Thursday, May 26, 2011

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

Last night I read this beautiful book. Told in poems, I was moved by the beautiful words and images, but also by the storyline. Exposed tells the story of two girls who have been best friends for ever. Liz is 16 and is passionate about photography. Kate is a dancer who is trying to decide if her future will including dancing. Like most friends, the girls fight, make up and are usually inseparable. Then one night the girls have a fight and suddenly Liz finds she cannot get Katie to talk to her. Confused, lonely and sad, Liz stumbles through school watching Kate struggle with something, but unable to approach her. As the story goes on, Kate reveals what happened the night of their fight and Liz must search her heart to discover many truths.

This story deals with a pretty mature theme. I was trying to decide if it belonged in my classroom or not. It reminds me of both Speak and The Mockingbirds. After thinking about it, I do believe this book has a place in my room. The story speaks of friendship, loss, trust and moving on. I think it is one many girls will love to read.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer in the City by Candace Bushnell

This is the sequel to Bushnell's last book The Carrie Diaries which go on to other books and a hit TV series. Summer in the City tells the story of Carrie Bradshaw and her first few months in New York City. Watching the TV series, I know what a cool character Carrie becomes. She is confident, well dressed and comfortable with her life. In this book Carrie is anything but those things. She is a shy, unsophisticated girl who is making her way in the big city. Carrie realizes that New York is where she wants to make it big. She is starting to make a life for herself and has made some great friends like Miranda and Samantha. But life isn't easy!

This book does not belong in any elementary classroom- however, I really liked it and can't wait to read the next one.

The Declaration by Gemma Malley

There is nothing I like better than having students come and talk to me at recess about books. Even better when they are grade 8 boys who I didn't even teach last year, but who I have a relationship with through reading. Add to that a long weekend where I could spend a day reading without feeling too much guilt and I'm in heaven. All those things happened this week and The Declaration is the book that came out of our conversation. One of the boys suggested that I read this one, and he had it in his bag for me to borrow.

The Declaration is set in the year 2140 and in the past, scientists discovered a cure for aging and death. As long as people take the Longevity drugs they can ward off disease, illness and death. The only catch is that in order to take the drugs you have to agree to not have any children because the world is becoming over populated. Some people choose the 'opt-out' program which means you don't get the drugs, but you can have one child. This isn't really a popular choice though as there really aren't many places for children anymore. Then there are the members of society who decide to have more than one child- their 'surplus' children are hidden away from the world, unless they are caught.
Suplus Anna is that child. She was taken from her family when she was two years old and has been taught to hate her parents and to hate her own existence. All Anna wants to do is pay her debt to society for being alive. This means she works very hard to be perfect at everything she does, all in hopes of someday working for a legal family as a domestic helper and to minimize the impact her life has on the world.
Then, a boy is brought to the school she stays at. Peter is unlike anyone Anna has ever met. At times she is drawn to him and other times she wants to never see him again. Peter challenges her very belief system and makes Anna realize that maybe she isn't a waste and that there is more to dream of in her life.
The concept of this book is pretty cool, it's a different twist on population control and yet somewhat similar to the series Among the Hidden. I found at times that the book skipped over some pretty major parts, I wanted to know more about Anna and Peter and how they changed through the book. There is a sequel to the story, which I didn't rush out immediately and pick up, but it was a pretty good read.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Num8ers by Rachel Ward

Imagine living with the knowledge of the day everyone is going to die. That is what life is like for Jem- ever since she can remember, she looks at people and sees the date of their death. It isn't easy for her. To protect herself, she keeps people at a distance. This makes for a very lonely life, but at least she is safe from getting close to someone when she knows they will die.
Then, Jem meets Spider. A troubled boy who for some reason Jem is drawn to. Together they start building a relationship and make plans to spend time together.
One day in London, Jem pulls Spider away from a near disaster and suddenly they are on the run from the police and wanted for questioning. As Jem and Spider grow closer, Jem knows the date of Spider's death and she desperately tries to find a way to cheat death.

I heard about this book from another teacher and picked it up on her recommendation. It is written with an real English flair, which I do enjoy reading. However, it is a bit too mature to put in my grade 7 classroom. The concept is pretty cool, but there are times when the story drags on a bit. I liked Jem and her relationship with Spider was quite interesting to watch develop. The ending left me wanting to read the sequel, even though I don't think I can put it in my classroom.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

This is the second Oliver book I have read. The first one Delirium, I read about a month ago and quite liked it. I've heard a lot of buzz about Before I Fall and so I picked it up a few weeks ago.

Before I Fall is the story of a seventeen year old girl who has it all. Samantha has three best friends, a boyfriend that everyone wants to be with and all the kids in the school look up to her. Samantha and her friends aren't always kind to others at school. They make fun of them, criticize them or shun them totally. All of this seems normal to Samantha until one night in February. As her and her friends head off to a party, everything seems normal. On their way home however, they are in a car accident. As Samantha hovers between life and death, she must relive her last day over and over again. Samantha soon realizes that the way she was behaving wasn't really her and she must learn to value what she has in life before it is too late.

I thought the premise of this book was really interesting. It reminded me a lot of If I Stay by Gayle Forman. When I started reading the book, I was a bit disappointed. Samantha is the typical spoiled, popular teenage girl. Her and her friends are so mean to people they deem unworthy. They are shallow, crass and really hard to read. At one point, I was actually going to put the book down and stop reading it. I am glad I didn't though, because as Samantha relives her last day over and over again, she starts changing. The changes she makes make her a much kinder, nicer person and I really started feeling sympathetic towards her. My only problem with this book is how mature it is. Samantha and her friends glorify drinking, drugs and other dangerous behaviour. I'm not sure I could put it in my classroom. I really want to because I love the growth that Samantha goes through, but there are a few too many mature parts to the story. I will need to think about this one!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

For those of you that know me, you know that I am an 'early to bed, early to rise' kind of girl. I don't do staying up late to read. You are more likely to catch me up at 5 in the morning finishing a book. However, last night was the exception. I COULD NOT STOP READING this book- it was midnight before I finished it. This is without a doubt one of the best YA books I have ever read. All day today I was talking about how great this book is- I have so many kids that now can't wait to read it.

Divergent is a dystopian story that has romance, violence, friendship, betrayal, fear and government control all in one book. The story is set in what we know as Chicago and in this world, when people turn 16 they must decide what kind of person they want to be for the rest of their life. There are only five choices- honesty, selflessness, peace, intelligence or bravery. Each faction has pros and cons- but once you decide, you must fully commit even if it means leaving everything you know behind.

The main character in the story is Tris, a young girl who is torn between two factions. Once she chooses the faction, she faces an initiation process that could lead to her death or even worse. As Tris meets other members of her chosen faction, she finds friends, enemies and possibly even love. When Tris realizes the people governing their society are corrupt, she must make several decisions that may affect her future and those around her.

The events in this story will appeal to both boys and girls- it is an exciting, thrilling book. There is no way I could put it down last night. I can't wait for the next in the series.

Follow this link to hear from Veronica Roth and her ideas on the characters and the book. Here's a link to Harper Collins book trailer.

If you liked Hunger Games- you will LOVE this book!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen has long been a favourite author of mine. She writes such interesting stories about young girls who are discovering who they are and their place in the world. There is romance, but not enough to turn someone off. Her books are mostly about growing up and she always deals with very real situations.
What Happened to Goodbye is exactly that. Mclean has been on the move with her dad every since her parents split up. In each town, Mclean picks a new personality and a new name. She fits in well with whatever group she decides to belong to. When her and her dad move to Lakeview, Mclean suddenly finds herself using her real name and remembering who she really is- even though that wasn't her plan. Coming back to her true self is painful, because she is forced to remember what her life was like before her parents divorce.
What I really liked about this story is how Mclean deals with her anger towards her parents divorce. I think many young girls will see themselves in Mclean and connect with her anger towards her mother. Even though she is angry at her mom, it is obvious that she misses her and their relationship. Even kids whose parents aren't divorced can relate to that. I also really like how Sarah Dessen's characters are so real. They aren't perfect. They are sarcastic, loud, rebellious- typical teenagers. I think the fact that Sarah Dessen can create such real characters is what is so appealing about her books. I know there will be lots of girls waiting to read this one on Monday.