Code Name Verity- Elizabeth Wein

I really enjoy historical fiction.  Not only do I get to read a great story but I get to learn in the process.  I also love books with strong female protagonists.  This book truly delivered on both counts.  Told from the viewpoints of two different girls during WWII this book has action, intrigue, female bonding and so much more.

Some of the things I loved about this book:

TONS of literary and historical allusions.  This book is for smart people!

A new take on WWII.  I’ve read lots of books focusing on the plight of the Jewish population- which of course is very important, but this takes a different angle.

Young women in positions of importance.  This is definitely a book that proves can be/do anything.  Even pilot planes during war time!

I truly think this would be a great book to use in the classroom.  Check out this novel guide on Teachers Pay Teachers that helps students with the vocabulary, allusions, and general comprehension.

The Lowdown: (via Scholastic)

Interest Level: Grade 10

Reading Level: Grade 6  (While this may be technically true, the dual narrator, and the allusions, along with some of the content make this book appropriate for high school.

Awards: 

Michael L. Printz Honor Book

Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel

Golden Kite Honor

There is somewhat of a sequel available too which I have yet to read.

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

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

Max- James Patterson (Maximum Ride Novel #5)


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After becoming pretty interested in the first four books in this series I was very excited to get my hands on Max the fifth installment.  I was under the impression that this was the final book- I cannot remember if there was a specific reason that I believed that but- I was wrong.  The ends are not tied up neatly at the end of this book.  Instead I am once again left wondering what happens next.  I am not sure how I feel about that.

I am unsure as to how I should feel about this because this book lacked something the others had.  I am not sure exactly what it was, but I was much less satisfied with this one.  Certain parts of the story are developed more, such as the relationship between Max and Fang.  But I felt we went no where with regards to who Jeb is, how Max is going to fulfill her destiny, and several other things.  This is not to say I don’t recommend it, but just be prepared?  I will probably continue reading the series, because Patterson did what he set out to do with these books and made me want, if not NEED to know what happens in the end.

I hear that a movie is in the works… and I think that could be super cool or super lame.  We’ll see which way it goes.

On a quite positive note, one of the kids that I have in the summer camp I’m working with loves these books so we were able to establish a connection/relationship by talking about them.  Which is one of the reasons I like reading YA.

My previous recommendations for these books being suitable for middle and high school students who want to read outside of school still stands.  In fact I noticed even more in this book how careful Patterson is to make sure that the language and situations are age appropriate.

Nation- Terry Pratchett


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This Printz honor book has historical and fantastical elements to it.  With both male and female teens being central to the story it will appeal to both sexes.  As the characters are on an isolated island there is a lot of adventure, science, and discussion of faith.  Some parts of the story seemed to drag to me, and or were hard to follow, but overall I found it engaging and interesting and worth the read.  The story also deals with the issues of racism.  I am not sure that I would use this book in a classroom because I think students could get confused as to whether it were historically accurate or not.  I would however recommend it to students to read independently.  I’d say this book is probably best suited for middle school students, but high schoolers may enjoy it as well.

Awards:

2009 Printz Honor Book

2008 LA Times- Young Adult Finalist

 

     

The White Darkness- Geraldine McCaughrean


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The White Darkness is a novel that combines history, science, mystery, and teenage angst into a great read.  It is not a quick read as many YA books are, but is still fun to read.  I felt this book had a lot of substance to it.  Sym, a 14-year old girl, has an imaginary friend in the form of an explorer that died decades before she was born.  This imaginary friend gives this book a touch of fantasy but I would still classify it as realistic fiction.  Sym’s relationship with this friend reminds me of the protagonist in Nick Hornby’s Slam‘s relationship with his Tony Hawk poster.  Sym is a strong female character who uses her brain.  There is a slight love interest in the story, and plenty of intrigue.  I think this book could be used in a 9-12 classroom.  

 

AWARDS:

2008 Printz Award Winner