Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Boyfriend list!!

This book really got me thinking.....

-Joshua (But he was more of a friend)

-Kyle (But that was just because I was bored)

- James (But he was really mean)

- Jason

- Jimmy

This book tells the story of young Ruby Oliver who begins to suffer from panic attacks, so her overzealous parents make her go see a shrink, Dr. Z. After talking to Ruby the shrink realizes a pattern; her attacks are all revolved around boys. Dr. Z suggests she write a list of all the boys she has ever liked. Roo does and then makes the biggest mistake of her life; throws it in the trash. The list gets out and Roo is in a big mess because of the information that all of her classmates now know.

This first person novel is an excellent one for young teens. It deals with issues all of us has been through or are terrified of experiencing. Losing your best friend, being lonely, and having a BAD social life. At times you really feel bad for Roo, she is in an unfortunate situation. I sat back and thought about what a predicament I would be in if I wrote out a list of boys who I had a crush on or ever secretly dated. This would be DETRIMENTAL to my social life. This is one of the major things that got me involved in this book. I had to know how it ended.

During my book talk the main thing I wanted to get across was a connection for boys to the book. I opened with having the students think about their personal boyfriend list and what people would think if the list got out. I found it was a very useful tactic because a few boys in the class said this got them interested in reading the book!

Who would be on your list?????

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Disclaimer: I have read MANY Harry Potter novels by J.K Rowling and feel like this is the definition of fantasy literature. However I do not feel I would go so far as to call myself a "fan" of this genre.

This book was a very different read for me. I really like the approach Cashore took to this story, a young girl who is the protector of the KING. (Nice message to young females who are not so much in to make up but more into sports.) I think the book took a much different approach to the gender lenses than all the other novels we have read this semester. Katsa is a strong girl who has an ability to kill in a magnificent way. I think she is strong in this way yet she is just like any other teenage girl. She meets and eventually falls for a Po, a young prince. I really enjoyed reading about these two characters lives. Po, unlike her uncle, allowed Katsa to be herself. This is a fantasy novel with beautiful details of scenery.

I think teen girls can take a lot way from this book. Katsa strength and strong will made me want her to be victorious in all her endeavors. The development of this character is phenomenal Cashore does an excellent job.

As I stated before I am not a big lover of fantasy novels. After reading this book I would have to say I could understand why other love this genre.

Considering this is one of the first fantasy novels I have ever read cover to cover and it trickled some sort of "likness" in me I decided to browse over other fantasy novel titles to see if there were any others that looked like they could grab AND KEEP my attention. If you LOVE fantasy or if your like me and want to know more simply click here!!

We Were Here

This novel is…an interesting one. It really bothers me that during the discussion some students made statements that implied they would not teach this book because students most likely could not relate to it, or the demographics of the characters pushed them away from the novel. I think if that is the case then you as a teacher would constantly be teaching your students the same kind of material, and that is cause for a biased world.

This book tells the story of Miguel. He is a Mexican-American teenager who has been put in a home for juvenile delinquents. It tells the story through his eyes. (Which I really liked because I felt more connected to him.) It is up to the interpretation of the reader if they believe Miguel is a good or bad person. I struggled with this book at first because of the language but

eventually got used to it. I really enjoyed reading this book. It, unlike a lot of YA titles, was not so predictable. We don’t know upfront why Miguel has been sent to the home but we do know that his mother resents him for it. I was so extremely anxious to find out what his foul deed was I found myself peeking ahead in the book.

Miguel comes across some…I will use interesting, for lack of a better word, characters on his journey. Rondell, an African American teen that Miguel believes is dumb as the come. Also Mong, an Asian teenager who Miguel can’t figure out. These three boys, having nothing in common, form a special kind of bond; a brotherhood. It is very amazing to see the things they go through and how they each handle the situation in different ways.

I really like the book and felt that it should have been a reading that was not characterized as “unheard voices” but as teen struggle or teens finding themselves (self-reflection). I think when you read a book like this after reading books about teens ALL from mainstream society it is inevitable race will be a main topic of conversation. For this reason, as well as MANY others, I wish this book could have been integrated into the course without the title of the unit being something specifically about race.

....Octavian Nothing....

This story was written with YA readers in mind. It tells the story of a young boy, Octavian. Not much is known about him at the beginning of the novel. We know he lives with his mother in a house with a lot of men. These men, unlike him and his mother, do not have names they go by numbers. We find out that the men are philosophers and they are training Octavian. He is used as an experiment to see if the African race and the European race is equal, or is one better than the other.

Upon first reading this novel I did not feel it was for YA readers. After a class discussion I feel like that would be underestimating all young adult readers. The writing style in this book is very different from all the other books discussed in this blog. It is more sophisticated. It takes a while, maybe 50 or 60 pages, to become accustomed to the writing style of MT Anderson. The issues raised in this book are somewhat different than other YA books. This book tackles issues like race. It may get YA readers thinking about how they feel about their own race.

I feel like the only reason this book is classified as YA is because the main character is a young man. If it had been an adult this book could have easily gone with adult literature. The most important thing in this novel is to make sure you discuss it in your class.

If I had to recommend this book to a particular group, it would be seniors in an AP literature class. This book could be easy to get into if you are able to discuss why things are happening, and the significance of some events that take place in the book.

My Friend Frankie Landau-Banks

Frankie Landau-Banks this story is about a girl who makes a typical transformation, or what most teenage girls wish was a typical transformation. As a freshman she is a geeky girl barley noticed by her classmates except through her senior sister Zada. She comes back as a sophomore with a new and improved figure, which catches the eye of Matthew Livingston, the hottest senior in her school.

The novels protagonist is somewhat of a role model for teen girls. She fights for her independence when it comes to her mother and she knows that she does not want to be the kind of girlfriend who looses herself when she gets a boyfriend. However, weather she is doing it to get what she wants, or has taken this step, is not obvious to us as a reader. The real role model in the book is Zada, Frankie’s sister. Zada is there every time Frankie wants to talk about Matthew to remind her that she should not let him take over her life and when he is gone life will go on.

I think teen girls can relate to Frankie if they know it or not. I know thinking about my years in high school I found many parallels between me and the protagonist of this story. Feeling as if you are so into your boyfriend and he is the only person that can make you happy; wanting to do any and everything you can to make him happy! (Sounds sad but its the cold hard truth!)

The book centers on a secret club that is “boys only” and this drives Frankie insane. So insane she makes it her mission to join this club. Once she sees that membership is highly unlikely she decides to take over. Now that she has become the mastermind behind the club and its pranks, unknowing to the boys because it is all done via e-mail, she thinks she could get respect from Matthew.

The thing that I really liked about this book is the third person narrative. Usually with third person the story is told in an unbiased way. However in this story the narrator is very compassionate when it comes to Frankie.

I think this book might be to “girle” for upperclassmen, especially boys. I would recommend this book to a freshmen class because I feel like, they, more than anyone would be able to either relate to it, or discuss how much they are not like Frankie.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

! ! ! ! THE HUNGER GAMES ! ! ! ! !

This well written novel by Suzanne Collins is definitely a page turner. It has been so long since I read a book and got the feeling that I got after reading this book. It takes place in a sort of futuristic society. After much rebellion and a some natural disaster the new world, Panem, is all that is left. Panem is divided into 12 districts and some are better off then others in terms of wealth. Our protagonist lives in one of the worst districts, district 12. She is the sole provider for her family which consist of her mother who did not take the death of her husband well and her little sister Prim. Katniss is all these two people have. She goes out and hunts every day and sells and cooks everything she catches.

The Capitol, or government, has set up a reality show for all of Panem to watch called the hunger games. This is where two people from each district are picked to fight it out in an arena to the death. There can only be one winner. After a very dramatic drawing in district 12 the two contestants are chosen...Katniss and Peeta.

When the games begin Katniss realizes there is no point in teaming up with anyone because when its all said and done they will have to fight to the death anyway. This is hard for Peeta accept, especially considering he is madly in love with her.

This book is filled with stories of survival, love, trust, and betrayal. Because of this book I am an OFFICIAL fan of Suzanne Collins. I bought the book and plan on re-reading it many times because I know there are things that I missed in reading it. There is a sequel to this book, Catching Fire, that I am DYING to read. I have already ordered it online and I am IMpatiently waiting by the mailbox everyday for it to come. This book reminds me of why I love to read. When you can get so wrapped in a book, you feel like you know the characters, the author as accomplished what they should have. This book will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. If your anything like me it will have you laughing, crying, and cheering out loud! I am surprised at how much this book invoked emotions in me that no YA book has yet to do.

This book is an amazing read and I would suggest it to anyone who wants to take a journey outside of their own reality.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Rag and Bone Shop

This book written by Robert Cormier is a mystery/suspense story. It tells the story of a 12-year old boy, Jason. He is somewhat of an outsider. He does manage to make friends with a little girl named Alicia. The fact that she is only 7 does not seem to bother Jason. They spend time together doing things like jigsaw puzzles, which Alicia absolutely loves. When Alicia turns up dead the police have no physical evidence pointing to anyone as the culprit, so they rely on a "gut feeling" that Jason has committed this horrible crime. They call in an expert interrogator who is known for getting confessions to come in and try to get Jason to confess this crime. As Trent, the interrogator, is questioning young Jason we get mixed signals. He seems innocent but some of his actions may indicate otherwise.
Basically this story goes through the interrogation of a seemingly innocent child and the pressures of the police to satisfy the town with a confession so they can sleep at night knowing the killer has been caught. The reader gets taken on a journey through the life of this little boy and his relationship with the victim. We see how being alone in this small, dark, and clustered room with Trent leads Jason to discover something about himself no one ever could have suspected.

I think this book was a good read. It was really slow in the beginning especially with the character development. A book can always get on my good side if I can imagine the characters in my head. If i can see them outside of the book I feel like the author did a good job of giving me a sense of who the character is. I feel like Cormier could have done a better job with going more into the characters lives. Also, I would have liked him to go into more detail about the murder. For example the scene where Alicia was found was very descriptive; the way she was placed on the ground, how she was covered, and even her facial expression. I would have liked to know why all these things happened the way they did.

The book was also presented from multiple point of views. At times students may find this confusing, but after analyzing why the author would have done this, I feel like it was important. We get a sense of how the other characters in the story feel about Jason's innocence. Some characters refer to him as the young man, while others call him the culprit.

I liked this book for its suspenseful aspect as well as its amazing use of descriptive words. (Used GREAT vocabulary.) I would recommend it for sophomore level students.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Looking For Alaska

This Young Adolescent book tells the story of 3 well to do teens in a boarding school. One of the stories main characters, Miles or Pudge as he will soon be known, is going through some changes that a lot of people, not just teens, can relate to. He is leaving his home and going to a boarding school where he will know no one. From the reading we gather at his previous school he was not that popular and didn't have many friends. This all changes once he gets to Culver Creek and meets his new roommate Chip, or The Colonel as we will get to know him. While at school he meets Alaska. His feelings for her seem to grow as the story progresses. This story centers around three typical teens in school, playing pranks, and trying to get throug
h the day. What I think stands out about them and makes theses characters so interesting is the way they deal with certain issues.

Alaska, when she was a child, watched her mother die. She is still obviously dealing with he pain and guilt she feels from this experience. It is up to you as the reader to decide if this shapes some of her impulsive and wild actions now that she is older.

These kids are who drink, smoke, and play pranks on people. A lot of people may suggest this book deals with topics that are too risky. Some may even suggest it will give teens negative ideas about dealing with drinking. However, most kids now days are either already participating in these activities OR at least knows someone who is and that someone is likely to be a close friend. What this book does for parents and teachers is allows students to see the way that drinking can affect your life. Sometimes when your on the outside looking in you see things differently. It raises the issues that a lot of teachers are timid to bring up such as death and suicide.

When I look read this book I most identified with Miles. Every school year I feel like I'm in search of something new. Like I am looking for something to help reveal something about myself that I didn't know was there before. As far as his "relationship" with Alaska goes, I'm sure there are A LOT of us out there who can relate to having feelings for someone but being unsure of their feelings toward you.

So to the parents, even with the book having teenagers drinking, smoking, and making many references to sex this book is GREAT for your child to read. Everyone goes through different tragedies in their life and to see the way people deal with it can help you. I don't know if I would recommend this book in a classroom but I would DEFINITELY recommend it to and individual student who is going through any of the issues raised in the book.

Monday, September 14, 2009

...T W I S T E D...

In this young adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson we meet Tyler. He is not so much what we would call your "average teen". He is caught vandalizing school property and is sentence to a summer of manual labor. However every cloud had its silver lining. This manual labor has transformed Tyler from a skinny kid who was never noticed into a well developed standout amount his classmates. For the first time in four years he is being noticed by his classmates. Most importantly he catches the attention of Bethany Milbury, the prettiest and most popular girl in the school, basically the girl of his dreams. After he spends some time with her they slowly begin to grow closer and start dating. Even though things seem all and well, Tyler is living a very troubled life. His father is verbally abusive and shows him no attention, his mother drinks alot, and his best friend is being traumatized at school. With all this on his plate Tyler contemplates hurting himself and others all throughout the story. He imagines himself being "the next dead boy on CNN", he says thinking about death relaxes him, and even puts a gun in his mouth at one point. Along with all this added stress after a wild party and a series of unfortunate incidents occur after a wild night of partying Tyler ends up as the number one suspect in an incident involving Bethany. This book is full of "Twist" and turns.

I think this is a perfect YA book. It should definitely be for a more mature audience because there are a lot of sexual references, a lot of talk about death, and some really foul language. I think this book is perfect because it tackles a lot of problems that teens go through that they may not feel comfortable talking to their parents or teachers about. The way Tyler handles these situations may not be the best decision but it is REAL and that is the most important thing. Sometimes when things are going bad in teens lives they may feel like their only option is the most extreme one. This books opens up discussion for what to do if you are ever in a situation like Tyler's. I think a lot of parents will consider this book as inappropriate because of the issues it raises. What these parents fail to realize is just because their children aren't showing it, they could be feeling the same thing. I would recommend this book maybe to a sophomore student in high school.

Friday, September 11, 2009

So YOU think you know what YA is?!

The main topic of discussion for the first week or so of class was very simple...what exactly is YA literature? Is it books catered to young adult readers? its it books simply about teenagers? This question was and STILL is very puzzling to me. I think to answer this question you have to know what age is considered "young adult"? This term is ever changing. Is it a chronological number like 12-17? Does it have to do with each individual and their own situation? These are all questions that I wonder about as I sit in this class everyday.

From browsing the YA section at the St. Louis Public Library conveniently located on Vandavender and Kingshighway, I think I have come up with the answer. Yes! I have solved something that has been a controversy in this subject for years and years. YES! I have solved something even the experts have yet to figure out. A young adolescent book isn't about catering to a specific age group (12-19) but more so situations younger adults ma be inte
rested in reading about. (Sounds confusing?! Well, I agree but for the sake of this blog I will continue.)

As I'm glancing over the books in the "YA" section in the library I see no common denominator. The authors all are different ages and the subject matters range from a 15 girl who gets her first kiss, to a 14 year old mom, to teen murder. I think to myself, "How can you shelve all these books in one category?" The answer didn't hit me right
away, but it is simple. They are all books that young adults may not be able to relate to but are situations that they can fathom would be true. If i were a publisher I think it would be rather difficult to deem a book YA and have to explain to the author why their book has been categorized for young adults instead of "regular" adults. I feel like authors who intend for their books to be for adult audiences aim towards a more sophisticated style of writing, and when
the publisher says it's YA they feel like their writing is not mature enough.
I remember reading in one of the articles how its GREAT for a child to wander in the adult section at the library, but if an adult reads from the YA
section their are viewed in a negative light.

I guess all in all I still don't know the answer to the question, "What makes a book YA?"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Classic Novel: Are You There God? Its Me Margaret.

Margaret Simon is our narrator in this classic coming of age story. She is a 12 year old girl who is making a transition from big city New York to small town Farbrook. She is not to happy about the move especially considering she will be a new school and away from one of her favorite people in the world, her Grandmother. Margaret is, all in all, an average 12 year old kid going through the motions of school, best friends and most importantly trying her hardest to fit in and be "normal" just like her friends. The thing about Margaret that stands out is she is what we would call "stuck in between religions". Her Christian mother and her Jewish father have decided that Margaret will choose her own religion when she is old enough and ready to make her own decision. Unfortunately for Margaret her grandparents are not to happy with this decision and she does feel the pressure from them to choose a religion, preferably the one they want her to be. She also feels out casted from her friends because they all have a religion and either go to the YMCA with the Christians or the Jewish Community Center. Because of this she develops a special relationship with God and even talks to him every night and every time she feels she needs him in her life. Her relationship with God seems as though it is stronger through her search for a religion than it would be if she were simply born into a religion.

This story is a fascinating one. Margaret is a normal 12 year old girl who is in a secret club with her best friends and simply trying to fit in. She is worried she will be the last of her friends to get her period, worried about kissing a boy for the first time, and worried about school. The thing about Margaret that makes her special is she is forming a relationship with God without even knowing it. She speaks to him everyday, "Are you there God? Its me Margaret." She always address him this way. Its as if she knows he is there but she wants to know if she is listening. I would definitely recommend this book to any preteen girls because I think she is a good role model for girls her age. It tackles issues that most girls are worried about and feel like they are the ONLY ONES thinking about it. Almost every girl can relate to feeling like they would be the last of their friends to get their period. Excited about becoming a woman, but being nervous about what it would feel like. Her thought process as she is going through these situations is very genuine. I wish I had a book like this to read when I was younger to let me know that all girls are nervous about these issues like buying your first bra. (Also, its okay to get a bra even if you only wear a 32 AA.) I think this is a perfect book for young adult readers because there are so many issues they can relate too. Also, it might get you thinking about your own religion. Are you Christian or Jewish because your parents told you that's what you are, or do you genuinely feel a relationship with your God like Margaret?