Saturday, July 26, 2014

Absolutely Almost by Linda Graff

This book has been getting lots of talk about it on Twitter. I read on one tweet that it was a good follow up from reading Wonder, and I can definitely see the similarities to Wonder. In this story, Albie is in grade 5. Up until this point he has always gone to a private school, but when a letter came in the spring, his parents suddenly decided it was time for him to go to public school. This is tough for Albie, since his best friend still goes to private school. But, Albie decided to make the best of it, and knows he can still visit his friend at home. At the same time Albie is starting in his new school, his parents hire him a new babysitter/ nanny. He spends a great deal of time with Calista and she introduces him to lots of new ideas. Life for Albie isn't easy, things at school don't come easy to him. He wants to do well, and studies hard, but there is just something that makes school difficult for him. He also realizes he isn't one of the 'cool' kids, but he is pretty content with the friends he has. As Albie goes through fifth grade, he is faced with some challenges and must decide what feels right for him. I enjoyed reading this book. Albie is a great character, and I loved the relationship he had with Calista. I can also see kids enjoying reading this after reading Wonder. I do think it might be a bit young for my grade 7 students- but I can see students in grades 5 and 6 really enjoying it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

This is another book that was on the sale rack at Chapters- I love that rack! I tend to find some great reads, and they are hardcovers too. The Opposite of Hallelujah was a really great read! Caro is 16 and likes her life just the way it is. She lives with her parents, and even though they are pretty strict, she has a good relationship with them and she recognizes that they only want what is best for her, she has two best friends and a boyfriend. Caro is a great student and basically has a great life. But she does have one secret, she has a sister who is 11 years older than her who has been a nun for the last 8 years. Caro has no relationship with her sister and doesn't miss her at all. But then her sister decides to come back home and leave the life she has always known. As Caro struggles to deal with a stranger in her house, her parents response and to decide what to tell her friends, her sister Hannah is struggling to cope in the outside world. I really loved this book. Caro is a great character- she isn't perfect, she is kind of mean to her parents, but she is a good kid at heart. Hannah is a strange character who is very withdrawn and is basically the opposite of Caro. Watching the two try to sort out their relationship is very interesting. I even found the religious references to be interesting. One of the characters is a priest and he isn't what you would tend to think of in a priest, he is someone that relates well to younger people and I liked that about him. I even liked watching Caro's parents try to sort it all out- they aren't absent characters which is so often the case in YA books- they are real and present and flawed. Since Caro is 16, there are some references to parties and drinking, but it is totally appropriate and not glorified at all. This book is definitely going into my classroom next year. I've never reading anything by Jarzab, but I have just ordered her first book- All Unquiet Things. You can check out her website here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wasteland by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan

I love the sale desk at Chapters. I am trying hard not to buy hardcover YA books anymore- they are just too expensive. But when they are in the sale rack for $5.99 I can't resist at all! I picked up Wasteland, along with several other books just before the summer and I am now working my way through them. It's my favourite genre of all- dystopian! Wasteland is set in the future, although you don't have any idea how far in the future it is, or where it is. Life is basically about survival. There is never enough food or water- any water you can find in the ground or falling from the sky is poisoned. Nobody lives past the age of 19. Ester wants nothing to do with how life is run in her community- she just wants to hang out with her best friend, even though she is a variant and is considered to be the enemy. The young man running the community is threatening to banish Ester if she doesn't start playing by the rules everyone else follows. But then a stranger comes into town and Ester realizes there might be hope for her, and her family. As Caleb and Ester learn more about the power struggle going on, they must risk everything to help their community. I didn't love this book, I found the plot a bit hard to follow and I didn't find that I understood all the different characters and their motivations. But, it is filled with action and adventure and I think many kids will enjoy it.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I know I say this a lot, but this book has been talked about a great deal on Twitter. I ordered it about a month ago but I was doing some adult reading so I gave it to my niece to read. I just got it back the other day and read it in one sitting- it is that good! We Were Liars is the story of a well off family who summer on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. This family has everything they could ever want. On the island there are four homes- one for the grandparents and one for each of their daughters and their children. But all summer long, the children swim, eat, boat and hang out together. They live for their summers on the island. The 3 oldest children- Mirren, Cadence, Johnny, and his best friend Gat are inseparable each and every summer. They are called the Liars because they are always up to mischief. The 15th summer on the island starts out as normal, but then tragedy strikes and life for Cady is not what it once was. The remainder of the book is about Cady trying to get her memories back of the one night that changed everything she has ever known. I loved this story! Really, really loved it. I found it hard to keep all of the characters straight at the beginning of the novel, but as soon as I realized the story was about Cady, Johnny, Gat and Mirren, I didn't worry much about the other characters. I felt a very big connection to the grandfather in the story. He loved his family above all else and held them to a pretty high standard, there were many things about him that reminded me of my own relationship with my grandfather. The setting of this story is what every child would want out of a summer- swimming, beaches, barbecue suppers and lots of family. The mystery behind what happened in the fifteenth summer is unveiled slowly in the later part of the book and the ending totally shocked me. There is a bit of language in the book that some might not appreciate, but I wouldn't hesitate to have it in my grade 7 classroom at all. As a matter of fact I will be recommending it to lots of readers in the future!