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.