Category Archives: High School
PUBLISHER: Philomel; Penguin Audiobooks
LENGTH: 352 pages; 9 hrs, 51 min
SOURCE: purchased (audio)
SUMMARY: Click here to read from author Ruta Sepetys’s website.
REVIEW: This story, on the surface, seems quite different from Sepetys’s acclaimed Between Shades of Gray. Looking more closely, there are thematic similarities that resonate with readers regardless of setting or background of the characters. Josie Moraine, just like Lina, must rely on herself to “be the change she wants to see in the world”. Even though Josie is already out of school, the story is indeed a coming-of-age tale that also touches on social class, betrayal, homosexuality, and guilt.
With a detailed and unique cast of characters, Sepetys drops readers into the seedier side of New Orleans in the early 1950s. Josie’s mother is a prostitute who is self-centered and neglectful of Josie. Josie has a “created family” of supporters through the brothel and the surrounding community. With one decision to omit part of the truth surrounding one of her bookstore customer’s recent visits, Josie finds herself tangled in a web of deception that leads to her mother abandoning her to leave with an abusive boyfriend, Josie considering the life of a kept women which she swore she would never live because of her own mother, and having to choose between her dream of a college education or saving her mother’s life while dooming her own.
The intricacies of character and social class in this book are commendable. Cokie, Willie, and Jesse are unique and provide the perfect contrast to Charlotte and Charlotte’s world. The story itself seemed a bit burdensome in its development. Once Josie keeps the information about the watch to herself, it seemed to take quite a while to discover exactly how that decision would impact her plans to join Charlotte at college. The climax is predictable and Willie’s ultimate rescue of Josie seemed unavoidable. However, the decisions and experiences that Josie must work through ring true and young women on the cusp of independence will identify with Josie’s willingness to take risks as well as her reservations about venturing into new territory.
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
LENGTH: 352 pages
SUMMARY:In asociety where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.
REVIEW: I originally heard great things about Shusterman’s Everlost series and wanted to read those books. (I still do.) Then there was a sale on audible.com for one of his other series: the Unwind Dystology. In the beginning the narrator, Luke Daniels, bothered me. I’m fairly picky about narrators when listening to audiobooks so I almost stopped listening. However, Shusterman’s story-line was so engrossing that I stopped caring about the narration and just wanted to get to the next plot event. I’m sure if I had been reading it in paper, I would have stayed up all night to finish it. Where to begin?
The premise of the story is scarily believable: abortion outlawed, unwanted and “troubled” children harvested for parts, religious fanatics thinking that offering their children as sacrifices will win favor with their god. There are so many parallels to things that are really happening in our society that if one doesn’t pause while reading it, I would worry more about the reader than the author. As the characters discover what their individual and social boundaries are that they refuse to cross, the reader begins to question his own boundaries and how far he might go or refuse to go in similar situations. Connor, Risa, and Lev couldn’t come from more different backgrounds, yet they are all fighting for their lives. Survival is the great equalizer.
BRIDGE: If used in the classroom, this book could be used to discuss ethics on multiple levels: personal, theological, societal…so many options. This would also be a good way to delve into those really difficult questions about when life begins and when is one an “adult”? Does the day between 17 years old and 18 years old really make that much difference? Even with all the philosophical questions that emerge from the story, the ultimate question that the characters and readers will ask themselves is: Regardless of how much time we are given, how do we truly live?
Completed in the last several weeks: I finished Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal. Finally. I’ve been planning on reading it for ages and finally got around to it. It took a while to get going but once it picked up, I couldn’t put it down. I also finished Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore on audio.
Up Next: I just began The Real Boy by Anne Ursu of which I’ve heard wonderful things. I am also in the middle of Christopher Moore’s Fool on audio. I have listened to it before but Euan Morton’s narration of Fool and Serpent of Venice are pure genius. Next up in my audio queue is Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris. It’s getting close to summertime…my summer reading will hopefully broaden and multiply.
LENGTH: 320 pages
SOURCE: library book
SUMMARY: Fanboy has never had it good, but lately his sophomore year is turning out to be its own special hell. The bullies have made him their favorite target, his best (and only) friend seems headed for the dark side (sports and popularity), and his pregnant mother and the step-fascist are eagerly awaiting the birth of the alien life form known as Fanboy’s new little brother or sister.
Fanboy, though, has a secret: a graphic novel he’s been working on without telling anyone, a graphic novel that he is convinced will lead to publication, fame, and—most important of all—a way out of the crappy little town he lives in and all the people that make it hell for him.
When Fanboy meets Kyra, a.k.a. Goth Girl, he finds an outrageous, cynical girl who shares his love of comics as well as his hatred for jocks and bullies. Fanboy can’t resist someone who actually seems to understand him, and soon he finds himself willing to heed her advice—to ignore or crush anyone who stands in his way.
REVIEW: Strong, individual characters propel a familiar coming-of-age story. Fanboy is cynically sarcastic and his voice is familiar to those of us who have endured the persecution of bullies and felt that there was NO WAY our parents could understand the crap we had to put up with every day. Fanboy’s passivity is counteracted by Kyra’s ferocity. His defense mechanism is his imaginary List while Kyra goes straight for her attacker’s jugular with vitriolic condescension. Fanboy is taken aback by Kyra’s aggression but readers can sense his awe and envy at her ability to seemingly not care – about anything. With her encouragement, Fanboy begins to take action for himself instead of letting others take action around and against him.
While the characters are familiar and juxtaposed quite nicely, I felt that the pacing could have used a little better balance. The introduction of the characters and conflict seemed to take almost half the book. By the time they got to the mini-ComiCon, I had almost given up reading. But the last third of the book makes up for whatever lag in action there might be in the beginning. The step-facist redeems himself, offering an olive branch to Fanboy and taking him to the comic book show. Fanboy responds in kind and one begins to think that their family might just make it through the hell of adolescence.
I enjoyed Lyga’s I Hunt Killers and initially felt that Fan Boy and Goth Girl was quite a bit different. However, while the topics are markedly different, stylistically they are quite similar. There is a honesty to the writing in Fanboy’s and Kyra’s assessments of their lots in life. Lyga does not flinch from telling the hard truths about what it’s like to grow up and find yourself labeled as OTHER. Fanboy and Goth Girl battle themselves as much as they do those who malign them and it is that stark reality that makes the tale grisly and gripping at the same time. And what makes readers long for the next chapter in their adventures.