Friday, December 18, 2015

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Last week I was doing some Christmas shopping at found myself at Chapters.  Of course I had to see what was new in YA books, because even though I'm not in the classroom right now, I like to keep on top of new books.

What We Saw is an incredible book.  In some ways it reminds me of Some Girls Are, Speak, and The Mocking Birds, however this story looks at the situation from a different perspective.
The main character is Katie, the book opens up with her waking up the morning after a big party.  She doesn't remember much, only that she had been drinking and something happened between her and a boy she has liked for a long time.  When kids at school start receiving texts, Instagram and Reddit posts from the party, Katie starts putting things together.  The kids at school are divided into different camps based on their perception of the events of this night.  Katie has to figure out not only what happened, but what she will do with the information once she discovers the truth.

It is hard to do justice to this book since I don't want to give anything away.  I found this book to be incredibly interesting.  Katie is a great female character who finds herself questioning many things.  Her friend Ben is also struggling with that night, all he wants to do is forget it and not get involved. All of the characters in the story are believable as they are dealing with a party that got out of hand.

Anyone who has read any of the books I mentioned above would love this story.  I wouldn't hesitate to give it to mature readers in grade 8, but I would strongly suggest reading the story first.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl and Random Boy by Marie Jaskulka

Another book from my very large TBR pile!  I was looking for a quick read on Sunday night, and I grabbed this one off my shelf.  That is my new strategy, just grab a book and start reading it.  If it is in my TBR pile, it must be there for a reason.  

This story grabbed me right away, I mean, I read it straight through because I was so caught up in the story.  I am pretty sure I won't be able to do the book justice here, all I can say is that I LOVED this story, it took my breath away in many places.  

Forgotten Girl writes poetry, and tells her story through poems.  At one point in the story she writes "If only I didn't have to write it all down, but I do, I do.  I don't know why.  It just makes me feel better, less alone with my thoughts; less liable to forget all the truth.   When she meets Random Boy, she feels an immediate connection and discovers he is a writer too.  She shares her writing with him, and he with her.  The only problem is, as they grow closer, Random Boy wants to know everything about her.  He doesn't allow her any secrets from him.  The secrets she keeps from him cost her greatly and she needs to learn how to be in love without losing herself.  

This book was so incredibly written, there were so many times that I stopped reading to just reflect on a stanza from the story.  Even though this was written for young adults, there were many important messages for adults.  This book is much too mature for Elementary classrooms, but high school students would love this book!

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

My TBR (to be read) pile is huge- I mean there must be at least 30 books on my shelf that I've purchased because they sounds good, and then I start reading another book.  Not being in the classroom this year means that I also read more adult books.  However last week, my friend Karen mentioned this book and was talking about how great it was.  It sounded familiar (this is how bad the TBR pile is- I don't even know what is on there), but sure enough, when I got home I looked through the stacks (and stacks) of books and found this one just waiting to be read.

I'm not sure why I waited so long to read it,but it was just what I needed.  I've read another Teresa Toten book before- The Game and I quite liked it.  I love the fact that Toten writes about issues of mental health.  It is so important that young adults see themselves reflected in the books they read, and any of us working with kids recognizes the upswing in the issues youth are dealing with.  That is why I love Toten's book, she writes about real characters who are dealing with real issues.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, is about a boy named Adam who is in group therapy to help him deal with his OCD, his mother's issues, his parents divorce and his step-brothers anxiety issues.  He has a lot of his plate, more than any 15 year old should have to deal with.  When a new girl joins the group, Adam is completely taken by her.  But he struggles over how someone with all the issues he is dealing with could have a normal relationship.  Adam is an incredibly sweet young man, who does indeed step up to be the hero to many people he meets, all while dealing with his own issues.  I was completely in love with Adam myself.

There are so many reasons to love this book, but the characters and the topic are what sold it to me.  I am not really sure if I would have this in my grade 7 classroom, it would have to be for the right student.  Grade 8 and older for sure. Intermediate teachers, I would suggest you read this first to determine if it is right for your students.  There are parts of Adam's story, like when he is describing how his OCD manifests itself that may confuse some readers, but it is so worth the read.

Teresa Toten is an author I will continue to buy everything she writes!  Check out her website here

Monday, September 28, 2015

Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner

This book is one that I have had on my shelf for a while- I ordered it with a Scholastics Book Club order in the spring and never got around to reading it until this weekend.  I didn't realize until I finished the book that it was written by the same author as Skinny- which I quite liked too.

Can't Look Away is the story of Torrey, a 16 year old blogger who found fame on the Internet sharing her beauty tips.  What the public sees of Torrey is one side, but in her private life she is dealing with the death of her younger sister just a few months ago.  She feels a great deal of guilt and doesn't know how to cope with the changes in her family.  When her family packs her up and moves her across the country, Torrey hopes she can remain anonymous because strangers online are saying very cruel things about her.  As Torrey gets to know a local boy whose family owns the local funeral home, she starts learning more about death and the Mexican tradition of el Dia de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead.  Torrey starts to explore her own feelings about death and how she can mourn the death of her sister.

I couldn't stop reading this book.  It was sad and hard to read at points, but I could see so many of my students in Torrey.  Even just dealing with the whole idea of being famous on the internet and the different ways people respond to complete strangers in the comment section makes this book an important one to read. Watching how Torrey and her family deal with the loss of her sister also makes this book quite compelling.  I really enjoyed it.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Say You Will by Eric Walters

It's no secret that anyone who knows me, knows that I love reading Eric Walter's books.  So when I saw this one at Chapters this summer, I picked it up without ever reading the back.  It took me a while to get back to reading YA books because I was reading mostly adult books over the summer, but now that school is back in session, I need to work my way through a very large pile of books I have purchased!

Say You Will is about the new fad of big elaborate "promposals" where boys go out of their way to make a very public and expensive show of asking a girl to the prom with them.  In this story, Sam is a very smart young man who is trying to learn to fit in.  He is lucky to have his two best friends to support him, but he is working very hard to seem like just a regular guy.  After watching a promposal, Sam decides he is going to risk asking the girl he likes to go to the prom with him.  He is willing to risk spending lots of money and facing the fear of public rejection. His best friends think he is crazy and his parents are worried he will get hurt, but nothing will stop Sam from coming up with an unusual promposal for the girl he is interested in.

This was a cute book, a very fast read.  I like that Walters wrote a book that is more geared towards girls- not that boys wouldn't enjoy the book, but I think more girls would be drawn to it.  That is a nice change because most of his books tend to be written for male audiences, although because the stories are so compelling, girls also enjoy them.  I can see many grade 8 girls enjoying this book!  I have a few I am going to pass it onto.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

At work this week, my friend Brenda was telling me about a book she read over the weekend.  Brenda had read a review of this book and picked it up.  She was asking me if I had read it, and I hadn't even heard of it!  She brought it in for me to read and even though I don't usually get much reading done through the week, I found myself staying up way too late reading it.

I'm not exactly sure how to describe this book, but it was such an rich story.  Minnow is the main character and when we meet her, she is in a juvenile detention centre.  As the story unfolds, we discover how she ended up there.  It is certainly not as simple as the fact that she committed a crime, which she did.  But it is about her whole life and how it lead to the moment of committing a crime.  As we learn about what it was like growing up in a cult community, the reader starts to understand why Minnow trusts no one, not even herself.  As she tells her story, she starts questioning everything she has ever believed and has to come to grips with what she now believes in and mostly learning to trust herself.

I'm not sure I am doing justice to this story at all.  Let's just say I could not put it down.  Minnow is such a complicated, yet simple character.  Her story is complicated, but simple.  I would have this book in my grade 7 classroom, but I would be careful who was reading it.  There is certainly some mature content.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fish In a Tree

For anyone who is reading this blog who teaches grade 5 or 6- I would strongly suggest you go out and pick up this book immediately and be prepared to read it to your class!! This book has been on the radar for the last while, and it took a friend wanting to know what I thought of it for me to pick it up. I am so glad I did. In this story, Ally is in grade 6 and is in yet another school because her dad's job in the military requires her family to move a lot. Ally is an expert at avoiding work and getting into trouble. She has no friends because everyone thinks she is weird and the Principal is sick of seeing her in the office. Ally's family doesn't think she is a trouble maker, they can appreciate her other strengths such as drawing and her math ability. But at school, Ally just doesn't fit in. Then, when a new teacher comes to school and starts teaching Ally's class, he recognize some of Ally's strengths and believes that every child can learn, but everyone learns differently. Once one person starts believing in her, Ally discovers that school isn't such a bad place to be after all. This story is incredible for teaching or reinforcing the power of a growth mindset, having grit and the idea that everyone has something to offer. Mr. Daniel's is the type of teacher any of us who teach want to be like. We want to be able to not only recognize strengths, but to pinpoint struggles, and to know what to do to help. There is so much to do with this book, the discussions would be amazing! It reminds me a great deal of Wonder, I think reading the two books out loud would really reinforce the idea of "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind"

Monday, May 11, 2015

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

I found this book when the Scholastics Book Fair was at our school. To be honest, I am not sure why I picked it up, since it isn't my typical book. But I am glad I did, I can think of a few girls in my class who love scary, spooky books and this one fits the bill perfectly. Bad Girls Don't Die is about a 15 year old girl who is an outcast at school and doesn't feel really welcome at home either. Alexis's parents are distant and her 13 year old sister has changed a lot in the last little while. As Alexis tries to figure out what is going on with her sister, strange things start happening in her house. Weird noises, doors opening and closing, and her sister losing track of time. It takes some convincing but Alexis starts to realize that her sister is a danger to everyone around her. Alexis turns to her once time enemy in order to find not only support, but also to keep everyone safe. At times I found this book a bit hard to follow, but I really enjoyed the story. Alexis is a neat character who tries to push people away, but is a really great person underneath all of her anger. There are two more books in the series, which I may pick up next time I'm at Chapters. You can check out the book trailer here.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

I read this book a few weeks ago and am only just now getting around to blogging about it. I LOVED this book! It is such a neat concept for a book. Nearly Boswell lives in a trailer park just outside Washington, D.C., her mother is an exotic dancer which makes her a target for the people she goes to school with, so she tries to keep mostly to herself. The other thing she keeps to herself is that fact that when she touches someone, she can taste the emotions of that person. All Nearly wants to do is to win the scholarship from her school so she can go to college. Nearly works very hard at school, her only guilty pleasure is reading the personal ads in the weekly newspaper. One day, she reads an ad that seems very curious and when one of her classmates is injured, it seems that the ad predicted the event. Nearly starts finding these ads and more and more of her classmates are injured or murdered and they all have a connection to her. It seems that someone is setting it up to look like she is a mass murderer. This is a fascinating mystery novel with a science and math twist to it. I thought this book was really well written and very exciting to read. It may be a bit of a challenge for Intermediate students to read, and while there is a bit of mature content- I wouldn't hesitate to give this book to any of my grade 7's.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Knowing I was going in for knee surgery and that I would have a lot of time to read, I ordered several books from Chapters a few weeks ago. Side Effects May Vary is one of those books. One of the blogs I follow had a list of best YA books and this one caught my eye. Side Effects May Vary is about sixteen year old Alice who is diagnosed with leukaemia and is given a very short time to live. Alice decides to use the time she has left to right some wrongs that she feels are necessary. In order to accomplish this, she asks her childhood friend, and the boy she knows is in love with her to help her with her tasks. Harvey is reluctant to go along with Alice, but he is has never been able to say no to her, and he ends up going along with her. Once Alice has set things straight and is prepared to die, she is given the good news that she is in remission and is expected to live. This ends up confusing Alice- she knew how to die, but she had no idea how to live. One of the things I loved about this story was that it was told not only through two voices: Harvey and Alice, but also in two different times. The story flipped between the present and the past and so the reader has to be very aware of not only who is talking, but when it is happening. I really enjoyed the challenge of reading this book. To be honest, I felt very sorry for Harvey and found Alice to be quite cruel at times to the people who loved her. As much as I loved this story, it is too mature for my grade 7's. I might give it to some mature grade 8's, but I would suggest reading it first if you are concerned about the content.

The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams

I read about The Haven online, it had been getting lots of talk on Twitter, so I picked it up last week at Chapters. The Haven is a dystopian novel set in 2020. It is the story of Shiloh who lives with other teens at Haven Hospital. In this hospital, the teens every movement is controlled and monitored. What they eat, wear, exercise and when they sleep. They have been taught to listen to the adults and to follow all the rules. They know that as Terminals, they are kept at Haven Hospital in order to stop the Disease from spreading. But there are times when one of the teens must leave because the disease is in them. All the teens live in fear of being taken away. Shiloh knows she is different from the rest because she remembers things that others don't remember, and when she mets Gideon, who also remembers things he forces her to learn the truth about the hospital and why they are kept inside. I read this book in one sitting today, I enjoyed it and was curious as to what was going to happen. But I felt that the ending wrapped up too quickly and I had trouble following what happened. I am assuming there will be a sequel (because don't all dystopian novels come in groups of three?) I am just not sure I will read the next one.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Push by Eve Silver

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows how much I love dystopian novels. They are my favourite YA books to read. However, there is one thing that drives me nuts- the fact many dystopian novels are trilogies. Now that I have read Rush, and just finished Push, I have to wait until June 9th to read Crash Push starts right where Rush ends, so if you haven't read Rush you should do that first. In this story, Miki is still living in the game and trying to find order in a world without order. She is trying to control everything, and thinks she has a system in place for surviving the times she is pulled to fight the Drau. But then the rules change, and Miki is left reeling and trying to figure out how to adjust to the new reality. I can't write much more because the excitement of this story is in figuring out what is going to happen. This book was amazing! If I could, I would have run right out and bought the next book. I can't wait for June now. I have already pre-ordered it. If you are looking for a great dystopian series, this is a great one to read. I think both boys and girls would enjoy these books.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rush by Eve Silver

A friend of mine gave me this book on March Break and suggested I would enjoy it. She was right! It took me a bit to get into, but once I was hooked I really, really loved it. Rush is about an ordinary girl- Miki who is dealing with the death of her mother and her father's drinking habits. She does her best to control everything about her life. When one day she jumps in front of a fast moving truck to save a little girl, Miki finds her life has spun out of control. Instead of waking up bruised and battered, she finds herself completely healed, but about to enter into a crazy world where it is kill or be killed. Miki is now part of a team that is fighting the Drau, an alien species who are trying to take over the world by destroying everyone on the planet. But things are very confusing. There are times when she is in the ‘game’ and when they have completed their mission, they are sent back to their ‘real life’. Miki is trying to figure out not only how to survive, but also how to help her friends in both of her new worlds. I just loved this story! As soon as I finished it, I had to go and buy the sequel- Push. Look for that review shortly!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Rule of Three- Fight for Power by Eric Walters

The first thing I have to say is that Eric Walter's really should know better than to publish a high anticipated novel during report card time. I picked this book up this week and couldn't get anything done until I finished it. The second thing I have to say is if you haven't read The Rule of Three- you need to do that first! Fight for Power starts off exactly where Rule of Three ends. This book was even more exciting than the first book, picking up just after Adam's community has thwarted an attempt on their safety. But what that battle taught the people of Eden Mills is that life really has changed. It is now not just about growing enough food, or finding fresh drinking water, but about protecting the community from outside forces who want what Adam and his neighbours have worked so hard to create. This need to keep the community safe means that ordinary citizens must now be trained to use force when necessary, but not everyone agrees about the best way to keep the community safe. Adam really struggles with what all of this means, he isn't sure if he is cut out for violence, but recognizes the need for it. Everyone living within the walls of Eden Mills must learn how to adjust to this new way of life and to make decisions they never thought they would have to make. I LOVED this book! I couldn't put it down and I can't wait for the next one to come out. I know that tomorrow I am going to have to have a draw to see who gets to read this first in my classroom.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Little White Lies by Katie Dale

I picked this one up with a Christmas gift card last week. I am trying to extend my interests past dystopian novels. This one is not dystopian that is for sure. This story is about Louise and Christian. Both of them seem to be hiding something from the people in their lives, yet they are both drawn to each other. When a series of accidents happen to Christian, Louise isn't sure what to do or to think. Does she trust him or not. Her heart tells her one thing and her head tells her something else. Lou and Christian need to figure out how to trust each other, even when the world seems to be against them. I enjoyed this story. There were lots of plot twists and changes in direction. I was never really sure how the story was going to end. This story is set in London England, so the book has that feel to it. The characters are also in their first year of University, but there is nothing that would stop me from recommending this book to someone in grade 7 or 8. I think this is a great book for girls, there is romance, adventure and a great plot.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

Jeyn Roberts is a new author to me, and I need to read her other books as well. Her website is here. For Christmas, my youngest son gave me a Chapters gift card, so last week I spent some time there picking up some new books- even better they were on sale too. This is one that caught my eye. The Bodies We Wear is the story of a time when a drug called Heam is very popular, but very dangerous. One hit of Heam has the user hooked for life, and their life becomes all about trying to find the next hit. People who use Heam are scared for life, they carry these scars on their body and are shunned by the rest of society. When Faye was just 11, drug pushers forced her and her best friend to use Heam and when Faye became addicted, her best friend died. Now, six years later, Faye has one goal- to destroy the four men who did this to her. But Faye soon realizes that taking her revenge will be harder than she thinks, and may cost her more than she is willing to give. She mets a new friend Chael, who is familiar, but she can't quite place him. As she gets to know Chael she is forced to face her past as well as her future. I really enjoyed reading this book- it is the first book in a while that has had me reading far into the night and in the early morning. Faye is a great character- she makes you want to root for her, even when you know she is trying to seek revenge. The story is one that will draw lots of girls into the world Faye lives in, and the relationship between her and Chael is one that will keep them reading. I can't wait to share this one with my students tomorrow.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Contaminated by Em Gardner

I'm not sure how it is possible that I haven't read a YA book since October, but apparently I haven't. Contaminated is one I ordered through Scholastics a while ago and it sat on my desk for a few months. One of my students was looking for a new book to read so I gave it to her. She read it in a day and told me how good it was. Contaminated is the story of what happened after a epidemic of people having a bad reaction to a diet drink. People who drank this became very dangerous and unstable. Velvet was 16 when the Contamination hit- and suddenly she was living without her parents and trying to help her sister survive. When she discovers her mother is still alive, Velvet takes measures to protect her family in any way she can. This story was fast-paced and exciting. I liked how strong Velvet was and how she stopped at nothing to protect her family. There is a sequel to the book called Mercy Mode that I will need to pick up shortly. I can see lots of kids enjoying this story. Em Gardner's website can be found here.