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

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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!

Mockingjay- Suzanne Collins


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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

Number the Stars- Lois Lowry

This book is a bit of a change for me as it is a bit more middle grades than young adult.  That being said, I’d heard good things so I decided to pick it up and read it.  The story, as most of you probably know, is about a young girl during WWII that lives in Holland and how her family is affected by the Nazi occupation.

It was interesting to read this book so soon after I read Postcards From No Man’s Land (I read both a couple of months ago).  Both provided insight into the war in Holland, but both were extremely different.  Overall I honestly wasn’t that big of a fan of Number the Stars, perhaps if I were more into books for upper elementary school students I would have felt differently.  It appears to be historically accurate, but I felt the plot and the characters lacked development.  I wanted to know more.

The book is definitely school appropriate and could be used for grades 4-7 though I’d say 5/6 is ideal.  This would be a good book to pair with a history lesson on WWII.

Awards:

WINNER 1991 – Arkansas Charlie May Simon Master List
WINNER 1989
– Sydney Taylor Book Award, Association of Jewish Libraries
WINNER 1991 – Kansas William White Master List
WINNER 1991 – Kentucky Bluegrass Master List
WINNER 1990 – Maine Student Book Award
FINALIST 1993 – Massachusetts Children’s Book Award
WINNER – Newbery Medal Winner
WINNER – ALA Notable Children’s Book
WINNER – School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson


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This book is so well known that I feel silly that I didn’t read it till now.  Speak is a great novel that follows its main character, Melinda, through her freshman year of high school.  Melinda faces a lot of issues throughout the book all stemming from an event that occurred the summer before the book starts.  I felt like this book opens up important topics for discussion.  As usual Anderson captures the voice of American teens with great accuracy.

I know there are school districts that have all of their freshmen read this book.  I would not hesitate to use it in my classroom or to recommend it as independent reading to a student.  I think that this book is appropriate for grades 8-12.

Awards:

A 2000 Printz Honor Book
A 1999 National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
Winner of the Golden Kite Award
An ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Top Ten First Novel of 1999
A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
An SLJ Best Book of the year
A Horn Book Fanfare Title
2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award (for this and other novels)

how i live now- Meg Rosoff

I don’t know why I waited so long to write my review of how i live now by Meg Rosoff, but here it is.

I went into reading this book knowing very little about it.  I knew that it was a Printz award winner, and that was it.  I enjoyed the book overall.  It follows an American teen girl to England where she stays with cousins.  While there a war breaks out and the rest of the story deals with that.  I liked that the war is very generic- there is no explanation as to who is involved or why.  Instead the book focuses on the effect the war has on the characters.  My one major complaint was the incestuous relationship that evolves.  I don’t want to spoil much so I won’t mention who its between etc- but it just seemed strange and unnecessary to me.

I see this book appealing more to females than males but it is not overly feminine.  I will include it in my classroom library but don’t think I will ever use it as a whole class assignment.  It is appropriate for 9-12th grades.

Awards:

WINNER 2005 – Michael L. Printz Award Winner
NOMINEE – Los Angeles Times Book Prize
WINNER – Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe Prize
WINNER – Branford Boase Award
WINNER 2005 – ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER – Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author
WINNER – Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice
WINNER – Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award
WINNER – Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year
WINNER – Horn Book Fanfare
NOMINEE 2005 – Orange Prize for New Writers

Push- Sapphire

Push by Sapphire has received a lot of attention after being turned into the award-winning movie “Precious.”  I picked a copy of it up at a bookstore a few months ago and then forgot about it.  I’m glad I read it now though.  I had a feeling I would like the book but was not prepared for the way in which it was written. The novel is written from Precious’ point of view and is written as if she wrote it- and as a girl severely lacking in reading and writing skills this means that there are phonetic spellings, lots of swearing, and also slang.  I did find it easy to follow though and read it rather quickly.

I think this is a great book for English teachers to read because it reminds us of what deficiencies our students may be coming to us with that we might not think of.  i.e. the inability to read or write.  Due to the graphic descriptions of rape, incest, and abuse I would be hesitant to use this in my classroom.  I think it has a message that could be discussed, but having worked with students coming from this type of a background themselves I would be concerned about triggering flashbacks and or re-traumatizing them.  I would however recommend it to students in 11th and 12th grade while explaining to them that there are some rather graphic scenes, and letting them make their own mind up about whether they want to read it or not.

Overall I really enjoyed the book.

Awards:

2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults- YALSA