Let's get right to it - I'm pretty impressed by my July reading. Hope I can keep up the momentum in August...
Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles (Flux, 2007) --- I love Simone Elkeles. She's a mom from the suburbs of Chicago who decided one day that she felt like writing romance books for teens. How do you not love her? This one's about Caleb, who's just been released from juvie, where he served a year for a hit and run while drunk driving. His co-star, love interest is Maggie, who he hit and severely injured in aforementioned incident. How the two end up on speaking terms, let alone entangled in a romantic relationship, is very hard to imagine, but Elkeles makes it happen. Life takes them both in unexpected directions, that's for sure. As always, an enjoyable, if not so plausible, story.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (Atheneum, 2010) --- Melody is an 11 year-old girl who senses colors when she hears music and has a whole lot of deep thoughts and musings - but she can't quite communicate them. She has cerebral palsy, and she's spent most of her life without control over her limbs or the ability to speak clearly. This, then, leads people to believe that Melody is dumb, especially the students in her grade at school. But obviously, this is not the case, and Melody is just waiting for the chance to show her peers and her family that she has loads to say. While not my favorite book ever, it is definitely one I think should be read because of its unique perspective.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour (Dutton Children's, 2012) --- I wish I could read this book again right now. Or I wish I had paid more attention the first time and recorded all those quotable lines. Because I could give you a plot summary, but that won't tell you much about why I LOVED this book. (I'm going to anyway.) The Disenchantments are a teen band made up of three girls and their manager friend Colby. Since forever, Colby and Bev have been planning on taking a year off after high school and traveling Europe. But before they can start on their global tour, the band will be making its last rounds around the country since most of them have just graduated. Essentially, it's a music-themed road trip novel. BUT IT'S SO MUCH MORE! It's all about the relationships in this one. And the notion of living in the moment because pretty soon everything is going to change. And how to deal with that change but still enjoy their time together now. Oh, just go read it already!
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (HarperCollins, 2006) --- Ginny's just received a package in the mail from her beloved aunt (who also happens to be dead), and in it are instructions to pack a bag and head to the airport. She has 13 adventures to unfold in each little blue envelope, but she can only open one at a time. London, Amsterdam, Paris, and much more - Ginny travels through Europe on a quest to understand her aunt better and lead a more interesting life of her own. For those of us longing to travel, this seems like the right book to do it vicariously.
Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Simon & Schuster, 2011) --- Summary says it best: "By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape..." I'm a sucker for dystopias, what can I say? But the more I read, the less wowed I am. I definitely enjoyed this book and will be reading its sequel, but they've fallen into my comfort zone (books as food) of reading.
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson (Disney, 2006) --- I don't know how many times I almost picked this book up but then was put off both by its size and cover illustrations (I'm horrible, I know). So, when it showed up on the Battle of the Books list, I finally had no choice but to read it. I thought I'd slug through it and just be tired. Not the case! First off, had I known that it was written as a prequel to Peter Pan, I may have felt differently. There's loads of adventure and humor, and we learn how Peter and his lost boys came to live in Never Land, or a version of it, at least.
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (Harper, 2011) --- Recommended to me by my 4th and 5th grade Vietnamese students. They kept passing the library copy around, so I just bought my own. I can see why they liked it so much. The beginning is set in wartime Saigon but describes the everyday culture and life well. The latter half of the book relates the ELL experience, learning the language, eating weird American food, and fitting in at school (or really, really not), among other things. The snippet says, "Inspired by the author's own childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam as a refugee and immigrating to Alabama, this tween novel told in verse is sure to capture young readers' hearts and open their eyes."
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (Scholastic, 1993) --- I read this book because it's on our Battle of the Books list this year. It's a friendship story between Max, a giant of an eighth grader with a seemingly small intellect, and Freak, the one with the small body but ginormous brain. The two team up to become Freak the Mighty, which you can see on the cover, illustrated by David Shannon. I don't really have much to say about this book. Some people absolutely love it and think it's the most touching tale of friendship. Eh. It was fine. It's dated, for sure. I'm curious to see what my students will think of it.
ttyl by Lauren Myracle (Abrams, 2004) --- You would think that with the amount of times this book has ended up on ALA's Most Frequently Challenged Books list that I would have certainly have read this one already. Nope. Not until recently. And like always, I have no idea what was so offensive. The book is told through instant messages between three best friends (which is now a dated concept, I think), so you can imagine what it's like. Chatting about school, girls they despise, boys they like, things they're excited about, things that stress them out - just eavesdrop on some teen girls gossiping and you basically get this book. Why the girls like it? Because they can relate. Why the adults hate it? Because they don't want their little baby girls to relate.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton, 2012) --- You know about this book, right? You've probably read it already. I don't know what took me so long. I guess there are only so many cancer books I can read in one summer. Ah, but this one is so much more than that. Cancers aside, Hazel and Augustus are just two normal teens hopelessly enamored with each other. The blurb says, "Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind." I haven't loved all of John Green's books, I'll admit, but this one I do indeed love. So much that a quote from the book is going up on my library wall!