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?

Waiting on Wednesday–The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

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.

newwow2

The Chaos of Stars, you had me at Egyptian gods.  The addition of ominous dreams sealed the deal.  I definitely want to read this new book by Kiersten White.

The Chaos of StarsTitle & Author: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Release Date: September 10th, 2013

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

Review: Mind Games by Kiersten White

Mind GamesTitle: Mind Games

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: February 19th, 2013

Interest: Author / New series

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

I’m kind of debating between 2.5 and 3 for Kiersten White’s newest novel. I’m leaning towards 3 since it’s a quick read and kept me reading, but the only real reason I kept reading is because I never knew what was going on.

In all honesty, Mind Games has connections and an interesting plot, but it’s not executed cleanly enough. I appreciate the flashbacks between Annie and Fia and how they round out the story, but the actual present day pieces of the story drag and really don’t reveal much. I learned that Fia is angry and broken and feels responsible for her sister. Annie is oblivious and wants what’s best for her sister. And round and round it goes. There’s too much repetition of how the girls feel and not enough plot development moving the story forward.  It really frustrated me.

I like the two points of view, but the voices aren’t developed enough. I knew which character was which because of the chapter headings and when Fia was tap, tap, tapping. Otherwise I had no idea based on voice alone.

Positives.  I think my readers will probably enjoy this because of the fast pace and the mystery. For me, on the other hand, I can see what Kiersten White is trying to do, but she fell short. I hope I can still sell this to my students even though I’m disappointed, because I realize that this book will work for lots of readers.

3rd Hour Book Love

I’ve posted the results from both of my Honors Sophomore Seminar classes and today I’m posting the results from my English 10 class.  Almost all of the students I have in this class I had last year when they were freshman, so it’s fun having them again and seeing their list of favorite books read in 2012.  Quite a bit of discussion, surprise, and debate was created when I shared the list.  Some of them were very passionate about their favorites and the recognition they feel those books deserve.

As a reminder, the titles my students chose are titles they read in 2012 and feel are award-worthy.

1st Hour Book Love / 2nd Hour Book Love

Top Choice: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
**I’m slightly surprised to see this as a top choice again.**

The Hunger Games

What students said about The Hunger Games trilogy (Goodreads):

“It’s very gripping.” -Nathan
“I like that it’s different.” -Ciara
“I loved all the action.” -Todd

Honorary Titles:

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)
**I have more guys than girls in class, many of which play football, so I’m not surprised to see this title on the list :)**

Stupid Fast

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer (Goodreads)
**I’m surprised this is on the list because my copies of the series have been collecting dust and taking up space.**

Breaking Dawn

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)

“It’s an overall great story because you can actually feel the emotions.” –I wish I remembered which student said this…

The Pull of Gravity paperback

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles (Goodreads)
**Not as many students in class knew about Jumping Off Swings, so a few students took time to book talk it which sparked some new interest.**

Jumping Off Swings

Nightshade trilogy by Andrea Cremer (Goodreads)
**So many of the girls in this class are sharing and loving this series.**

Nightshade

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Goodreads)
**The guys in my classes request this book the most, especially my sports players. They love Carl Deuker’s books.”

“I like it because of all the expectations the main character faces and how he reacts to them.” -Jake

Gym Candy

The Duff by Kody Keplinger (Goodreads)
**There was some shock that Shut Out didn’t make the list.**

The DUFF

Paranormalcy trilogy by Kiersten White (Goodreads)

paranormalcy1

Boy21 by Matthew Quick (Goodreads)
*At first this wasn’t on the list, but I found out that’s because they didn’t think they could include a read aloud book. I was told to add it to the list because it’s a great book.**

Boy21

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