Some Book Reviews

For my first grad class, my professor requires us to write book reviews.  I’ve written three so far, and since I assign these in YA Lit, I figured I should include the ones I’ve written.  I’m awfully self-critical, and I’m hesitant for all of you to read my professional writing, but here it goes…

Jay Asher Th1rteen R3asons Why
     288 pp. Penguin Young Readers Group 2007 ISBN 978-1-59514-171-2    $16.99
     (High School)

 “I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life.  More specifically, why my life ended.  And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.”  Clay Jensen’s life is about to change forever.  He returns home from school to find a package addressed to him, but it has no return address.  Upon opening this package, Clay finds several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker.  Normally, he’d be excited about receiving anything having to do with high school crush Hannah, but not this time; Hannah recently committed suicide.  Hannah has recorded her thirteen reasons for committing suicide, and each person that played a role in her choice will receive the tapes.  Clay can’t imagine how he influenced her decision, so with great difficulty, he decides to listen.  Asher’s debut novel is unlike any other teen suicide novel I’ve read.  The novel is split between the voice of Hannah, written in italics, and the thoughts and conversations of Clay and other characters throughout the novel.  Clay takes most of one night to listen to Hannah’s tapes, and the reader goes along with him experiencing his feelings of grief, anger, remorse and even enlightenment.  This is a novel that should be read by and discussed with students, parents, teachers, counselors, etc.  S.A.

Gail Giles Right Behind You
282 pp. Little, Brown and Company 2007 ISBN 978-0-316-16637-9 $7.99
     (High School)

 Kip McFarland was only nine when he set his neighbor on fire and killed him.  He didn’t know what he was doing in that moment of passion, but he suffered the consequences in a juvenile ward.  Since being released, Kip’s dad has moved them into a different state with different names; a fresh start.  Little does Kip realize that he can’t move forward when he hasn’t forgiven himself.  Gail Giles grabs us with her very first sentence: “On the afternoon of his seventh birthday, I set Bobby Clarke on fire.”  Her amazing ability to create and tell an edgy story keeps us reading until the final word.  Giles’ story of self-forgiveness and starting fresh has been especially popular with my freshmen boys.  For a few of them, this is the first book they’ve read from cover to cover; one even admitted to crying at the end.  Valuable lessons can be learned by reading Right Behind You. S.A.

Sherman Alexie The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian Illus. Ellen Forney
     230 pp. Little, Brown and Company 2007 ISBN 978-0-316-01369-7 $8.99
     (High School)

 Junior lives on the Spokane Indian reservation, but has big dreams of someday leaving the rez to attend an all-white school.  If he leaves, Junior will face animosity from his people, but he will also advance his education.  Junior ultimately makes his choice and begins the life of a part-time Indian.   This National Book Award winner is an absolute must-read!   While reading Sherman Alexie’s novel I laughed, cried and sympathized with Junior as he faced tragedy and excellence.   Junior is depicted as a budding cartoonist and “his” cartoons, displayed in the novel, give an amazing visual of what he encounters throughout the story.  This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers- those facing difficult decisions, problems with acceptance, and those wondering where they fit in the world. S.A.

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