Banned Books Week: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Banned Book: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: Banned in the Stockton, Mo. School District (2010) because of violence, language, and some sexual content. Retained in the Helena, Mont. School District (2011) despite a parent’s objection that the book contained “obscene, vulgar and pornographic
language.” This New York Times bestseller won the National Book Award in 2007 in the “Young People’s Literature” category. (Source–Quote taken from the ALA banned books resource page.)

My Thoughts: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a spectacular book that’s full of heart.  Yes, there’s violence, poor language, and a brief piece of sexual content, but Junior is a dynamic character that readers can learn from.  The violence stems from racism, both on and off the reservation.  Junior values his education, but making the choice to attend school off the reservation is a tough one because it makes him look disloyal and like a traitor.  It’s hard for his family, friends, and community to understand his motivation.  Watching Junior acclimate to his new environment at the new school is at times heartwarming and heartbreaking, but it’s ultimately hopeful.  This book is so much more than violence, poor language, and sexual content.

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do.  We added it to our freshman curriculum last year which turned out to be a huge success.  It was so popular, we had to order more copies to appease our students.  And it really helped our students connect with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Student Response: This quote comes from one of my seniors, Austin.  “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is banned for several reasons including sexual content and plain truth about school.  I think it shouldn’t be banned because we say and think way worse things than what’s in that book.”

Cooking and Listening (1)

I’ve been a cooking fiend since the summer.  I’ve also been listening to quite a few audiobooks.  Pairing the two has helped me feel like I’m being “reading productive” since I sometimes feel like I need to sacrifice one for the other.  Does anyone else ever feel that way?  It seems silly, but I feel guilty spending time doing other things (working out, cleaning, cooking, driving around), when I could spend that time reading.

My cooking inspiration is all in thanks to Pinterest.  I currently have a “Recipes Worth a Try” board with 420 pins.  And that’s not counting my “Delicious Desserts” board…  Also because of Pinterest, I’ve started making freezer dinners.  I can’t tell you how much of a time saver it’s been!  Even better?  I’ve found some pretty healthy crock pot dinners, including ways to make many of these dinners gluten free.

That’s where this post inspiration comes from.  Why not blog about some of the audiobooks I’m listening to and recipes I’m making?  If you’ve been doing the same thing, I’d love it if you leave a comment!  Share your favorite Pinterest recipe and/or audiobook 🙂

Picture from What’s Cookin, Chicago? I forgot to take my own picture!

Delicious Freezer Recipe #1:

Because I don’t want to take credit away from the blogger who originally shared this recipe, I’m only going to provide the link.  In the future if I alter any recipes I’ll share the altered recipe with original blogger credit.

I made Spring Chicken with Spring Vegetables, Lemons, and Capers courtesy of What’s Cookin, Chicago? (Click the link for the recipe.)  The blogger provides instructions for how to make the dinner fresh and how to prepare it as a freezer meal to make later.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but it ended up tasting extremely fresh, and the chicken was really moist.  I made it last night and Keith (my husband) definitely wants to eat it again!  It was really easy to put together and freeze as well.

Audiobook Review:

Title: Beat the Band

Author: Don Calame

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Source: Purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): Cooper Redmond has only one thing on his mind: tagging as many bases as possible by the end of sophomore year. He’s already picked out a prime target: the divine Prudence Nash, whose sexy serpent tattoo haunts his dreams. But when Coop is paired with the infamous “Hot Dog” Helen for a semester-long Health project on safe sex, his hopes of making it to the Majors are suddenly DOA. It’s going to take something seriously epic to resuscitate his reputation  —  something like winning the Battle of the Bands with his best buds, Matt and Sean.

There’s just one problem: they totally suck.

Get ready for riffs on hot girls, Health class, and social hell in this hilarious follow-up to Swim the Fly.
From the Publisher (Brilliance Audio)

Duration: 08:09:16

After finishing the Swim the Fly audiobook, I immediately bought and downloaded the audio for Beat the Band.  And just as I expected, it is fantastic!  Matt’s friend Coop is telling the story in this book, which takes place right where Swim the Fly left off.  I had mixed feelings about Coop, so I was wondering how much I would enjoy his character, but I ended up really liking him.  There’s much more “bathroom” humor in Beat the Band because that’s part of Coop’s personality.  Coop is also more devious than Matt.  And I have to mention how much I enjoyed Coop’s dad’s character.  He’s rough around the edges, but he has heart and is really funny.  What I enjoyed the most about Coop in Beat the Band is how much his character grows from the beginning to the ending of the book.  He matures a great deal and learns to take responsibility for his actions.  If you’re looking for a book with lots of humor and guy-appeal, then I really suggest you listen to Swim the Fly and Beat the Band.

Book Trailer Thursday (78)–52 Reasons To Hate My Father by Jessica Brody + Giveaway

I’m very excited about today’s Book Trailer Thursday post for a few reasons.  First, today’s post is part of the 52 Days of 52 Reasons To Love Jessica Brody and Her Books tour.  Second, I’m digging this book and the trailer.  Third, the tour is providing 3 copies of 52 Reasons To Hate My Father to give away!  That’s a whole lot of awesome on a Thursday 🙂

1 of the 52 Reasons to Love Jessica Brody and Her Books….Jessica doesn’t have a tattoo but if she did she’d probably get a yin yang. The character in her new sci-fi series, UNREMEMBERED, has a tattoo; a VERY mysterious one!

For 51 other reasons, visit Book Soulmates (August 22nd) and YA Book Nerd (August 24th), and stay tuned for more!

Summary (From the Publisher):

Being America’s favorite heiress is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either.

Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteenth birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her.

In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him.

Seriously, how cute is that trailer?!  I have a feeling my students are going to be all over this book!

Want more?  Here’s the making of the trailer:


Read an excerpt from 52 Reasons To Hate My Father

This week only you can order a personalized, signed copy of Jessica Brody’s book + more!


*The publisher is providing 3 copies of 52 Reasons To Hate My Father to US residents only
* You must be 13 to enter
*One entry per person
*The winners will be contacted via email & will have 48 hours to respond
*Giveaway ends Friday, August 31st at 11:59 EST
*Feel free to spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.! 🙂

Review: The Boy Recession by Flynn Meaney

Title: The Boy Recession

Author: Flynn Meaney

Publisher: Poppy

Release Date: August 7th, 2012

Interest: Contemporary / More than one POV

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): It’s all about supply and demand when a high school deals with the sudden exodus of male students.

The boy recession has hit Julius P. Heil High, and the remaining boys find that their stock is on the rise: With little competition, even the most unlikely guys have a good chance at making the team and getting the girl. Guitar-strumming, class-skipping Hunter Fahrenbach never wanted to be a hot commodity, but the popular girls can’t help but notice his unconventional good looks. With a little work, he might even by boyfriend material.

But for down-to-earth Kelly Robbins, the boy recession is causing all sorts of problems. She has secretly liked her good friend Hunter for a while now, but how can she stand out in a crowd of overzealous Spandexers?

As if dating wasn’t hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!

This summer I’ve realized that I need to read more light-hearted contemporary YA.  The Boy Recession by Flynn Meaney is a light and fun, quick read which is exactly what I needed when I read it.  Don’t we all need that from time to time?

The premise of The Boy Recession will be easy to sell to my students this coming school year.  I remember it feeling like there were hardly any guys to date in my high school, but if all the “cute” ones were gone?!  I would have been devastated.  I can’t imagine too many of my girls in class feeling any differently than I would have.  I like that Flynn Meaney wrote the story so the girls in the novel start to look at these other guys in a different light.

I also have a number of students interested in books with more than one point of view, so there’s another selling piece.  Readers get to see the story from Hunter’s side (representing the male population) and Kelly’s side (representing the female population).  I honestly can’t picture this book being written any other way; I don’t think it would have been as enjoyable.  I will admit that I wasn’t paying attention to chapter headings when I first opened this book.  It says “Hunter” which explains why I was so confused when I started reading and thought, “This girl is acting kind of like a guy…”  In my defense, I started reading this late at night.  Anyway, the dual narration really works and it’s done pretty well.  I wish the cover was a little more gender neutral (big part of the reason I thought a girl would be narrating the entire story) because I think some guys would enjoy it.  I don’t know how easy it will be to hand The Boy Recession to one of my guys in class; they don’t always handle pink well.

The Boy Recession isn’t hilariously funny, but it’s humorous enough to get a few giggles here and there.  One line that keeps coming back to me and making me laugh is when Hunter is getting dressed up for an event and compares his look and outfit to Scott Disick. *Warning he uses some poor language in the exchange.*

Hunter: “Holy crap,” I say.  “I look like that douchebag who’s dating the other Kardashian sister.”
Eugene: “Don’t hate on Scott Disick,” Eugene warns me.  “He’s my fashion role model.”

Taken out of context that may not be as funny, and poor language aside, I love that reference because I know exactly how to picture Hunter’s outfit/look in this scene.  Flynn Meaney has little one-liners like this (not all tinged with similar language) dispersed throughout the book.  It’s scenes like these that give the reader a broader understanding of who the characters are and what their personalities are like.  It’s fun seeing Hunter not really caring about anything at the beginning of the story to worrying about his pants getting wrinkled and that a plan works out by the end of the book.  His humor, however, stays constant which Kelly really likes about him as do I.

I really liked The Boy Recession and am looking forward to recommending it to my students.  I suggest that the middle school teachers following my blog read this first before passing it on to your students because while I’m not overly concerned about some of the language choices, you may not feel as comfortable with it.  Besides, it’s an entertaining book that should be read!  Maybe Flynn Meaney’s new book can be one more book read before the summer’s over.

My Favorite Read Alouds

Did you have any teachers in high school that read a book to your class simply for the enjoyment of listening to a good book?  I didn’t.  I really don’t remember any of my middle school teachers doing this either.  A few of my elementary school teachers read to us, but it was less frequent after 3rd grade.  I’m thankful my parents read to my brother and me on a regular basis since this didn’t happen all that much at school.  When I was working towards my bachelor’s degree the idea of reading aloud to my future high school classes never occurred to me.

The summer I took Dr. Steffel’s YA Lit class at CMU my plans changed.  I’ve mentioned Dr. Steffel many times before, and it’s because she’s been such a positive influence on my teaching career.  On the first day of our class, we sat in a circle and she read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos.  She used different voices and everything.  I was astounded!  I couldn’t believe we were being read to in a college course, but I loved it.  Even though Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is young for a high school classroom, I really enjoyed the story.  Everything we did in class and everything Dr. Steffel did in class served a purpose; she wanted us to follow her lead and bring these lessons, strategies, ideas, etc. into our classrooms.

I tried my first read aloud while student teaching.  I had a few sophomore English classes, so I decided on Shattering Glass by Gail Giles.  It’s an edgy book, and there’s some bad language and mature situations, but it’s an excellent pick for reluctant readers.  I was  nervous about reading this during student teaching, but I went ahead and did it anyway.  I had a rationale prepared and everything.  My students loved it and often asked me to read “just one more chapter.”  Since then I’m much more comfortable reading books where characters swear, but I make sure to choose books that aren’t over the top in that category.  It sometimes shocks my students to hear me read those parts, but we have a conversation about why that language is in the book and how we won’t be using that language in class.

So let’s get to my favorites already! 🙂  I like these books for a number of reasons, but one of the most important qualities I look for in a potential read aloud is the amount of dialogue.  Too much dialogue can get confusing when reading it aloud, especially since the kids don’t have the book in front of them to follow along.  I also try to pick books that I know will be entertaining and have a nice moral. Shorter chapters are always a plus too.  And I need to really like the book too, because otherwise I’m not going to enjoy reading it out loud over and over again.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–I’ve read Speak out loud so many times!  It’s such a powerful story and so easy for my students to relate to.  Plus, since Melinda isn’t speaking to anyone all that much, most of the book is made up of her thoughts and opinions which is easy for the kids to follow.  The characters are well developed, and well, it’s Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Do I need more reasons? 😉

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads)–Last trimester is the first time I’ve read this out loud.  My freshmen were really interested in it because of the upcoming movie (Ahh!! This Friday!!), so I decided to give it a shot as a read aloud.  Some of my students weren’t sure at first because the beginning of the book is a bit slow as the world develops and we get to the training center and the actual games.  Once we reached that point, they were begging for more chapters.  It helps that many of the chapters end with cliffhangers.  My only complaint is that the chapters are so long.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Goodreads) (My Review)–I don’t remember what prompted me to choose Hex Hall as a read aloud, but I did for the first time last year.  I read it to my freshmen and the majority of them LOVED it.  In one class, we even went on to read the sequel Demonglass.  Oh my gosh did we race through that book!  It ran right into the very end of the school year, but we finished it.  Sophie is very clumsy, sarcastic, and easy to like.  She reminds me of  a female Ron Weasley.  There’s some foul language in Hex Hall, but nothing that was overly shocking or made me pause.  I should note that in general, I’m on the liberal side of things when it comes to YA and what I put in my classroom.  Many of my students prefer realistic fiction, but besides one or two in each class, even my die-hard contemps fans liked Hex Hall.  The guys even laughed and wanted me to read more 🙂  I read it again this year to a new group of freshmen and had the same enthusiastic response.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I’m actually in the middle of reading Boy21 aloud for the first time.  I’m reading it to my freshmen classes, but I wasn’t sure what they would think.  After reading Hex Hall and The Hunger Games this year, I didn’t know how my kids would react to a sudden switch to something realistic.  We voted on Friday, and the majority of all my classes chose to keep reading it.  Boy21 is a powerful read with a fantastic message without being preachy.  It’s diverse, has guy appeal without alienating the girls, and it’s humorous.  The chapters are short so I have more flexibility in how much I choose to read each day.  Finley doesn’t like to talk that much, so the dialogue is balanced with Finley’s thoughts and observations.  Right now my kids are really curious about Russ, aka Boy21, and what’s going to happen between him and Finley as the story progresses.

Here are a few more titles I’ve had success with reading aloud:

  • My Brother’s Keeper by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads)
  • Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen (Goodreads)
  • Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)

Here are some titles that I’ve recently read and plan to read aloud in the future:

  • Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I just finished reading this book, and I just know my students would love it as a read aloud.  It has a wonderful balance of narration and dialogue.  It’s really funny and full of heart.  It’s a clean book in regards to sex and language, but there is a minor scene that involves drinking.  I think it’d work for middle school classrooms as well as high school classrooms.
  • Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin (Goodreads) (My Review)–We read so many serious stories in high school that I like to mix it up and read something funny out loud when I get the chance.  Kelsey is hilarious and just a fun character to read.  This is a pretty clean book as well which I always appreciate.  There are a couple scenes with drinking, but I they’re definitely not glorifying it!  I think we’re going to finish Boy21 with enough time to read another book, and if that happens I’ll be reading this one to my freshmen next 🙂  I love this book and would read it to more than just my freshmen.

Review–Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

Curveball: The Year I Lost My GripTitle: Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, 285 pages

Author: Jordan Sonnenblick

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Interest: Sports / Guy appeal

Release Date: March 1, 2012

Source: ARC received at the ALAN Conference

Summary (From Goodreads): Sometimes, the greatest comebacks take place far away from the ball field.  Meet Peter Friedman, high school freshman. Talented photographer. Former baseball star. When a freakish injury ends his pitching career, Peter has some major things to figure out. Is there life after sports? Why has his grandfather suddenly given him thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment? And is it his imagination, or is the super-hot star of the girls’ swim team flirting with him, right in front of the amazing new girl in his photography class? In his new novel, teen author Jordan Sonnenblick performs his usual miraculous feat: exploring deep themes of friendship, romance, family, and tragedy, while still managing to be hilariously funny.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick is the first book I’ve read by this author.  A friend of mine told me that she read After Ever After to one of her classes, but other than that I haven’t heard much about Jordan Sonnenblick’s work.  After reading Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, I feel let down that I didn’t know about his other books before.  I adored this book.  I loved the characters, the plot, the balance of sports and family and art, everything.  I just looked up some of Jordan Sonnenblick’s other books and found them at my local Barnes & Noble, which means I have a trip to the book store scheduled for today.  If his other books are great like Curveball, then I can’t go wrong!

Like I said, I love the characters.  Usually when I can’t finish a book, it’s because I don’t connect with the characters.  Peter is a likeable character.  He’s entering his freshman year of high school, and he and his best friend A.J. have big plans.  Peter and A.J. have always played baseball together, and they know they can dominate in high school.  Sadly, Peter’s dreams of playing high school baseball are crushed because of an injury.  This unfortunate injury really sets the pace for Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, because at the very beginning of a new chapter in Peter’s life, he is forced to change more than he planned.  Peter has always identified himself as a baseball player, but now he doesn’t know what to do or who he’s going to be.  Thankfully he has his grampa (an odd spelling, but that’s how it’s spelled in the book), who is a well known photographer.  Peter’s grampa has been teaching him about photography for almost as long as Peter has been playing baseball, so it’s second nature to him.  No more baseball and a depressed Peter leads him to taking a photography class (so he can find something else to focus on) where he meets the lovely Angelika.  Jordan Sonnenblick has a great cast of characters here.  A.J. is completely focused on him and Peter playing baseball together, but Peter can’t find the words to break the bad news to him.  He’s not an overly heavy presence in the book, but when he’s in a scene with Peter, it’s great and usually funny–especially when A.J. wants to give Peter love advice.  Angelika is Peter’s love interest, and while she makes him incredibly nervous, she’s very level-headed and really helps Peter.

While I love all the characters, I need to touch on Peter a little more.  He’s obviously a very talented baseball player, but he’s also very talented in the field of photography.  I love this balance because a majority of the YA I’ve read usually focuses on one ability, like art for example.  Because Peter can’t play baseball anymore, he needs to find a new focus and consequently finds that he’s really good at photography after everything his grandfather has taught him.  Teens who enjoy reading about sports will still enjoy Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip because even though Peter isn’t playing baseball anymore, it’s still a big part of who he is and also because he takes pictures at sporting events.  Peter is simply an endearing character.  He’s loyal to his family and friends and really cares about them.  Readers will love him.

Sonnenblick tackles some big issues in this book, but he does a fantastic job of balancing these issues with humor.  Not all of the humor is laugh out loud funny, but it’s enough to make a reader giggle.  In one scene, for example, Peter’s talking to Angelika and getting ready to take some photos of her.  “‘I think it makes sense to try for some, uh, full-body shots’–UGH, that sounded sleazy–‘and then, if we don’t like what we’re getting, we can get a little closer in.  With this telephoto lens, I mean.  Not like I’d be, uh, getting closer to you. Uh.’ That’s great, I thought. End a freaking sentence with ‘Uh,’ why don’t you?  Smooth.”  Peter’s insecurity around Angelika really brought out some fantastically funny lines and scenes.  A.J.’s advice is an excellent source of humor.  “‘Because, as your wingman and personal hormonal advisor, I have to analyze your moves, her countermoves, your counter-countermoves, her counter-counter-countermoves. . . . Wow, this is really complicated stuff.  Maybe we should stop by Staples on the way home so I can buy a clipboard and some graph paper.”  I read this part at the end of SSR, and one of my freshmen noticed my smiling and giggling to myself.  He asked about it, so I read it to my class.  Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip has been added to my future read alouds list because the characters in this book are funny and their voices are very well defined.

I don’t want to get into the heavier topics because it will spoil a big part of the book.  If you want to read a novel full of humor and heart, then I can’t recommend Jordan Sonnenblick’s newest novel enough.  I absolutely love Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip and can’t wait to read more of his books.

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters CoverTitle: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, 288 pages

Author: Meredith Zeitlin

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Release Date: March 1st, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Humor

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

I teach mostly freshmen every year, so when Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters was pitched to me I knew it would be a good fit.  I saw the book trailer before I read the book, and after watching it I knew I needed to read Meredith Zeitlin’s debut right away.  Kelsey Finkelstein is melodramatic, and I loved it!  I couldn’t get enough of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters; I started it and finished it in one day.

Kelsey Finkelstein is now one of my favorite snarky characters.  Like I said, she’s incredibly melodramatic.  Like many of the girls in my freshmen classes, and very much like I was at fourteen, Kelsey makes seemingly insignificant things into a big deal.  One example of this is how upset she gets over the mysterious photographer that keeps including less than flattering pictures of her in the school newspaper.  I enjoyed her reactions to these pictures because most of them aren’t even actually of Kelsey, but she’s usually in the background.  Of course Kelsey’s mortified and her friends won’t let her live the pictures down.  I know I’d feel the exact same way, especially about the picture where she looks like a cafeteria worker.  I really liked everything about Kelsey.  She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she still faces consequences in one fashion or another.  Even the way she describes things is enjoyable.  Kelsey has a little sister named Travis who she finds incredibly annoying.  Nine pages in we meet Travis and Cassidy, one of Kelsey’s best friends, is cooing over Travis’s pajamas.  “‘You look so adorable! What a Twizzler?’ Oh, lord.  My sister is like a spaniel–once you feed her, she’ll never leave.”  I had already laughed a couple of times before this page, but this Kelsey quote made me snort.  The snorting and laughing continued through the entire book.

Meredith Zeitlin did a really nice job including realistic issues that not only teens face, but freshmen face as well.  In the beginning of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, the girls are discussing how they’re going to start their freshman year and make it the best year ever.  They’re really focused on having a good high school experience.  I’ve been working with freshmen for five years, so I know many of them have the same thoughts and feelings as Kelsey and her friends.  I see it in their faces on the first day of school.  I hear it in the halls. (My classroom doesn’t have a number next to the door, so I’m always reeling lost and frantic freshmen into my room on the first day of school.  Getting lost is one of the girls’ concerns.)  I’ve touched on some of the insecurities in regards to Kelsey and the random photos.  Kelsey and her friends worry about their appearance, losing their friends, boys, etc.  There are fights and the threat of losing a best friend, feeling disgusting and smelly while wearing protective sports padding, and the worry associated with being a bad kisser.

I’m positive that I’ll be able to hand this to most of the freshmen in my class without complaint because Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters appeals to so many readers.  My sports fans will enjoy reading about Kelsey’s soccer experiences.  My drama fans will love how everything goes down in the school’s version of Fiddler on the Roof, including a beard that looks like a “skinned rodent” and all.  My readers looking for romance will enjoy Kelsey’s highs and lows in the romance department.  And if any of my students want to read something funny, I’ll instantly think of this debut.  I’m actually really considering Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters as a read aloud at some point.

I couldn’t get enough of Meredith Zeitlin’s fabulous debut, and I look forward to reading more of her work.  Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a must read.

Similar Reads: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Frankie is another favorite snarky character) / Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Sophie and Kelsey have similar personalities, even though Sophie’s a witch)


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