All The Bright Places (ARC)- Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

This recently published YA lit is also slated to be made into a movie!  I wasn’t sure what to expect when cracking open All the Bright Places but I was happy with what I found.  Niven uses the seemingly increasing in popularity, multiple point of view narrative technique, to put you inside the heads of two teens, Violet, and Finch.

Throughout the book you discover that both have demons they are wrestling.  The issues dealt with in this book are numerous, and intense.  Depression, suicide, death of loved ones, divorce, abuse, sexual contact are all touched on.  I believe each is dealt with largely in a realistic way.  The sexual contact could, in my opinion, focus a little attention on practicing safe sex however it is not overly explicit and I’d be comfortable with high school students reading it.

Though there is a male and a female protagonist I feel this book will appeal much more to female teens.  I think it is appropriate for 11th and 12th graders.  I would be reluctant to just leave it on my bookshelf in the classroom because of the potential to trigger students who have been touched by the above mentioned issues.  In the past year suicide and attempted suicide has touched my family a lot and I know that for some members of my family reading about it would re-traumatize them.

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Death, Car Crashes, Physical Abuse

There is currently no information available for reading level or interest level.  This is definitely a high school book though the reading level is not particularly difficult.

Check out the author’s page for other ways to interact with the book:  http://www.jenniferniven.com/books/allthebrightplaces/

Let’s Talk About Books: Book Talks in the Classroom

Getting our students or children to read is often challenging in this multi-media world.  Yet, I’ve found, that even my reluctant readers are interested in a good story.  The thing is- they’re lazy.  Not all of them, but many of them, and the idea of having to sift through books to find one that interests them doesn’t sound like fun.  Or, they don’t find what they want in the first 3-5 books and they give up.  Many of us have AWESOME classroom or school libraries.  We’ve taken time to collect books, buy books, and organize our books only to have our shelves sit there unused.  This is a waste!  Books are not for decoration, they are to be read!

YA

If you’re like me you have a hard time passing up a good deal on a book or a new book so your library is ever growing.  What I like to do when I get new books that I am adding to my shelves is do a brief Book Talk about them.  I often use this as filler right at the end of class.  I show the students the book and give a brief (no spoilers) synopsis.  I tell them, much like I do on this blog, who I think will be most interested by the book.  I relate it to other books or movies I think they may have read/seen and enjoyed.  I let kids thumb through it.  I answer questions.  I am EXTREMELY excited and animated when I discuss the books.  I GUSH about how much I loved it and why.  And almost always the books are immediately checked out.

I also do something similar when a student asks me for a recommendation or when the class finishes a book that they overall enjoyed.  I suggest several other options for their next read.  I find out what they like and are interested in and make suggestions off of that.  I don’t worry about reading level too much because I’ve found that if they really are interested they will find a way.  I also suggest audio books for some of my lower level readers.

Your excitement can and will rub off on your students.  Use it to your advantage.  Get our children reading so they can become lifelong learners.

What about you?  Do you do book talks?  How do you let students know about new books on your shelves?  Or ones that just aren’t getting the attention they deserve?  What works for you and your students/children?  Let me know in the comments.

Counting to D- Kate Scott (ARC)

Counting to D

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Counting to D by Kate Scott.  This book, which is set to be released on the 11th of February, was a fun read.

The main character, Sam, is a teenage girl with Dyslexia.  She is also highly gifted in math and has far above average listening comprehension skills.  While the focus of the book is on how Sam navigates through her school work with her learning difference the story also looks at many other difficulties that teenagers face.  There is a bit of a love story, different friendships, and sub plots on mental illness as well.  What I really liked most about this book is it makes you think about people you know and the challenges they might face that you don’t even know about it.  It is not preachy but helps students realize that different isn’t necessarily bad, and special ed doesn’t mean stupid.

This book is a very easy read and isn’t demonstrative of many different literary techniques so I would be unlikely to use it as a whole class read.  However, I would absolutely have it on bookshelf and encourage students to read it.  It would be a great book to have students read and then conduct a research project based on it.  I think the interest level of the book would be 8th grade and higher due to some frank discussion of sex- though I think that was done exceedingly well!

Added bonus: If you have Amazon Prime you can borrow this book from the Kindle Owners Library FOR FREE!!  Check it out!

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

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!

Rivals- Daisy Whitney

Review:  I received an advance reader’s copy of Rivals by Daisy Whitney at the NCTE Convention this fall.  This is the sequel to The Mockingbirds and continues to look at the darker side of boarding school.  This book is a little less intense focusing on prescription drug abuse rather than date rape but does not ignore that Alex is still coping with the events that transpired the year before.  This was a great read and was much more of a mystery than The Mockingbirds.

Like its predecessor this is definitely a book written for high school students.  I think it would attract more females than males, but males could get into it as well.  This isn’t a book I’d teach, but I would/will have it in my classroom library.

The Lowdown:

RL: My guess is about 4th grade
Interest Level: High School

Look for this book to hit shelves in early February!!!


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!