Saturday, November 3, 2012

Everyday by David Levithan

I was so intrigued by the idea of this book when I read the summary online that I just had to get it.  It was super!  Here's the deal:

A is a person who wakes up in a new body every day.  One day a girl.  One day a boy.  One day in one town working hard in school and getting good grades.   The next day, another town, in the body of a person with an addiction.  It's been like this forever.

A has learned about it and has dealt with the fact that this is how life will be until one day A wants it to be different.  A meets a fabulous, beautiful girl, Rhiannon.  Now instead of calmly floating on to the next day, the next place, the next body, A wants to be back with her.  Kind of hard, though, when A has no idea where the next place or body will be.

So begins this book.  I liked that it just starts.  No real introduction, you just start one day with A on the journey and it all happens.  I thought the pace of the book was great.  It was detailed yet quick-paced.  I was so interested in how it all worked but I really enjoyed meeting the characters as well.

What really stuck with me about this book, though, was that A literally got to walk around in another's person's shoes every single day.  I think about how much we judge other's.  Even if we're calm and controlled enough to never blurt out crazy things, we all think stuff sometimes.  What A has realized is that all people, no matter what the outside appearance might be, have their own stuff they're dealing with.  A respects the bodies and tries to understand what the kid is going through.  I felt like I got to meet so many different kinds of people as I read this book.  I got to see so many perspectives on life, just like A does everyday.

So, can A and Rhiannon be together?  How can something like that even begin to work?  And if A does try to tell Rhiannon somehow that this is how life is, who would even ever believe a "story" like that.

I loved the book.  I was really hooked at the beginning and couldn't wait to see what each day would bring and how all the details of each day would affect the rest of the story.  I highly recommend this book because it's different and new and cool, but also I recommend it because it's eye-opening to see so many different kinds of lives.  I think it's a good reminder not to judge someone until you've tried to see things and understand things from their perspective.

Can't help it, so here's a favorite passage:
I have been to many religious services over the years.  Each one I got to only reinforces my general impression that religions have much, much more in common than they like to admit.  The beliefs are almost always the same; it's just that the histories are different.  Everybody wants to believe in a higher power.  Everybody wants to belong to something bigger than themselves, and everybody wants company in doing that.  They want there to be a force of good on earth, and they want an incentive to be a part of that force.  They want to be able to prove their belief and their belonging, through rituals and devotion.  they want to touch the enormity.   
It's only in the finer points that it gets complicated and contentious, the inability to realize that no matter what our religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have about 98 percent in common with each other.  Yes, the differences between male and female are biological, but if you look at the biology as a matter of percentage, there aren't a whole lot of things that are different.  Race is different purely as a social construction, not as an inherent difference.  And religion--whether you believe in God or Yaweh or Allah or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things.  For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2 percent that's different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that.
One passage/character/body that really affected me was Kelsea.  I thought about how hard high school is and how it's hard even if you've got everything together.  This girl's story really touched me.  It make me thing about how every time we say hello to someone, especially someone who's different or seems to need it,  we might be helping out.  Kindness matters so much.  More than we ever know.  We can't ever afford to be unkind to each other.  Every look, every smile, every nod, every hello matters and can send peace and respect into the world.  Here's Kelsea's life:
Kelsea has email access on her phone, but I'm still worried about anything being I walk the halls and go to classes, waiting for my chance.  I have to push harder to get Kelsea through the day.  Any time I let it, the weight of living creeps in and starts to drag her down.  It would be too easy to say that I feel invisible.  Instead, I feel painfully visible, and entirely ignored.  People talk to her, but it feels like they are outside a house, talking through the walls.  There are friends, but they are people to spend time with, not people to share time with.  There's a false beast that takes the form of instinct and harps on the pointlessness of everything that happens.  
That's a rough life for a kid to have to live.  But not every day that A wakes up is like this.  This was just one reminder about how much a person might be going through whether their outer self shows it or not.  A cool read.  I'd pick it up, soon, if I were you!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This book is currently out as a movie right now.  It came out (the book) in 1999.  In 1999, I was a senior in high school.  Preoccupied with passing Calculus and getting into college, I wasn't really too much of a reader that year, believe it or not.  So somehow, this book passed me by.  I've seen it on shelves, and it's been a young adult book cult classic for a long time, but I still never got to it until now.  I can say that I am really glad I read it.

Some books stick with you and you feel all happy and warm and fuzzy inside when you finish.  Others make you grab boxes of tissues.   This one stayed with me, but not in a way I've experienced before.  I just enjoyed it.  I was glad to have gone on the journey with Charlie.

So the books is told through letters written by Charlie to his listener.  He is wandering through high school.  He's different.  He's really smart.  He's got a family.  They're great, but like all families, they have their issues.  He is observant.  He doesn't really "participate" in life.  His English teacher gives him some extra books to read and encourages him to participate.  He does.

This is the story of his participation (or sometimes his lack of it) in school, life, and love over the course of the year.  He meets up with Patrick and Sam who are cool and quirky.  They adventure.  They experiment.  They are infinite.  We follow Charlie to football games, school dances, and parties.  Charlie thinks of others before himself, sometimes to a fault.

It's hard to really describe this little book.  But it was really good.  I read most of it one sitting because I just followed Charlie and wanted to know how things worked out for him.

The book does touch on some scary subjects:  drugs, sex, date rape, domestic violence.  But it's in a way that really shows readers how terrible these things can be for young people.  To ignore these issues isn't good...they're real, and I felt that the author presented them and handled them well.  But they aren't the focus of the book.  To me the book was about figuring out who you are and about trying to make it in this crazy world, even when it seems like that is the hardest thing you can do.  There were so many touching moments in the story.  I am really happy I finally got to this one.  I recommend to students who don't mind reading books about big issues.  I also think you decide pretty quickly if you like the letter format and Charlie's narrating voice.  The reader can take it from there and decide if this is the book for you.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

I had seen this book forever on the shelf and never even picked it up to look at the back.  But this summer, when I saw a nice hardcover on sale at a used bookshop, I picked it up.  Asher's 13 Reasons Why is very popular with my student readers, so I took a look....I was instantly hooked!

So, Josh and Emma are in high school in 1996.  What's super cool for me is that this exactly when I started high school, and I must say the book was right on as far as time-period stuff goes.  Anyway, when the internet really first started in people's homes, you would always get these free AOL discs in the mail.  Tons of them! So when Emma gets a computer from her dad, she's all ready to set up her first email address and her IM account....(old school IM yall!) and she has Josh come over to help.  She and Josh were BFFs forever but had an awkward I-like-you-but-just-as-a-friend moment earlier last year, and so things are a bit rocky.  But they put the disc in and are setting it all up when they see this window for something called Facebook.  But it's 1996...Facebook doesn't even exist yet.  They actually end up seeing their own profiles in their own futures....and what they find is pretty interesting.  Who are they married to?  Are they happy?  Did they finish college?  Are they still friends?  All of these questions surface as they start digging deeper into their futures.  And  then, once they start making choices during the year, they see that these changes affect their future profiles.

The book is told from alternating points of view, which is always fun.  This keeps it fresh and also allows for you to see the story from multiple perspectives.  It was a fun read because we can all think about what it would be like to get a glimpse into our futures.  What would we do??  I liked the regular school stuff, too:  parties, dates, sports, class, hallway conversations.  It was all pretty fun and real.  I recommend this to both guys and girls.  If you like Facebook...that's a plus.  You'll get a kick out of it!

Chiggers by Hope Larson

A while back I read Mercury by Hope Larson and really liked it.  I've been trying to beef up the collection of graphic novels in my classroom library, so I picked this one up.  It was pretty good.  I most enjoyed the fact that it was about camp.  I loved reading about the camp atmosphere and activities.  Bunk life is crazy, and it was fun to be reminded of old times at summer camp.  I thought that the characters were cool, but overall it was just ok for me.  I wasn't terribly moved by the story at all.  I will add it to my collection, but will probably recommend Mercury first.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

OMG.  I loved this little book.  I was so inspired not only by Auggie, but also by all of the supporting characters.

So Auggie Pullman has a deformed face.  It's so bad, he tells you in the very first chapter, that whatever you're possibly imagining....his face is worse.  Yet, he decides to try to go to school.  He's been home-schooled until now, but his mom can't keep up with his studies.  He needs to go to school.  But let's all be realistic, school's hard enough even for kids who have it all together - this is going to be a nightmare for Auggie.

So the story begins.  Auggie will impress you at every turn.  I found so many little nuggets of wisdom and kindness.  I really felt moved by the book.  So maybe the ending was a little too sweet, but who cares....I want to live in a world where people accept Auggie for who he is.

Kids need to read this book.  Kids who are in middle school, high school, college, and even us adults who are students of the world.  You need to meet Auggie because he helps you get some perspective on your life and what you're facing.  A great walk in many characters' shoes.

Read it!  Now!

A snippet - Page 59 to Page 60
I'm not sure why, but all of a sudden I started to cry.

Mom put the book down and wrapped her arms around me.  She didn't seem surprised that I was crying.  "It's okay," she whispered in my ear.  "I'll be okay."

"I'm sorry," I said between sniffles.

"Shh," she said, wiping my years with the back of her hand.  "You have nothing to be sorry about...."

"Why do I have to be so ugly, Mommy?" I whispered.

"No, baby, you're not..."

"I know I am."

She kissed me all over my face.  She kissed my eyes that came down too far.  She kissed my cheeks that looked punched in.  She kissed my tortoise mouth.

She said soft words that I know were meant to help me, but words can't change my face.
Hello!  Doesn't this just break your heart.... Yet this kid makes it.  He faces mean kids and comments and stares.  And he still tries and gets up every day and does his best and sends out positive energy for others.

And here's a bit from Auggie himself - page 65 - Auggie's paper about one of his class assignments:

"This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do.  The things we do are the most important things of all.  They are more important than what we say or what we look like.  the things we do outlast our mortality.  The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died.  T hey're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs.  Only instead of being made out of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of your.  That's why your deeds are like your monuments.   Built with memories instead of with stone."

My Really Late Summer Reading List

So, I moved from one city to another this summer.  Started a new job.  It's been busy. are the cool books I read this summer that I thought y'all might like.

Just a quick word about each one.

Maniac Magee - Can't believe I never read this one, but it was such a gem. A classic story with memorable characters.  One of those that you just have to read no matter when it happens.

Divergent - Beatrice lives in a future Chicago in which society is divided into factions.  She's in Abnegation but must decide when she's sixteen what faction she will align herself with.  Her choice could have serious consequences not only for her but also for all the people she loves and knows.  This was the first book/series that I thought came close to The Hunger Games.  I really loved this book.  Couldn't put it down.  Loved the characters and just the questions it brought up about people/their personalities.

Insurgent - Sequel to Divergent.  A must read if you like the first one.  I am, of course, just sad I've got to wait until the final book comes out.

The Name of the Star - I love, love, love anything by Maureen Johnson.  She's a smart, cooky, cool writer.  This book is different from her others.  It follows Rory, who's going to boarding school in London.  She's from Louisiana, so it's a huge culture shift.  But, she's game.  She meets people at school.  What's interesting here, though, is that London has a lot of history....not all of it great.  Someone has been recreating the Jack the Ripper murders from the past.  This book is boarding school fun meets London ghost hunting.  Super, fantastic fun!!!

Where Things Come Back - An award winning book and definitely worthy.  I loved this book because it is written from two totally different points of view.  The two narrators aren't even a part of each other's story...until they are.  I remember is this all going to connect, and when it did....I was floored.  It was a really good, gritty book.  Check it out.

Out of My Mind - An easy read, but a really moving book.  This book is from the point of view of a girl with cerebral palsy.  She can't move or talk, but there's so much happening inside her mind.  You get a front row seat at she works through all these challenges at school.  A good read to remind you to walk in another person's shoes so that you can understand new perspectives about the world and how you treat and view people.

Anya's Ghost - I've been  trying to read more graphic novels.  This one was great!  I really, really loved it.  Anya is having issues with friends and school and just everything like every other kid in the world.  Her family's Russian and she deals with that, too.  Anyway, she ends up falling into a well and there is a skeleton down there!!!  She ends up talking to the ghost who belongs to the bones.  At first it's actually kind of cool, but then it begins getting weird....A fun high school, annoying ghost, be who you are story.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Obviously, since this is the second book in a trilogy, I don't want to give too, too much away for people who haven't read it.  But I will say, I really enjoyed book two!  I felt like it was fast paced and exciting.  It picked up right where the first book, Across the Universe, left off and didn't slow down for one minute.

The series is about two main characters, Amy and Elder.  Elder is a leader on the spacecraft Godspeed.  He's part of an elaborate hierarchy of leadership aboard the vessel.  He finds out in book one that what he thought he knew about the ship isn't true at all, and he faces many choices and decisions.  Amy, on the other hand, is not a member of the Godspeed crew like Elder is.  She, along with her parents, was frozen when Godspeed left Earth.  That is until someone unplugged her way before her time.  She's lucky that she made it.  But when she looks around at the mono-ethnic people on the ship, she realizes that her pale skin and red hair make her stand out and that she might be lucky to be alive, but she's certainly not safe.  Amy and Elder continue to work together during the first and second books to get the ship where it needs to be and to focus on the one important thing in the future - completing Godspeed's mission of landing on another Earth-like planet, Centauri-Earth.

Revis is a fun writer.  Both books, once they got going, were fast reads.  I kept wanting to turn pages so I could find out what in the world would be next.  I highly recommend if you like sci-fi sort of stuff. 

P.S. I absolutely love both of the covers for these books.  The first book had a two-sided cover.  I wish the second book had a reversible cover as well, but it didn't.  Still great covers, though.