Memorial Day Reading: Y.A. Novels Featuring Soldiers and War

Memorial Day is a day to be thankful for the soldiers, past and present, who have served to keep us safe.  I also know that many of us have today off, so I decided to feature some Y.A. novels that feature soldiers and/or war.  I have a mix of books I’ve read and want to read, books that have been around for some time, and also some that are releasing in the near future.  If you can add any titles to my list, I’d love it if you leave me those titles in the comments!  My male readers in particular love war novels, so I’m always looking for suggestions to add to my class library.

Novels I’ve Read:

Refresh, Refresh: A Graphic Novel by Benjamin Percy, James Ponsoldt, Danica Novgorodoff (illustrator) (Goodreads): I decided to start with a graphic novel since we just discussed them during last night’s #titletalk.  This is probably the most popular graphic novel in my classroom right now.  It’s about a group of boys whose fathers are all serving in Iraq.  They don’t have role models readily available, so they’re trying to figure out life and how to grow into adulthood on their own.  We see them constantly refreshing their email just in case they receive a new email from their father.

Heroes by Robert Cormier (Goodreads): This is historical fiction based during WWII.  Francis has returned from the war, but he no longer has a face after he fell on a grenade.  Heroes deals more with Francis trying to move on after the war, the mental effects of being severely disfigured, and Francis plotting to kill his childhood war hero.   Just like most of Robert Cormier’s books, he mixes character motivation and psychology into a blend that manipulates the reader because while we know killing someone is wrong, you can’t help but feel for Francis.

Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen (Goodreads): Soldier’s Heart is a historical fiction novel set during the Civil War that works for both middle grade and Y.A. readers.  It’s about a boy who enlists at the age of 15 because he doesn’t want to miss out on this experience.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read this, but I remember plenty of battle scenes as Charley tries to survive the war.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads): Patricia McCormick is one of my favorite authors because she takes so much time researching her topic, which is obvious in Purple Heart.  I like this novel because we watch Private Matt Duffy trying to recover from a war wound and also trying to regain his memory.  He receives the Purple Heart, but he doesn’t remember exactly what he did to receive it and something’s nagging at him to make him feel like he doesn’t deserve it.  We get a glimpse of how soldiers recover and are sometimes rushed back to the field to continue serving.  Purple Heart is a very real book that allows readers to see a different side of the war than what’s portrayed in the media.

While He Was Away by Karen Schrek (Goodreads): I’m including While He Was Away because even though we aren’t following a soldier, we’re following Penna’s life after her boyfriend, David, leaves to serve in the military.  I think this would be a good read for those who have a significant other serving and either want someone to relate to or maybe they want to know what to expect.  Penna’s story is a little different because she really only had David while they were dating, but now that he’s in Iraq, she has to branch out and start making friends and moving on with her life while she waits for him to return.  We do, however, get glimpses of what David’s going through via Skype chats, emails, and phone calls.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (Goodreads) (My Review): I’ve read 40+ books so far in 2012, and Something Like Normal is still in my top three favorites.  It’s told from a guy’s point of view, it’s current, and it’s authentic.  Travis is home on leave from Afghanistan and not only is he dealing with troubles at home, he’s desperately trying to cope with PTSD after seeing his best friend die.  We’re not watching him fight the war, but we’re there for his nightmarish flashbacks.  We’re watching him fight himself.  This releases on June 19th, and I REALLY hope you buy it.  I plan on buying multiple copies for my classroom.

Novels I Want to Read:
I’m including the summaries since I haven’t read these books yet, but I will say that I’m pumped about If I Lie!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Goodreads): Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers (Goodreads): An exciting, eye-catching repackage of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers’ bestselling paperbacks, to coincide with the publication of SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH in hardcover.

A coming-of-age tale for young adults set in the trenches of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, this is the story of Perry, a Harlem teenager who volunteers for the service when his dream of attending college falls through. Sent to the front lines, Perry and his platoon come face-to-face with the Vietcong and the real horror of warfare. But violence and death aren’t the only hardships. As Perry struggles to find virtue in himself and his comrades, he questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments, and why the U.S. is there at all.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers (Goodreads): A powerful new novel about the heroics and horror of war from Walter Dean Myers, whose bestselling book FALLEN ANGELS celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, that’s the code name. But the young men and women in the military’s Civil Affairs Battalion have a simpler name for it: WAR.

In this new novel, Walter Dean Myers looks at a contemporary war with the same power and searing insight he brought to the Vietnam war of his classic, FALLEN ANGELS. He creates memorable characters like the book’s narrator, Birdy, a young recruit from Harlem who’s questioning why he even enlisted; Marla, a blond, tough-talking, wisecracking gunner; Jonesy, a guitar-playing bluesman who just wants to make it back to Georgia and open a club.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Releases August 28th, 2012) (Goodreads): A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.


Wrap Up: My First Dewey Read-a-Thon

Well, considering that I got a late start and decided to join the read-a-thon late, I think I did pretty well.  I think the next one takes place in October, so I’m going to keep an eye on that so I can be more prepared and hopefully read more books!  I had lofty goals for myself yesterday and didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to.  But I’m okay with that because I still spent the day reading 🙂

What I Read:

  • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Goodreads)–I had already read about half of this one before I started, but I did finish it which was one of my goals.  I needed to do that because on Wednesday my book club is Skyping with Sarah!  The girls are really excited and one of them volunteered to make and bring cupcakes for us to munch on after school during the Skype chat.  The book is adorable and now my favorite by Sarah Ockler.  I’ll work on a full review pretty soon.
  • The Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan (Goodreads)–I’ve seen a couple of my guys in class read this one and the original books as well.  I haven’t read any of them, so I figured this was a good start.  It’s a cool graphic novel.  I really liked the images and how colors were used to convey the mood.  Plus, with all the action, I can why it’s so popular in my classroom.
  • Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–Have you read Stupid Fast yet?  If not, I seriously hope you do soon.  Nothing Special is the companion to Stupid Fast, and while it’s not exactly a direct sequel, I recommend reading Stupid Fast first.  I loved getting to know Felton better, but the story really focuses on us learning more about Andrew (Felton’s little brother).  I adored this book and can’t wait to write my full review.
  • Switched by Amanda Hocking (audiobook) (Goodreads)–I didn’t finish Switched yet, but I made some serious project yesterday.  I think I have only 4 hours left which I know will be done probably by Tuesday since I spend most of my listening before work while I’m getting ready and in the car to and from work.  I decided on Switched because I bought the paperback for my classroom library and it’s growing in popularity.  It’s pretty good so far and I enjoy the narrator 🙂

I learned a few things about myself as a reader during the read-a-thon.  I get distracted entirely too easily.  I want to peruse online, see what’s happening on Twitter, check my blog stats, etc.  It’s difficult for me to step away from the computer/iPhone.  I also have a hard time sitting still for a long period of time and not cleaning or sorting or something along those lines.  I’ll look up from my book and notice that my coffee table is dusty, or think about how I need to clean the bathroom, or about how much laundry I need to get done.  I don’t know why I’m like this, but I always have been this way.  It’s one of the reasons I’m really thankful that I discovered audiobooks because I can listen to one while I do all of this other stuff when I can’t sit still to read anymore.  Is anyone else like that?  I mean, if I’m reading a book that’s REALLY engrossing, I can ignore all of the distractions.  So for the next read-a-thon, I’m piling up books I know will be engrossing, more graphic novels, and probably some verse novels because I love them and they’re fast reads.

If you participated in the read-a-thon yesterday, how did it go?

Flash Reviews (11)–Graphic Novel Edition

I’ve been wanting to read more graphic novels, but I really didn’t know where to start.  After some recommendations from trusted resources like Paul W. Hankins and John Schu, I was on my way and reading excellent graphic novels.  The idea of reviewing them is foreign to me, so I’m trying it out as flash reviews because even though I don’t feel confident reviewing them fully, I still want others to be aware of what’s out there and worth reading (in my opinion).

Stitches by David Small

Summary (From Goodreads): Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award and finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: the prize-winning children’s author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive graphic memoir.

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again. Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award (Young Adult); finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Writer/Artist: Nonfiction; Best Reality-Based Work)

Flash Review:  This is one of the first graphic novels I read.  It’s a memoir of David Small’s life, his very tragic life.  I don’t know if I would have been able to read it as a novel of prose, because it is certainly haunting.  David Small’s mother didn’t express emotion, which left Small without an outlet to express himself.  His cancer, which horribly goes ignored for far too long, leaves him without the ability to express himself well vocally.  These two circumstances would make one feel helpless, but David Small discovers art and is able to express his feelings and thoughts through this outlet.  Stitches is at times mature, but it’s an excellent example of a survival story and memoir.  The images say so much more than words can express.

Page by Paige by Laure Lee Gulledge

Summary (From Goodreads):

Paige Turner has just moved to New York with her family, and she’s having some trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries to make sense of her new life, including trying out her secret identity: artist. As she makes friends and starts to explore the city, she slowly brings her secret identity out into the open, a process that is equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Laura Lee Gulledge crafts stories and panels with images that are thought-provoking, funny, and emotionally resonant. Teens struggling to find their place can see themselves in Paige’s honest, heartfelt story.

Praise for Page by Paige
“Gulledge’s b&w illustrations are simple but well-suited to their subject matter; the work as a whole is a good-natured, optimistic portrait of a young woman evolving toward adulthood.” –Publishers Weekly

Flash Review: I’ve read some great graphic novels, but I think Page by Paige is my favorite.  Paul W. Hankins introduced me to this graphic novel when we posted the book trailer on Facebook; I wanted to read it immediately.  The images are compelling and draw the reader in to Paige’s story.  I couldn’t help but feel for Paige as she discovers herself and how to express herself.  It’s hard putting yourself out there, whether it’s to make new friends or open up a secret part of yourself.  Teens will connect with Paige and understand what she’s going through.  The images are in black and white, but they are beautiful, creative, and unforgettable.  Page by Paige is a must read!

How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White

Summary (From Goodreads): How do you know if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown?  For seventeen-year-old Stacy Black, it all begins with the smashing of a window. After putting her fist through the glass, she checks into a mental hospital.  Stacy hates it there but despite herself slowly realizes she has to face the reasons for her depression to stop from self-destructing.  Based on the author’s experiences, How I Made it to Eighteen is a frank portrait of what it’s like to struggle with self-esteem, body image issues, drug addiction, and anxiety.

Flash Review: I suppose I enjoy memoirs more than I realized, because Tracy White’s graphic novel is based on her life, hence the character’s name, Stacy Black.  She admits that much is changed for the sake of the story and her friends and family, but she suffered much like Stacy.  Too many of my students, and teens in general, deal with low self-esteem, body image issues, addictions, depression, etc.  Many times all of those issues are connected.  Tracy White’s images are very simple in design, but they are clear and convey an important message.  Stacy is suffering and doesn’t really know how to help herself.  The readers gain insight to her life through testimonials from her friends, both past and current.  This story is mature in theme.  Considering the content, I think readers who enjoy Ellen Hopkins’ novels will enjoy

In My Mailbox (22)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It’s a way for bloggers to share what books they’ve received for review, borrowed from the library, or bought from the store.

Purchased (all but Anya’s Ghost):

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (Goodreads): I just started this one and I’m liking it so far. I’ve read a lot of positive, glowing reviews.  So far it’s very lyrical, as many of the reviews have stated, and it feels almost like a fairy tale in atmosphere.

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (Goodreads): I’ve heard good things about this book, too.  I’m not always sure about zombie books, but I know my boys in class like them and I loved Bad Taste in Boys.  I skimmed through the book and found out that the chapters are short, so maybe it will be a fast read.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (Goodreads): A friend of mine on Twitter sent me this one (Thanks John! @MrSchuReads).  My best friend read it and enjoyed it, plus I’ve heard good things from other teachers I’m friends with.  Any time I hear good things about a graphic novel, I have to look into it.

You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz (Goodreads): I found this one while perusing what was left in the YA section at Borders.  It’s written in verse which is the primary reason for buying it.  I read a few pages yesterday and already know that I’ll love it.  It’s looking like a very poignant tale of love and loss.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Goodreads): Most of the reviews I’ve read for this one talk about it being fantastic, creepy, funny, etc.  I have a book club with a group of alumni students and this is our most recent pick.  I’ll have to start reading it soon!

%d bloggers like this: