Monthly Archives: July 2012

Seventeen Magazine August 2012 Issue

Seventeen August 2012

Seventeen August 2012 Issue ISSN: 0037-301X

Summary: Seventeen was the first magazine published in the United States targeting teenage girls from ages 12-19.  The first issue was published in 1944. Their aim was to promote self-confidence, provide positive role models as well as provide fashion and romance information.  They can also be found online at www.seventeen.com.

Critical Evaluation

It was interesting to see that this issue opened up with a note from the Editor in Chief, Ann Shoket, addressing an issue about showing “real girls” in Seventeen since the goal of Seventeen was to promote self-confidence and provide role models for teenage girls.  Ann mentions that there have been many tweets and Facebook comments regarding the Photoshopping or digitally enhancing photos of their models.  She re-states their stance on showing real girls and Seventeen magazine’s Body Peace Treaty was also posted on this opening page along with samples of what types of re-touches they DO make on photos.  There is a version of the Body Peace Treaty online that allows teens to “sign” it.  I think it is great that Seventeen is promoting this issue as body image and eating disorders are important issues that many teenagers face.  I did still find it disturbing that one feature talking about how to look hot in your jeans features a tiny model for the “Slim your thighs!” photo.  My first thought was if her thighs need thinning then there is no hope for the rest of us.

Despite some questionable photos that don’t scream “real girls” to me it’s obvious why this magazine appeals to teenage girls.  It is jam packed with fashion advice, news about Hollywood stars, make up tips, information about what to eat and it also tackles more serious issues like knowing when you are ready to have sex.  Fulfilling it’s goal of providing positive role models with the Olympics quickly approaching they also featured an article about Clarissa Shields, a 17 year old boxer who is on her way to the Olympics.  The main photo that went with this article features the quote “they said boxing was for boys” across it.  I appreciated the fact that Seventeen was promoting that girls shouldn’t let people tell them that females are not capable of doing the same things males are.

Why did I include this magazine?

It’s a classic magazine that has been appealing to teenage girls for decades.

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Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

McNeil, Gretchen.  Ten. Balzer + Bray.  2012. ISBN 0062118781 (Note: This was an advanced review copy)

Reader’s Annotation: The exclusive party on Henry Island was supposed to be a last hurrah before best friends, Meg and Minnie, go their separate ways as Meg goes away to Los Angeles for college. One by one people start dying and Meg must figure out who the killer is before she and Minnie are the next victims.

Plot Summary: this story is a retelling of Agatha Christie’s book And Then There Were None.  Meg and Minnie are best friends but Meg will soon be going to Los Angeles for college and Minnie will be staying behind.  Their friendship has become strained through Minnie’s emotional issues that make Meg feel strangled by their friendship at times and the fact that Meg and Minnie are in love with the same boy.  Hopes that this party will be a great chance to have a last bit of fun are dashed when a girl commits suicide (or so they thought) and then slowly the body count begins to increase. Meg must figure out who the murderer is but is there anyone she can truly trust on the island?

Critical Evaluation

I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s book And Then There Were None and it creeped the pants off of me and had me guessing what would happen in the end all through out the story.  Ten was an enjoyable read but not quite on the same level.  Happily it is not a straight retelling of the story and McNeil adds her own flavor to the story like basing the deaths off of a teen’s diary instead of the children’s nursery rhyme.

Meg’s character is very likeable and you can’t help but feel sorry for what she goes through out of loyalty towards Minnie.  Meg is introverted and is forever grateful to Minnie for befriending her even to the point where Minnie is ostracized from her own group of friends.  Still you can’t blame Meg for wanting to break away and have a life of her own. The rest of the characters were harder to like but that was fitting for the storyline.

For those who enjoy thrillers and mysteries this is a great read and those who have not read Agatha Christie’s book before will probably enjoy this one even more.

About the author

Gretchen McNeil published her debut book, Possess, a YA paranormal story in August 2011.  Ten is her second novel which is due out in the Fall 2012.  In addition to writing McNeil also sings and is currently singing with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk according to her author page on Goodreads.

She is also the voice of Mary on the G4 show Code Monkeys and is active on vlogs and blogs such as YARebels, The Enchanted Inkpot and The Apocalypsies.

Genre

Horror/Thriller

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

The parallels and differences from And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

And Then There Were None was a classic thriller/suspense read and this sounded like a great way to introduce a whole new generation of readers to the story line.  Personally I was curious to see how well it would be done and if the retelling would contain any original elements.

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Filed under Fiction, Horror/Thriller, Mystery/Suspense

After by Amy Efaw

After by Amy Efaw

Efaw, Amy.  After. Viking Juvenile.  2009. ISBN 0670011835

Reader’s Annotation: A baby is left for dead in a trashcan and a teen who claims not to have known she was ever pregnant.  Is it attempted murder or something more?

Plot Summary: Devon, a star soccer player, straight-A student and responsible has her world collapsing around her after a baby is found in the trash can behind her apartment.  Devon denies that she was ever pregnant despite being found by police still bloody and with the umbilical cord attached to her.  She is arrested and now faces the prosecution trying to get her tried as an adult for premeditated murder attempt.  Can Devon and her lawyer prove that she truly never realized she was pregnant and she panicked when she gave birth?

Critical Evaluation

This book is not for the faint of heart as Devon initially shows little to no remorse about the horrifying crime she committed of throwing her baby away in an apartment building trash can.  Devon is a difficult character to like as what we mostly see is someone so listless and defensive that you want to shake her until she gives some straight answers.  As the story goes on Efaw does a great job of demonstrating just how a person can go through an entire pregnancy in state of denial and even commit such a horrid act without truly realizing what they are doing.  In the end I still did not truly “like” Devon but I understood how she could behave the way she did.

This is a great book for teenage girls who have an unplanned pregnancy in that it shows that though they may feel ashamed, scared and like they have no one to turn to they may have more support than they realize.  During Devon’s hearing people involved in Devon’s life show that they wouldn’t have criticized her or turned away in disgust.  If she had only let them in they would have wanted to help Devon make it through this situation and avoided such a tragedy.

About the author

Amy is a busy mother to five kids as well as being the author of two books, After and Battledress.  On her website FAQ she says she gets her ideas for her books from all over the place from stories her kids bring home from school, her husband’s law cases or even something on TV.

Amy is a graduated of the military academy at West Point and is a former Army officer and said that Battledress was a sort of autobiographical book. She was writing about a girl who went through basic training at West Point and had to go through many of the things Amy herself went through.

Genre

Contemporary

Curriculum Ties

English/Sexual Education

Book talking idea

Talk about the dilemma in believing that Devon could truly go through an entire pregnancy without realizing she was pregnant.

The turmoil Devon faced with unplanned sex and the consequences.

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

Graphic nature of Devon’s reaction to her pregnancy may be challenged by some parents.

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 also serves to show teens that they can and should reach out for help in these types of situations.  They do not have to face it alone.

Why did I include this book?

Teen pregnancy has always been a major topic among teens and I found the idea of Devon’s casual abandonment of her baby in a trash can so horrifying I had to find out what happened.  It seemed like a situation any teenage girl might find herself in and they need to know there is help out there.

 

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Filed under Fiction, Realistic/Contemporary

Eragon (movie)

Eragon

Directed by: Stefen Fangmeier
Release: 2006
ASIN: B000OLTBL4
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG

Plot Summary: This movie is based off of the book by Christopher Paolini. A former dragonrider, Galbatorix, betrayed his fellow riders in order to become king of Alagaesia.  When Eragon stumbles across a dragon egg that Princess Arya sent away to keep it from King Galbatorix the egg hatches and the dragon tells Eragon that he is her rider.  Eragon finds out that their is a prophecy that he will be the one to free the people from Galbatorix’s tyranny.  But can Eragon defeat Galbatorix?

Critical Evaluation

The premise of this movie appeal’s to the teenage audience that enjoys a good fantasy story.  Eragon is a simple farm boy who turns out to have this epic prophecy based on himself and sets off on a grand adventure for vengeance and to prove himself.  Many teens may have this secret part of themselves that long to do something more adventurous and to be a hero.

Unfortunately the execution suffered and I personally did not care for the movie and after reading some of the comments on the Rotten Tomatoes review site I was not alone.  In my opinion Eragon came across as petulant child who refuses to listen to the advice of others even when it makes sense.  Some may attribute this to his being just 17 years old but I think that is doing an injustice to teens and I think most teens would not have blatantly ignored sound advice just because they felt like it.

Some of the storyline suffered as well from having too much cut from the book in order to fit it into 104 minutes. The connection between Arya and Eragon comes out of the blue and Eragon’s ability to use magic as well as he did seemed unbelievable.

Genre

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

Fiction

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this movie?

I know the book series was a very popular one with teens and I did read the first book in the series.  I was curious to see how well the movie adaptation was done.

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The Day After Tomorrow

The Day After Tomorrow

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Release: 2004
ASIN: B000NDMRDW
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG-13

Plot Summary: a massive climate shift is causing natural disasters around the world.  Sam and his fellow decathlon teammates are stranded in New York due to the storms and they take refuge in the New York Public Library.  In the meantime, his father Jack, a paleoclimatologist who predicted that this climate shift would come one day, sets out from Washington D.C. to rescue his son.  Life will never be the same as the northern half of the United States are ordered to evacuate and much of the US takes refuge in Mexico.

Critical Evaluation

I do not know how solid the scientific basis of the story is but it is a fascinating story that will appeal to those who enjoy the post-apocalyptic/dystopian type of stories.  Jack is a brilliant yet scatterbrained father who has let his son down one time after another.  Sam takes after his father intellectually as well as being a little socially awkward and sweet.  He’s not your typical hero with bulging muscles and endless self-confidence.  Still he takes the lead when it comes to protecting his friends as well as several other people who take shelter in the library with them in order to survive the increasingly violent storms.  I fell in love with him, the way he handles the situation and was rooting for him to win over his fellow decathlete team member, Sara, who was the main reason he joined the team.  Laura is also a great role model for teenage girls.  Yes, she is pretty but the focus on her strength, willingness to help those around her and her intellectual brilliance.

The action in the movie will also keep its viewers hooked as we wait to see just how bad things will get and who will survive.  Sam’s group as well as his father’s team that sets out to rescue Sam both show amazing bravery and be warned there are moments that will make you want to cry.

It also contains an interesting change of order in which the adults in Sam’s group follow Sam’s guidance in surviving the storms.  He and his group of friends show that teens can have the knowledge and maturity at times that the adults need to take seriously.

Genre

Disaster/apocalyptic

Curriculum Ties

Natural disasters/Relationships

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this movie?

Dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories are all the rage nowadays and it only seemed right to include a movie that fell along these lines.  It has a strong group of teenage main characters, action and tale of survival that would appeal to many teenagers.

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Release: 2005
ASIN: B001QM7TBY
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG

Plot Summary: This movie is based on  Ann Brashares coming of age novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which contains the story of four best friends who are apart for the first time during their sixteenth summer.  Before leaving they find a pair of jeans in a shop that mysteriously fits all four girls despite them being different heights and shapes.  They decide these are magical pants and they should each take turns wearing them on their vacations and then pass them along to the next friend along with a letter of what happens when they wear them.

Critical Evaluation

I have not read the book this film was based on but I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie.  It’s the perfect coming of age story for teenage girls and covers many of the issues girls face whether it be problems with parents, body image, self-confidence, love and loss.  Each girl is so unique and the experiences they have are so true that it makes the watcher relate and sympathize to their situation.  Lena’s rising self-confidence and budding romance was touching to see and Bridget’s hope that finding that perfect guy and have the perfect experience means she no longer has to be sad while painful to watch at times was understandable.

My two favorite girls were Carmen and Tibby.  I loved how comfortable Carmen seemed with her body even if it did not fit in with the non-existent booty and stick straight body of her father’s soon to be wife and daughter.  She stood up for herself when others felt the need to comment about it instead of letting it tear her down.  Her pain over her father’s abandonment made me want to cry because she comes across as so strong and yet she still did have these insecurities buried inside her.

Tibby is the cynical one who seems to go through life with a pessimistic view of the world and it did bring actual tears to my eyes seeing her friendship with Bailey and the emotional turmoil that Tibby goes through after losing Bailey.

Yes, there will be detractors who say the idea of a pants fitting all four girls is ridiculous, the idea of Lena traipsing across Greece alone is mind boggling and Bailey being able to run around the way she does with a terminal illness is unrealistic.  But I felt that all worked with the magical tone of the movie that anything is possible and no matter what the friends would always be there for each other.

Genre

Coming of age story

Curriculum Ties

Coming of age/romance/friendship/Loss

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this movie?

I have always wanted to read this book and I heard the movie was actually well done.  It also seemed a good fit as it covered a lot of topics teen girls go through in their teenage years.

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This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Summers, Courtney.  This is Not a Test. St. Martin’s Griffin.  2012. ISBN 0312656742

Reader’s Annotation: Disaster has come with the dead coming back to life and feasting on the living. To Sloane this might be her way out from an abusive home that is no longer tolerable after her sister runs away.

Plot Summary: Sloane wants to end her life after her sister runs away leaving her alone with an abusive father but then the unimaginable happens. The dead come back to life with a craving for living flesh. One bite is all it takes to turn someone. Sloane thinks maybe this would not be such a bad thing but she gets caught up with five other students from her high school trying to survive. As the days crawl by conflicts rise, secrets are revealed and the six students must decide what is the best way for them to survive.

Critical Evaluation

This is not your typical zombie book and for the most party rarely do they even make an active appearance.  Instead they serve more as a background to Sloane’s inner turmoil over her sister abandoning her to survive their father’s abuse alone and her will to die.

The cast of characters are also an unusual mix.  Unlike in many other zombie books or post-apocalyptic books that have the heroes performing unbelievable acts of bravery or kindness some of the characters are glaringly real.  They are not self-sacrificing and make some choices that would be condemned as horrible in any other situation.  It’s horrifying to read and yet makes the characters that much more real.

Sloane’s character brought mixed feelings in me.  She’s lived years with an unapologetic, abusive father and her beloved older sister has run away without letting her know ahead of time.  I feel like we should sympathize with her because no one should have to live through this type of situation but for most of the story she is so whiny, self-pitying and afraid of thinking for herself that she comes across as irritating instead.

The story explores a myriad of emotions that the teenagers experience and the romantic elements are also quite different from other books in that there is no love at first sight.  In fact, there isn’t love at all. Instead there is reacting to the situation and wanting to have that physical contact and feeling like someone, anyone, is there with them that prompts many of the interactions.

This definitely isn’t one of those action packed, thrilling zombie reads but rather an interesting look into how different people would respond in a disaster situation.

About the author

Summers is the author of four young adult books and has a fifth, All the Rage, due out in 2013.  Cracked Up to Be was the fourth book she wrote but the first to be published.  She says on her website that she enjoys writing gritty and dark novels.

When not writing she likes playing video game, watching horror movies, reading good books and eating good food.  She has also written a blog entry about why she writes unlikeable female protagonists which I found interesting seeing as I had a hard time liking Sloane.

Genre

Fiction/Post-apocalyptic

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

Discuss Sloane’s and Lily’s relationship and why Lily left without Sloane.

Discuss the hard choices the characters need to make in the name of survival.

Reading level

Grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

It has gotten a lot of positive advance buzz in the book blogging community and it was touted as not your ordinary zombie story.  It contains a cast of complex characters who may not all be likeable but each make choices or exhibit behaviors that make the reader think about how would they react in those situations.

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Filed under Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic