Divergent- Veronica Roth

Review:  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super excited about this book.  It was one, like Twilight that I knew many teens were reading and had been made into a movie.  I also had seen it on lists saying “If you liked The Hunger Games then you might like…”  When I found it cheap at Marshall’s I figured I’d pick it up.  Well, consider me a convert.  I LOVED IT.  I guess I really can’t get enough of the dystopian YA genre! I found the concept different, loved the Chicago references, and enjoyed the variety of characters.

If I used this in the classroom I’d probably use it in a 9th grade class and as a quick- not overly in depth novel study.  I think there’s a lot to the book, but there are other books that I think make better class reads.  I’ve seen middle school students reading it, and that’s probably fine, but there are some sexual undertones that may or may not be appropriate depending on their maturity.  That said, I really really admire the way Roth handles intimacy between Tris and Four.

Have you seen the movie?  I haven’t made it out there quite yet!

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 8

Grade Level: 9 (What?! A YA book whose grade level is higher than the interest level!  Praise be!)

Advertisements

The Maze Runner- James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Book 1)

Review:  

I read this on my Kindle over the summer because 1. it was a lendable title, and 2. several of my students were reading it last school year.  This story was quite a bit different from the other stories I’ve read.  This is a very male centered book which I think is good because I have a harder time getting my boys interested in reading than my girls.  There is however a female character that enters part way through.  There is a survivalist element, a dystopian element, and it has a science fiction element.  It could be compared to Lord of the Flies.  

I probably wouldn’t teach this as a classroom read due to the fact that I didn’t notice any major literary elements (though there are some).  I would however, and did, have it in my classroom level.  I think this book would be appropriate for grades 6 and up.  It is probably a little young for upper high school but some might like it.  This is also the first in a series, and I believe is being made into a movie, so getting a student hooked on this might lead them into reading more and more!

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 7th Grade

Grade Level: 5th Grade

Teaching Resources: SRC, AR

AWARDS:

2009 Kid’s Indie Next List “Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers”
2009 Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Books
ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
Charlotte Zolotow Award
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award
Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
New Hampshire Great Stone Face Children’s Book Award
Florida Sunshine State Book Award
Texas Lone Star Reading List

13 Reasons Why- Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

Review:

I had so many people suggest this novel to me that when I saw it on a clearance shelf I had to buy it.  I then decided it would be my gym read… this was probably a poor choice as it took me forever to finish, but I am glad I did.  The story follows a teen boy who has found 13 tapes in the mail.  They were recorded immediately prior to a classmates suicide and explain how many different events affected her.  There is interest and intrigue and you find yourself really invested in finding out what happens.  Why does he have the tapes- how did he contribute to her depression, to her ultimate suicide?  I think this would be a great discussion starter.  Too often our students don’t realize the affect that they can have on others.

This book is definitely a high school level book.  There are discussions of alcohol use, sexual encounters, sexual assault and other serious topics.  However, there are CLEAR consequences to these actions that I think are appropriately handled.  I think it would make a great classroom read.  The main character is a male, but the suicide victim is a female so I see it appealing to both genders.

The Lowdown (Via Scholastic)

Interest Level :Grade 9 (I would include 10-12)

Grade Level Equivalent: 3.2

Includes: Scholastic Reading Counts! Quiz , Accelerated Reader Quiz

CLICK HERE FOR A DISCUSSION GUIDE!

Awards: (List from official website)

New York Times Best Seller Publishers Weekly Best Seller

California Book Award Winner

Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA)

Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers (YALSA)

Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults (YALSA)

Borders Original Voices finalist

Barnes & Noble – Top 10 Best for Teens

International Reading Assoc. – Young Adults’ Choices

Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice

Book Sense Pick – Winter

Chicago Public Library Best Books

Association of Booksellers for Children – Best Books

State Awards – Winner (voted on by students): Florida, Kansas, Kentucky

Also, for further reading about using this book in your classroom, and or other resources for dealing with the topic of bullying, check out the July issue of NCTE’s English Journal…

English Journal, Vol. 101, No. 6, July 2012

Happy Reading!

The Mockingbirds- Daisy Whitney

The Mockingbirds

Review:  I downloaded The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney to my Kindle in anticipation of reading the ARC of its sequel The Rivals.  I am so glad I did.  The Mockingbirds seemed to combine some of the best aspects of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War and Knowles’ A Separate Peace.  At times it even reminded me of John Green’s Waiting for Alaska.   But this book stands on its own and has its own merit.  From the first paragraph on the first page you are thrown into the life of the main character Alex, a junior girl at an elite boarding school, who has been date raped.

What I enjoyed about this story is how it dealt with the rape in a very realistic way.  You see Alex attempting to discern where the responsibility for the rape lies and how to move on with her life.  With such a serious subject this book could have become very dark and depressing very fast.  But it isn’t.  There are times where it is graphic, the imagery and the language may make you squirm but that is offset with the very regular interactions the teen characters have.  Crushes, school work, clubs and more.  Whitney also does a great job of examining what happens when schools have a history of caring more for their record than for their students and what types of change students can initiate.

This is definitely a book written for high school aged students.  I think it would appeal more to females than males, but males could get a lot out of it as well.  I think that if I were to teach a book about a subject such a date rape I would be more likely to teach Speak due to some of the graphic nature of this book.  I could however, see myself recommending this book to students or having it on a list (along with most of the other titles I mentioned earlier) to read alongside Speak for some sort of comparison project.  The Mockingbirds is also one of those books that I will be recommending to my friends who don’t read YA the way I do.  I believe this is a crossover book that adults can read and learn from as much as teens.

The Lowdown:

RL: 4-5 grade, lexile rating of HL720L (THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT A BOOK FOR 4th or 5th GRADERS)
Interest Level: High School (I could see 8th graders reading it but it might get a little heavy for younger teens)

Awards:

  • A Romantic Times Best Book of 2010
  • A Best Book for Young Adults – American Library Association
  • An NPR Best Book of 2010
  • An Association of Booksellers for Children New Voices Pick for 2010
  • Chicago Public Library Best of Best Books for Teens in 2010
  • Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention
  • An Indie Next List Pick
  • A GoodReads Mover and Shaker for November 2010
  • The Books-A-Million teen book club pick for January 2011

Stay tuned for my upcoming review of The Rivals!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time- Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  by Mark Haddon was a very interesting and thought provoking read.  I purchased this book for my Kindle over the summer because my local school district assigned it to all of their students for summer reading and hosted book discussions for the community and encouraged the city to join in reading this book.  I finally got around to reading it while traveling this past week and I’m so glad that I did.

The book is told from the perspective of a teen male who is mathematically inclined and describes himself as having behaviors problems.  In the book he investigates the death of a neighbor’s dog.  What you get however is not just a mystery but insight into the life of a teen who displays autistic-like tendencies.  I do work with students on the autism spectrum so for me I was able to relate to the struggles the narrator describes.  In fact Haddon’s descriptions provided an easily accessible and plausible explanations of why a person with autism might have certain personality quirks.  (Haddon does not claim to be an expert and there may be no way to fully know what goes on in someone else’s head but it rings true to me.) By the time I was nearing the end of the book I couldn’t put it down and was very invested in the life of the main character.

I would recommend this book for any adult who works with autistic children.  I would also use this as a classroom read or recommend it for an individual student to read.  I feel it could spark great discussion about family relationships, disabilities and abilities, along with questions of morality.

AWARDS:

WINNER YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year
WINNER Booklist Editor’s Choice for Young Adults
WINNER School Library Journal Adult Books for Young Adults
WINNER ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
WINNER New Jersey Garden State Teen Book Award
WINNER 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize of Europe and South Asia

I’m a Winner!

A month ago today Heidi Ayarbe decided to host a “Lame Duck” writer contest to show her appreciation for authors who take risks with their writing.  I entered on a whim and, along with two other lucky people, was chosen as a winner.  I was very excited today when I returned to my apartment to find a copy of Going Bovine by Libba Bray waiting for me!  The book is one I haven’t read, sounds interesting, and will help me with my quest to win all the Printz winners!

So thanks, Heidi, for hosting the contest.  I am excited to read this book, and a few others that you mentioned in the post!

 

What’s next on your reading list?

Mockingjay- Suzanne Collins


Shop Indie Bookstores

Review:

The final installment of The Hunger Games trilogy did a great job of tying ending the saga.  I felt like most of my questions were answers, though some new ones were brought to light.  I think leaving some things unanswered allows for healthy debate among readers.  With all that being said this was my least favorite of the books.  I can’t put my finger on why, but it is what it is.

Overall this is the best YA series I’ve read and I recommend it to anyone who will listen!  What was your overall impression?

 

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 6-8  (As with Catching Fire I think this is a little off- I’d say more 7-10)
Grade Level: 5.4

Teaching Resources:

Book talk and Discussion Guide available from Scholastic.com

AWARDS:

#1 USA TODAY BESTSELLER

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES

#1 WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER

#1 PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLING SERIES

NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK OF 2010

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’S BEST BOOKS OF 2010:
CHILDREN’S FICTION

A BOOKLIST EDITORS’ CHOICE, 2010

A KIRKUS BEST BOOK OF 2010

NPR BEST BOOKS OF 2010

A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE

A CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR’S BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF 2010

BARNES & NOBLE BEST TEEN BOOKS OF 2010

AMAZON BEST BOOKS OF 2010:
#3 ON CUSTOMER FAVORITES LIST