Monday, July 21, 2014


Landline is not a young adult novel. While I can imagine some seniors in high school enjoying it because of the glory that is Rainbow Rowell, the topic is decidedly adult.

Georgie McCool is a TV writer whose career is really taking off, to the detriment of her marriage to Neal. When she decides not to travel to Omaha with him and their daughters, Georgie may have lost him completely. She realizes that the old telephone at her mother's house is capable of calling back to 1998 when she and Neal were dating. Should she use this phone to win him back, or to convince him she isn't worth it?

I will read anything that Rowell writes--she is one of the most readable authors out there. I dedicated my day to this book and it was perfection. I don't usually review adult books here, but I wanted to make sure that anyone who visits this site knows to pick this up. Rainbow Rowell is the best.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda

This was a difficult book to read, in every possible way. A graphic novel about the genocide in Rwanda is bound to be, well, graphic. Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda begins with an introduction to the events of the 1993-1994 massacre of the Tutsi people by Hutu majority. I know almost nothing about this time period; I haven't even seen Hotel Rwanda. I did learn the basics from J.P. Stassen's book, but there is so much more to learn.

In addition to the difficulty of the subject matter, the story does not flow easily. The narrative skips around, with frequent flashbacks that are not noticeable by a change in color or anything else. I used the state of Deogratias' shirt to know if I was in the past or present. In his most dire moments, Deogratias transforms into a dog, which was also confusing, at first.

I am a huge proponent of using graphic novels to teach history. This is a book that would need serious consideration before bringing into a high school classroom. There is a lot of vulgar language, and the images are disturbing. Many of the victims were raped before they were murdered, and this is clear in the illustrations. There is a lot to learn from Deogratias…make sure that you have full administrative support before sharing.

Monday, July 14, 2014

When Good Series Go Bad

Life As We Knew It remains one of my favorite YA novels - an introduction to dystopian literature that is addictive and suspenseful. Four years after reading it, I am still regularly recommending it. Its sequel, The Dead and the Gone, was another enjoyable book, this time from a male perspective. The third book in what was supposed to be a trilogy, This World We Live In, dropped off in quality. While it was fun to see the characters from the previous books meet up, the writing and plot were not what I wanted. I considered it a disappointing end to the series.

Today, while browsing in the library, I discovered The Shade of the Moon, a fourth entry in the series. I was so excited that I quickly moved it to the top of my Goodreads To Read List. Unfortunately, that was when I noticed that the majority of the reviews were one or two stars. This novel focuses on Jon, the younger brother of Miranda, the protagonist of the first and third books. It turns out, Jon is a terrible person who rapes girls who are less fortunate than he is, and has caused the death of a girlfriend. It also sounds like there isn't much character growth. Rather than getting frustrated and further disappointed by the series' decline, I am going to return this book to the library, unread. It would be a better use of my time to read Life As We Knew It again.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs

It's official: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs is the weirdest book I've ever read.

It's not every slim young adult novel that tackles eugenics, taxidermy, incest, and the idea of nature vs. nurture. Then again, author Jack Gantos isn't an ordinary author. His wonderful writing is what kept me reading the book, while the rest of me was pretty repulsed by the content.

I don't know who the audience is for this book--my only idea would be Gantos completists who want the full range, from Rotten Ralph to Hole in My Life. It's too twisted for most young adults I know, with a foreboding mood that kept me waiting for the next awful surprise.

Instead of recommending this, I'll keep referring people to The Bloody Souvenir, the funniest and grossest Gantos story that my students request to hear again and again.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Graduation Day

"I came to Tosu City because I wanted to be a leader. I thought that would come after I graduated from the University. I thought that event would signal my readiness. But I can no longer wait for Graduation Day. The time to lead is now."

I finally got to read the last book in Joelle Charbonneau's series and  was happy with how it got resolved. In my reviews of both The Testing and Independent Study, I was hoping to see Cia's dark side and for her to not always have the answers and skills necessary to save the day. I was rewarded because she learned that in order to lead, difficult decisions must be made and lives will be lost. While remaining a good person, Cia matures and loses some of her perfection which irritated me at times.

There were some issues: the pacing of the book was slow and I found myself skimming when Cia debated before making a decision. I also found it unbelievable that the president would decide that a teenage girl was the only person trustworthy enough to carry out an insane task. These small problems don't take away from my enjoyment of the novel and series, nor from recommending to all my kids who want something juicy to follow The Hunger Games.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Walter Dean Myers

I was sad to learn about the passing of Walter Dean Myers. He was an impressive man who changed the world with the scores of books he wrote and the influence he held. He will be missed. 

Mr. Terupt Falls Again

Maybe author Rob Buyea knew that it would be impossible for the students of Mr. Terupt's class to loop with him yet again, but he crams too many adolescent crises into his sequel, Mr. Terupt Falls Again.

Among other dramas, there is an abandoned baby, a fight over land ownership with Native Americans (really), a marriage proposal between two teachers, pressure to smoke and do drugs, multiple first periods, and a search for an absent father. That isn't even close to all the events that are squeezed into this book.

The result of all these storylines is that I felt a bit of whiplash as we switched between chapters. I found myself wondering, “Danielle, which one is she? Ah, overweight, religious, land dispute…” I’m sure that young readers would have the same confusion. If I was Rob Buyea, I would have saved some of these ideas and written another book from the perspective of the beloved, but undeveloped character of Ms. Newberry.

Mr. Terupt Falls Again just didn’t work for me the way the original did. Still, sixth grade readers who enjoyed the first book will like to read this to get a happy ending for all the characters.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Side Effects May Vary - Abandoned

Pity the book about teens with cancer that isn't The Fault in Our Stars. I tried the first four chapters of Side Effects May Vary, but the magic isn't there.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fire with Fire

It's been awhile since I bought Fire with Fire, the second in Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian's trilogy about teenage revenge. It's been sitting patiently on my Kindle, waiting for a good flight. Yesterday was the day and it was worth the wait. I was immediately plunged back into the world of Kat, Lillia, and Mary, all seeking revenge on the popular kids who've done them wrong.

Looking back at my review of Burn for Burn, I really enjoyed the first in the series. The second ramps up the drama even more; everything is more intense and with bigger consequences. I love the subtle differences in the characters' chapters: Lillia describes what others are wearing, Kat uses slang and curses, and Mary seems completely disconnected.

There is a surprising plot twist that reminds me of E. Lockhart's recent, brilliant We Were Here. It makes me want to reread the first two books in the series while I eagerly await the third, Ashes to Ashes, which will be released in September.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Two Boys Kissing

"You have no idea how fast things can change. You have no idea how suddenly years can pass and lives can end. Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you've been given."

With writing as beautiful as David Levithan's, the plot is often beside the point. Happily, the plot of Two Boys Kissing is interesting. Craig and Harry are two teenagers who decide to break the record for the world's longest kiss, over 32 hours. The day of the kiss unfolds in a series of vignettes about other gay boys--one rejected by his family, another starting a new relationship, others who have been together for a long time. The characters are all connected by the event of the kiss. Best of all is the narration, a chorus of men who passed away from AIDS and who look down on the story with wisdom. "We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you'd never have any doubt about how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are."

This book could be a lifeline for a reader struggling with sexual identity. For that reader, there are plenty of quotes to hang on to:

"Some of our parents chose to banish us rather than see us for who we were. And some of our parents, when they found out we were sick, stopped being dragons and became dragons layers instead. Sometimes that's what it takes--the final battle. But it should take much, much less than that."

"There are all these moments you don't think you will survive. And then you survive."

Powerful quotes and an engaging plot that could make all the difference for a reader.