Friday, January 22, 2010

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

I really like Halse Anderson books. She has a real edge to her, and deals with some heavy issues that some teens face. I always think of her as an author more for girls, but she has proved me wrong with Twisted.

In Twisted, we meet Tyler Miller, he is a senior in high school who until last year was basically ignored by most people. At the end of last year, he pulled a stupid prank and was busted by the police. After serving his community service, he is ready to put it all behind him and finish his last year in high school. What he finds when he starts back to school is that people look at him differently, he is a bit more sought after by some of the more popular kids. It seems that his run in with the law makes him a person of interest.

When the girl of his dreams starts paying attention to him, Tyler is at a real loss. He doesn't feel that he has changed at all and can't figure out why she is talking to him. Even worse, her brother has always been Tyler's biggest enemy and doesn't like the attention Tyler is getting- from anybody. Throw in the fact that this brother and sister's father happens to be his father's boss- things get a little out of control.

Tyler's family is also a bit dysfunctional. His father is very angry at Tyler, his boss, his wife, and the world in general. He isn't a very likable man. Tyler's mother tries to make excuses, but Tyler is quickly realizing that becoming an adult means seeing your parents for who they really are. Not who you want them to be.

Tyler's new popularity gets him invited to parties, but going to these parties leads to more trouble for him. When he gets into more trouble, his past actions suddenly come back and make things very difficult for him.

This is a great story that can really be used to show kids how one bad decision can affect the rest of your life. It also really showcases families in trouble and the support that kids need to grow up. This book is really more appropriate for high school students, or mature Intermediate students. It sure would be good for some discussions as well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Lottery by Beth Goobie

Life at Saskatoon Collegiate is normal. Lots of teenagers involved in all sorts of stuff. Sal Hansen is a grade 10 student who is happy with her life. She has some good friends, is involved in music, and is awkward around most boys.
But, all that changes when she receives the dreaded scroll. The scroll is feared by all students at SC. The scroll is delivered by the Shadow Council- a secret club made up of the popular kids at school. When you receive the only scroll in early September, you know that your life is about to change. This scroll means that you become the 'winner', the person who is shunned and ignored by the rest of the school population for a whole year. You must do what the Shadow Council demands whenever and whatever they command you to do.
The year Sal receives the scroll, she quickly learns who her true friends are and the personal strength she carries within herself.
This book is a bit edgy with some mature bits, but the story is well worth the read.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell

This short story is about the war in Vietnam- something I'm not sure many kids can relate to today. This book does a great job explaining the changing feelings many American's had for this war.

The story is told through Jamie Dexter, a 12, almost 13 year old Army daughter. Jamie has grown up with her father serving in the army. She has lived all over the world and spent hours playing war games with her brother. When her brother enlists to fight in Vietnam, she couldn't be more proud. She would sign up with him if she was old enough. What Jamie is confused about is her father's reluctance to let him go, her mother's silent acceptance and the strangest thing of all, the pictures her brother sends her from Vietnam.
On one hand, the story is about war and dealing with that, but then there is also Jamie growing up and trying to win her father's approval. For this bit alone, the story is well worth reading. The relationship between Jamie and her father is complex and very typical of a father-daughter relationship. The Colonel is a typical army man, a man who is constantly surrounded by strong male characters. It is easy to see why Jamie feels less valued than her brother and why she works so hard to have a relationship with her dad.

I liked this book, the battle Jamie went through in learning that war isn't all glamor and heroics is a lesson many kids need to face even today.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Zen and the art of faking it by Jordan Sonnenblick

Last summer, I found this author Sonnenblick and read his book Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie ( and was very impressed with his witty writing. I ordered a few more of his books and this is the first chance I've had to read the next one.
Zen and the Art of Faking It is also very witty. I love how Sonnenblick writes a really compelling story, while at the same time having very believable characters.

San Lee is a teenager who has moved around the country a lot. He knows how to fit in and he usually creates a different personality for each new school he goes to. When he lands in Pennsylvania, he has no idea who he is and decides to fake his new personality. San goes to amazing depths to be the new person, but all the while, he is hiding who he really is.

Being a teenage boy, San meets a girl who he falls hard for. But the problem is he is wondering if she likes him for who he is pretending to be, or who he really is. As she shares all of her life with him, she starts resenting the fact that he doesn't share who he is. San has his reasons, but he is afraid to open up and tell her about his past.

I found San to be such a likable character, he made me laugh out loud while I was reading and rooting for him and all of his crazy schemes.

I think both boys and girls would like this story, there is something in there for everyone.

My Story: A Tudor Girl's Diary 1553-1559 Bloody Tower by VAlerie Wilding

I really love history and I really love books that spin tales of people who lived during important historical times. This book is the story of a young girl who lives in the Tower of London just after King Henry VIII has died.
At the start of the story, Tilly is a 12 year old girl who is living her life as the oldest daughter of the Tower's doctor. She doesn't understand all of the political drama that is swirling around her. As she tries to figure it out, she writes down her thoughts, ideas and impressions of the people around her. When she finds a secret letter, she is suddenly swept into the drama.
I have read several books about this time and still find all of the names and fights for power to be very confusing. I'm not sure how a younger reader would follow this story. It is an interesting concept, but unless a reader had a strong desire to learn more about the history of England, I'm not sure they would stick with this book.