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!)

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

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

Breaking Dawn- Stephenie Meyer

At last, my review of the 4th and final book in the infamous Twilight saga!


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I was SUPER excited to get my hands on this book.  I started reading it on my car ride back from Cheboygan, Michigan over July 4th weekend- but I was using my friends copy.  So, in the airport on my way to Tahoe, I put down twenty three dollars, and bought the hardback copy to take with me.  (In hindsight, this was a poor choice due to the pure weight of this book.)  Each day of my vacation I read just a little more until I finally finished it!

I have to say I was not sure what to expect.  I knew that this book has Edward and Bella becoming more sexually active- and some of my friends felt that the descriptions of their love making was too graphic.  I however disagreed.  I felt that especially since they waited till after Bella was 18, and they were married that it was dealt with quite tastefully.  There is no description of intimate body parts so I feel like most students/teens could handle it.

Sex aside, I’m not 100 percent sure how I feel about this installment of the series.  I felt like it drug on at times and I found myself waiting for the “big event” and when that event came, I was left wanting.  I wish there was more action in this book like there was in Eclipse (the movie for which I have STILL NOT SEEN!).  Overall though I felt this book tied up some loose ends and closed out the saga nicely.

Overall, what did you think of the Twilight saga?  Hmm… maybe I’ll post a poll soon!

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.