Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson


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This book is so well known that I feel silly that I didn’t read it till now.  Speak is a great novel that follows its main character, Melinda, through her freshman year of high school.  Melinda faces a lot of issues throughout the book all stemming from an event that occurred the summer before the book starts.  I felt like this book opens up important topics for discussion.  As usual Anderson captures the voice of American teens with great accuracy.

I know there are school districts that have all of their freshmen read this book.  I would not hesitate to use it in my classroom or to recommend it as independent reading to a student.  I think that this book is appropriate for grades 8-12.

Awards:

A 2000 Printz Honor Book
A 1999 National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
Winner of the Golden Kite Award
An ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Top Ten First Novel of 1999
A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
An SLJ Best Book of the year
A Horn Book Fanfare Title
2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award (for this and other novels)

how i live now- Meg Rosoff

I don’t know why I waited so long to write my review of how i live now by Meg Rosoff, but here it is.

I went into reading this book knowing very little about it.  I knew that it was a Printz award winner, and that was it.  I enjoyed the book overall.  It follows an American teen girl to England where she stays with cousins.  While there a war breaks out and the rest of the story deals with that.  I liked that the war is very generic- there is no explanation as to who is involved or why.  Instead the book focuses on the effect the war has on the characters.  My one major complaint was the incestuous relationship that evolves.  I don’t want to spoil much so I won’t mention who its between etc- but it just seemed strange and unnecessary to me.

I see this book appealing more to females than males but it is not overly feminine.  I will include it in my classroom library but don’t think I will ever use it as a whole class assignment.  It is appropriate for 9-12th grades.

Awards:

WINNER 2005 – Michael L. Printz Award Winner
NOMINEE – Los Angeles Times Book Prize
WINNER – Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe Prize
WINNER – Branford Boase Award
WINNER 2005 – ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER – Publishers Weekly Flying Start Author
WINNER – Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice
WINNER – Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award
WINNER – Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year
WINNER – Horn Book Fanfare
NOMINEE 2005 – Orange Prize for New Writers

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

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes- Chris Crutcher


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Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes was a great read.  The story is told from the perspective of a teenage boy who is overweight.  He tells about his friendship with a girl named Sarah Byrnes, whose face is horribly disfigured due to burns suffered when she was three.  Along with issues of appearance and friendship,  the book also touches on religion, abuse, and trust.  There is mystery and action in the story that keeps you interested till the end.  I rooted for the characters the entire time.  I think this book is definitely classroom appropriate for high school.  It is an easy read, but is great for discussing theme and other elements of literature.  I would recommend this book to any student.  It will appeal to both both teen boys and girls.

Awards:

ALA Best Book for YA
SLJ Best Book for YA
American Booksellers Pick of the List
California Young Reader Medalist
1995 Joan Fassler Memorial Book Award
ALA Best of the Best Books for YA
Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review
1994 South Dakota YARP Best Books
Nominee 1995-1996 Iowa Teen Award
Nominee 1995-1996 SC YA Book Award
Nominee 1996 Young Reader’s Choice Award
Nominee 1996-1997 ILF Rosie

Tears of A Tiger- Sharon Draper


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Written in 1994 Tears of A Tiger will still resonate with students now, 15 years later.  This story deals with the aftermath of a drunk driving accident that kills a high school student.  The relationships between friends, children and parents, teachers, and counselors are all discussed through transcripts of discussions, newspaper articles, diary entries, and letters.  This is the first book in the Hazelwood High trilogy, but each book stands completely on its own.  I have taught this book to 10th graders before and they ATE IT UP.  Many went on to read the next book in the series, Forged By Fire.  I highly recommend this book for use in a classroom (9-10th grade) and for individual students to read.  

 

Here is a link to Sharon Draper’s Teacher Resources for this book.  As a National Board Certified English teacher, she knows her stuff:  Sharon Draper’s Site

 

Awards:

Winner–1995 American Library Association/Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for an outstanding new book
ALA Best Book for Young Adults

Outstanding book by

-The Children’s Book Council
-The New York City Library
-Bank Street College
-National Council for Social Studies

Best of the Best by YALSA as one of the top 100 books for Young Adults

 

Jellicoe Road- Melina Marchetta


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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 

 
 

Dead is the New Black- Marlene Perez


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I do not usually pick up books about vampires, but this one jumped out at me from the shelf in the library and I figured I’d give it a try. It is the first in a newer series, and is relatively light with some dark moments, and looks at a different type of vampire that does not suck blood.  I found the main character, Daisy, who is in high school to be a likeable character.  Her family is unique, and her interactions with her crush are realistic and common to most teens I would think.  Overall this was an enjoyable read.  It is not a book that was written to be used in a classroom, but would be an appropriate book to recommend to readers grades 7-12, though reading level is probably more middle grades oriented.

Awards:

Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: 2009