It’s been awhile since I reviewed a book, so I thought I would go all over-achiever on you all and talk about SIX books!
Why six, you ask? Well contrary to how little I have been posting about books, I have been a reading machine. I’ve read something like eleven books so far in 2014 and six of them were books that my seniors are currently reading for their Book Clubs.
All six books knocked me right out with how awesome they are, so I thought I would share in case you need an awesome read, that will be quick, yet keep you hooked throughout the whole book.
The Fault In Our Stars by John Greene
Hazel is a 16-year old living with cancer. Her parents force her to go to a weekly support group so that she will socialize and “make friends”. She hates it. Until she meets Augustus Waters. Augustus is a 17-year old ex-basketball star who is living without a leg thanks to cancer. Sparks fly. Things are funny. Things are devastating. Things are awesome.
I had girls gasp in delight when they realized this was a choice. I had guys quietly write this as their first choice because they had loved ones with cancer. This book changes your heart.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
In a series of letters to an anonymous “friend”, 15 year-old Charlie pours his heart out about his fears of starting high school, his concerns for his sister, and his difficulty meeting new people. The letters start shortly after one of Charlie’s only friends commits suicide. Then, in his quest to “participate” more and be “normal,” Charlie meets Patrick and Samantha (Sam) who help him to learn what real friendship and love is.
A lot of my quiet kids signed up for this because they thought Charlie sounded like he was a lot like them.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This one has been on my To Read List for quite some time. I have picked it up and set it back down a THOUSAND times in Barnes & Noble, so it was great to finally read it. And it was even better than I thought it would be.
Christopher is a 15-year old boy who lives in England. He knows all the countries of the world and their capitals, He can do math like a whiz, and he detests the color yellow. He has autism. When he finds his neighbor’s dog murdered with a garden fork, he decides to do some detective work which leads him to “be brave” in ways he has never had to before.
This book is the most advanced reading of all six, and it’s the most complex to understand because the reader is limited to what Christopher tells. The interesting thing is that the reader also understands events more than Christopher does. I was happy to see that my highest readers were attracted to this book showing that if you give students a choice, they are usually not going to go with the easiest, but what seems to fit their interest AND ability.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
I had never heard of this one; it was suggested to me by our media center specialist who knows her stuff. It was a hard read. Really hard. Not because it wasn’t amazing, but because it made me so incredibly mad and sad.
Set in on a cotton farm on the Mississippi Delta in 1946, Mudbound is told through the eyes of the characters involved: Henry McAllan who has bought the farm; Laura his city-bred wife, and Florence and Hap, black sharecroppers working on the farm. As the WWII ends two other characters appear – Jamie, Henry’s younger brother, and Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of Hap and Florence. Jamie and Ronsel’s experiences in Europe during WWII challenge the racism they were brought up with, so when they come back re-adjusting is almost impossible.
I didn’t have many kids interested in this one. I think because it’s historical fiction and they didn’t immediately see connections to themselves in it. The kids who were interested in it though were my history buffs and my activists. It will be interesting to discuss this one with them and to see if they are as moved by it as I was.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Native American fourteen-year-old Arnold Spirit, Jr (also known as Junior) is a budding cartoonist who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He also has several disabilities and is made fun of and beat up by almost everyone on the reservation. On the recommendation of one of his teachers on the reservation, Arnold decides to attend an all-white high school off the reservation in a nearby town. This book is unique in that it includes 65 cartoons that serve as punchlines, but are also parts of the plot of the story and reveal Arnold’s character.
A lot of my guys jumped at this. Especially because Arnold is a basketball player. It’s a very “dude” book.
It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Craig, who is 15 years old, lives in an upper-middle class family in Brooklyn. He attends a super elite prep-school that he studied hard to get into, however once there the academic pressures really start to get to him. The stress causes an eating disorder, pot use, and suicidal thoughts. He quits taking his meds and when he is on the verge of suicide gets himself admitted to a mental hospital. There Craig meets Noelle, a girl who cuts her face with scissors as a way to cope with sexual abuse. Isolated from the world, and with the help of Noelle, Craig confronts his anxiety.
This was hands down the number one choice of most of my students. I felt so sad that so many of them felt like they thought they could relate to Craig, but so happy that there was a book that so many of them really wanted to read. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I found myself in Craig too. It was unsettling and comforting at the same time.
I absolutely cannot wait to get back from break and sit in on the discussions my students will have about these books. I can’t wait to hear what their favorite quotes are and what they connected with and what made them mad, sad, happy.
I will say that all of them have strong language, sexual content, drug content, and/or violence. I am sure most, if not all, of them would be “banned” or “challenged” in many districts. I know I am lucky that I get to put these important books in the hands of over a hundred teenagers.
Soon I will tell you about these Book Clubs and a HUGE curriculum change I am piloting with my students. YAY!
So tell me, have you read any of these? What did you think?