School Year Reading Reflection

I know many book bloggers reflect on their reading life at the end of the calendar year, which I do as well, but as a teacher I like to also reflect on my school year reading. It helps me plan my summer reading so I can work on filling in any gaps I may have had over the school year. I don’t like to plan my summer reading too much, however, because it’s my time to truly dig into my reading pile and relax. Plus, I don’t know what my new group of students will need in terms of reading, but it’s still good for me to always be mindful about my reading choices.

During the 2015-2016 school year I read 56 books which is an increase from last year. I’m sure most of that has to do with Jack being older and I made a concerted effort to listen to more audiobooks this school year. For this post, I’m going to break down my reading life by different categories and some books will be listed more than once depending on the category. It’s important to remember that one book can appeal to a variety of readers for different reasons.

School Year Reading

Historical Fiction/Historical Novels (10 novels read): This school year I tried genre binges which I can tell REALLY helped me diversify my reading since I tend to read mostly contemporary realistic fiction. Through this process I discovered a real interest in reading historical novels.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • Girl at War by Sara Novic
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowry
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Fantasy (Roughly 8 novels read): Another binge reading genre for me was fantasy novels mostly because of my fantasy panel at ALAN this past year. I always enjoy reading fantasy, but I’ve noticed that a fantasy novel isn’t always the first one I grab from my TBR pile when choosing a book. I really need to work on that because I sometimes feel like I’m always recommending the same fantasy novels to my students.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (I reread this as a read aloud/paranormal fantasy)
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins (one of my classes wanted me to read the sequel as a read aloud)
  • Jackaby by William Ritter (this has paranormal elements)
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (I go back and forth about whether to qualify this as fantasy)
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk (maybe paranormal because of the whole Cupid thing)

Mystery/Thriller (8 novels read): My students this year, maybe more than previous years, love and often requested more mystery titles. This category is tough for me to break down because so many books can be viewed as mystery depending on the plot and the reader.

  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Science Fiction (3 novels read): I simply don’t read enough of this genre. I would love some current (2015-2016) sci-fi recommendations!

  • Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  • Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Racially Diverse Characters (10 novels read): I’m really trying to expand my knowledge of books with racially diverse characters because even though the district where I teach is not racially diverse, I don’t want a “white-washed” classroom library. And I know my students don’t want that either; they want broader perspectives than their own. This is still an area of improvement, however.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt (this also works as a loose Romeo & Juliet retelling)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  • The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features racially diverse characters in some of the short stories)

LGBTQ Characters (5 novels read): I’ve been working on this area of my reading life for years now. Within the last few years I can tell that it’s making a difference because more and more of my students are openly requesting more of these titles and sharing them once they’ve read them. Also, for the purpose of this post I’m only listing books that feature an LGBTQ main character.

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features multiple LGBTQ short stories)

More Than One Point of View (13 novels read): My students love books written with more than one point of view.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (occasionally see the serial killer’s POV)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Graphic Novels/Illustrated Novels (3 novels read): I really enjoy reading graphic novels, but I know I don’t read enough of them during the school year.

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Romance (22 novels read): Not all of these are strictly romance, but many of them feature romantic storylines.

  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (this one isn’t as romantic as her others, but there’s still an element there)
  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (I like that this one applies more as dealing with mental illness)
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
  • Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel

Some other areas of reading/genres/categories I want to read more of are memoirs, books dealing with mental illness, books featuring characters with disabilities, and more books dealing with sexual violence/rape culture. I read a couple books this school year with characters in poverty and I’d like to read more like those. I also noticed that I only read one novel in verse this school year, which is really unusual for me.

Review: Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry

Look Both WaysTitle: Look Both Ways

Author: Alison Cherry

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 14th, 2016

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Interest: Contemp

Summary (From Goodreads):

The story of a girl hoping she’s found a place to belong . . . only to learn that neither talent nor love is as straightforward as she thinks.

A summer away from the city is the beginning of everything for Brooklyn Shepard. Her theater apprenticeship at Allerdale is a chance to prove that she can carve out a niche all her own, surrounded by people who don’t know anything about her or her family of superstar performers.

Brooklyn immediately hits it off with her roommate, Zoe, and soon their friendship turns into something more. Brooklyn wants to see herself as someone who’s open to everything and everyone, but as her feelings for Zoe intensify, so do her doubts. She’s happier than she’s ever been—but is it because of her new relationship? Or is it because she’s finally discovering who she wants to be?

I’ve been in kind of a reading funk lately because I’m so focused on my 21 Day Fix journey. Most of my non-work related focus and energy has been on eating well and working out. Over spring break I tried reading a few different books, but none of them were holding my attention the way I needed them to. On a whim I picked up my copy of Look Both Ways.

I can’t say exactly what it was that did it, but I was hooked instantly. It was fun being thrown into Brooklyn’s theater-driven family right away. It really set the stage (see what I did there? ;)) for the novel. Even though Brooklyn’s family appears very open and accepting, it was immediately apparent how much pressure she’s under to measure up to them. These expectations haunt and affect Brooklyn throughout the novel.

Reading Alison Cherry’s novel made me realize that I haven’t read many books about drama kids. I was never involved in theater, so it’s fun reading from this perspective. The school where I teach has an excellent drama program, so I know my theater kids will eat this up.

Look Both Ways is a well-balanced novel. So much ties in with Brooklyn accepting and discovering who she is. This part of the story came through with her relationship with Zoe and her understanding of herself as a person and thespian. I was afraid her blossoming relationship with Zoe would overshadow the rest of the novel, but it never did. Almost every scene with Zoe led back to Brooklyn working through her own worries about being inadequate and what her family and friends will think of her true passions. Teens, regardless of their participation in drama, will enjoy Cherry’s novel because it deals with real teen concerns and trials. Actually, much of it reminded me of Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. I can see a lot of teen girls appreciating Brooklyn’s gray area when it comes to her friendship/relationship with Zoe and how she often tries to visualize what she wants to happen.

I blew through Look Both Ways. It kept me up late as I told myself “Just one more chapter.” I can’t remember the last time a book did that to me! I’ve never read any of Alison Cherry’s books before; after reading her upcoming release I’m going to remedy that.

Here’s a list of some other positives about the book:

  • The summer setting
  • A boarding school feel since it takes place at a summer camp
  • Fun characters
  • A fresh story

Blog Tour Book Review–Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

Summer Days and Summer NightsTitle: Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories

Editor/Author: Stephanie Perkins

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release Date: May 17th, 2016

Interest: Short Stories / Authors

Source: e-ARC provided by the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

To start, I’m not well-versed in short story anthologies, but after reading Summer Days and Summer Nights, I am eager to read more! Not only are the majority of the stories in this anthology absolutely delightful, it was so liberating being able to bounce from story to story and still feel that sense of accomplishment when I was done even though I skimmed over a couple stories that weren’t really for me.

I love that Stephanie Perkins included a range of authors who write different genres and that some of the stories include not only racially diverse characters, but LGBT characters, too. Because of this range, I know I can hand this book to a large variety of readers in my classroom.

And speaking of LGBT characters, Nina LaCour’s addition to the anthology was one of my favorites. She drew me in right away with Flora in “The End of the Love.” It impressed me that within such a small span of time I knew so much about Flora’s troubled life at home and also saw a relationship blossom. I would love it if Nina LaCour turns Flora’s story into a novel.

When it comes to wanting more, I need more of “In Ninety Minutes, Turn North” by Stephanie Perkins. I already know that I’m feeling lost without a new Perkins novel to read, but that feeling intensified while I read Marigold’s and North’s story. I’m not sure how many pages this story is since I read it on my Kindle, but seriously, I fell in love with both of them and it couldn’t have been more than thirty pages long! This is another one that I hope to see as a complete novel one day. They’re both so earnest and real and sweet.

Overall, I highly recommend reading Summer Days and Summer Nights, especially if you want to expose yourself to some new authors. I haven’t read anything by Tim Federle (yet) and thoroughly enjoyed his short story. I also discovered that I really like Brandy Colbert’s writing as well. This is not only a good addition for a class library, it’s an excellent anthology to read while enjoying the sun this summer.

Book Trailer Thursday (169)–The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner

Book Trailer Thursday

 

I was sent this information about The Diary of a Teenage Girl being made into a movie, along with the link to its movie trailer. It sounds like an interesting movie and book, so I figured I’d go ahead and share it with all of you.

The movie stars Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni and Kristen Wiig. It releases on August 7th, 2015.

Summary (From Goodreads):

So begins the wrenching diary of Minnie Goetze, a fifteen-year-old girl longing for love and acceptance and struggling with her own precocious sexuality. Minnie hates school and she wants to be an artist, or maybe a speleologist, or a bartender. She sleeps with her mother’s boyfriend, and yet is too shy to talk with boys at school. She forges her way through adolescence, unsupervised and unguided, defenseless, and yet fearless.

The story unfolds in the libertine atmosphere of the 1970s San Francisco, but the significance of Minnie’s effort to understand herself and her world is universal. This is the story of an adolescent troubled by the discontinuity between what she thinks and feels and what she observes in those around her. The Diary of a Teenage Girl offers a searing comment on adult society as seen though the eyes of a young woman on the verge of joining it.

In this unusual novel, artist and writer Phoebe Gloeckner presents a pivotal year in a girl’s life, recounted in diary pages and illustrations, with full narrative sequences in comics form.

Waiting on Wednesday–George by Alex Gino

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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 excited about today’s featured upcoming release for a couple reasons. First, I don’t know of too many middle grade novels that have an LGBT protagonist. Second, a few of my friends have already read George by Alex Gino and are raving about it. I’m suprised more of my friends haven’t added this to their Goodreads TBR lists, so hopefully now it will be on the radar of more readers.

GeorgeTitle & Author: George by Alex Gino

Release Date: August 25th, 2015

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.  

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

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: Over You by Amy Reed

Over You coverTitle: Over You

Author: Amy Reed

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: June 4th, 2013

Interest: Contemp / Mythology / Author

Source: ARC gifted from a friend

Summary (From Goodreads):

Max would follow Sadie anywhere, so when Sadie decides to ditch her problems and escape to Nebraska for the summer, it’s only natural for Max to go along. She is Sadie’s confidante, her protector, and her best friend. This summer will be all about them. This summer will be perfect.

But that’s before they meet Dylan.

Dylan is dangerous and intoxicating, and he awakens something in Max that she never knew existed. No matter how much she wants to, she can’t back away.

But Sadie has her own intensity, and has never allowed Max to become close with anyone else. And Max doesn’t know who she is without Sadie.

There are some problems you just can’t escape.

This is one of those books that I’m afraid I won’t do justice in my review.  Over You by Amy Reed is a very smart book that deserves more attention.  It’s the first book of Amy Reed’s that I’ve read, even though I have two of her other books in my class library, but I’ll definitely be reading all of her books now.

I’m not always sure when to describe a book as being literary, but I feel comfortable describing Over You this way.  Amy Reed juxtaposes multiple mythological allusions with different parts in the story to compliment what’s happening with Max and Sadie or how her characters are feeling.  This mythological tie-in is what originally caught my attention about this book.  One of the project options for my YA Lit II class requires students to read YA mythology books and study the myths included.  I loved the idea of sharing a contemporary realistic title with them that’s suitable for that project.  Amy Reed’s inclusion of mythology really works for this story and adds rich layers to the characters.  Besides the mythology, there’s also beautiful uses of imagery, similes, metaphors, etc.  The perspective of the story makes it seem like Max is writing to Sadie or speaking to Sadie, by saying things like “we” and “you”, which took me a bit to get accustomed to, but I ended up enjoying it.

There are plenty of conflicts in this book, but deep down I was interested in Max’s character development.  Obviously she isn’t going to develop as a character without the conflicts, but more than anything I liked being in her head.  She’s defined herself through Sadie, so when she’s finally released from Sadie’s influence, Max gets to find out who she really is and what she likes/dislikes.  This is incredibly hard for her to do.  She feels guilty, but she’s also excited.  Her highs and lows kept me reading because they’re real.  I never felt like they were over-exaggerated or unbelievable.  She very much reminds me of Grace in Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard.  If you haven’t read that yet, I really hope you move it up in your TBR pile.  Over You is an excellent read alike to Like Mandarin.  The characters and their conflicts are similar and will resonate with readers.

I had a difficult time liking Sadie.  She’s lost just like Max, and much of it has to do with her parents (her mother in particular), but her character irritated me.  But honestly, I think we’re supposed to feel that way.  Max often feels that way.  Sadie is needy, immature, and manipulative.  But she’s also like family to Max.  I can see why Max cares so deeply for her.  I’m not exactly sure if Max’s feelings for Sadie are romantic because there are two scenes in particular that left me thinking that, but it really isn’t the point–or at least I don’t think it is.  Max is bi-sexual, but it isn’t really a core issue in the story.  Whether Max loves Sadie in a romantic sense or not, it doesn’t matter because so much of this story is about Max and Sadie’s friendship in general.  It’s about Max finding herself without Sadie.

There’s more that I could probably say about Over You and Amy Reed’s writing, but I’m going to stop because I feel like I’m rambling or about to start.  I’m so happy I finally read one of Amy Reed’s books and can’t wait to read the rest of them.

Student Book Review: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

A large part of my Young Adult Literature II class requires my students to write book reviews.  They’ve been looking at multiple reviews, written by multiple bloggers to help find a style that suits them best.  Today’s student book review was written by one of my seniors, Sara.  I’ll try to post their reviews on a regular basis until the end of the school year.

October MourningTitle: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

Author: Lesléa Newman

Student Reviewer: Sara

Summary (From Goodreads):

WINNER OF A 2013 STONEWALL HONOR!

A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman is the best verse novel I have ever read.

This novel is based off of the, unfortunately, true story of a 21 year old, homosexual college student named Matthew Shepard. Matthew is out at the bar one night in October of 1998, in Wyoming. He is tricked by two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. They convince him that they are gay as well and take him out to their truck. After he is in their truck, they drive in to a desolate place and beat the tar out of him. They beat him within an inch of his life and then left him to die, hung on a fence by a clothes line.

When I picked up this novel I thought, “This is going to be a boring documentary about a murdered man.” Boy, oh boy, was I wrong! It was indeed, about a man who was murdered but it’s not even close to being boring. This novel was the most attention grabbing, emotion jerking, amazing verse novel I have ever read, by far my favorite. It is beautifully written and it will make you feel something deep in your heart for Matthew Shepard, and all of the other people who have been brutally murdered for being gay.

This book is written in many different points of view and at first it confused me and I didn’t quite like it, but after I read the first 5 or 6 pages, I began to understand and then went back and read it again, this time understanding fully and I fell in love with the way that it’s written. I absolutely love how well all of the words just flow together and how she manages to capture every single emotion and thought of every object, person, and animal that she uses.

October Mourning: A song for Matthew Shepard is a very quick read; I finished it within an hour. But even though it’s a quick read, this chilling story will stick with you forever. I don’t think I will ever forget the descriptive, amazing poems in this novel. I will never forget the emotions I felt while reading this book, and I will never forget Matthew Shepard. His story will stick with me through out all of my life. I could read this book over and over and over again.

My favorite excerpt from this novel is as follows:

“THE FENCE
(that night)

I held him all night long
He was heavy as a broken heart
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing

He was heavy as a broken heart
His own heart wont stop beating
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

We were out on the prairie alone
Their truck was the last thing he saw
I saw what was done to this child
I cradled him just like a mother

Their truck was the last thing he saw
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
I cradled him just like a mother
I held him all night long.”

Flash Reviews (21)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseTitle: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Flash Review:  I wish I would have written a full review of this when I finished reading it, but I really just wanted to sit back and enjoy how much I enjoyed it.  Is that weird?  I had never even heard of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe before it received multiple ALA awards this year.  I’m happy it received so many honors because this book deserves attention.  I have a feeling it will really only speak to specific readers, but it still deserves praise and a wide readership.  I’m going to recommend it to John Green fans, which I realize is a broad scope of readers, but I think those who enjoy the verisimilitude in Green’s books will enjoy it in this book.  The conversations between Dante and Aristotle are simple and complex and beautiful.  Their story is beautiful.  I couldn’t put it down, and then trying to immediately put into words all of my feelings when I was done was nearly impossible.  I read it on my Kindle and when I finished I knew I had to find a way to get a copy with all of the medals in my classroom.  So far I’ve only been able to find a copy with the Printz honor medal.  I know I haven’t really “reviewed” this, but I still hope you read it.  It’s going to be a favorite of 2013.

Blood Red RoadTitle: Blood Red Road

Author: Moira Young

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Source: Borrowed from the library

Summary (From Goodreads): Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

Flash Review:  There are only a few books I chose for my Young Adult Lit II class without reading them first, which I know isn’t best practice, but I chose them based on LOTS of discussion with trusted teachers and librarians.  I haven’t been disappointed in those choices, and Blood Red Road was one of them.  The first thing that caught me off guard while reading was the dialect.  It was harder for me to read than the dialect in The Knife of Never Letting Go.  And the lack of quotation marks around the dialogue made it even harder, but ultimately I loved it.  I’m still not sure why Moira Young chose to skip the quotation marks, but I think it will make for great discussion when we read it in class.  Saba is a pretty awesome heroine; her bravery and overall hardcore attitude often put Katniss to shame.  The summary’s description of Blood Red Road being an “epic love story” isn’t accurate, in my opinion.  There’s a nice love story, but I would never call it epic.  When I think of an epic love story I think of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor or something sweeping like that.  Overall, I would have liked to know Saba more than I did; I felt like I knew Jack and Emmi better than Saba.  This is a book that will appeal to many readers who enjoy action and adventure with a little bit of romance.

Just One DayTitle: Just One Day

Author: Gayle Forman

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

Flash Review: It seems like everyone absolutely loved Just One Day.  I gave it three stars on Goodreads, but that’s mostly because of a few scenes at the beginning and some with Dee (a character introduced later in the story) in the middle.  If it weren’t for those few things, I wouldn’t have finished this book.  Allyson is one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever read, which makes me feel like a horrible person for thinking that because she’s depressed.  I think it’s more the reasons why she acts the way she does for over half of the book that bothers me so much.  She knew Willem for one day, hence the title, and is completely hung up on him for months.  Really?  Get over it.  Maybe if I was sixteen or seventeen and reading this I would have felt differently.  The big reason behind her feeling so low is her mother, which is why I feel bad saying she’s so annoying.  I simply wouldn’t call Just One Day romantic.  It’s about soul-searching and discovering yourself.  It borders on New Adult since Allyson is away at college and breaking away from her parents.  If I had gone into reading this prepared for all of that, maybe I would have liked it more.  I wish Gayle Forman would just write from a guy’s point of view because I didn’t think If I Stay was so great either, but I LOVED Where She Went.  I’m hoping I feel the same way about Just One Year which is from Willem’s perspective.

As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

ALA Youth Media Awards–Adding to My TBR List

Some people get excited about the Oscars, I get excited about the ALA Youth Media Awards.  I was hoping to watch the awards with my students, but we had a snow day, so I enjoyed them at home in my pjs 🙂  Did you watch the awards as well?  Did you follow it on Twitter?  I had Twitter open as well as my Goodreads page.

To be completely honest, I’ve barely read any of the books that received awards and honors.  I’m proud of the few I did happen to read, especially The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate which won the Newberry Award!  I’m kind of happy that I haven’t read that many of the titles, however, because now I have so many books to look forward to reading.  I know many people were shocked, maybe even angry, that John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars didn’t even receive a Printz honor.  I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m a tiny bit glad it didn’t receive the award or an honor.  There, I said it.  I hope I don’t make any enemies over that statement.  I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, I did.  The reason I’m happy it didn’t make the cut is because it’s already received so much hype.  I love that the Printz committee has been choosing more obscure titles lately.  Those obscure titles are now going to find a wider audience of readers.  I’m excited for those authors and the readers who connect with those books.  I can’t wait to read the 2013 Printz titles and share them with my students.

If you weren’t following the awards, here’s a link to all of the winners.  The rest of today’s post is going to focus on some of the titles I’m really excited to read.  I’m even thinking about creating a Donors Choose project so I can add more of these titles to my classroom library.

Alex Award (I really want to read more adult titles this year):

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (Goodreads): In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (Goodreads):

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Randolph Caldecott Medal:

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Goodreads): From the creator of the #1 NEW YORK TIMES best-selling and award-winning I WANT MY HAT BACK comes a second wry tale.

When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . . . Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassen follows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale.

This is Not My Hat

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small (Goodreads): On a momentous visit to the aquarium, Elliot discovers his dream pet: a penguin. It’s just proper enough for a straight-laced boy like him. And when he asks his father if he may have one (please and thank you), his father says yes. Elliot should have realized that Dad probably thought he meant a stuffed penguin and not a real one . . . Clever illustrations and a wild surprise ending make this sly, silly tale of friendship and wish fulfillment a kid-pleaser from start to finish.

One Cool Friend

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown (Goodreads): The Twilight Zone comes to the carrot patch in this clever picture book parable about a rabbit who fears his favorite treats are out to get him. Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.

He eats them on the way to school.

He eats them going to Little League.

He eats them walking home.

Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they?

Celebrated artist Peter Brown’s stylish illustrations pair perfectly with Aaron Reynold’s text in this hilarious eBook with audio that shows it’s all fun and games…until you get too greedy.

Creepy Carrots!

Stonewall Book Award (This list helps satisfy my book gap challenge. I’m also very happy that Drama and October Mourning made the list!):

Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz (Goodreads): In the wake of the post-9/11 sniper shootings, fragile love finds a stronghold in this intense, romantic novel from the author of Break and Invincible Summer. It’s a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge and trying to make sense of these random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives.

Craig’s crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him…and if he’ll do it again…and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody.

Lio feels most alive when he’s with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable…and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

This intense, romantic novel from the author of Break and Invincible Summer is a poignant look at what it is to feel needed, connected, and alive.

Gone, Gone, Gone

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Goodreads): A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

William C. Morris Award (I’ve already featured other books on this list that I’d like to read):

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby (Goodreads):

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a
menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze!
But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among
the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister
watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave.
Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s
disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and
like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.

Wonder Show

Michael L. Printz Award:

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.

Code Name Verity US

The White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna (Goodreads): The White Bicycle is the third stand-alone title in the Wild Orchid series about a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. This installment chronicles Taylor Jane’s travels to the south of France where she spends a summer babysitting for the Phoenix family. Including flashbacks into Taylor’s earliest memories, along with immediate scenes in Lourmarin, a picturesque village in the Luberon Valley, The White Bicycle results in a journey for independence both personal and universal, told in Taylor’s honest first-person prose.

The White Bicycle

In Darkness by Nick Lake (Goodreads): In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two. In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital: thirsty, terrified and alone. ‘Shorty’ is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soleil: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost five years ago. And he is marked. Marked in a way that links him with Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Haitian rebel who two-hundred years ago led the slave revolt and faced down Napoleon to force the French out of Haiti. As he grows weaker, Shorty relives the journey that took him to the hospital, a bullet wound in his arm. In his visions and memories he hopes to find the strength to survive, and perhaps then Toussaint can find a way to be free …

In Darkness

There are plenty more books I’m looking forward to reading, but these titles are at the top of my list.  Which titles did you miss and look forward to reading?

 

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