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?