Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Pact

Apparently, Jodi Picoult is divisive. When people saw me reading The Pact, they either wrinkled their noses or excitedly asked what part I was on. After finishing the novel, I am decidedly in the latter group.

The novel begins with a teenage couple who have a suicide pact which one survives. The rest of the plot details the couple's relationship and those of their parents. This was a gripping novel that I devoted a day to reading, I couldn't do anything else. At multiple points, I declared, "I have no idea what's going to happen next!" Was that because I usually read young adult novels or because the plot was so unpredictable? Either way, I was hooked.

In a response to her novel being challenged, Picoult writes, "Although it was not written for the young adult reader, over the years it developed a cult following among high school students." I agree with the author; this is not a book that I could recommend to the young students at my school. The story involves sex, sexual abuse, and suicide. Still, it is a book that I would have loved to read in early high school. I will play it safe and recommend it to alumni whole still patrol our library for great books.

I have a lot more to say but instead am going to start my next Jodi Picoult novel, Mercy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chains

This is my Laurie Halse Anderson year, yet I was hesitant to read Chains so quickly on the heels of Fever 1793. I thought maybe I would wait and read Twisted first, but how could I deny Chains, which has one of the best covers around? I didn’t need to fret that I wouldn’t get my dose of ‘crazy teen’. This book is not about a girl who goes mad because of her parents’ divorce or getting into college, but rather because she constantly loses everything she loves.

Isabel and her younger sister Ruth are slaves in New York City, owned by a wicked couple, loyal to King George. I've never read a story about a slave in the north and learned about life during the Revolutionary War in the north. Anderson does thorough work explaining that there aren't really any "good guys" during the war, just people looking our for their own interests, at the expense of the unnoticed like slaves and soldierwives.

Isabel uses the image of bees to express her unsettled state of mind. Anderson’s word choice is gorgeous: “The bees in my head fell silent and hugged their wings tight to their bodies.” There are lines that made me want to underline so that everyone who reads the book after me will stand at attention like I did: “She did not look into my eyes, did not see the lion inside. She did not see the me of me, the Isabel.”

The first third of the book was a bit slow, but the end was a page-turner, leaving me wanting more. Luckily, the sequel, Forge, will be out in October. I'm eager to learn what happens next to Isabel.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fever 1793

This has been a very big Laurie Halse Anderson year for me. I’ve already zipped through Wintergirls, Speak, and Catalyst. When I saw that a student had a copy of Fever 1793, I was counting down until it was my turn to borrow it.
This is the author’s first novel that I’ve read that doesn’t revolve around a middle class girl’s descent into madness. Too bad because I always love reading about that! This time, the novel is about Mattie, a girl who tries to stay sane as the world around her goes mad. The story is set in Philadelphia during an epidemic of yellow fever.

The amount of research that went into the story is excellent. I learned about the history of a city and how people react to an epidemic. I wasn’t in the states when the swine flu or avian flu were occurring, but I wonder if that is what inspired Anderson to write this. While there wasn’t as much fascinating internal dialogue as in her other works, Fever 1793 would be a great addition to any historical fiction library and a good starter for someone who wants to dip their toe in that genre.

Now bring on more books about crazies, LHA.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tentacles

My friends and I were away for the weekend and every time I mentioned I was reading Tentacles, people started giggling. What can I say? I love sci fi action young adult novels.

Tentacles is actually the sequel to Cryptid Hunters, which my library doesn't have. It was actually a pleasure to jump into the second book in a series, because all the exposition from the first book was covered in the first few pages of this one. Tentacles has a lot of fun plot twists and evil characters. I made a few incorrect guesses about who would be the bad guy; that's always fun.

There is a scene near the end which involves sperm whales and giant squid that really activated my imagination and made me think on a bigger scope. I love any book that does that. Time to add Cryptid Hunters to the wishlist.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Road To Paris

I really want to like Nikki Grimes' books. I dutifully read Bronx Masquerade Jazmin's Notebook. I include her poems in our poetry unit. And I read The Road to Paris, a novel about a young girl who matures during her time in foster care. But this bland, simple story left me wishing it was over so I could pick another book from the stack.

Grimes is a poet, yet her writing style leaves me grasping for more details. I am curious about this half black girl with blonde hair. I want to know more about the scary foster home she was in before, as well as the Lincolns who took her in and the mother who abandoned her for a man. Instead, I get a tepid story about daily chores and wetting the bed.

I wonder if part of my indifferent feelings for this novel come from the ending. I was really disappointed with the final decision made by Paris. When a character makes an unsatisfying decision at the end of a mediocre book, I just want to throw it down.

Still, several of my girls have enjoyed this book. When the same crew of innocents that enjoyed Twelve are looking for another simple book, I'll mention that this is an option.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Twelve

It’s not often that a student recommends a book to me, so when Janique handed me Lauren Myracle’s novel Twelve, I was excited. Apparently, Janique knows exactly what I like.

The novel follows Myracle’s heroine, Winnie, through her twelfth year, with all the tribulations of growing up. Winnie encounters former best friends, crushes, first periods, training bras, and makeovers with a genuinely sweet attitude. She is a truly likable protagonist who (eventually) does what she knows is right, even if it makes her seem dorky.

There was a lot to love about this novel. It reminded me a lot of the books that I enjoyed when I was young, hoping for some tips on how to be cool and enter into the world of adulthood. There are also some laugh-out-loud moments. In a world of Gossip Girl and Luxe, it is fun to read about a normal, nerdy girl who is just trying to grow up as peacefully as possible.

I plan on stocking up on Eleven and Thirteen as well. These are great novels for the more innocent seventh graders at our school.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Malice

Malice is one of the most cleverly designed books I have come across. Every aspect of it is engineered to appeal to middle grade readers: the hard plastic 3D cover, the fact that it has pages of comic books interspersed, not to mention that the subject is about a comic book that will drag readers into the fictional world of Malice. Every time I turned my back at school on Friday, I would find a student huddled over the book, caressing the cool cover and asking when I thought I would finish Malice. Student response indicates that this is where publishers should be investing energy.

The plot is almost as clever as the design. “Tall Jake Take Me Away” is a chant that could replace “Bloody Mary” for scary things that kids whisper in the dark. When he does take a child, they end up in Malice, an evil world full of unimaginable monsters. I found the prose sections of the book to be far scarier than the comic pages. Chris Wooding’s descriptions of nightmarish creatures were genuinely creepy. Maybe it’s the 30 year old in me, but I was disappointed when the narrative switched to the comics. The images in my head were so much more frightening than the ink-heavy drawings can deliver.

Malice is the first part of a duology (this term cracked me up. Um, don’t you mean a book and its sequel?!). I will definitely be ordering the sequel, Havoc, when it comes out this month. No doubt, our copy of Malice will be in tatters by then!