Beauty Queens- Libba Bray

Beauty Queens

Review:

This was one of the books I downloaded onto my Kindle to read while on vacation this summer.  It was by far my FAVORITE summer read.  I   found this book to be laugh out loud hilarious and ended up reading excerpts aloud to my parents while we were on a 12 hour car trip.

The story follows a group of teen beauty queens who have been stranded on a desert island.  The cast of characters is incredible.  Girly girls, pretty boys, gay, straight, transgender, black, white, and more.  The references to current pop culture are abundant and cleverly done.  Bray examines our cultural norms in such a way that we can laugh at ourselves.

This book is definitely a book for females.  There are some strong discussions about sexuality that are extremely well done, though may make some young people who have not yet started to explore that area of themselves uncomfortable.  For that reason, and for many of the references I think this book is best suited for older high school students, and even first or second year college students.  I would be comfortable having it in my classroom.

This really makes me want to go back and read Going Bovine, Bray’s Printz winning novel that I never finished.

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 9th grade

Grade Level: 5.3

AWARDS:

A 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in Young Adult Literature

2012 Audie Award Winner for Best Narration by the Author

2012 Audie Award Nomination for Best Teen Audiobook

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!

Postcards From No Man’s Land- Aidan Chambers


Shop Indie Bookstores

I had started this book in the Spring of 2008 and for some reason I never finished it.  In the hopes of checking off another book on my Printz challenge and because I found a super cheap copy at a dollar store I decided to try again.  I’m glad I did.

Postcards From No Man’s Land weaves together two stories separated by decades.  One story describes the impact of WWII on Holland and its citizens while the other is a modern day story of a teen boy visiting Holland on his own.  In both stories issues of sexuality are discussed, though I was not always sure as to why they were pertinent to the teen boys story.  The book was very descriptive and it definitely held my interest. There are interesting family dynamics explored in the book as well.

This is a book for high school students.  The content and the vocabulary make it appropriate for grades 9-12.  I would consider using in a classroom but would probably send a note home outlining to parents the controversial topics it discusses.  It may be a useful book for history teachers as well.

I was glad to finally read another book with a male protagonist!

Awards:

1999 Carnegie Award

2003 Printz Award

Those of you who have read it, what did you think?

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

Eclipse- Stephenie Meyer

First of all, I’m sorry.  I wrote a review of Eclipse and thought I had posted it but apparently it disappeared.

I finished Eclipse several weeks ago and really enjoyed it.  I really enjoyed reading about how Bella and her leading men, Edward and Jacob developed.  The relationships get even more complicated.  This book was decidedly more sexual than the first two, but it was still tasteful and appropriate.  I like the fact that Meyer doesn’t shy away from the idea of teen sexuality but that she shows teens considering it at age 18 so they are legally adults, and with some though process.  That being said, Edward is over a hundred years old– should we be disturbed by this?  Either way I need to get my hands on a copy of Breaking Dawn so that I can finish the series.  And, I am very excited to see Eclipse this summer.

Ghostgirl- Tonya Hurley


Shop Indie Bookstores

I do not usually comment on the “cover appeal” of a book, but as soon as I received this book in the mail I was instantly intrigued because of how cool the cover is.  The white background in the middle of the cover shown above is really clear plastic with a black silhouette on it.  The book seems luxurious, and the pages on the outside have silver on them.  

OK, enough about the cover.  The premise of this book is that a high school girl dies unexpectedly and before she gets the chance to go to the fall dance with her dream date.  She discovers however, that once she is dead she still has plenty of things to learn, and people to help.  There were several things that I specifically enjoyed about this book that I felt make it a little more unique.  One of those things were the quotes, poems, and song lyrics that were placed on the first page of each new chapter.  From Evanescence to Poe and Dickinson, they were all very interesting to read.  I also felt that the selfishness/self-centeredness of the main character was portrayed quiet realistically to how, lets face it, the majority of teens are.  I enjoyed the rest of the book though there were some lines here and there that I felt could have been excluded and made the book seem a little bit more high-quality.  I wish I could find my example again easily, but alas, I didn’t mark the page.  I wouldn’t use this book as a teaching tool, but I will be including it in my classroom library.  There is a little bit of discussion of teenage sexuality but there are no graphic scenes in it.  This is definitely a book that female students would enjoy rather than their male counterparts.  And I would say that any one from perhaps the 8th grade and up could read it.  IT’s easy enough for younger, but the sexual parts that are included to me, make it unsuitable for younger readers.

 

There is a website that goes along with this book and its sequel that comes out in just a few more days!  Visit Ghostgirl.com for more information.

 

I will be reviewing the sequel to Ghostgirl, Ghostgirl: Homecoming within the next few weeks I hope.

Jellicoe Road- Melina Marchetta


Shop Indie Bookstores

This Printz winner took me a while to get into. I’d say I was a third, to half of the way into it before I really became intrigued, but then I didn’t put it down.  There are numerous interesting characters whom I loved, but at the same time had some difficulty keeping everything straight.  There is mystery involved in the story- and I reached the end I felt like I needed to go back and re-read because I had to have missed some things along the way.  The main character, Taylor, is finishing up her Junior year and attends a boarding school in rural Australia.  There are two mentions of sexual activity within the book but they are not overly explicit.  There is a bit of violence at times in the novel as well.  I think this book could be used potentially in a classroom.  I would recommend it to teen girls and boys as there are strong characters from each gender.   I think this book is appropriate for high school students.

 

Awards:

ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Michael L. Printz Award
Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book