Waiting on Wednesday–Swim That Rock by John Rocco & Jay Primiano

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I’m always searching for books that will appeal to my male readers in class; Swim That Rock sounds like a great book for many of them. I’m curious about it being written by two authors when it appears to be told by only one point of view (based on the summary). If you’ve read it already, I’d love to know what you think!

Swim That RockTitle & Author: Swim That Rock by John Rocco & Jay Primiano

Release Date: April 8th, 2014

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

 A young working-class teen fights to save his family’s diner after his father is lost in a fishing-boat accident. 

When his dad goes missing in a fishing-boat accident, fourteen-year-old Jake refuses to think he may have lost his father forever. But suddenly, nothing seems certain in Jake’s future, and now his family’s diner may be repossessed by loan sharks. In Narragansett Bay, scrabbling out a living as a quahogger isn’t easy, but with the help of some local clammers, Jake is determined to work hard and earn enough money to ensure his family’s security and save the diner in time. Told with cinematic suspense and a true compassion for the characters, Swim That Rock is a fast-paced coming-of-age story that beautifully and evocatively captures the essence of coastal Rhode Island life, the struggles of blue-collar family dynamics, and the dreams of one boy to come into his own.

Review: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Rapture PracticeTitle: Rapture Practice

Author: Aaron Hartzler

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: April 9th, 2013

Interest: Memoir / LGBT

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Aaron Hartzler grew up gay in a home where he was taught that at any moment Jesus might come down in the twinkling of an eye, and scoop his whole family up to Heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by the idea that each day might be his last one on planet Earth. He couldn’t wait to blastoff and join Jesus in the sky!

But as he turns sixteen, Aaron finds himself more and more attached to his life on Earth, and curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn’t want the Rapture to happen, just yet; not before he sees his first movie, stars in the school play, or has his first kiss. Before long, Aaron makes the plunge from conflicted do-gooder to full-fledged teen rebel.

Whether he’s sneaking out, making out, or at the piano playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can’t be found in the Bible. He discovers the best friends aren’t always the ones your mom and dad approve of, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.

In this funny and heartfelt coming of age memoir, debut author Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey to find the person he is without losing the family who loves him. It’s a story about losing your faith, finding your place, and learning your very own truth–which is always stranger than fiction.

If more memoirs were written like Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler, I would read more memoirs. His debut novel is humorous, heartfelt, and honest.

Something I like best about Aaron’s story is that it exposed me to a world I’m not very familiar with. I did have a friend in elementary school who was a very strict Baptist, but even her lifestyle wasn’t as extreme as Aaron’s. I grew up in a religious home, so I understand and appreciate the importance of it, but reading about Aaron’s family and their beliefs was eye-opening and also frustrating. I can’t imagine getting into an argument with my dad about whether or not I wore socks to church. My parents were strict about the music I listened to, mostly when I was younger, but I was never made to feel guilty or ashamed about it. Aaron Hartzler does a wonderful job helping the reader understand where his parents are coming from, but he also does a fantastic job making the reader feel for him. I can’t tell you how many times his parents made me angry while reading this memoir. I will admit, however, that I sometimes felt bad for being angry at them since I know they felt they were doing what’s right.

I hope some of my students will read Rapture Practice. First, it will most likely be an eye-opening experience for them just as it was for me. Second, I want them to read more memoirs and this is a great book to get them started and help them understand what a memoir is. Third, Aaron Hartzler’s story will probably resonate with many of them. Even if they aren’t living in a strict religious household, I’m confident many of them are questioning religion, rebelling against their parents, figuring out where they  fit in the world, etc. They’ll likely find a piece of themselves in this book.

I do, however, wish Rapture Practice included more about Aaron realizing that he’s gay. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to read his memoir. Unfortunately, this part of his life is brought up, but it’s not as fleshed out as I wanted. I’m assuming his real revelation happened after this book ends, but I’m not entirely sure about that. I’d love it if he chose to write a second memoir which goes into more detail about his self-discovery and how that affected his life and family. I’d read another one of Aaron Hartzler’s books regardless of what it’s about.

I know our reading lists are long, but I recommend taking the time to read Rapture Practice. It’s easy and enjoyable to read; it’s written very well. Aaron Hartzler is an author I’ll be looking out for in the future.

Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality BoyTitle: Reality Boy

Author: A.S. King

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: October 22nd, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemp / Guy appeal

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.

A.S. King sold me on Reality Boy when she read the prologue during an author event at one of my local indies. It was engaging and something I knew I could read to my students to sell them as well. But honestly, I don’t need A.S. King to sell me on any of her books because I’ll read anything she writes. Her books are awesome.

Reality Boy is a book that will resonate with a variety of my students. I know I can hand it to my students who are dealing with anger issues. They’ll relate with Gerald and appreciate his struggles. Hopefully they’ll find that they’re not alone and can change for the better. Hopefully they’ll seek help if they haven’t already. I know I can hand it to my students who have a tough life at home. On the outside it probably looks like Gerald’s life is a good one. Appearances can be deceiving, and while not all of my students come from deceivingly happy homes, many of them deal with tough home lives. Again, Gerald will let them know that they’re not alone. He’ll give them hope. I know I can hand Reality Boy to my students who simply want to read a great story. Gerald will provide them with that.

Back to the appearances can be deceiving point. I’ve read some criticisms that Gerald’s stint on reality TV wasn’t that big of a deal since it aired when he was so young and that he was only on a couple episodes. Those are valid points, but I think the reality TV focus goes a little deeper than that. Gerald’s experience with reality TV drives the point home that appearances can be deceiving. The bigger point to those episodes is what viewers, and even his parents, don’t see. No one sees how messed up his family is. Yes, it’s bad that Gerald was going to the bathroom wherever he wanted to, but what was happening with his sister was even worse. His parents, especially his mother, are blind to what’s really happening in their own home.  There are a number of reasons for this and sadly it’s affected Gerald’s state of well-being and even his education. In my opinion, A.S. King is asking her readers to pay more attention and to be empathetic. I could be wrong, but that’s what I took away from reading Reality Boy.

This is yet another excellent book written by an excellent author. I hope you’ll read it and share it with others.

Author Guest Post: Lois Metzger, A Trick of the Light

I recently read A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger (review coming soon) and enjoyed both the story and the point of view from which it’s written.  Lois Metzger has written an important book, so I’m happy to feature her guest post today on the blog.

A Trick of the Light

Anorexia is a Liar
By Lois Metzger
Author of A Trick of the Light

My new book, a young-adult novel about a 15-year-old boy who falls victim to an eating disorder (“A Trick of the Light,” Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins) took me almost ten years to write. It’s not just that I’m a slow writer (though that’s part of it). It’s because I was researching anorexia, which took me down so many twisty paths I needed a long time to understand it.

Basically, as I can now see, there’s what anorexia pretends to be, and what it actually is. Anorexia convinces you that your world will be a better place if you are thin or fit. Anorexia promises you:

You’ll look great and feel great!

But, and this is the crux of the disease, anorexia is a liar.

Many young people and adolescents (though there have been children as young as seven with the disease) fall into anorexia because they are unhappy with their appearance. (Or they’re unhappy with something else, but the focus becomes fixed on the body.) They may begin by restricting certain foods to get rid of a few extra pounds, or exercising to get rid of a flabby stomach.

At first, there may be a few compliments: “You lost weight! You look terrific!” or, as in the case of Mike Welles, the main character in my book, who hasn’t had much experience with girls, a girl says to him, admiringly: “You been working out? It shows.”

This is all the encouragement anorexia needs. It pushes you to keep going, eat less, work out more. If goals are met, new goals must appear and be met (with no end in sight). Generally, in the case of girls and women, they want to see the numbers on a scale go down. For boys and men, it’s more about getting rock-hard abs or a six-pack. Mike, in my book, begins doing sit-ups and push-ups and running laps around a local park. It doesn’t matter if he can barely breathe or gets cramps that feel like a knife in his chest. He keeps going.

So it’s all about looking good or feeling fit, but after a while, these girls, women, men and boys don’t look so good anymore.

They may lose hair or eyelashes. Cuts and bruises don’t heal. They may have a soft coat of fuzz on their faces, backs and chests (because of a lack of food, the body can no longer produce heat, and this hair is the body’s attempt to get warm). Due to a lack of calcium, they may develop osteoporosis; they can’t stand up straight and their bones can break from a simple fall. Too little potassium may result in weakened heart muscles, which can lead to a heart attack.

And the intent — to look great — has actually been reversed. They look wasted, emaciated, skeletal.

In the first stages, they feel good. The compliments, the added energy. Even starvation can give you a bit of a high, and exercise can release endorphins. Mike’s senses are heightened; things look brighter and more vivid. He feels like he’s waking up to the world: “He sees his boring old neighborhood in a whole new way. The slanting light makes everything pop as if it exists in more than three dimensions, a kind of super diorama — front lawn, sidewalk, street, bus, trees, sky, universe, beyond-the-universe.”

But after this initial euphoria, they don’t feel so good.

Besides the dizziness and weakness that come with starvation, they can’t sleep because their bodies are actually de-volving to a kind of caveman existence. As a therapist tells Mike in the book, “A Cro-Magnon man didn’t sleep much — he was always thinking about getting the next meal. His senses had to be at full alert, so he could smell food that was ripe, see a small animal trying to hide in the bushes.”

Body temperature plummets. Getting heat to the heart, lungs and kidneys takes priority over the hands and feet.

So anorexics are cold all the time, and hungry all the time, and can’t sleep (even while protesting they are not freezing, not starving, not exhausted). Here, again, the intent — to feel great — has been lost.

But instead of fighting the disease, they still believe the lie. They are committed to it, or, more accurately, addicted. They deny the reality within them.

My book started out as the story of a boy struggling with an eating disorder. I didn’t really know what that meant, and it took me years to figure out that it’s the story of the struggle to see the lie for what it is.

© 2013 Lois Metzger, author of A Trick of the Light

Author Bio
Lois Metzger,
 author of A Trick of the Light, was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of three previous novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and Harper’s Bazaar. She lives in Greenwich Village with her husband and son.

For more information please visit http://www.loismetzger.com, and follow the author on Facebook

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

Review: Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

Somebody Up There Hates YouTitle: Somebody Up There Hates You

Author: Hollis Seamon

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Release Date: September 3rd, 2013

Interest: Debut author / Contemp

Source: NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads):

Chemo, radiation, a zillion surgeries, watching my mom age twenty years in twenty months: if that’s part of the Big Dude’s plan, then it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Somebody Up There Hates You.

SUTHY has landed me here in this hospice, where we—that’s me and Sylvie—are the only people under 30 in the whole place, sweartogod. But I’m not dead yet. I still need to keep things interesting. Sylvie, too. I mean, we’re kids, hospice-hostages or not. We freak out visitors; I get my uncle to sneak me out for one insane Halloween night. Stuff like that. And Sylvie wants to make things even more interesting. That girl’s got big plans.

Only Sylvie’s father is so nuclear-blasted by what’s happened to his little girl, he glows orange, I swear. That’s one scary man, and he’s not real fond of me. So we got a major family feud going on, right here in hospice. DO NOT CROSS line running down the middle of the hall, me on one side, her on the other. It’s crazy.

In the middle of all of this, really, there’s just me and Sylvie, a guy and a girl. And we want to live, in our way, by our own rules, in whatever time we’ve got. We will pack in some living before we go, trust me.

I was hesitant to read Somebody Up There Hates You because its main character, Richard, has terminal cancer.  I don’t do well with “cancer books.”  Hollis Seamon’s debut, however, was worth stepping out of my comfort zone.

This may not be the case for everyone, but Somebody Up There Hate You didn’t make me overly emotional while reading.  Sure, a couple scenes made me teary, but I never actually cried.  And I teared up over the most unexpected scenes.  For instance, there’s a scene that involves a nurse getting Richard a can of Coke, and Richard realizes that the nurse bought it for him.  I couldn’t believe it made me teary, but it did.  I actually think I laughed more than I teared up.

Speaking of that nurse, who’s name is Edward, I love his character.  He and Richard have a strong relationship even though it’s a nurse/patient relationship.  It’s obvious that both characters care for each other.  I’m sure if I were in Edward’s position I would grow attached to Richard as well.  What I like most about Edward is that he really takes on the role of responsible adult, but he also knows when to bend a little and help Richard when he needs it.

Something about Somebody Up There Hates You that I liked but also think needs a little work is the addition of characters throughout the story.  Edward is a constant character, so I felt like I knew him pretty well by the end, or as well as I could get to know a secondary character. We meet a few different secondary characters that stick around for a couple chapters, but then they’re gone and we don’t “see” them again. I enjoyed the chapters with Richard’s uncle, but once those are done he doesn’t return.  There are reasons why he doesn’t return, but it still felt like there were loose ends to tie up.  He served the story to add some excitement to Richard’s life and that was about it.  Most of the secondary characters added to the story mostly seem like they were included to make things conveniently work out for Richard and/or add some excitement to his life and to the story.  I enjoyed it, but I would have appreciated it more if more was offered.

Another piece that left me feeling conflicted is all the drama towards the end of the book.  I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but a lot of it felt over the top.  Emotions run high in the hospital, especially in hospice, but the scenes become a little dramatic.  I’m sorry that I’m not explaining this well.  I was having a hard time figuring out how I was going to put it into words when I was reading it and now that I’m done, I’m still having a hard time.  Again, I still enjoyed these parts, but I shook my head a little while reading them.

I don’t know if I’d recommend this to middle school students.  Richard is a teenage boy and therefore thinks about sex pretty often.  There are even a few sexual scenes that might be questionable for middle school students.  I have no issues with my high school students reading this, but if you’re working with middle school students I recommend reading this first.  I do want to add, however, that the scenes are not grotesque. One of the scenes towards the end is written quite well, actually.  I’m confident that plenty of my guys in class will connect with Richard and enjoy Somebody Up There Hates You.

Hollis Seamon has written an entertaining debut.  I think fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity will enjoy Somebody Up There Hates You.  Richard has a unique way of looking at life and a solid voice.  I’m looking forward to reading more of Seamon’s books.

Student Book Review: The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

The Berlin Boxing ClubTitle: The Berlin Boxing Club

Author: Robert Sharenow

Publisher: HarperTeen

Student Reviewer: Ayla

Summary (From Goodreads):

Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew; after all, he’s never even been in a synagogue. But the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin don’t care that Karl’s family doesn’t practice religion. Demoralized by their attacks against a heritage he doesn’t accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth.

Then Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German hero, makes a deal with Karl’s father to give Karl boxing lessons. A skilled cartoonist, Karl never had an interest in boxing, but now it seems like the perfect chance to reinvent himself.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: family protector. And as Max’s fame forces him to associate with Nazi elites, Karl begins to wonder where his hero’s sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his boxing dreams with his obligation to keep his family out of harm’s way?

Student Review:

In The Berlin Boxing Club, Karl, a young Jewish boy, becomes a boxer to defend himself from the “Hitler Youth” and figures out he wants to become even more than that. As he is trying to strive for perfection in techniques, he finds himself striving to protect his entire family from the SS and getting them out of Nazi Germany.

The Berlin Boxing Club was a perfect story to show how Jewish people were treated and how they personally felt during World War II. The novel was very sad and had an effect on me because Robert Sharenow made the feelings of the characters very lifelike and I felt the emotions of the characters. THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB would be perfect for almost anyone. Especially those who are learning about the Holocaust or learning about the push against Jews in Germany.

The characters in this book were perfectly put together. The most realistic character to me would be Karl’s mother. She goes into a depressed mood any time something bad happens in her life. The book starts right when the Jews are starting to be excluded from mostly everything and she will just lock herself in the bathroom and sit in the bath for hours. I think she would be a real character because she knew there was nothing she could do. The government and the police would have it however they wanted it and the rules were just not in her favor.

Also, I liked the character of Karl’s little sister. She was getting the worst out of all of the characters because she apparently looked like a Jew so there was no way she could actually hide the fact that she was one. She gets tortured in the book and it was realistic because she was tired of being the kind of human she was and she took it out on those who didn’t look like she did and they looked normal. Karl didn’t look Jewish so he got away with it longer than the rest of his family. I could almost relate to her because sometimes I wish I didn’t look they way I do, but don’t we all think that sometimes?

I loved all f the fighting scenes in the book. Karl becomes a great fighter and Robert Sharenow wrote The Berlin Boxing Club so all of the boxing scenes play like a movie in your head. All of the scenes were as if they came out of a Rocky movie. Every detail was thought of and every moment was captured.

This book was shocking and inspiring by the way it was written and the show of determination in the eyes of a young boy going through the worst part of his life.

Book Trailer Thursday (110)–Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

It’s getting late (I’m writing this on Wednesday evening), and I REALLY want to get in bed and read, so I’m going to make this a quick and to the point post :)  Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff (releases June 11th) sounds really cool so I’m excited to see a book trailer for it.  I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I haven’t read any of his books yet!  Hopefully Boy Nobody is a good one to start with.

Boy NobodySummary (From Goodreads):

They needed the perfect assassin.

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die-of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter is unlike anyone he has encountered before; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching. Because somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and parents; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.

In this action-packed series debut, author Allen Zadoff pens a page-turning thriller that is as thought-provoking as it is gripping, introducing an utterly original and unforgettable antihero.

Review: Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman

Kindness for WeaknessTitle: Kindness for Weakness

Author: Shawn Goodman

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 14th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemporary / Guy Appeal

Source: ARC received from the author

Summary (From the publisher):

“In the spirit of [Walter Dean Myers’s] Monster meeting  The Catcher in the Rye, Goodman’s masterful story will remain with the reader long after the last page, echoing the raw truth that perhaps a real man is one who is both brave and scared.” —Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray

In an environment where kindness equals weakness, how do those who care survive?

Shawn Goodman will capture your heart with this gritty, honest, and moving story about a boy struggling to learn about friendship, brotherhood, and manhood in a society where violence is the answer to every problem.

Shawn Goodman’s sophomore release, Kindness for Weakness, made me feel an array of emotions: hope, grief, dismay, and more.  I absolutely loved Something Like Hope, so when I featured Kindness for Weakness on Waiting on Wednesday, Shawn offered to send me an ARC of it.  I had requested a copy via NetGalley, and hadn’t received a response yet, so I accepted his kind offer.  Regardless of how I received a copy of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to offer it to my students.

What I like most about Shawn Goodman’s writing is how honest and real it is.  He works with troubled kids as a school psychologist and it’s evident in his writing.  He really understands what teens are going through and how much they suffer.  He understands what a bad home life can do to a teen.  He knows how difficult it is for troubled teens to trust themselves and others.  The characters in Something Like Hope and Kindness for Weakness display this deep understanding.

James is a character I cheered for while reading.  He’s really trying to find his way and learn what it means to be a man, to stand up himself, and how to trust himself and those around him.  His mom is basically absent, her boyfriend Ron is abusive, and his brother isn’t the best role model.  Thankfully James has an encouraging English teacher, but he’s really the only supportive person James has at the beginning of the story.  He has so much potential if only he believed himself and had support outside of school.  James’s character made me think of students I have at school.  He’s a good kid that’s stuck in a bad situation and ultimately makes poor choices because of this.  The reader, fortunately, can see his potential and goodness even if James can’t.

I had a difficult time reading this because of the guards at Morton (the juvenile detention facility).  They are brutal and horrible.  There are some shining characters there like Samson and Mr. Eboue who really make a difference for James and some of the other characters.  I hope the brutality at Morton is an exception and not the rule, but part of me thinks that’s not the case.  I have had students like James and like the other characters in Kindness for Weakness.  They may make bad decisions, but I know they need guidance and someone to believe in them.  I don’t work in a detention facility so I can’t understand what that’s like, but the teacher in me hopes they can and are better than Morton.  The setting Shawn Goodman created in Kindness for Weakness really plays a pivotal role in the book.

I will admit that I had a difficult time keeping all of the characters straight and probably could have done without a couple of them.  Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The last few chapters had me racing to finish, but also cringing at the brutality.  The ending, however, shocked me.  I’m not sure what to think, and even though I was upset, the ending works.  I’m even tempted to read The Sea Wolf by Jack London which plays a strong part in James’s development and the development of the story.

Kindness for Weakness definitely has a place in classrooms and libraries.  I highly recommend reading it and handing it to a teen reader.

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