Tag Archives: Friendship

Divergent by Veronica Roth

divergentBibliographic Information:

Roth, V. (2011). Divergent. New York: Katherine Tegen Books. (978-0062024022)

Insurgent, bk. 2

Allegiant, bk 3 (forthcoming)

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior was born into an Abnegation family but she has never felt she belonged. She knows that she going to have to decide what faction she belongs with on Choosing Day.

When she takes her aptitude test, she finds out that she has an aptitude for three factions; Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She does not have an aptitude for the other two factions Candor or Amity. She also learns that showing an aptitude for more than one faction makes her Divergent, which can be dangerous to her if anyone finds out.

On Choosing Day, Beatrice decides to choose Dauntless. Renamed Triss, she now has to prove she belongs to her new faction. She will have to be Dauntless to survive.

Critical Evaluation:

There have been many comparisons made between Divergent and The Hunger Games. Both feature strong female protagonists who have to leave their families and compete to determine their place in society. Neither accepts the social conventions of their society but they are forced to play a part that is based on lies and deceit.

The similarities also mean that fans of The Hunger Games that are mourning the end of the series will be happy to turn to Divergent and the two additional books in the trilogy.

Divergent should not, however, be viewed as a carbon copy of The Hunger Games. Roth has created a conflicted main character who is trying to decide who she is away from her family. Beatrice/Triss will learn some truths about her society’s past in the novel and she will have to decide if being Dauntless is enough.

Reader’s Annotation:

Beatrice needs to choose her role in her society. She can only choose one. How can she choose only one and be true to what she is – Divergent.

Information About the Author:

For more information about Veronica Roth and to follow the series please visit her blog.

Genre:

  • Dystopian fiction
  • Post-Apocalyptic fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Identity
  • Family

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – could work as a novel study with other dystopian novels currently published.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Combine with the other dystopians that are so popular
  • Read-alike with The Hunger Games
  • Watch the book trailer.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Reviews:

  • Kraus, D. (2011). Divergent. Booklist, 107(13), 56.

“The simplistic, color-coded world stretches credibility on occasion, but there is no doubt readers will respond to the gutsy action and romance of this umpteenth spin on Brave New World.”

  • Divergent. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(8), 696.

“Fans snared by the ratcheting suspense will be unable to resist speculating on their own factional allegiance; a few may go on to ponder the questions of loyalty and identity beneath the facade of thrilling adventure.”

References:

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.ca/2010/09/divergent-cover-and-summary.html

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

this dark endeavorBibliographic Information:

Oppel, K. (2011). This dark endeavor. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (978-1442403154)

Sequel: Such Wicked Intent

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother, Konrad, share everything. But Victor is more driven and feels the need to be better at everything. Which is why is finds it difficult to understand why his beautiful cousin, Elizabeth, may prefer his brother to himself. The three of them and their friend Henry do everything together.

The Frankenstein family wealthy and titled so Victor is used to getting what he wants with a limited amount of work. Then Konrad becomes very ill. When the friends come across the secret room, the Dark Library, Victor knows that he must make the Elixer of Life to save Konrad’s life.

Critical Evaluation:

Victor is the focus of this gothic tale. Oppel decided to use him as the narrator and as a result, the reader lives through his dark passions and confused motives. His feelings for Elizabeth and his jealous of her budding relationship with his brother creates a strained underlying current in his relationships with both Elizabeth and his brother.

His love for his brother is strong and bright but the Elixer of Life and the Dark Library are forbidden for a reason. The novel explores how one can choose a dangerous path with all the best intentions.

Reader’s Annotation:

Victor Frankenstein will do anything to save his brother from death. “Anything” means creating the Elixer of Life, if he can.

Information About the Author:

Kenneth Oppel was born August 31, 1967 on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. He completed a BA in English and cinema studies at the University of Toronto. He wrote his second children’s book in his final year at university.

Kenneth Oppel says he started writing stories when he was twelve. When he was fourteen he started his first short novel which was passed to Roald Dahl through a family friend. Dahl liked the story and passed it to his literary agent. His first novel was published in 1985.

Since then, Oppel has written a number of award winning books including the Silverwing trilogy, Airborn, and Half Brother (About the author).

Genre:

  • Horror fiction
  • Mystery fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Prequels to classcis

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Talk about Frankenstein and discuss what would motivate a scientist to try to create life.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Reading level 4.3

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Kenneth Oppel is an author that has success at the elementary and middle school levels. This Dark Endeavor is appropriate for a high school audience and is an author the students have enjoyed in the past.

Awards:

  • 2012 Libris Award (Canadian Booksellers Association)
  • Honour Book, Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award
  • A 2011 Quill & Quire Book of the Year
  • A 2011 London Times Best Children’s Book

Shortlisted for:

  • Governor General’s Literary Awards
  •  Red Maple Award (OLA)
  • Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award

Reviews:

  • This dark endeavor: The apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(14), 1261.

“Victor too often describes himself in relation to Konrad, but he develops into a complex and troubled character as the inevitable conclusion draws near. A subplot involving a crippled alchemist and his pet lynx steer the story more toward horror and fantasy than Enlightenment-era science fiction.

A dark and dramatic back story for Shelley’s tormented creator.”

  • Campbell, H. M. (2011). This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. School Library Journal, 57(10), 144.

“Many details remain the same as in the original work; for instance, Victor’s arrogant desire to overcome the power of illness and death makes him a slightly unlikable protagonist. But here’s a sign of a good storyteller: readers may not like Victor, but they will certainly want to find out what happens to him.”

  • Ritter, C. K. (2011). This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Horn Book Magazine, 87(4), 155.

“Written from Victor’s perspective and filled with his believable internal moral struggles, Oppel’s novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding.”

References:

About the author. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2013 from http://www.kennethoppel.ca/pages/biography.shtml

Swim the Fly by Don Calame

swim the flyBibliographic Information:

Calame, D. (2010). Swim the fly. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press. (978-0763647766)

Sequel: Beat the Band

            Call the Shots

Plot Summary:

A guy needs to have a goal to accomplish during the summer. So you can have something to write about in the annual “What I did this summer” essay. So, Matt Gratton sets two; to see a naked girl for the first time and to swim the 100-yard butterfly. It’s a toss-up as to which one if harder but he and best friends Coop and Sean, will have a tale to tell in September.

Critical Evaluation:

Swim the Fly is a slapstick novel involving diarrhea, throwing up, and basic locker room humor. This is definitely a book catering to teenage boys. It is fun, silly and irreverent. These are all things that make it a good choice for the reluctant reader.

Reader’s Annotation:

Three boys have a series of misadventures as they try to meet their goal of seeing a naked girl this summer.

Information About the Author:

Don Calame is a teacher, screenwriter, and author. His film projects include Employee of the Month and Hounded. He has worked for Universal Studios, Pictures, and Lionsgate, among others.

He was born and raised in Hicksville, New York. After graduating Adelphi with a Bachelor’s in Communication, he moved to Los Angeles to write screenplays. While he tried to break into the film industry he taught grades 3-5 for four years in Los Angeles.  (Bios).

Swim the Fly was his first novel. He currently lives in British Columbia with his family.

For more information about the author, please visit his site.  His biography is much more entertaining than mine. His humour is not contained to his fiction.

Genre:

  • Realistic fiction
  • Humorous fiction
  • Friendship
  • Coming of age
  • Swimming
  • Canadian author

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Make a “What I did this summer list”
  • Show Don Calame’s book trailer

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Swim the Fly is a fun realistic novel. It may be young for a high school audience but we have to remember that students are at different levels of their development at this stage. We need to ensure we have materials for the younger students as well as the more mature students.

Awards:

  • OLA Forest of Reading White Pine Award, 2011, Nominee
  • Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Honor Book
  • New Westminster Hyack Teen Readers Award, Nominee
  • Nevada Young Readers Award, 2011, Nominee
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults Nominee
  • Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) Book Award, Nominee

Reviews:

  • Swim the Fly. (2009). Publishers Weekly, 256(16), 49.

“This one will spread like athlete’s foot in a locker room.”

  • Kraus, D. (2009). Swim the Fly. Booklist, 105(14), 55.

“Although Calame underuses his moments of poignancy, teen readers will have a blast puzzling out the creative vulgarisms. “Pants hamster” is just the beginning.”

References:

Bio. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2013 from http://www.doncalame.com/bio/

 

Bios Don Calame. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2013 from http://www.candlewick.com/authill.asp?b=Author&m=bio&id=3384&pix=y

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

abundance of katherinesBibliographic Information:

Green, J. (2008). An abundance of Katherines. New York: Speak. (9780142412022)

Plot Summary:

Colin Singleton is worried that he is a washed-up child prodigy and will never make genius status. And he was just dumped by his girlfriend, Katherine the 19th. So, he and his friend, Hassan, decide to go on a road trip to Chicago. On the way, they stop at Gutshot Tennessee for a tour of the gravesite of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. While there, they are invited to stay and interview help with a local history project. Colin also meets Lindsey, a girl whose name is not Katherine.

To be a genius, Colin knows he has to create something new so he decides to create a formula to determine how long a relationship will last.

Critical Evaluation:

Abundance of Katherines  is a quirky book with an abundance of unique and complex characters. It can be enjoyed for the humour at this level, but it is a book that will speak to readers at other levels as well.

At one level it is a book about finding meaning in one’s ordinary life. A teacher at my school has a quote above her whiteboard that reads, “What will you do with your one special life?” This is a question that Colin, Hassan, Lindsay, and Hollis are all grappling with; although they would debate the “special”. Indeed, it is the reason why Hollis (Lindsay’s mother) hired the boys. Colin and Hassan spend a lot of time interviewing people as part of the local history project because the town is dying and there is a desire to create a living record of their time and space.

Colin also obsesses about leaving a mark. The idea that he is washed up and will never be anything more than a child prodigy is abhorrent to him. He has worked very hard to be special. Not only did he study all the time in high school but in his free time he still anagram and studies languages and codes. In short, Colin does not easily fit into society. He does not pick up on social cues or react to people as expected.

Hassan is another character who is having difficulty finding where he fits in the world. Since he cannot decide what to do he chooses to do nothing. He has chosen Judge Judy over attending college.

In other words, Colin and Hassan are not feeling connected with other people. They hover at the edges of other people’s social lives. Green emphasizes this separation by using a third person narrative structure. He limits the point of view to Colin but does not allow Colin to tell the story thus separating him for the readers.

Colin’s back story is very important for the plot development in the present. He needs to go back and analyze his past relationships so that he can look for patterns. And that is another interesting theme of the book. The patterns in math, of which there are many demonstrated in the novel, are understandable. Colin’s difficulties with relationships are partially due to the fact that they are not explainable with a pattern.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Colin is dumped the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine he realizes that this is not a good pattern. So, he decides to create formula to determine how long a relationship will last. When Lindsay is introduced as a factor in the formula it becomes clear that she may be too random to fit.

Information About the Author:

An award winning author, John Green has written Looking for Alaska (2006 Michael L. Printz Award), Paper Towns (2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery) and The Fault in Our Stars (2013 Odyssey Award Audiobook)

John Green was born August 4th, 1977 in Orlando, Florida. Green stays connected with his readers through his video blog, Brotherhood 2.0, that he operates with his brother (John Green).

Genre:

  • Realistic fiction
  • Interpersonal relations — Juvenile fiction.
  • Self-perception — Juvenile fiction.
  • Mathematics — Juvenile fiction.

Curriculum Ties:

  • English
    • Character development
    • Coming-of-age
    • identity

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read a passage from the book where Hassan finds Colin on the floor.
  • Book list – Road Trips

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

 My daughter received a copy of An Abundance of Katherines for her birthday and strongly recommended I read. I have a policy of reading the novels teenagers recommend to me and decided to add it to this collection. It is realistic and humourous, which will appeal to my teen readers.

Reviews:

  • Pattee, A. S. (2006). An Abundance of Katherines. School Library Journal, 52(9), 206.

“As usual, Green’s primary and secondary characters are given descriptive attention and are fully and humorously realized. While enjoyable, witty, and even charming, a book with an appendix that describes how the mathematical functions in the novel can be created and graphed is not for everybody. The readers who do embrace this book, however, will do so wholeheartedly.”

  • Dobrez, C. (2006). An Abundance of Katherines. Booklist, 102(22), 75.

“The idea behind the book is that everyone’s story counts, and what Colin’s contributes to the world, no matter how small it may seem to him, will, indeed, matter.”

Awards:

  • 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

References:

An abundance of Katherines. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://johngreenbooks.com/abundance-of-katherines/

John Green (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

hold me closerBibliographic Information:

McBride, L. (2012). Hold me closer, necromancer. New York: Square Fish.

  • Sequel: Necromancing the Stone

Plot Summary:

Sam is a university drop-out flipping burgers in a fast-food restaurant.  When he catches the attention of Douglas, his ordinary, going nowhere life suddenly gets a lot more complicated. Because Douglas is a powerful necromancer who recognizes the Sam is also a necromancer with latent powers.

When Sam declines Douglas’ offer to train him, Douglas decides to send him one of his friend’s severed head to explain that his offer was not optional. Soon, Sam finds himself locked in a cage with a powerful werewolf in Douglas’ basement. Then, things get interesting.

Critical Evaluation:

This is a book that does not take itself too seriously. The characters banter and spar with each other. Sam (Samhain Corvus LaCroix) is sarcastic and confused. He has a Harbinger that is trying to help him in return for waffles. One of his friends is a talking head. His mother is an earth witch.

The story is told primarily from Sam’s point of view. But, McBride does switch to other character’s point of view when convenient for plot development.

There is a dose of the horror element in the plot. Douglas is evil. There is blood and torture and lots of action. But there is also humour – and that is what makes the novel refreshing and quirky. If you are looking for hard-core horror, this is not the book for you. But if you want a fun romp through the supernatural, it will not let you down.

Reader’s Annotation:

Sam is having a tough week. His dead friend’s head is talking to him, he is stuck in a cage, and a powerful necromancer is teaching him to raise the dead. On the plus side, he is in the cage with a beautiful werewolf. Maybe he will ask her for a date – if they get out alive.

Information About the Author:

Lish McBride has a tongue-and-cheek biography on her site that is much more interesting than the one below. I’ve included just the facts. Visit her site to get the good stuff.

Lish McBride grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of New Orleans. She currently lives in Seattle,

Genre:

  • Fantasy, Fiction
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Paranormal fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Minor violence
  • sex

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    • Ask if he/she has read the boo
    • Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    • Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion documents
    • Provide school’s selection polic
    • Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

It is a fun, quirky twist on a horror book.

Reviews:

  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. (2010). Booklist, 107(6), 36-37.

“With fine writing, tight plotting, a unique and uniquely odd cast of teens, adults, and children, and a pace that smashes through any curtain of disbelief, this sardonic and outrageous story’s only problem is that it must, like all good things, come to an end.”

  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(17), 862.

“Despite uneven pacing and abandoned plot threads, this quirky urban fantasy will compel fans of horror and supernatural romance–and heroic skateboarding slackers.”

Awards:

  • William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist
  • 2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.

References:

Home. (n.d). Retrieved May 2, 2013 from http://www.lishmcbride.com/

All Good Children by Catherine Austen

all good childrenBibliographic Information:

Austen, C. (2011). All good children. Victoria, B.C: Orca Book Publishers. (978-1-55469-824-0)

Plot Summary:

When Maxwell Connors returns home after his aunt’s funeral he notices that the kids at school are acting strange. It turns out that the students were given a treatment while he was away that has turned them into obedient, well-mannered citizens.  His sister Ally notices it first. She says that the other kids are “are fuzzy and slow. They just go along.”

Middletown is special walled community that protects the inhabitants from the terrorism and disasters that are happening throughout the world. The whole community works for the same corporation, Chemrose International. As a result, the corporation controls everything that happens in the town. When Max’s class is vaccinated he has to pretend to be a “zombie” too. It is time for the family to leave Middletown but that may prove more difficult than one would expect.

Critical Evaluation:

Catherine Austen has created a multi-dimensional wise-cracking teenager as her protagonist in the dystopian world of All Good Children. A wise choice since young adults are very interested in developing their individuality at this stage. Max’s sarcasm and “tell it like it is” attitude will resonate with readers. These characteristics also infuse some humour into an otherwise stark plot.

Max’s development from a kid who accepts the way his world operates to one who is willing to give up all the nice toys for freedom is realistic. At first, Max is pretty comfortable with his situation. He lives in a safe community that has a good standard of living and the newest technology toys. He knows that he is smart enough to be successful. So, he is okay with the security. He likes that the city is clean and secure.

The novel, told from Max’s point of view, follows his dawning awareness that the New Education Support Treatment is stripping children of their individuality and making them into good workers with no emotions who are willing to do what they are told.

Reader’s Annotation:

In a world with terrorism and disasters, what would you be willing to give up for security?

Information About the Author:

Catherine Austen is an awarding-winning author of children and young adult fiction. All Good Children was her first young adult novel.

Catherine grew up in Kingston, Ontario. She studies political science at Queen’s University and environmental studies at York University. After, she worked in the conservation movement. While a student, she wrote short stories, which she published in small literary journals. She started writing stories for children in 2003 but her first children’s book, Walking Backwards, was published in 2009.

When she became a parent, she decided to become a freelance writer so she could be home with her family.

She currently lives in Aylmer (Gatineau), Quebec. She says she lives in a little house with a big yard (About the author, 2013) with her family.

For more information please visit her website.

Genre:

  • Survival fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Dystopian fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • Social Justice
    • Behavior modification in schools
  • English program
    • Companion book to Brave New World

Booktalking Ideas:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Austen is a Canadian author who wrote a great book with a theme that is very popular with young adults currently.

Reviews:

  • Wiersema, R. (Ed.). (2011, October). Book review: All good children. Retrieved
  •      May 11, 2013, from Quill & Quire website: http://The Canadian Library
  •      Association’s 2012 Young Adult Book Award Winner.

Awards:

  • Canadian Library Association Young Adult Canadian Book Award, 2012.
  • The 2012 Sunburst Award (for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic) Young Adult Winner.
  • A YALSA Teens’ Top Ten nominee and a YALSA 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee.
  • A Forest of Reading 2013 White Pine Nominee.

References:

About the author. (2013). Retrieved 15 March 15, 2013 from http://www.catherineausten.com/contact_author.html

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

DanteBibliographic Information:

Sáenz, B. A. (2012). Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe. New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR. (978-1442408920)

Plot Summary:

Two lonely young men become friends over a summer when Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim. Aristotle (Ari) likes to be alone and is very comfortable with silence but uneasy with the secrets in his family. Dante is a reader, artistic, and appears to be comfortable with himself and his loving family. Together they share the awkward moments and the experimentation that goes along with being sixteen.

Critical Evaluation:

There is so much to talk about in this book; the poetry of the prose, the multidimensional characters; the different relationships of the young men with their parents, their relationship with one another.

To begin with, the pacing is an important aspect of this novel. Ari wants to understand his father and what happened to him in Vietnam. He wants his parents to talk about his brother who is in jail. He needs to understand himself and who he wants to be. This takes time and introspection and Sáenz gives him that. He allows the characters to walk in the rain, laugh about their names, read books, and write letters to each other and to themselves in a journal. There is action in the novel but allowing the reader to breathe and take in the imagery strengthens the emotion and reaction from the reader.

The theme of identity is also prevalent in the novel. The two boys are Mexican but they are not always aware of what that label should mean to them. At times, it appears to be a negative. Dante’s mother wants him to wear shoes so he does not look like a poor Mexican. At other times, the characters wear their heritage proudly and even worry that they are not Mexican enough. Ari particularly struggles with his identity. He tells his mother, for example, that he wants to be a bad boy – to the point that he convinces a drunk to purchase beer for him. But, he will not drink and drive and he refuses to do drugs when he is offerred them. He has conflicted feelings towards his father and cannot decide if he should force the conversation about his brother who is in jail that his parents appear to have forgotten.

Reader’s Annotation:

Ari and Dante are very different young men. Ari is dark and quiet. Dante is sensitive and artistic. Together they are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in their world.

Information About the Author:

Benjamin Alire Saenz surrounds himself with writing. He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas in El Paso and is a poet and author of books for teens and adults. He has won several awards for his writing including the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his short story collection, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, and a young adult novel, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood.

Born in 1954 in Old Picacho New Mexico, he grew up in “a traditional Mexican-American Catholic family” (Benjamin Alire Sáenz). He took theological studies at the University of Louvain and was later ordained a Catholic priest. He left the priesthood, however, three years later. At 30, he returned to school. In 1988 he received the Wallace E. Stegner Followship in poetry from Stanford University. In 1993, he returned to the University of Texas in El Paso to teach.

For more information please visit his page at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Genre:

  • Realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • Social justice
  • English
    • Stereotypes
    • Character development
    • Coming of age

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Make a booklist of the books that are referred to in the novel
  • Read from p. 83 when Ari is talking about writing in his journal and rules
  • Make a journal booklist

Coming of age, family, friendship
Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Homosexuality

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    • Ask if he/she has read the book
    • Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    • Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion documents
    • Provide school’s selection policy
    • Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

http://www.npr.org/2013/02/20/172495550/discovering-sexuality-through-teen-lit

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:

Awards:

  • 2013 Printz Honor Award
  • 2013 Stonewall Award
  • 2013 Belpré Award
  • Top Ten choice for the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list

Reviews:

“This poetic novel takes Ari, brooding and quiet, and with a brother in prison, and Dante, open and intellectual, through a year and a half of change, discovering secrets, and crossing borders from which there is no return.”

“Sáenz does—he treats his characters carefully, giving them space and time to find their place in the world, and to find each other.”

“Meticulous pacing and finely nuanced characters underpin the author’s gift for affecting prose that illuminates the struggles within relationships.”

References:

Benjamin Alire Sáenz. ( 2013). Retrieved from http://www.cincopuntos.com/authors_detail.sstg?id=3

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

Almost truthBibliographic Information:

Cook, E. (2012). The almost truth. New York: Simon Pulse. (978-1442440197)

Plot Summary:

Sadie has a plan. She has saved her money, filled out the forms, and she is ready to leave Bowton Island and start her real life at the University of California in Berkeley. Or she was, until she finds out that her mother has taken all of her money from her account to pay for her father’s lawyer bills and fix the bathroom.

It had taken a lot of small cons for Sadie to raise the four thousand dollar deposit needed for university. Her waitress job would never bring in enough money on its own.

With one big con, however, she still might be able to live her dream. Luckily, she is a better con artist than her father – and she looks just like an age enhanced computer-generated picture of a long lost heiress.

Critical Evaluation:

From the cover of the book one would think this novel will be a typical romance novel. It is a romance but romance is definitely not the focus of the plot. Cook is an experienced author who knows the importance of developing a character. Sadie is a well-developed character with a few quirks to keep her interesting and a complicated living situation. In the end, the book is really about personal identity and choice.

Like Ally Carter’s successful Heist Society, The Almost Truth’s heroine as is a good girl living a life on the wrong side of the law. Also like Carter’s Heist Society, humor plays an important role in keeping the plot fun and light.

Cook has also created an interesting set of secondary characters from Sadie’s con artist father to her long-time friend and current boyfriend, Brendan who willingly helps her with her cons.

The Almost Truth is a fun read that does not take itself too seriously. In a teenage market filled with dystopias it is a refreshing change.

Reader’s Annotation:

Sadie needs just one big con to change her life forever. All she needs to do is convince everyone she is a long-lost heiress. If she fails, she may end up in a cell by Daddy. The stakes are high and she can’t afford to fail.

Information About the Author:

Eileen Cook is an accomplished writer with several books to her credit including Unraveling Isobel and The Education of Hailey Kendrick. She completed high school and university in Michigan. She has a degree in English and in counseling (Eileen Cook Revealed). Currently, she lives in Vancouver.

For more information please visit Cook’s website.

Genre:

  • Chick lit
  • Romance fiction
  • Mystery fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read the section where Sadie finds out her mother took her money
    • Ask if her mother had the right to do so
  • Create a book list of thieving heroes

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Sadie is a con artist

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:

I read The Almost Truth for a book committee and thought it was fun and a nice change from the darker themes found in dystopias and the teen problem novels.

Reviews:

References:

Eileen Cook revealed. (n.d.). Retreived from http://authors.simonandschuster.ca/Eileen-Cook/47825204/author_revealed

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

paper covers rock

Bibliographic Information:

Hubbard, J. (2011). Paper covers rock. New York: Delacorte Press.

Plot Summary:

Four friends secretly take a bottle to the river to share. While enjoying this respite from school, a dare ends in the death of a friend and a subsequent cover-up of the events to save the survivors from expulsion. When Miss Dovecott, an English teacher who sees Alex as a fledgling writer, starts asking questions about the accident, Alex confesses his confusion and guilt in a journal he hides in the library as he tries to deal with his accountability and feelings of guilt. As he reviews the events leading to the tragedy Alex starts to question if the death was really an accident.

Critical Evaluation:

Alex is suffering a personal and moral dilemma; he feels great guilt for what happened at the river but he is afraid of the consequences if anyone finds out. He has no one he trusts to talk to. So, he turns to a trusted teacher through a series of letters, poems, and journal entries he writes that he will never share. Through these writings, Alex describes the events leading to the death of his friend. He struggles with his confused memories of his friends and their conversations which suggest the accident may have been contrived to hide darker secrets. He exposes his attraction to his English teacher, Miss Dovecott. Finally, he acknowledges his weakness and flawed character.

The convention of epistolary writing sets the tone and controls the movement of the plot. Hubbard’s decision to have Alex tell the story through his letters and journal adds an extra level of intimacy to the reader’s experience while portraying the contractions in Alex’s emotions and actions. Using a first person limited view, Hubbard continues the theme of contradiction by providing the reader with full disclosure from one flawed point of view.

Another strength of this debut novel is its’ foundation built on classic literature and use of poetry. The use of poetry is particularly effective in building the tension in the themes of attraction and betrayal that underlay the plot.

Reader’s Annotation:

When a dare ends in the death of a friend, sixteen-year-old Alex uses his journal to try to understand what happened – was it an accident or was it murder?

Information About the Author:

Paper Covers Rocks is a debut novel for Jenny Hubbard. Hubbard has taught English classes at the high school and the college level. In fact, she has also taught in a private all-boys boarding school.

Jenny is also a poet and very active in the theatre where is an actor and a playwright.

For more information please see her site: http://papercoversrock.co/

Genre:

  • Realistic

Curriculum Ties:

  • Epistolary writing
  • Poetry

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Journal writing – start by reading one of Alex’s letters.
  • Friendship

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up
  • Reading level 6.4

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this title?:

I reviewed this book for our book club at the high school I teach. It was one of my favorite books last year. I have incorporated the review into this post.

Reviews:

  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2011:
    “Hubbard has a superb handle on her boarding school setting…A powerful, ambitious debut.”
  • Starred Review, School Library Journal, June 2011:
    “The story builds to a climax that will have readers on edge. It could be read alongside many of the classics that deal with friendship and loyalty, as well as deceit…Those who are looking for something to ponder will enjoy this compelling read.”
  • Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, July/August 2011:
    “Hubbard’s characters are confounding and intriguing…The traditional, buttoned-up boarding school setting makes the perfect backdrop to this tense dictation of secrets, lies, manipulation, and the ambiguity of honor.”
  • Starred Review, Booklist, July 1, 2011:
    “Both plotting and characters are thoroughly crafted in this stellar first novel. The poetry that Hubbard produces from Alex’s pen is brilliant, and the prose throughout is elegant in its simplicity. Reminiscent of John Knowles’ classic coming-of-age story, A Separate Peace (1959), this novel introduces Hubbard as a bright light to watch on the YA literary scene.”

Awards:

  • Winner 2011 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Award
  • Winner 2011 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • Winner 2011 Horn Book Fanfare
  • Winner 2011 Booklist Children’s Editors’ Choice
  • Nominee ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • Nominee North Carolina Children’s Book Award
  • Nominee Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
  • Nominee Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
  • 2012 Williams C. Morris Finalist http://www.ala.org/yalsa/morris

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

leverageBibliographic Information:

Cohen, J. (2011). Leverage. New York: Dutton Books.(0525423060)

Plot Summary:

Danny has a plan to get to college and away from the life he hates. To succeed, he has to focus on his gymnastics; despite the fact that gymnastics falls far down the totem pole of school funding. Football is the program that garners all the community support and, therefore, all the money. It’s tough enough being the underdog. Being a target for the football team’s bullying just comes with the territory.

In fact, that football money is what has brought newcomer, Kurt, to the school. Kurt has a history that he wants to hide and he, too, hopes to gain a future for himself through a sport – football. Kurt soon realizes that getting his dream may mean stepping on some other students who are weaker and more vulnerable.

When a series of escalating pranks end in a suicide, Danny and Kurt have to decide what happens now.

Critical Evaluation:

Cohen has done a credible job in creating two distinct voices in his characters of Danny and Kurt. Kurt’s history of abuse provides a strong foundation for explaining his grim focus on football as well as his admiration for the smaller and equally talented gymnasts. Danny’s backstory underscores his determination to get as far away from his hometown that he can.

Cohen has provided an interesting juxtaposition of strong and weak within both of his main and secondary characters. Indeed, Danny and Kurt are excellent examples of the flawed hero. For example, although physically strong with an impressive football build, Kurt has been emotionally and psychologically scarred because of the abuse he suffered in his past. Although intelligent, he appears to be slow because of his stutter and lack of social skills. Despite of growing up in poverty and abuse, Kurt has a strong moral code that he must struggle to reconcile with the realities of his situation.

The reader is led to compare Kurt and his flaws to the other football stars who have been made into heroes by a community steeped in a winning football tradition. These secondary characters by all appearances are strong, successful and popular. But, as the story progresses, the reader is introduced to the ugly world of bullying, steroids, and ego.

Although similar in their focus on escaping their respective situations, these two main characters have very distinct voices and through their respective lenses, the underbelly of competitive sports is revealed. Ultimately, this is a story of personal responsibility, choice, and accountability.

Reader’s Annotation:

When an escalating series of pranks and bullying causes the death of a student, two students have to decide whether the truth is more important than their future dreams.

Leverage is a gritty and violent tale full of the glory of football and the fear of being the underdog; where the good guy does not always win and right is relative.

Information About the Author:

Joshua C. Cohen played many sports while he was growing up in Minnesota. His favorite sport was gymnastics but he did not have the right body type to perform at an elite level. Instead, he was able to take his training in a different direction and became a dancer.

Cohen stared writing Leverage when he read about an attack on a group of underclassmen by their senior teammates. He says that when the victims came forward, they were verbally attacked by the community for “sullying the reputation of the school and causing a cancellation of the football season” (Cohen)

For more information about Joshua Cohen, visit his website http://www.leveragethebook.com/

Genre:

  • Realistic
  • Sports

Curriculum Ties:

  • Identity
  • Character development, voice
  • Choice

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Rape
  • Bullying
  • Suicide

Challenge plan:

  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    1. Ask if he/she has read the book
    2. Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    1. Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion       documents
    2. Provide school’s selection policy
    3. Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this book?:

In all honestly, I do not like this book. I appreciate the different voices of Kurt and Danny. I also believe that Cohen has told a story that needs to be told. His focus on football and the hype and pressures young men are under to succeed – even to the detriment of their health – should be told.

Awards:

  • Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2011),
  • YALSA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults (2012)
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults

Reviews:

  • Kraus, D. (2010). Leverage. Booklist, 107(8), 45.
  • Leverage. (2010). Kirkus Reviews, 78(24), 1265.
  • Wilson, B. (2011). Leverage. Booklist, 107(18), 5