Flash Reviews (20)

Personal EffectsTitle: Personal Effects

Author: E.M. Kokie

Source: Finished copy received at ALAN Workshop

Summary (From Goodreads):

After his older brother dies in Iraq, Matt makes a discovery that rocks his beliefs about strength, bravery, and honor in this page-turning debut.

Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, Matt feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps. T.J.’s gone, but Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on his brother’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. But as Matt searches for answers about T.J.’s death, he faces a shocking revelation about T.J.’s life that suggests he may not have known T.J. as well as he thought. What he learns challenges him to stand up to his father, honor his brother’s memory, and take charge of his own life. With compassion, humor, and a compelling narrative voice, E. M. Kokie explores grief, social mores, and self-discovery in a provocative first novel.

Flash Review:

Personal Effects is a strong debut, so strong that I’m looking forward to reading more of E.M. Kokie’s books.  Matt is a a well-written character with a believable male voice; Personal Effects will appeal to both my male and female students.  I loved watching his character grow and I enjoyed the supporting characters as well.  I do think there’s slightly too much focus on T.J. and the answers Matt discovers.  I appreciated this part of the story, but I wanted more from Matt at the end of the book and less of T.J.  T.J.’s story overshadows Matt’s towards the end.

Also, is it just me or is the “tough military dad” trope getting old?  I understand why Matt’s dad is written this way and how it’s necessary to the story, but overall I’m bored with it, especially with all of the military YA being released.  There has to be some kind military fathers out there, right?

Overall, Kokie has written a solid and enjoyable book that I know my students will love.

Ask the PassengersTitle: Ask the Passengers

Author: A.S. King

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything–and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Flash Review:

There’s a reason A.S. King is one of my favorite authors and Ask the Passengers is a prime example.  She really knows how to write true, honest characters that resonate with readers.  Astrid is a wonderful character who wants to send love to people, even to the passengers on the airplanes above.  She’s loyal to her friends and patient with her family even when they treat her poorly.  Readers will connect with Astrid because she’s so easy to like and understand.

What I really like about Ask the Passengers is the way Astrid looks at love.  She doesn’t want to be defined as a lesbian because 1. she doesn’t know if she really is or not, and 2. she wants to be able to love who she loves; she doesn’t think there needs to be a label.  In this case, Astrid is trying to figure out who she is while also trying to figure out when/if to tell her friends and family.  There’s pressure on both ends which really drives the story and develops both Astrid and the supporting characters.  I love it when more than just the main character shows growth; A.S. King wrote many of the supporting characters as more than static characters.

I absolutely loved this book and hope it gets more acclaim than it already has.  If you haven’t read any of A.S. King’s books, Ask the Passengers is a great place to start.


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

Reading Gaps

This month both Cindy Minnich at Charting By the Stars and Donalyn Miller at The Nerdy Book Club posted about reading gaps.  I’ve posted about my literary Achilles heel this year, which is similar to both of these posts.  Since posting about my own reading gaps, I’ve read quite a few fantasy novels and loved them.  I’m still sticking with my 2012 challenge to read more fantasy and science fiction, but I’ve decided to add to that challenge for 2013.

It’s my goal in 2013 to read more historical fiction and LGBT fiction.

Eleanor & ParkI can’t explain why I’m not more drawn to historical fiction, especially since I’m a history minor.  I love American history.  I love the 1920s.  I’ve even bought quite a few historical fiction YA novels to add to my class library because I have students who enjoy reading that genre.  But for some reason I don’t make time to read it myself.  This year I read and loved Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood.  The Diviners by Libba Bray wasn’t my favorite, but I still enjoyed reading it.  So maybe I need historical fiction with a magical twist?  Even though I don’t like thinking of the 80s as historical fiction, it is for our teens right now.  Besides Eleanor and Park (which I know I’ll enjoy) and Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal, are there other YA novels that take place in the 80s or around that time and have been written recently?  I like reading historical fiction that feels contemporary, even though that’s kind of backwards.

Here are some historical fiction novels I’d like to read in 2013:

I Am JI love contemporary realistic fiction, so reading more LGBT fiction really shouldn’t be a difficult challenge for me.  I think this is a gap for me simply because I haven’t made a strong enough effort to read more of these novels.  It has nothing to do with not liking novels with LGBT issues or characters.  I want to read more of these books because I know I have students who need these stories.  I just read Ask the Passengers by A.S. King and absolutely loved it.  Every Day by David Levithan wasn’t my favorite for a few reasons, but I love how he wrote A as a character who understands love outside of gender and sex.  I’ve been wanting to read I Am J for I don’t know how long.  If you have any suggestions for me, I’d love to have them.  I’ve already moved The Miseducation of Cameron Post to the top of my reading pile not only because I’ve been wanting to read it, but also because it’s a Morris shortlist contender.

Here are some LGBT fiction novels I’d like to read in 2013:


Audiobook Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Title: Every Day

Author: David Levithan

Narrator: Alex McKenna

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Release Date: August 28th, 2012

Interest: Author / Concept

Source: Audio purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

Audiobook Review:

The audio itself is enjoyable and easy to listen to.  Alex McKenna’s voice works as the narrator because her voice can sound both male and female which suits A’s character.  There were times when she had to use a female voice to portray a character other than Rhiannon, but it still sounded like Rhiannon’s voice.  Overall, however, her voices for A and Rhiannon worked well for the story; every time I heard Rhiannon or A’s voice I could picture them and their interactions very well.

Book Review:

I’m really not sure how I feel about Every Day.  I’m a big David Levithan fan, so I was really excited to read this, but I have a few big issues with it.

  • The insta-love.  A starts off the book in Justin’s body who happens to be dating Rhiannon.  A has never met Rhiannon before being in Justin’s body, but he (is it okay to refer to A as a male?) is instantly attracted to Rhiannon.  He notices things about Rhiannon that Justin apparently never notices or cares about.  From this day forward he’s head-over-heels in love with her.  Sometimes I’m okay with insta-love, but most times I’m not, and this is another example of when it didn’t work for me.  I understand crushes and lust, but his obsession with her bothered me.
  • Where did A come from?  He talks about being this way forever, but at one point in the novel he worries about someone finding out about him.  Why?  Does it really matter?  What will possibly happen to him?  How will someone know where to find him?  This whole sub-plot of the story, which includes another character who adds more conflict, really threw off the story.  It felt like adding conflict for the sake of adding conflict.  But maybe the story needed more conflict since the main conflict with Rhiannon is introduced at the very beginning of the book.  It simply didn’t make sense.
  • Why the twist at the end?  I’m not going to ruin the ending for anyone, but the twist at the end made me angry.  Really, it ruined the book for me.  I have a feeling that David Levithan is planning a sequel which would be good for the story, but upsets me at the same time.  The ending feels like a cheap way get me to read another book.  If there’s going to be a sequel then all of Every Day is like a prologue.  I was almost able to suspend my disbelief and ignore some of the points that bothered me until that ending.
  • I feel like the only person who doesn’t LOVE Every Day.  I’m not sure if that’s because I’m the only person who doesn’t “get” the story or appreciate it, or if maybe some readers love this book mostly because it’s written by David Levithan.  Sometimes I think the author’s name on the book impacts what people think of the book.  Or maybe I’m just not being fair right now.
  • I do like the focus on person over gender and appearance.  It adds a unique way of thinking about why we like/dislike people and how attraction plays a role in relationships. I wasn’t thrilled with some of the stereotypes Levithan wrote for A to take over (a drug addict, an obese guy, a “mean girl,” and so on).  These scenes often felt preachy.

Like I said, I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about Every Day.  I’ve listed more negatives than positives, but I still enjoyed listening to the book and wanted to finish it.  I was holding out hope that some big revelation was going to take place and when I realized I had only 20 minutes left of the audio I started to get mad.  I felt let down and sort of cheated.

Review: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Stealing Parker

Author: Miranda Kenneally

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: October 1st, 2012

Interest: Contemporary / Author

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan’s Hundred Oaks High.

After her family’s scandal rocks their conservative small town, 17-year-old Parker Shelton goes overboard trying to prove that she won’t turn out like her mother: a lesbian. The all-star third-baseman quits the softball team, drops 20 pounds and starts making out with guys–a lot. But hitting on the hot new assistant baseball coach might be taking it a step too far…especially when he starts flirting back.

Miranda Kenneally really knows how to hook a reader!  Her debut, Catching Jordan, kept me reading from start to finish without putting it down, and I had the exact same experience reading her sophomore release, Stealing Parker.

I’m confident that my girls in class are going to love Stealing Parker.  It’s more mature in  nature than Catching Jordan in regards to sexuality, but it also deals with an important issue.  Some may see the idea of a book involving a relationship with an older man who is also in a position of authority as taboo, but it’s not uncommon either.  I knew plenty of girls in high school dating significantly older guys, although none of them worked for the school.  The idea of that always made me uncomfortable, and it made me uncomfortable as a reader watching Parker enter dangerous territory with Brian.  I think the girls in class will enjoy watching Parker flirt with Brian, but as things grow more serious, I think they’ll be hoping it ends.  Miranda Kenneally did a fantastic job making the scenes with Brian tense as opposed to romantic.  Nothing about their interactions are romanticized.  Parker doesn’t think six years is that great of an age difference, and I remember thinking along those lines when I was her age too, but it doesn’t take long for her to realize that it’s actually a significant difference.  In the grand scheme of things we know that six years isn’t a huge age gap, but when you’re in high school and your love interest is beyond that, the life experience alone makes six years a huge age gap.

Parker’s other love interest serves as a sweet and simple balance to her relationship with Brian.  I’m not going to say who it’s with, but it’s absolutely adorable.  This character made me mad at times, but he still won me over.  I hope other readers cheer for him like I did!

Watching Parker grow as a character was really enjoyable.  She’s quite naive in areas of love and relationships.  The shocking revelation that her mom is a lesbian crushed Parker.  It threw her world into a tailspin and rocked her self-image and thoughts about love.  Her so-called friend, Laura, starts rumors that Parker’s a lesbian just like her mom.  As a result Parker wants to do everything she can to distance herself from her mother.  She loses weight so she doesn’t look “butch” and starts kissing lots of boys so people will know she isn’t a lesbian.  I can’t imagine going through what Parker goes through.  She’s completely lost which is what drives many of her poor decisions.  I love a good mother-daughter storyline which Stealing Parker has and does well (it even made me tear up!).  The only thing I didn’t need in this part of the story is Parker’s weight issues.  The story would have been just as strong without them. Her concerns with calories and weight were more of a distraction because I didn’t know if it was going to lead to something more severe as the story progressed.  I didn’t expect religion to play such a big role in Stealing Parker, but it works with the story.  I have quite a few students who are active in their church, so I think they’ll enjoy that aspect of Parker’s story.re

I thoroughly enjoyed Stealing Parker because it invoked so many reactions in me as a reader.  I was completely engaged and connected to the characters.  I wanted to smack Laura, I wanted to hug Parker, and I wanted to laugh with Drew and Corndog.  Miranda Kenneally tackles some heavy issues, but she does so with ease and charm.  I wish her next book, Things I Can’t Forget, came out sooner!

Waiting on Wednesday–Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

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 a huge fan of A.S. King, so when I found out about her upcoming release, Ask the Passengers, I immediately added it on Goodreads.  She is a stellar author who really knows how to write a fantastic piece of contemporary Y.A.  If you haven’t read any of her books, I highly recommend you do so this summer.  I’m still enjoying my summer vacation, but I am eager for October to get here now that I know about this new book.  And would you look at that cover?!  There’s just something about it that I love.

Title & Author: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Release Date: October 23rd, 2012

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary (From Goodreads): Astrid Jones copes with her small town’s gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she’s sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying high over her backyard. Maybe they’ll know what to do with it. Maybe it’ll make them happy. Maybe they’ll need it. Her mother doesn’t want it, her father’s always stoned, her perfect sister’s too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to: another girl named Dee. There’s no one Astrid feels she can talk to about this deep secret or the profound questions that she’s trying to answer. But little does she know just how much sending her love–and asking the right questions–will affect the passengers’ lives, and her own, for the better.

In this unmistakably original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s boxes and definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything–and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking and sharing real love.

Flash Reviews (14)–Audiobooks Edition

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

If it weren’t for audiobooks, I wouldn’t have ended the school year having read 81 books (I originally thought it was 80 but forgot about a graphic novel).  I took on a lot of extra work including writing a couple grants, preparing to teach a brand new class in a fall plus a class I’ve never taught before, and more.  So yeah, audiobooks rock because I can “read” while I’m trying to do lots of other time consuming things.

Title: Dairy Queen

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

Narrator: Natalie Moore

Summary (From Goodreads): When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D.J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

Flash Review: After a number of high recommendations from friends, and listening to the sample on Audible, I knew I had to listen to Dairy Queen.  What I’m discovering as I continue to listen to audiobooks, is that so many narrators can make or break the book.  In this case, Natalie Moore made this book.  She is D.J. whether I continue to listen on audio or pick the book up to read.  As I’m sitting here typing this review I can hear D.J. voice perfectly.  I haven’t listened to as many audiobooks as others, but so far Natalie Moore is the best narrator I’ve heard.  She used a Wisconsin accent and everything when reading Dairy Queen!  Even better, she never strayed and spoke as other characters when she wasn’t supposed to.  That’s something that impresses me, especially during scenes with a lot of dialogue.  Since finishing Dairy Queen I’ve listened to the second book The Off Season and I plan on listening to the third book, Front and Center.  If you’re new to audiobooks, starting with Dairy Queen is an excellent choice!  If you love listening to audiobooks and haven’t read Dairy Queen yet, then listening to this one next is an excellent choice!

One of things I love best about Dairy Queen is that not only is the audio awesome, the story is too.  D.J. doesn’t think of herself as especially pretty, smart, or special in any way.  She’s a Schwenk dairy farmer and that’s pretty much it.  Her brothers are the ones that are special because they’re away playing college football.  D.J. begins to think differently of herself when Brian Nelson, a rival high school football player, comes to work on their farm.  He needs a better work ethic and as D.J. spends more time with him, she’s forced to think of herself differently.  Is she just a cow doing what’s expected of her, or is she going to stand out and do what she really wants?  Spending more time with Brian also helps D.J. realize that maybe she needs to be a better communicator, something she and her family don’t practice enough.  Dairy Queen is an excellent contemporary novel about the importance of family and following your heart’s desire, whether it’s love or football or both.

Title: Out of the Pocket

Author: Bill Konigsberg

Narrator: Joshua Swanson

Summary (From Goodreads): Star quarterback Bobby Framingham, one of the most talented high school football players in California, knows he’s different from his teammates. They’re like brothers, but they don’t know one essential thing: Bobby is gay. Can he still be one of the guys and be honest about who he is? When he’s outed against his will by a student reporter, Bobby must find a way to earn back his teammates’ trust and accept that his path to success might be more public, and more difficult, than he’d hoped. An affecting novel about identity that also delivers great sports writing.

Joshua Swanson delivers a good performance in the audio for Out of the Pocket.  We offered this novel to our freshmen as part of our To Kill a Mockingbird YA connections unit which is why I decided to listen to the audio.  At the time I was swamped with other books to read, and considering the amount of driving I do to work and back, I figured this was a good way to read the book before the unit.  At times Swanson’s narration was a bit slow, but it wasn’t monotonous by any means.  His version of Carrie was also far from what I would have pictured, to the point of being ridiculous.  Besides those two points, the audio is engaging and entertaining.  I was engaged enough that at certain parts in the book I actually gasped at what characters said.  Out of the Pocket is a good choice whether you want to listen to it or physically read it.

Out of the Pocket will appeal to readers who are interested in contemporary fiction, sports fiction, and/or LGBT fiction.  Bill Konigsberg did a wonderful job writing a story that’s about identity, sports, friendship and family.  Bobby Framingham knows he’s gay, but he doesn’t know what to do about it or who to tell.  He doesn’t know if he should tell anyone because he doesn’t know of any openly gay athletes who aren’t retired from their sport.  Football is extremely important to Bobby, and it could land him a college scholarship, so telling someone he’s gay could put that scholarship in jeopardy.  Coming out is an important moment and Bobby wants to do it when the time’s right.  I liked Out of the Pocket because the characters are real and Bobby’s life isn’t sugar-coated, nor overly dramatized.  It was a good book for my freshmen to read because many of them don’t have friends who are gay (that they know of), and consequently they had some thoughtful discussions about the story and their connections to it.  Once they started reading Out of the Pocket, they understood the comparisons we (their teachers) made with To Kill a Mockingbird when deciding which books to use with the unit.  I didn’t really care about the scenes with football plays and all, but everything else about the story really worked for me as both a reader and as a teacher.

Student Book Review: Dramarama by E. Lockhart

One of my freshmen, Torey, decided to take my Y.A. Lit class and planned on doing her project on dark mysteries.  She knew that’s what she likes and wanted to stick with it, so I helped her find a variety of titles that fit under that category.  We were pretty close to the end of the trimester, however, when Torey told me that she wanted to switch her project.  Normally that might make me really worry for that student, but I could tell that she was serious about it and would accomplish her goal.  Torey told me that she wanted to read something different, something outside of her comfort zone.  Quite a few of her friends read books about love and relationships, and she didn’t know if she wanted to go that far, but she was looking for something on the lighter side, maybe something funny.  I don’t remember what she ended up trying first, but I went through my shelves and handed her a tall stack of books to sort through.  Torey ended up reading a variety of “quirky” books, one of which being Dramarama by E. Lockhart.  She ended up putting together one of the best PowerPoint presentations I’ve seen in my Y.A. Lit classes!

Title: Dramarama

Author: E. Lockhart

Student Reviewer: Torey W.

Summary (From Goodreads): Two theater-mad, self-invented fabulositon Ohio teenagers. One boy, one girl. One gay, one straight. One black, one white. And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP. It’s a season of hormones, gold lame, hissy fits, jazz hands, song and dance, true love, and unitards that will determine their future –and test their friendship.

Student Review:

Dramarama, written by E. Lockhart, consists of friendship, homosexuality, love, jealousy, and of course the performing arts. Douglas, aka Demi, is gay, black, and an outcast, but is something different when he is on stage. Sarah, aka Sadye, is straight, white, 5’10, and also an outcast. When she gets on stage you never know what to expect out of her, it’s either good or bad. When these two teens become best friends with several things in common, they find themselves given the opportunity to attend Wildewood’s School of Performing Arts summer program and they are totally in. Will Demi and Sadye stick together till the end?

Dramarama was a book way out of my element. My general type of genre that I enjoy reading is mystery. The reason I chose to read this book is because the title and cover caught my attention right away and I also read it because I simply wanted something new. Before reading the summary my brief thought about the book would be about literal drama. For example, high school rumors, girl-on-girl crime and scenarios along those lines. And yes, I admit I was totally wrong. The format of how Dramarama is written is great, I really enjoyed it. It is all written in first person, but the font changes when Sadye turns on her tape recorder (you will understand why when you start reading the book). Nothing was extremely terrible about the story or characters, the whole story involved both kinds of drama, theater drama and literal drama.

I would definitely recommend Dramarama to girls in general. If you like love with a little bit of hearts being broken then this is for sure your kind of book. Also to anyone who loves plays, acting, anything in that category this book is for you as well. It’s such an easy read and I couldn’t stop reading it because there was so much going on at all times.

Spring Break #BookaDay Goals

I didn’t know if spring break would ever arrive, but it’s finally here!  Keith and I talked about going to Chicago for a few days, but because of the weather being a tad sketchy lately we decided to stay home.  I love taking trips with my husband, but I also love being at home with him while relaxing and reading.  Spring break officially starts tomorrow, but I’ve been organizing and starting my #bookaday goals this weekend.  I will admit, however, that I was pretty darn lazy yesterday (I slept for most of the day) and didn’t get much reading done.  The laziness has continued today, but I’m determined to finish a book!  I think I have my list pretty much narrowed down, even if it’s a lofty list.

A majority of the reading I’m doing this week is work-related.  When I say work-related, though, I’m referring to Y.A. titles I need to read for work, which is quite happy-making!  My freshmen are in the middle of reading Romeo & Juliet, but this year we’re including a group of Y.A. titles to read with To Kill a Mockingbird that fit with some of the themes and issues (prejudice, maturity, loss of innocence, etc.).  Most of them I’ve already read, but there are some titles that others in my department have read and I have not, or titles my friends on Twitter recommended when we were deciding on this list that I still need to read.

I’m also working on narrowing down ideas and titles for my Y.A. Lit II class that I’m teaching next year.  My goal for the class is that we’ll still read three novels as a class, but this time the novels will be genre-focused and the students will read an additional title that fits that genre.  I’ll be pretty flexible when it comes to which title they pick as their additional title, but I’d also like to have some new titles that the school can purchase extra copies of for my students.  I know for sure that we’re reading dystopian and fantasy, but I haven’t decided which genre to read for the third genre.  Historical fiction really isn’t very popular, but paranormal fantasy is, so I was thinking about  a title that mixes both of them.  Then I could allow students to choose either another like that or either a paranormal fantasy or a historical fiction title as their additional choice.  I was also thinking about verse novels even though I don’t consider those a genre.  I know sci-fi is a good choice, but I already have a hard enough time reading those that I don’t know if I really want to teach one.  I feel like a bad teacher saying that. :/

Anyway, the real reason behind this post, the books!

Timeless by Alexandra Monir (Goodreads)–The publicist sent this to me, so I’m reading it now and enjoying it so far.  I think there might be a giveaway in the near future as well!

Cover BittersweetBittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Goodreads)–My girls in book club chose this as our next title, and we’re meeting to discuss this after school on the Tuesday we get back from break.  I need to read it ASAP!  I started it a while ago and it’s pretty good, as I expected, so I’m looking forward to finishing it.

Book Cover Out of the PocketOut of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg (Goodreads)–Homosexuality isn’t an issue in To Kill a Mockingbird, but the prejudice involved compares with the prejudice in TKAM.  We also wanted to include some LGBT novels because it relates to some of our students and it’s often ignored or misunderstood.  There’s a good chance there will be upset parents, but we’re preparing ourselves for that.

Book Cover Marcelo in the Real WorldMarcelo in the Real World by Franciso X. Stork (Goodreads)–This is another title we’re using with our TKAM unit.  I think the students should read this book because we have some many autistic students in our building, and the summary makes me think of Boo.  I could be wrong, and that might be a stretch, but it still has many of the issues that TKAM does.

Book Cover StartersStarters by Lissa Price (Goodreads)–I’m thinking about this for my dystopian unit in Y.A. II.  I’ve heard great things about it, so I’m excited to try it.  I hope it’s as good as everyone says it is!

Book Cover The Girl of Fire and ThornsThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Goodreads)–I have this at school right now, so I bought a copy for my Kindle.  Ever since I challenged myself to read more fantasy, I’ve found that I really enjoy it.  I’ve read mostly good reviews for this debut.  One of my freshmen read it and asked about the second book as soon as she returned it because she enjoyed it so much.  I hope it’s a winner because I’m considering this for the Y.A. II class.  I’m trying to choose a novel that’s newer for this genre study because I have so many avid fantasy readers, and it’s difficult to find a book that none of them have read.  Or at least most of them haven’t read.

This is a pretty ambitious list considering I still have a number of plans this week which involve travel, so I don’t know if I’ll actually read all of these in a day each, but I’m going to try!  I challenged my students to try #bookaday, even if it meant reading 20 pages, one book, or five books.  I hope they update me in the comments of this post, or at least have some exciting stories to tell me when we return from break.  Are any of you on spring break and setting up a reading challenge?  Have you already had spring break?  I know not all of my readers get a spring break, so maybe you’ve read some of these books.  I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

In My Mailbox (27) NCTE/ALAN Edition Part II

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

This post is a couple weeks overdue, but at least I’m getting it done 🙂

Finished Copies Received at NCTE:

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Goodreads) (My Review)
Poetry Speaks Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else in Your Amazing Future by Elise Paschen, Dominique Raccah (Goodreads)
The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton (signed copy) (Goodreads)
If I Tell by Janet Gurtler (Goodreads)
Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber (Goodreads)
Reasons to Be Happy by Katrina Kittle (Goodreads)
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (signed copy) (Goodreads)

**Sourcebooks and HarperCollins really rocked my socks!**

Books Purchased at NCTE:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (signed!!) (Goodreads)
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky (signed) (Goodreads)
After Obsession by Carrie Jones & Steven E. Wedel (signed by Carrie Jones) (Goodreads)
Lie by Caroline Bock (Goodreads)
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger (signed) (Goodreads)
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (signed) (Goodreads)
The Sharp Time by Mary O’Connell (Goodreads)
The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler (signed by both authors!) (Goodreads)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (signed!!) (Goodreads)
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (signed!!) (Goodreads) (My Review)
The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titatanic by Allan Wolf (Goodreads)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (signed) (Goodreads)

Books Received at ALAN:

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (ARC) (Goodreads)
Bronxwood by Coe Booth (Goodreads)
Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender (Goodreads)
Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler (Goodreads)
Ravenwood by Andrew Peters (Goodreads)
Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson (Goodreads)
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (Goodreads)
I Will Save You by Matt de la Pena (Goodreads)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pie by Sarah Weeks (Goodreads)
Bumped by Megan McCafferty (Goodreads)
The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson (Goodreads)
Money Boy by Paul Yee (ARC) (Goodreads)
Stick by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)
Deviant by Adrian McKinty (ARC) (Goodreads)
Girls Don’t Fly by Kristen Chandler (Goodreads)
Bitter Melon by Cara Chow (Goodreads)
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (ARC) (Goodreads)
This Thing Called the Future by J.L. Powers (Goodreads)
The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald (Goodreads)
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphic Novel-ARC) (Goodreads)
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (ARC) (Goodreads)
Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson (ARC) (Goodreads)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (Goodreads)

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie Perkins Lola and the Boy Next Door

384 pp.  Dutton Books (Penguin Group)

Released on September 29, 2011

Source: Won an ARC through a blog giveaway

Summary (From Goodreads): Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I need to admit something before I write this review: I’ve never read Anna and the French Kiss.  I feel like I should be hanging my head in shame because it seems like everyone and their grandma has read that book.  I have two copies of it in my classroom and I started reading it over the summer, but for some reason I stopped.  And never picked it back up.  Then I kept seeing the buzz for Lola and the Boy Next Door all over Twitter and won a copy, so I figured, okay I’ll give it a shot.  That was last night and I finished it this morning. I have so much love for this book!

Lola and the Boy Next Door is awesome and lives up to the hype I kept hearing and reading.  I was up until almost 3am reading this book and I didn’t want to stop.  It’s been months since a book has kept me up that late.  I forced myself to set the book down so I could sleep for a few hours before picking it up again and finishing it.  I do need to mention that Lola’s story is a companion to Anna and the French Kiss, but even though I now know how that book ends, I was fine reading Lola and the Boy Next Door first.  Also, I’ll be sure to finish Anna’s story very soon.

One of the first things I liked about this novel is that Lola starts off speaking about some wishes she has and one of them is that she wishes her parents would like her boyfriend.  As she goes on, she mentions her dad and her other dad.  It took me a minute to figure out that she has gay parents.  Perkins did a wonderful job creating this element of Lola’s life without making it a big focus in the story.  It’s completely natural and accepted; her dads are protective, loving, and funny.  It makes me happy to see this in YA because it should be in YA, especially the way Perkins infuses it into the story without making a big fuss about it.

I enjoyed reading Lola’s dads, Andy and Nathan, but I adored Lola.  She’s quirky and creative while trying to be mature and older than she is.  She loves expressing herself by dressing in costume, which reminded me a little of Cyd Charrise, Rachel Cohn’s main character in the Cyd Charrise series.  Not every girl will connect with this part of Lola’s character, but they will connect with how she still sometimes worries about what other people think of her.  She’s dating a much older guy, which adds an interesting spin to the story because Lola not only focuses on their relationship, but she also worries that she isn’t mature enough for him.  Add to the fact that her boyfriend is a musician that travels and isn’t loved by her parents, and you have a strong story element to go along with the arrival of Cricket.

Lola is on uneven ground with her current relationship, so Cricket and Calliope moving in next door (again) only makes matters worse because of her history with them.  This is where I had one issue because Lola mentions problems she had with Calliope when they first lived next door, but those problems are never really explained.  Granted, it’s not a focal point in the story, but I would have liked to have known more about them.  Cricket and Lola were close friends until something happened that broke Lola’s heart and he and his family moved away.  With his reappearance, Lola isn’t sure anymore about her feelings for him or her boyfriend.

Perkins did a wonderful job writing Lola because I often felt the same way she did.  At times I was rooting for her to stay with her boyfriend, but once I got to know Cricket, I kept wanting her to dump her boyfriend and move on.  Cricket is in his freshmen year of college, but often comes home to help out and be with his family.  He’s an inventor and on the cool side of nerdy, which I love.  Plus, he loves Lola for who she is, crazy outfits and wigs and all.  Cricket is adorable, smart, honest and an all-around good guy.

Lola and the Boy Next Door is about Lola deciding between two guys, but it’s also about Lola figuring out who she is and if she’s okay with who she is.  It’s about her forming stronger friendships and relationships with her family.  It’s also about first love and what that really is.  I laughed, swooned and even teared up while reading.  I hope you’re able to get a copy pronto!

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