My 2015 Reading Year

In the past I’ve written a few posts summing up my favorite reads of those years. Honestly, I don’t have time to do that this year so I’m going to compile it all into one post.

I’ve read 71 novels in 2015, 29 of which were audiobooks. I’ve read at least 55 picture books this year (courtesy of Jack), and most of those have been read over and over and over again. I’ve also abandoned a handful of books.

This year I’ve focused on expanding my repertoire of different genres/authors and am happy with the results:

Mystery: 10 novels
Historical Fiction: 4 novels (not many, but all within this school year)
Fantasy: 6 novels
Memoir: 4 novels (I have a couple in queue for 2016)
New to me/Debut authors: 40 novels

Based on my list of top ten favorite books of 2015, it’s obvious that contemporary realistic fiction is my favorite genre to read. This list is in no particular order because it would be way too hard to narrow it down.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (my review): I can’t imagine my list of favorite 2015 reads existing without this book on the list. It’s outstanding and Willowdean will probably stay one of my absolute favorite characters for a long time. Plus, it was a great audiobook.

Violent Ends by Shaun Hutchinson and 16 additional authors: I still need to write a book review for this, which I’m mad at myself for not having done sooner. This is the type of book that all teachers should read. It’s being passed from reader to reader in one of my senior classes right now and I couldn’t be happier about that. There are a number of characters in this novel who are still on my mind even a month or so after reading it.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (my review): This read more like historical fiction to me than fantasy, which worked perfectly fine. The audio is fantastic and really kept me hooked. I’m a huge Rae Carson fan which is one of the reasons I’m using The Girl of Fire and Thorns as a hero’s journey book club book with my freshmen. In one class, however, only two students chose to read that (totally surprised me) and one of students ended up being unsure about whether she wanted to stick with it. That student didn’t want to leave her peer behind though, so she didn’t know what to do. I had my copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger handy, so I suggested she try reading it instead so she and her other group member could maybe at least read books by the same author. My student came in the next day and was so excited about Walk on Earth a Stranger that she realized since it’s so awesome The Girl of Fire and Thorns must be just as great too. She’s now reading both books. Total win.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: Here’s another book that I wish I would have reviewed after I finished reading it. I loved The Summer I Turned Pretty and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but P.S. I Still Love You officially made me a Jenny Han fangirl. I felt like I was right there experiencing everything with Lara Jean as I read it. Jenny Han made me feel like I was part of Lara Jean’s family; I was left feeling kind of sad when I finished reading because I wasn’t ready to leave those characters behind. It would be perfectly okay with me if she writes a third book or even a book written from Kitty’s point of view. I’d pre-order either book!

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby (my review): I feel like all I’ve done this year is spread the book love for Things We Know by Heart, but I love it so much it’s hard not to. Thankfully my students trust my recommendations and have been thoroughly enjoying it as well. One of my freshmen has read it more than once and even created her own playlist for it. Another teacher in my building was reading it at the same time as one of her students and told me about how much fun it was to discuss Quinn’s story as they both read it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (my review): My goodness, if you want to read a steamy fantasy, add this one to your list. I was seriously bummed when I found out that ARCs weren’t going to be made for the sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury, because I have been wanting to read it for almost a year now!

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin: Time got away from me and I didn’t write my review after listening to this audiobook. Oh my goodness, is this debut funny and engaging! I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio because it was seriously that good. When I was at NCTE I requested the sequel, but they didn’t have it. Honestly, I’m kind of glad they didn’t have it because I think I want to listen to the audio again. If you’ve been wanting to read more sci-fi, but it isn’t really your cup of tea, I’d read Denton’s story; it’s what I like to call sci-fi lite. The idea behind the story could be classified as science fiction, but the story reads very much like realistic fiction, if that makes sense.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Fixer over the summer which is also written by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It was actually the first book of hers that I’ve read. Because I enjoyed it so much and because many of my friends have read and recommended The Naturals, I decided to give the audio for it a go. I have to say, Jennifer Lynn Barnes is fast becoming one of my favorite mystery authors. The narrator for this was really good and paced the story well. It’s a little bit predictable, but the reveal was still fun. This is perfect for fans of the TV show Criminal Minds and the books I Hunt Killers and The Body Finder. The only complaint I have is that I’ve been told there most likely won’t be audiobooks made for books two and three in this trilogy.

Stand-Off by Andrew Smith: Ryan Dean West is another one of my absolute favorite characters. I’m so thankful that we’ve been gifted with the rest of his story after such a tough ending in Winger. I adored this book and was left completely satisfied when I finished reading it. Of course, if Andrew Smith decides to write a third book about Ryan Dean I won’t complain; I’ll pre-order it as soon as it’s available if that ever becomes an option. What I really liked about Stand-Off is that it’s still laugh out loud funny, but it’s also full of heart and introspective moments for Ryan Dean. It reminded me of what Geoff Herbach crafted in I’m With Stupid as he wrapped up Felton’s story.
P.S. I’m sorry I didn’t write a full review after I finished reading this. I was racing to get all the things read and finalized for NCTE.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: I received an ARC of this when I was at NCTE and it’s the only 2016 title I’ve read so far. It feels like cheating adding a 2016 title to this list, but there’s no way I can be honest about this list and not include it. In fact, Jeff Zentner’s debut will be on my 2016 favorites list as well because it’s utterly fabulous. I’ll probably read it a second time if my students don’t hog my copy, but I’m predicting this is going to be a book I rarely see during the school year. I promise to write a full review in time for the March 2016 release, but I’ll leave you with this: The Serpent King was reading in almost one sitting–which is nearly impossible to do these days–and it made me ugly cry FOR MULTIPLE PAGES.

And because I can’t stop at ten and because I don’t like leaving good books off my list, here are some titles I’ve read in 2015 that my students are loving this school year:

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon: My students and I really dig the multigenre format to this novel; it makes for a quick and engaging read.

A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy: I love it when authors feature athletic girls in their stories and make that aspect of the character a primary focus in the story. There aren’t enough female characters who are student athletes in YA novels, which is a real disservice to our teens. I was a swimmer in high school and the high school I teach at has an impressive swimming program, so Abby’s story really resonates with my students.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I listened to the audio for this before it was announced as the 2015 Printz winner and was over the moon thrilled about it. As usual for the past few years, we had a snow day when the awards were announced so I had to wait to tell my students all about the win. Since last school year I’ll Give You the Sun has been passed from reader to reader in my classroom. My freshmen last year kept a constant waitlist for it and have even told my current freshmen about it. I love it when a book becomes so widely loved that my students recommend it to friends outside my class. Also, the audio for this is fabulous!

 

I’d love to know which books were your 2015 favorites! Happy New Year, lovely readers!

 

 

I May Need Additional Copies of These Books

Some school years certain books are more popular with my students than others, but no matter the year, the popularity of specific books among my students prompts me to buy more copies of those titles. It’s expensive, and sometimes a gamble (The Hunger Games trilogy isn’t so popular anymore that it requires me to have 4+ copies of each book), but I’m always happy to provide these books for my students when I know they really want to read them (and they want to read them now!).

I started thinking about writing this post after my principal observed me one morning and watched some of my students giving book talks. He asked me if I’ve noticed any changes in their reading habits because of the book talks, and I have. My students are discussing their books and making recommendations to each other much more often since we’ve started book talks. Our news cast teacher has even started a book talk feature for the news cast that features his reporters interviewing students about a book they recommend. It’s exciting watching my students pick up a book after a classmate has discussed it.

So as I watch my “Book(s) Waiting List” grow each day, I contemplate which books I need double and even triple copies of. I’m listing some of this year’s titles that I’m considering buying more copies of.

My list (in no particular order primarily because I’m typing this on my iPad and I’m lazy ;)):

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (and pretty much every single one of Miranda’s books)–I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve replaced a copy of one of Miranda’s books  and how often there’s a waiting list for her books.

Winger by Andrew Smith–I already own three copies and those aren’t enough to keep my students satisfied. They all want to read this and they all want to read it RIGHT NOW.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith—This isn’t my favorite book, but since I book talked it the day after the ALA awards my kids have been fighting over my ARC.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky–I have a feeling this is a class favorite in many classrooms. I have two copies and that nevers seems to be enough. I didn’t respond the same way to this book that my students have, but I think that’s because I’m an adult. The movie, however, moved me to tears.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick–For a while I had at least three students waiting on this one after a freshman book talked it in class. I think a student found it through a book pass at the beginning of the year and it’s been making the rounds since.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers–I usually have two copies of this in my class library, but every year one goes missing and I need to buy another replacement. One of my freshmen girls book talked this last week and she instantly hooked a few students in class. One of my boys requested that he reads it next since it sounds so realistic.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson–Right now a few students are waiting for my one copy to return. I spent time book talking it after it won the Printz award and one of my seniors also book talked it. Her book talk won over more students than mine did which is one of the reasons why I require my students to do this; they often listen to each other more than they listen to me. 😉

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books From the Past 3 Years

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Even though this is still a tough list to narrow down, I’m happy this TTT topic isn’t simply my all-time favorite books; I would never be able to narrow it down! I’d love to know which books have been your favorites over the past 3-5 years; maybe I’ll be able to add more to my to read list.

I’m focusing my list on what I read and loved between the years 2012, 2013, and 2014. Since there’s still so much to read this year I’m not including it.

Favorites read in 2012:

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick (My review): This book will forever be a favorite of mine. It fits so many categories and no matter how many times I’ve read it (and I’ve read it a lot courtesy of reading it aloud) it pulls on my heart strings EVERY TIME.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (My review): The fact that I considered naming my first child Travis should be explanation enough, right?

Easy by Tammara Webber (My review): Easy was one of the first New Adult books I read and it caused a book hangover. I had to read a few books after finishing this one before I got over it.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (My review): This is Miranda’s debut and it’s still my favorite of the five books she’s published so far.

Favorites read in 2013:

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (My review): A beautiful cover, quote-worthy passages, and an imperfect character make this a winner.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (My review): This is such a beautiful story of friendship and love.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (My review): Speaking of a beautiful story of friendship and love, I couldn’t get enough of Eleanor and Park’s story. I’m still wanting more.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (My review): Trish Doller is on this list twice; you’ve read these books, right?!

Winger by Andrew Smith (My review): It’s not very often that a book makes me laugh and cry within a few pages. It’s no wonder Ryan Dean’s story is one of the most popular titles in my classroom library this year.

Favorite read in 2014:

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (My review): Reading in 2014 was off for me, but this debut stands out more than all the rest. The slow burning relationship between Josh and Nastya is perfect and moving.

Top Ten Tuesday Collage

Books That Are a Breath of Fresh Air

I’m 33 weeks into my pregnancy, so I’m entering the lovely stage where I’m uncomfortable all the time and am finding it difficult to breathe. I was sitting on the couch reading my book, taking yet another deep breath, and thought, “I should write a post about books that are a breath of fresh air.” Since I’m often winded, I think it’s fitting 😉

I’ve included these books for a variety of reasons. I considered the way topics were approached, the way characters are written, the way authors deviated from the norm, etc. Which books would you add to this list?

Winger by Andrew Smith–Ryan Dean’s story was the first book I thought of because of how Andrew Smith wrote him. I’ve taught quite a few fourteen-year-old boys over the past seven years. Ryan Dean is written exactly like a fourteen-year-old boy and I love that. Too often characters are written with adult voices and that’s not the case for Ryan. I think it’s one of the many reasons why Winger has been such a hit with both my underclassmen and upperclassmen.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White–Paranormal YA is nothing new and Kiersten White’s debut has been out since 2010, but I still think it’s a nice change from the typical paranormal fare. Evie, the main character, isn’t busy pining away over some guy in her biology class. She’s working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency and prides herself on doing her job well. She’s pretty and girly and there is a love angle to the story, but it’s also funny and witty and original.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray–I’m more than halfway through the audio and can’t begin to explain how much I love this book. I’m purposely taking my time listening to it because it’s that good. And honestly, I could go on and on about why this book is such a breath of fresh air. The satire is spot on. The list of big issues being tackled in a very smart way is impressive. It’s simply a great book.

Party by Tom Leveen–By no fault of their own, teenagers are very self-centered. Yes, they think about others and do amazing things for others, but much of being a teenager is about figuring out who you are and worrying about yourself. The reason I say this, and I don’t mean any of that in a negative way, is because I don’t think a teen will necessarily think about every single person at a party (or in a classroom) and what their individual story is. Or how stories and paths might cross. Tom Leveen addresses this in Party. We are taken to a party and see that party through the eyes of eleven characters. We see how their paths cross and what’s really going on with each individual. It’s eye-opening for many of my students and has made them think more about others and what other people are going through.

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin–There are plenty of YA books that deal with teen pregnancy, but not many that I  know of–other than Jumping Off Swings and Living With Jackie Chan–that are told from the father’s perspective. I had mixed feelings overall about this book, but it was still refreshing to read about how Nick deals with the unsettling news that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant and what she plans to do about it. This is also a book that I’ve had to replace every year since I originally bought it three years ago.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace–Another common story told in YA is about abusive relationships. When my students read books about that they often tell me when they would leave and how they would never put up with a relationship like that. I’m always happy to hear that, but I also know from other students that it’s not always that simple. What I love about this book is that it isn’t told in chronological order. Because of this, there isn’t an easy spot for a reader to say, “I would have left him then.” It’s given a number of my students pause after reading it.

Every Day by David Levithan–I don’t know if I really need to explain why I’m including this book. I haven’t read anything else like it which makes it really difficult to help my students find a new book to read when they finish this and want something else like it.

My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi–Jessica Verdi’s debut made the list because of the topic she wrote about. For some this may be a spoiler, but like I stated in my review, I think it will draw in more readers if you know what the character’s dilemma is. Lucy, the main character, contracts HIV. I haven’t read or heard of any other YA novels that feature a character getting or living with HIV, so that’s why I included this title.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon–Cancer books. There are SO MANY. And they often make a reader ugly cry which is one of the reasons I typically avoid them. This is not that book. Hollis Seamon’s debut made me snort with laughter and look at hospice and cancer in a very different way. One of my seniors read this and told me that he felt guilty for laughing so much. I laughed quite a few times, although a few scenes invoked tears. But would else is there to expect from a book about a teen who has terminal cancer?

Student Book Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

WingerTitle: Winger

Author: Andrew Smith

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Student Reviewer: London

Summary (From Goodreads):

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Student Review:

Winger was the best book I have read this year! I loved the way the author made me feel as if Ryan was a real person. Andrew Smith did this by making the main character Ryan Dean draw doodles and pictures on how he was feeling or what was going on in his life. The doodles were always comical and made me laugh.

I believe that everyone would enjoy reading Winger, it was a quick read. The book had really short chapters which was wonderful, because it made the book easy to pick up and put down. Also, it allowed me to read the book faster because whenever I got spare time I could get in a quick chapter.

Not only did the author do an amazing job of making me feel emotions for these characters, but he made me feel as if I was watching them from afar. Just like a movie. Andrew Smith did an excellent job of describing the setting and made me feel like I actually knew the layout of the boarding school campus, Annie’s house, etc.

Great escape from reality. If you are looking for a light read that will put a smile on you face this is the book for you. The author Andrew takes you inside the mind of a 14 year old boy and it’s extremely entertaining. Winger was a good distraction and didn’t force my brain to have to do a lot of thinking.

Even the ending was eventful and extremely unexpected. I loved this because I thought the book was going to be a typical love story, but then is turned into a tragedy. Although it had me in tears I couldn’t imagine the book ending any other way.

Really loved this book and hope that other people will read it and fall in love with it like I did. I just could relate so easily with the book, because it is about the realities of a high school student. Even though they were at a boarding school most of the conflicts were common and can be found in every high school. I just thought this book was so great and hope others will too.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books of 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Normally I write out reasons why I’m including each book on this list, but I’ve reviewed these books and mentioned them on so many lists that I feel like it’s not really necessary at this point. But believe me, creating this list was HARD. At the end of every year I feel like I haven’t read enough books, nor enough books that really wowed me. Do any of you feel that way at this time of year? I guess I’m not reading to be wowed, but I certainly like discovering new favorites. The books on this list are here because they’ve stayed with me this year (characters, plot, writing style, twists, etc.). I’d love to know which books are you favorites this year!

My favorite books of 2013 in no particular order…

1. Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (My review)

2. Winger by Andrew Smith (My review)

3. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (My review)

4. Golden by Jessi Kirby (My review)

5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (My review)

6. Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler (My review)

7. I’m With Stupid by Geoff Herbach (My review)

8. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (My review)

9. The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine (My review)

10. Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting (My review)

My favorite backlist titles read in 2013 (I couldn’t help but cheat)…

1. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (My review)

2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (My review)

3. Recovery Road by Blake Nelson

4. Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Top Ten Books in My Winter TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Normally I would have a winter TBR list full of books that will be releasing this winter. This year I’m serving on the Michigan Reading Association’s Great Lakes Great Books Award committee, so I’m trying to read as many 2013 releases as I can. I’ve received quite a few recommendations from friends and I always like adding to my already long list of books to read. Today’s post consists mostly of books I still want to read and consider for the award along with a few 2014 releases that I picked up at NCTE.

I’d love to know what’s on your list! If you’ve read any fantastic 2013 YA releases this year please tell me about them in the comments!

P.S. Sorry this isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing or informative post; I have poetry presentations to grade so I’m rushing. :/

2013 Releases TBR…

The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski (Goodreads)

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Goodreads)

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi (Goodreads)

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell (Goodreads)

Six Months Later by Natalie Richards (Goodreads)

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (Goodreads)

2014 Releases TBR (My ARCs from NCTE are tempting me away from my committee reading…)

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale (Goodreads)

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer (Goodreads)

Stock Your Shelves: Class Library Must-Have Titles

The start of a new school year is just around the corner, although for many of you it’s already started.  Whenever this time of year approaches I’m always making a list of books I need to buy for my classroom library.  I figured I’m not the only one, so I decided to make a list of books that I want to buy and that I recommend for a classroom library.  If you’d like additional title recommendations feel free to leave a comment.

Summer/Fall Releases:

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (Goodreads)–This releases on August 20th August 27th (edited on 8/20, sorry for the mistake!), so I’ll have a review up shortly. Basically, this is all-around wonderful.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads)–This releases on Sept. 24th. I’ll have a review up on the Nerdy Book Club blog before the release and that same review will post here on the release date.  Trish Doller writes magic, people.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon (Goodreads)–Think The Fault in Our Stars from a funny guy’s point of view, yet totally standing apart from John Green’s hit. I know that might be confusing. This releases on Sept. 3rd.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (Goodreads)–It’s an awful lot like Looking for Alaska, but not as sad (or at least I didn’t think so). Still, it has a different kind of voice and will appeal to teens.  This releases on August 27th.

Books with Guy Appeal:

Winger by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)–I want to buy multiple copies of this.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads)–A lot of my boys really like this book and the companion books. It’s a really funny, quick read.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–I’ve been raving about this book since before it was released in 2011.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Goodreads)–I still haven’t read this, but I have multiple copies because my boys in class LOVE it.

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman (Goodreads)–This is a fantastic and realistic book about a boy in juvie.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Goodreads)–This is mysterious, funny, and features the son of a serial killer trying to help the police find a serial killer. Yep, it’s a hit with all of my students.

Verse Novels:

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads)–I recommend buying all of her books. This and Chasing Brooklyn are two of the most popular books in my room.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones (Goodreads)–This title has been around for a while. Every year it becomes a new favorite for many of my students.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams (Goodreads)–This is a great title to recommend to your Ellen Hopkins fans.

Ellen Hopkins–ALL of her books are huge hits with my students.

Oldies by Goodies:

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads)–This released in 2007 and became popular again when its sequel Unwholly released last fall. The final book in the trilogy, UnSouled, releases on November 7th.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–Every time this releases with a new cover I buy it. It should be in every library.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Goodreads)–This originally published in 1974 and I hook some pretty reluctant readers with it.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (Goodreads)–This was my first Sara Zarr book and my favorite until I read How to Save a Life. Sara Zarr writes wonderfully realistic stories.

Forever by Judy Blume (Goodreads)–For many of my girls, this is the book that turns them into readers.

Sci-Fi/Dystopian:

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (Goodreads)–Time travel, ghosts, and so much more. This is science fiction at its best.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads)–I recommend this every year, multiple times a year. It’s amazing.

Legend by Marie Lu (Goodreads)–I love that this has two points of view and appeals to guys and girls. I’m planning on reading it to my seniors while we read 1984.

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Goodreads)–Gamers will love this.

“Quiet” YA:

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)–This wonderful book may not have received a lot of hype from its publishers, but so many of its readers love it. Plus it pairs perfectly with Of Mice and Men.

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Goodreads)–The main character is pregnant, but it’s more than a book about a pregnant teenager.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (Goodreads)–This book will resonate with so many teenage girls. It’s fantastic.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Goodreads)–All it took was one of my girls to read this and rave about it for it to become an instant hit in my classroom.

So. Much. Hype!:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Goodreads): I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to like this. But I really did and my students adore it. My students who didn’t like Looking for Alaska at all loved this.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads): I’ve replaced this book multiple times because it’s gone “missing” so often.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Goodreads)–One of my boys in class read this and loved it; one of my girls who reads “edgy” books read this and loved it. It’s an all-around winner.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads)–I haven’t finished reading this yet, but it went around my room a couple times before the school year ended. The boys who read it said it’s awesome.

Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

WingerTitle: Winger

Author: Andrew Smith

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Release Date: May 14th, 2013

Interest: Contemp / Guy appeal / Humor / Illustrated

Source: Borrowed from the library

Summary (From Goodreads):

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Right now I’m having a difficult time figuring out what I want to say about Winger because Andrew Smith left me heartbroken and hopeful at the same time.  I can say that Ryan Dean West is now one of my favorite characters and Winger is now one of my favorite books.

I absolutely love finding books with guy appeal.  Winger falls into this category perfectly.  Ryan Dean’s voice struck true from the first to the last page.  He’s a fourteen-year-old boy and he talks, thinks, and acts like one.  Believe me, I’ve taught freshmen boys for the past six years.  There’s bathroom humor and humor from things that probably aren’t supposed to be funny, but Ryan Dean’s reactions and thoughts make this a laugh out loud book.  For the first 4oo pages I was constantly laughing and smiling.  Andrew Smith’s writing in this book made me think of Geoff Herbach’s writing in Stupid Fast.  Both stories are funny, include sports, and will get guys reading, but they also delve into a deeper story.

When I read that this is heartbreaking, I kept waiting for something heartbreaking to happen and wondering what it would be.  I was both prepared and unprepared for the moment.  I’m not going to go into too much detail because I don’t want to take away from that experience for you when you read Winger.  I read the page and sighed because I expected something like that to happen.  I turned the page, let the moment and scene hit me, and then I cried.  Not long after I finished reading this I still had to keep taking deep breaths.  I wasn’t sobbing or anything, but I had to let myself digest what I read.  I spent so much time loving this book and getting to know the characters that this moment felt like a punch in the face.  And I mean that in the best possible way.  I have mixed feelings about where this scene is placed, but I understand the reasoning for it.  When you read it, which I hope you will, we should discuss it.

Now, on to the whole John Green thing.  I can already see the comparisons to John Green’s writing and one of his books in particular.  I get it.  BUT, Winger is not that book and Andrew Smith is not John Green.  I love John Green and all, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one of his books and thought, “Yeah, my kids are just like (insert character name).”  I’ve read his books and thought of students who would like reading them, but I’ve never been able to picture one of my students as a character.  The characters in Winger are REAL.  I pictured a number of former students and others when I was reading this.  I’m confident that my students will appreciate this when they read it.

The copy of Winger I read belongs to my local library, but you can be sure that I plan on buying at least two copies of this book for my classroom library.  It’s that kind of book.  Andrew Smith has written something special.

Similar Reads: Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Highlight at the end of this for a title rec if you’re okay with a spoiler: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman

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