her departed mother, falls in with a drug-supplying pimp. The story isn't so much about how Angel falls into prostitution and addiction, but about her efforts to effect redemption, which comes through tremendous will power and a little inspiration from John Milton's "Paradise Lost." Leavitt moves the plot along quickly, striking a near-perfect balance between gritty realism and decorous modesty. The 240 pages of verse took only a few hours to read, but there are dazzling lines and images that demand re-reading.
There's virtually no profanity and Angel's sex-work is rendered obliquely enough for middle school readers who might not appreciate the darkness of Ellen Hopkins and Adam Rapp. Well worth reading....more
A sweet and likable little story with some unusual elements. Bi-sexual dad divorces mom for younger boyfriend; mom with depression struggles, but doesA sweet and likable little story with some unusual elements. Bi-sexual dad divorces mom for younger boyfriend; mom with depression struggles, but doesn't steal the spotlight. There's a group of arty-outsiders who call themselves 'leftovers' and even a teen-mom who gives her baby up for adoption. I especially appreciated that the narrator - Marcie - makes some libido-driven decisions that seem realistic and that she isn't punished for. These bits were fresh, and the verse format made them easy to read.
The ending is a bit too neat, but teens who seek this out probably won't care. I will be suggesting this to fans of I Heart You, You Haunt Me. It is longer and the boyfriend isn't dead, but they share a core of sweet yearning. Might also pair with The Geography of Girlhood for the exploration of love is a significant part of girls' coming-of-age....more