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!)

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 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

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

Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins


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Review:

LOVE.  This sequel to The Hunger Games definitely expands upon and lives up to the first book of the trilogy.  Following the lives of the characters post Hunger Games we continue to be invested in their fates.  I was hooked from page one, and read this book very quickly.  I finished it on a snow day- and was SO upset that I didn’t have Mockingjay at my apartment with me.  A complete page turner, the ending made me very eager to read the next, and final book.

As with The Hunger Games I see this book appealing to both male and female readers.  As I mention below, Scholastic has the interest level being grades 6-8 but I feel the themes and content are more appropriate starting at 7th grade and going up to 10th (for in the classroom- older students would also enjoy it!).

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 6-8  (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 BESTSELLER

#1 WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER

#1 PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLER

A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE

TIME MAGAZINE
TOP 10 FICTION BOOKS OF 2009

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’S BEST BOOKS OF 2009:
CHILDREN’S FICTION

A PEOPLE MAGAZINE (TOP 10) BEST BOOK OF 2009

A LOS ANGELES TIMES BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK OF 2009

A BOOKLIST EDITORS’ CHOICE, 2009

A KIRKUS BEST BOOK OF 2009

AN AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
BEST BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS SELECTION

#1 YALSA’S TEENS’ TOP TEN, 2010

NYPL “STUFF FOR THE TEEN AGE” LIST, 2010

2010 CHILDREN’S CHOICE BOOK AWARD
TEEN CHOICE BOOK OF THE YEAR WINNER

2010 INDIES CHOICE AWARD WINNER–YOUNG ADULT

TOP 10 ON THE FALL 2009 CHILDREN’S INDIE NEXT LIST

BARNES & NOBLE BEST TEEN BOOKS OF 2009

BORDERS BEST BOOKS OF 2009: TEENS

AMAZON BEST BOOKS OF 2009:
TOP 100 EDITORS’ PICK
TOP 10 BOOKS: TEENS

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

The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins


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The Hunger Games had been on my reserve list at the library for several weeks before it finally came.  It was worth the wait.  I would not classify myself as being a lover of sci-fi or fantasy, but I really liked this book.  In this book 24 teens are forced to compete to the death for the entertainment of the capital city.  It follows one girl in particular and her experiences within the game.  While one might think the book would be overly violent it isn’t, and focuses more on relationships and human nature than the killing of other people.  I wish that in addition to the perspective of the girl we also got more information about how the citizens watching the games reacted.  It can be seen as commenting on what our society views as “entertainment.”  The characters were interesting and easy to relate to.  I didn’t know while reading that there is a second book coming out, but by the end I definitely wanted to read more.  (The sequel is set to release September 1, 2009)

This book could be used in a classroom.  I would say that it is appropriate for grades 8-10 based off of reading level.  But could be used for older grades as well, and for some 6th/7th graders depending on their maturity.  I believe this book would appeal to both male and female students even with a female protagonist.

AWARDS:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
USA TODAY BESTSELLER
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: CHILDREN’S FICTION
NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK OF 2008
AN AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION TOP TEN BEST BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS SELECTION
AN ALA NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK
#1 ON CHILDREN’S INDIE NEXT LIST
KIRKUS REVIEWS EDITOR’S CHOICE, 2008
A HORN BOOK FANFARE
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOKS Of 2008
A BOOKLIST EDITORS’ CHOICE
LA TIMES FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS, 2008
BARNES & NOBLE BEST BOOKS OF 2008 FOR TEENS AND KIDS
BORDERS BEST BOOKS OF 2008: TEENS
AMAZON BEST BOOKS OF 2008: 
    TOP 100 EDITORS’ PICK
    TOP 10 BOOKS: TEENS