Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez

Sanchez, Alex.  Rainbow Boys. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.  2003 (first published in 2001). ISBN 0689857705

 

Reader’s Annotation: Three boys must deal with their sexuality and the troubles they face from prejudice and confusion from their friends, family and classmates.

Plot Summary: Nelson is opening gay and lives with a mother who not only accepts him but actively promotes understanding for gays and lesbians in the community.  His best friend Kyle is also gay but has yet to opening come out to his family and classmates.  Jason is a jock with a girlfriend but is confused about his attraction to other guys and the possibility that he may be gay or bisexual.  Follow these three boys stories as they try to make sense out of their confusion of feelings and make it through the school year.

Critical Evaluation

I am not a huge fan of contemporary young adult books but I ended up really enjoying this one.  The three guys and their varying situations provided a nice array of possible scenarios gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers may face growing up.  Jason’s confusion and reactions to overtures by Kyle are all too realistic and even though he behaves like a jerk at times you can understand why.

There is some content that parents may find offensive as the story is does openly talk about teenagers having sex or engaging in other sexual activities, talk about porn and pornographic material and there is some swearing.  However, the use of sexual encounters is not gratuitous.  Each character learns valuable lessons from their experiences without it coming across as preachy.

About the author

Alex Sanchez is the author of the Rainbow Boys trilogy, Getting It, The God Box and more.  His middle grade book, So Hard to Say, won the Lambda Award and another book, Bait, won the 2009 Florida Book Award Gold Medal for YA fiction.  Rainbow Boys was selected by the ALA in 2002 as one of its Best Books for Young Adults.

Alex has received a master’s in guidance and counseling from Old Dominion University and his most recent book, Boyfriends with Girlfriends, came out in 2011.  If looking for resources about coming out, other teen books and more visit his website.

Genre

GLBT Fiction

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Book talking idea

Talk about how difficult going through high school can be normally and how much tougher it can be for teens with different sexual preferences.

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

Homosexuality, prevalent talk about sex, several sex scenes, talk about pornographic materials and some swearing.

I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  I would also be ready to point out that the library is there to provide reading materials for those of any beliefs or situations that patrons may need and it is not our job to say what should and should not be available.

Why did I include this book?

I came across something in my research that this was a great book to read and suggest for those looking for GLBT fiction.

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Filed under Fiction, GLBT

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Sepetys, Ruta.  Between Shades of Gray. Philomel.  2011. ISBN 0399254129

 

Reader’s Annotation: In 1941 Lithuania Lina is pondering a crush she has on a local boy when her world is torn apart as Soviet soldiers burst into her home. Separated from her father, Lina, her mother and younger brother must survive cruel conditions and hope that they will one day see their father again.

Plot Summary: Lina is your ordinary 15 year old girl going to school, developing crushes on boys and hanging out with her friends. This all changes when Soviet soldiers tear apart her family sending her father onto a crowded and dirty train car while Lina, her mother and brother are forced onto another train.  This story follows Lina’s cruel journey to Siberia and the inhumane treatment they are given by their captors.

It’s inevitable comparisons will be made to The Diary of Anne Frank as both deal with a young girl’s painful story as they face persecution.  Lina’s story is gut wrenching as she endures unimaginable hardships and chronicles this all through her paintings.  Sepetys writing style will make readers feel as if they are a part of the story and the horrors Lina faces.

Stalin’s reign of terror was something I briefly covered in high school history and I believe many teens (and adults for that matter) know little about this time in history.  I think it’s great that Sepetys brings to light the horrible treatment of these people so they are not forgotten.

This will be an emotionally draining read but definitely one that everyone should read.

About the author

Ruta Sepetys was born in Detroit, Michigan and is of Lithuanian descent and is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee.  Between Shades of Gray was inspired by her own family history.  Between Shades of Gray is her debut book.

Her second book, Out of the Easy, will be coming out in early 2013 and follows the daughter of a brothel prostitute.

Genre

Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties

English/History

Book talking idea

Talk about some of the facts of Stalin’s reign of terror.

Reading level

Ages 12 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

When I came across this book I thought it was a must read because this time period isn’t well known and the suffering these people went through should not be forgotten.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical

The Giver by Lois Lowry – Audiobook

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lowry, Lois.  The Giver. Listening Library.  2001. ISBN 080726203X

Reader’s Annotation: Each December every twelve-year-old receives their life assignment decided by the Elders.  Jonas is chosen as the next receiver and he slowly learns the painful task that lays ahead of him.

Plot Summary: In this world conformity is the way of life.  Everything is literally in black and white with no one being able to actually perceive colors, people don’t choose their jobs, spouses or even whether or not they can have children.  Jonas knows nothing else and doesn’t truly begin to question their way of life until he is chosen as the next receiver for the community.  This means he holds the memories of hundreds of years of experiences like truly feeling sunshine, the horrors of war or just enjoying a snowy day.  The more memories he gains the more he questions his way of life.

Critical Evaluation

I found the narrator of this audiobook to be excellent and was totally drawn into the story.  It’s hard to imagine a world in which literally everything appears without color.  I know this is the life these people are used to living but it is so hard to imagine living a life in which you don’t really have real choices and life is pretty blah.  Watching or rather hearing Jonas begin to experience things for the first time was amazing and the description of each event was beautifully done.

There are moments that will tear your heart out as you read about babies who are “released” from life because they were born a twin or cry too much and don’t have the proper disposition.  It’s hard to fathom a world that appears so heartless and yet to them it’s a way of life.

I personally thought the ending of the book was a little ambiguous as to what happens but others have disagreed but I definitely suggest teens check this book out.

About the author

Lois was a military brat who lived all over the world.  She was born in Hawaii but also lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Tokyo and Washington DC while growing up.  She published her first book A Summer to Die in 1977.

The Giver was originally a trilogy but a fourth book will be added later in 2012 and is called Son.

Genre

Utopian

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

If your life were to lose color what things and colors would you miss most?

Reading level

Ages 12 and up.

Challenge Issues

The society’s outlook on euthanasia and suicide has lead to this book being one of the most challenged books on the 90s.

I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  This book has also won the Newbery Medal which is prominently noted on the jacket cover.  If asked about this book I would warn there are issues contained within it that a parent may wish to discuss with their child after reading the book.

Why did I include this book?

With all the focus on dystopians recently I wanted to include something from the genre which is more of a classic and that the younger generation of teenagers may not be as familiar with.

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Filed under Dystopian, Fiction

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Roth, Veronica.  Divergent. Katherine Tegen Books.  2011. ISBN 0062024027

Reader’s Annotation:  Upon her 16th birthday Beatrice Prior must choose among five factions that will identify her and how she will live the rest of her life.  What little know is Beatrice is a divergent, an anomaly that doesn’t fit neatly into one faction.

Plot Summary: In the future Chicago has been divided into 5 factions, each of which is dedicated towards a particular virtue such as Candor the honest, Abengation the selfless, Dauntless the brave, Amity the peaceful and Erudite the intelligent.  Upon their 16th birthday each teen must choose what faction they will dedicate themselves to.  They are given a test that helps determine which faction they are most likely to belong to but Beatrice finds that she doesn’t fit into just one faction.  She chooses to leave her current faction, Abnegation, to join the Dauntless.  Soon she finds herself in the middle of a conflict amongst the factions that make up this supposedly perfect society.

Critical Evaluation

I’ve heard this book as touted as the next Hunger Games and while the story line is very different it is equally addictive.  Beatrice, who takes on the nickname Tris when she joins Dauntless, was actually an irritating character in the beginning.  She’s weak and pretty heartless especially for someone who grew up in the bosom of the Abnegation faction.  She does grow on you as her character begins to mature and she figures out who she wants to be.  The character that endeared himself to me was her drill sergeant, Four.  He has a heart of gold but he hides it behind his tough exterior.

The world building is wonderfully done and the supporting characters are just as enjoyable as the main characters.  A couple especially refreshing aspects in this book is it doesn’t include the ever popular love triangles that are prevalent in young adult books these days and secondly the romance isn’t the dominant part of the story.

For those looking for a book to feel that hole in their reading heart now that The Hunger Games is complete should check this book out.

About the author

Veronica Roth was just 23 years old when she Divergent was published.  She studied creative writing at Northwestern University.  The sequel to Divergent, Insurgent, came out in 2012 and the last book in the trilogy is due out in 2013.

Genre

Dystopia

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

What faction would you choose?

Reading level

Grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

With The Hunger Games being so popular and many looking for similar reads this seemed like the ideal book to include here.

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Filed under Dystopian, Fiction

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Brown, Jennfier.  Hate List. Little Brown Books for Young Readers.  2009. ISBN 0316041440

 

Reader’s Annotation: Five months after Valerie’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in their school cafeteria Valerie must now return to school. She’s haunted by the guilt of the part she played in the tragedy and can she overcome it to move on with her life?

Plot Summary: Valerie and her boyfriend Nick made a list, a hate list, of people they hated but Valerie never expected things to go beyond that.  Then Nick opens fire one day in the school cafeteria using the hate list to pick his targets.  After a summer away from school Valerie must return to school for her senior year and face those who blamed her for playing a part in this tragedy.  Can Valerie find a way to make amends and move on with her life?

Critical Evaluation

Upon finishing this book I sat there feeling stunned by how disturbing this book was and yet how touching it was.  Each chapter of the book opens with pieces of news articles talking about the shooting and the reader has to put together these pieces to figure out what happens.  At the same time we read about Valerie’s recovery from being shot while trying to stop Nick during his shooting spree.  It’s heartbreaking reading about how Valerie was picked on and teased to the point where she made this list with Nick.  I know there are many teens out there who live in this situation almost every day.  They are the outcasts, the nerds, the rejects, etc.  This story shows that these teens have feelings to and other teens need to realize this when they choose to bully or ridicule someone else.

The reactions of those around Valerie are frustrating because we see what Valerie is feeling and yet it’s so realistic that you can see why they behave that way.  The mix of feelings the book evokes will leave you feeling like you have been on an emotional roller coaster but I feel like the message this book delivers is so important.

About the author

Jennifer used to write a weekly humor column in The Kansas City Star for over four years until she quit to focus on writing full time.  Hate List was Jennifer’s debut book and was a big hit.  It was chosen for ALA’s Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten” book and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

Jennifer’s second book, Bitter End, that came out in 2011 deals with another difficult issue about a young girl and her abusive and controlling boyfriend.  It also received many positive reviews and made the YALSA’s 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Genre

Fiction

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

Have you ever said something hurtful to someone else that you regretted afterwards?  Did you ever approach them to say you were sorry?

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

Shootings in school are unfortunately becoming much more common these days and often time boil down to the shooters feeling alienated, bullied or relentlessly teased by their classmates.  I felt like this book would make a great read to see the consequences and reactions on all sides to such an emotional event.

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Filed under Fiction, Realistic/Contemporary

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Pfeffer, Susan Beth.  Life As We Knew It. Harcourt Children’s Books.  2006. ISBN 0152058265

 

Reader’s Annotation: When a meteor hits the moon and knocks its orbit closer to Earth Miranda and her family must prepare for the end of the world as they knew it.

Plot Summary: When a meteor knocks the moon out of its orbit it starts a series of tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters.  Soon the ash blocks the sun and the world enters an Arctic winter in the middle of Summer. Miranda and her family must find a way to survive as food and water begin to run out and things continue to get worse.

Critical Evaluation

This book will knock your socks off and have you wanting to rush out and create some sort of emergency supply stash the minute you finish the book.  It’s told through a series of journal entries made by Miranda as she, her mother and her two brothers are forced to hole up in their house.  As I read I would gaze around my own house wondering what would I do in each situation and would I survive such a catastrophe.  Miranda’s character was complicated and I alternated between sympathizing with her and thinking she was the biggest, most ungrateful brat with the way she reacts to her mother’s attempt to keep them all alive.

I think most readers will enjoy this book as it does play upon your imagination to put yourself in Miranda’s position.  While not a dystopian I think it will still appeal to many of those Hunger Game fans looking for something else to read.

About the author

Pfeffer was born in New York City in 1948 and published her first book, Just Morgan, in 1970.  Since then she has won numerous awards for her work which ranges from picture books to middle grade and young adult books.

Life As We Knew It made the ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults list in 2007 and was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award, the Quill Awards and the Hal Clement Award.

Genre

Fiction/Post-Apocalyptic

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

If you had just a few hours to grab necessities needed for survival what would you gather?

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

Like I mentioned above with the dystopian craze after the popularity with The Hunger Games there are many teens looking for other reading options.  While this is not a dystopian it is a very addictive read and does talk about a teenage girl’s journey to survive the unthinkable.

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Filed under Fiction, Post-war/apocalylptic/disaster

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 Movie

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1

Directed by: Bill Condon
Release: 2011
ASIN: B006TLFPKO
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Rating: PG-13

Plot Summary: Based off of Stephenie Meyer’s series Twilight this movie covers the first half of book 4, Breaking Dawn.  Bella Swan and Edward Cullen have finally decided that they must be together and are preparing for their marriage.  During the honeymoon Bella gets the surprise of her life when she realizes she is pregnant.  Together with the help of their family and the werewolf and good friend of Bella’s, Jacob, they must figure out how to protect Bella even if it is from her own baby.

Critical Evaluation

Unfortunately for Twilight fans this movie just does not do justice to the books.  It almost never fails movies based off of books do not quite live up to expectations but this movie unfortunately takes disappointment to an entirely new level.  Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Bella is wooden and unemotional and it may sound silly but one thing I had a hard time getting past was the make up job on the Cullens.  Is it not possible to get the vampire look without making the actors look like they were dunked in a pool of baby powder?

There were other little things that were missed such as one of the big things in Twilight is Meyer’s explanation for why vampires do not like sunlight isn’t because it burns them but that it makes them sparkle incandescent.  Yet on their honeymoon Bella and Edward are on the beach, out hiking, playing chess-all out in the wide open sunlight but not once does Edward sparkle.

It’s not until the very end that things start to pick up and then the movie breaks and viewers need to wait until Breaking Dawn Part 2 hits the theaters.

Honestly folks, do not think watching the movie substitutes for reading the actual series.  Stick with the books.

Why did I include this movie

Twilight has been a huge craze among teenage girls and if often mentioned as ushering in the resurgence in teens love for reading.  So I was curious to see how the movie would stack up compared to the book.

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Filed under Movies