Waiting on Wednesday–Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

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.

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I haven’t read anything by Tara Altebrando, but I absolutely love Sara Zarr.  And I love this cover.  I’m so excited to read a book about a student’s freshman year of college and dorm life because I loved my college years.  Gah!  So much overall excitement for Roomies!

RoomiesTitle & Author: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Release Date: December 24th, 2013

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl’s summer — and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they’ve never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

Review: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks

PrimatesTitle: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

Authors: Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks

Publisher: First Second

Release Date: June 11th, 2013

Interest: Graphic Novel

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves.

Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.

When I first heard about Primates (I’m going to shorten the title in this review since the title is so long) I knew I wanted to read it because it appears to be non-fiction.  After finishing it, I don’t really feel comfortable labeling it as such.  It is an enjoyable graphic novel, although I do have some issues with it.

This is the first graphic novel I’ve read by Jim Ottaviani and I’d like to read more of his work.  Maris Wicks has done a fabulous job with the art.  I love how some of the scenes, especially the action scenes, spread over from one panel to the next.  It’s visually appealing and adds movement to the page.  I should mention that this is a full color graphic novel.  I’m so happy it wasn’t printed in black and white!

Primates is broken up into three different sections, one for each researcher.  A couple of times the switch confused me, but for the most part I was able to follow along and keep track of each researcher and when the three would come together.  Some of the narration text boxes changed colors for different speakers, which I found helpful.  I knew a decent amount about Jane Goodall, but I didn’t know anything about Fossey and Galdikas.  I also didn’t know–and wouldn’t have guessed–that the three were connected.  This is why I appreciate this story and think it has a place in classrooms and libraries.  It’s an accessible way for readers to learn about these three researchers.  Hopefully Primates will spike their interest and prompt them to learn more about these women especially since so much information is left out.

This leads me to my next point.  Even though Primates was introduced to me as a non-fiction graphic novel, I figured it wouldn’t be completely non-fiction.  And it’s not.  The author has a note at the end saying as much.  My bigger issue with Primates is the information left out.  Not the fictionalized pieces to make this a story.  There were too many times while reading that I had to stop and ask myself why something happened or what I had missed.  For instance, Louis Leakey is the man who helped Jane Goodall get her start and helped the other two women as well.  It is often alluded that he was sexually inappropriate with these women, but there isn’t anything specific as to what he did, why the women didn’t do anything about it (that we know of), or why that’s even relevant information.  I understand that this graphic novel appeals to a younger audience which may be why only allusions are made, but if that’s the case, why even include those?  All it did was distract me and ultimately irritate me since I didn’t know the full story there.  There are some other holes as well.  On pages 14 and 15 Jane Goodall leaves her tent to start studying the chimps, but we discover that she leaves the tent naked to get dressed somewhere else.  We don’t know why she does this.  Galdikas studies orangutans, and in her section she takes a baby orangutan to release into the wild.  It says that it would take five days, but she carries it with her throughout her section which spans longer than five days.  I’m not sure if she actually released it and took another one or not.  Also, she sits in something that makes her sick, but we don’t know what it is or what it did to her.  If I was confused by this, then I’m sure my students will be as well.  On the flip side, this could be used as a research project to fill in the multiple gaps and learn more about the researchers.

The story gaps are my biggest issue, but I also had a problem with some of the writing.  Primarily in the Dian Fossey section there are quite a few fragmented sentences.  I’m not sure if Fossey spoke this way or what because I didn’t notice it as much in the other sections.  Most of the time personal pronouns are missing in the narration and I had a hard time reading those parts smoothly.

Even though Primates is an ambitious story considering what Jim Ottaviani has tried to do, it’s still an enjoyable one.  I liked reading it, but as a teacher in particular, I couldn’t look past some of those details I pointed out.

Audiobook Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Prodigy audiobookTitle: Prodigy

Author: Marie Lu

Narrators: Steven Kaplan & Mariel Stern

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Release Date: January 29th, 2013

Interest: Series

Source: Audiobook purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads): June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

In this highly-anticipated sequel, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.

Audiobook Review: I really enjoyed listening to Steven Kaplan and Mariel Stern narrate Prodigy by Marie Lu.  I’ve decided that I like male audiobook narrators more than female narrators, and I’m not entirely sure why, but it holds true with Steven Kaplan narrating Day’s parts.  He does a nice job differentiating between the characters, even more so than Mariel Stern did.  I liked Mariel Stern for the part of June because she has almost a lilt to her voice that sounds right for June.  The audiobook is a little over ten hours long, but it felt like it went faster than that.  I didn’t listen to Legend, so I’m not sure how I’ll read the third book in this trilogy.  I liked the audio enough that I’d be happy reading it that way.

Book Review: Prodigy picks up right where Legend left off.  I had a hard time getting into it when I was reading it in the traditional sense, which is why I switched to the audiobook.  I don’t know why I was having a hard time reading it because once I started the audio I was really into the story.

We learn a lot more about June and Day and the world is developed even more.  I liked getting more information about Anden, the Republic, and the Patriots.  I’m actually kind of torn about Anden because I didn’t want to like him, but I really do.  He and June spend more time together in Prodigy and their interactions add a great level of intensity to the story.  June and Day are more a part than together in Prodigy, but it made the scenes where they are together even more enjoyable to read.  There’s lots of angst between them in this book.

I didn’t love Prodigy which makes me feel like the only person in the book world who didn’t love it.  I can’t even put my finger on what it was missing.  A few parts kind of dragged, and it just wasn’t as good as Legend.  The end of book is what really saved it for me.  There’s lots of action and excitement towards the end.  The actual ending, however, just about broke my heart.  I have NO idea what to expect in the last book.  I’m hoping that something will miraculously change so the story ends the way I want it to, but right now, I’m not so sure.  What an emotional ending.

Review: Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting

Dead SilenceTitle: Dead Silence

Author: Kimberly Derting

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: April 16th, 2013

Interest: Series

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): Violet thought she’d made peace with her unique ability to sense the echoes of the dead and the imprints that cling to their killers…that is until she acquired an imprint of her own. Forced to carry a reminder of the horrible events of her kidnapping, Violet is more determined than ever to lead a normal life. However, the people who run the special investigative team Violet works for have no intention of letting her go.

When someone close to Violet becomes a suspect in a horrific murder, she finds herself pulled into a deadly hunt for a madman with an army of devoted followers. Violet has survived dangerous situations before, but she quickly discovers that protecting those closest to her is far more difficult than protecting herself.

I think I’ve said this in all of my reviews of The Body Finder series, but I really love it.  They’re fun, suspenseful, and romantic.

I’m not sure if Dead Silence is concluding Kimberly Derting’s series because there isn’t a fifth book listed on Goodreads.  I liked the ending, but it didn’t feel like a series closer.  Maybe there will be a spin-off?  Regardless, I’ve really enjoyed reading about Violet and “watching” her grow as a character.  She really comes into her own in this book.  I feel like she really has a sense of who she is, what her ability/gift can do, and who her true friends are.

One of the reasons I like The Body Finder series so much is because Violet is so independent.  Sure, she leans on her boyfriend Jay quite a bit, but I never get the sense that she needs him.  Violet makes her own decisions and does what she thinks is right.  Many YA heroines look to their male counterpart/love interest for guidance and help, and that simply isn’t the case with Violet.

Kimberly Derting finally gives us more background information about Violet’s ability and the group she’s working with.  I’m not going to say much about this because I don’t want to spoil anything, but the new layer to the story is really interesting and answers so many questions.

Like the other books, we get to read from a killer’s point of view.  And like the other books, it adds an exciting sense of creepiness and suspense.  I didn’t have as many questions about who was behind everything in Dead Silence as I did in previous books, but I still enjoyed it.

If you haven’t picked up this series, I highly recommend that you do.  It’s very popular in my classroom and really enjoyable.

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.

The Farm by Emily McKay Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway

The FarmTitle: The Farm

Author: Emily McKay

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Release Date: December 4th, 2012

Interest: Post-Apocalyptic / Blog Tour

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

The Farm Website

Summary (From Goodreads): Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…

And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.

Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…

Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race…

I honestly had mixed reactions when I started reading The Farm.  The concept is cool which is why I decided to try it and join the blog tour.  I’m not really big on vampires, but I like post-apocalyptic books.  My students still like reading paranormal vampire novels and the post-apocalyptic genre is a big hit with them as well.  Emily McKay’s debut is another book that I need to break down into what worked and what didn’t work.

What Worked For Me:

  • The multiple points of view–The Farm is told from Lily, Mel, and Carter’s points of view told in alternating chapters.  My favorite chapters are Mel’s because she’s autistic and has a really unique perspective and understanding of the world around her.  The story works with this format because there’s so much going on and the characters are so involved.  I learned more about Carter and his history during his chapters than in any of the other chapters, and I really don’t know how we could have learned as much about him without this format.  Overall it added more layers to the story and really defined the characters.
  • Lily–I like what a strong heroine she is.  She’s quick on her feet and stands up for herself and her sister.  Her sense of humor, despite how horrible her life is, is witty and snarky.  I really think teens with siblings who they’re close to or protective of, will connect with Lily and enjoy her character.
  • The pacing & action–The Farm is full of suspense, twists, and action.  Emily McKay did a nice job balancing The Farm’s character development and plot development; it doesn’t feel like one more than the other (character driven or plot driven).  I enjoyed the suspense and wondering how new developments were going to come to light.  The pacing it great and will keep my students interested as they read.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • Vampires–I’m over vampires.  I don’t have much else to say on that topic.
  • I tried to keep an open mind on the vampire front, but some of the background storyline didn’t work for me.  I don’t want to ruin anything because much of that isn’t revealed until 100+ pages in, but when I came to that story I sort of cringed.  I had to start thinking of the book as more of a book for my students than for me at that point.  And sometimes that’s what I really need to do when I read a book outside my comfort zone; I need to think about the students in class who will like it more than me.
  • I really liked Lily, Mel, and Carter, but I didn’t find myself connecting to them and their story until 75 or more pages in.  I needed more earlier than that.

The Farm Blog Tour Exclusive Content

Lily is such a strong main character. How did you decide to give her this fierce identity as opposed to the weak female characters that are so often present in books?

To be honest, I don’t know any weak teen-age girls.  The teen-age girls I know are strong and smart and giving and determined and I just drew on that to create Lily.  Years ago, I taught in a lower-income area and one of the things that I still remember from that time is how tough the girls I taught were and how devoted they were to their families.  I wanted to channel some of that into Lily, and hope I succeeded.

Tour Stops:
Yesterday–Actin’ Up With Books
Monday–Addicted to Novels

Giveaway Details

Giveaway sponsored by the publisher
Open to the US only
One lucky winner will win a copy of The Farm + “Vampire Apocalypse Survival Kit”
Must be 13 years or older to enter
Giveaway ends January 4th, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST
Only one entry per person
Winner will be emailed and given 48 hours to respond
No extra entries required, but spreading the word is appreciated 🙂

Review: This Is Not A Drill by Beck McDowell

Title: This Is Not A Drill

Author: Beck McDowell

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Release Date: October 25th, 2012

Interest: Debut Author / Realistic Fiction / Blog Tour

Source: ARC received from the author for blog tour

Summary (From Goodreads):

Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD

When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them–a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he’s denied access to his son because of a custody battle. The children’s fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake’s alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.

What I Liked:

  • The suspense and characters.  Emery and Jake are developed well enough to distinguish who is speaking when.  The different font and the names at the beginning of the chapters helps, but the characters voices are developed enough to know the difference.
  • Reading from both Emery and Jake’s point of view keeps This Is Not A Drill gender neutral, which I always love.
  • The fast pace.  Despite the circumstances, the situation doesn’t take up that much actual time, so the quick pace really fits the plot.  The action gets started soon after the book starts which will capture and hold my students’ attention.
  • Brian Stutts’ background.  Learning his background adds a layer of understanding when, as the reader, you don’t want to understand him and feel bad for him.  He’s expected to be this evil person when really he’s suffering.  It’s hard to look at Stutts as a suffering, wounded character.

What I Disliked:

  • The background romance between Emery and Jake.  It took away from the suspense of the shooting and didn’t feel like it added any important depth to the story.  I know the characters better now, which I always appreciate in a story, but I don’t know if it was really necessary.  I found myself skimming those parts.  It just didn’t work for me as a reader.
  • The length. It’s unusual for me to criticize a book for not being long enough, but I think This Is Not A Drill would be an even stronger book if it was a little bit longer.  After all the suspense and build up, the ending felt rushed.

Overall, I think my students will enjoy Beck McDowell’s debut.  Despite not caring for the romance between Jake and Emery, I think my students will enjoy it.  They always want to know more about the characters, so I know they’ll appreciate it.  This is definitely a great book to add to your library/classroom and hand off to your students, especially your reluctant readers.

Banned Books Week: Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Banned Book: Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Retained at the Bangor, Pa. Area Middle School (2007) despite a student’s aunt’s concerns about the book’s depiction of school violence. Source: Mar. 2008, p. 79.” (Source–Quote taken from the ALA banned books resource page)

My Thoughts: Give a Boy a Gun has been part of our sophomore English curriculum since I started teaching at Clio six years ago.  It’s also one of the most successful and engaging units we teach.  Todd Strasser hits many big issues like bullying, violent video games, troubles at home, etc. that students have no choice but to speak up and discuss what they’re reading.  Almost every time we read this book in class I end up hearing from my most introverted students.  It’s a powerful moment when so many students in class are buzzing and engaged and asking to have a discussion.

The story is violent, so I understand concerns about reading Give a Boy a Gun.  My bigger concern is the rising number of violent acts in schools.  They’ve escalated so much we’re now seeing news coverage of shootings near popular tourist attractions and on college campuses.  Todd Strasser makes some valid points in his book in a number of ways.  He includes information he found while researching as footnotes in the story.  He also has the book set up from varying points of view so readers can get a full perspective.  The teachable moments in this book are plentiful, so I hope teachers, librarians, and parents will take it upon themselves to read it and share it.  It’s certainly a book worth discussing.

Student Response: This response comes from one of my YA Lit students and aspiring author, Noah.

“I’m not surprised, but I still think it shouldn’t be banned.  We hear real life stories like this book all the time.  It won’t convince any kid to perform a school shooting and it tells what some kids went through.”

Flash Reviews (16)

Title: The Demon King

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell – the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked – as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.

One day Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history – it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returning to court after three years of freedom in the mountains – riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea – the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her – including marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

Flash Review: The Demon King is one of the first high fantasies I read when I decided to read more high fantasy and I loved it!  It’s full of magic, mystery, and intrigue; it’s a page turner despite how long it is.  It’s written in third person, which isn’t always my favorite, but Cinda Williams Chima really makes it work in this series.  Just about every other chapter focuses on either Han or Raisa which I really enjoyed.  The set up made me wonder when the characters would come together and connect.  It also gave me more insight to their very different backgrounds which really adds to the world building.  I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but based on what I know from the movies I think fans of that trilogy would like this series.  I highly recommend this series!

Title: Where Things Come Back

Author: John Corey Whaley

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen’s senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone’s eating “Lazarus burgers.” But as absurd as the town’s carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.

Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

Flash Review: I’ve really had to think about my feelings towards Where Things Come Back since reading it a month ago.  The verdict: I simply didn’t like it.  It’s told from two points of view which seem like they don’t have much in common, but as the story progresses and comes to a close the reader makes the connection.  I understood the connection, but so much of the story before that connection muddled everything up.  There’s was too much going on which distracted from the real story.  John Corey Whaley’s writing style didn’t work for me either.  Very often Cullen would say something like, “Imagine one does such and such” and then goes off on a dream-like tangent.  It’s written in such a way that it’s hard to tell whether it’s a daydream or if any of that tangent actually happened.  I would have never chosen this for Printz consideration, let alone honor it with the Printz award.

Title: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Author: Tom Angleberger

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.

Flash Review: There are a number of struggling readers in my building, so I’ve been trying harder to read more middle grade books to see if offering those helps those students in need.  I have to admit that reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda was a stretch for me since it’s so young in focus, but I really enjoyed it.  Reading a book that’s so entirely focused on middle school was fun and a nice change of pace.  The humor is spot on for middle school students, but I know my high school students will appreciate it as well (I did).  I also have quite a few Stars Wars fans who I’m sure will enjoy Origami Yoda and his predictions.  It’s a really cute book and the added illustrations are a nice touch.

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

Review: The Boy Recession by Flynn Meaney

Title: The Boy Recession

Author: Flynn Meaney

Publisher: Poppy

Release Date: August 7th, 2012

Interest: Contemporary / More than one POV

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): It’s all about supply and demand when a high school deals with the sudden exodus of male students.

The boy recession has hit Julius P. Heil High, and the remaining boys find that their stock is on the rise: With little competition, even the most unlikely guys have a good chance at making the team and getting the girl. Guitar-strumming, class-skipping Hunter Fahrenbach never wanted to be a hot commodity, but the popular girls can’t help but notice his unconventional good looks. With a little work, he might even by boyfriend material.

But for down-to-earth Kelly Robbins, the boy recession is causing all sorts of problems. She has secretly liked her good friend Hunter for a while now, but how can she stand out in a crowd of overzealous Spandexers?

As if dating wasn’t hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!

This summer I’ve realized that I need to read more light-hearted contemporary YA.  The Boy Recession by Flynn Meaney is a light and fun, quick read which is exactly what I needed when I read it.  Don’t we all need that from time to time?

The premise of The Boy Recession will be easy to sell to my students this coming school year.  I remember it feeling like there were hardly any guys to date in my high school, but if all the “cute” ones were gone?!  I would have been devastated.  I can’t imagine too many of my girls in class feeling any differently than I would have.  I like that Flynn Meaney wrote the story so the girls in the novel start to look at these other guys in a different light.

I also have a number of students interested in books with more than one point of view, so there’s another selling piece.  Readers get to see the story from Hunter’s side (representing the male population) and Kelly’s side (representing the female population).  I honestly can’t picture this book being written any other way; I don’t think it would have been as enjoyable.  I will admit that I wasn’t paying attention to chapter headings when I first opened this book.  It says “Hunter” which explains why I was so confused when I started reading and thought, “This girl is acting kind of like a guy…”  In my defense, I started reading this late at night.  Anyway, the dual narration really works and it’s done pretty well.  I wish the cover was a little more gender neutral (big part of the reason I thought a girl would be narrating the entire story) because I think some guys would enjoy it.  I don’t know how easy it will be to hand The Boy Recession to one of my guys in class; they don’t always handle pink well.

The Boy Recession isn’t hilariously funny, but it’s humorous enough to get a few giggles here and there.  One line that keeps coming back to me and making me laugh is when Hunter is getting dressed up for an event and compares his look and outfit to Scott Disick. *Warning he uses some poor language in the exchange.*

Hunter: “Holy crap,” I say.  “I look like that douchebag who’s dating the other Kardashian sister.”
Eugene: “Don’t hate on Scott Disick,” Eugene warns me.  “He’s my fashion role model.”

Taken out of context that may not be as funny, and poor language aside, I love that reference because I know exactly how to picture Hunter’s outfit/look in this scene.  Flynn Meaney has little one-liners like this (not all tinged with similar language) dispersed throughout the book.  It’s scenes like these that give the reader a broader understanding of who the characters are and what their personalities are like.  It’s fun seeing Hunter not really caring about anything at the beginning of the story to worrying about his pants getting wrinkled and that a plan works out by the end of the book.  His humor, however, stays constant which Kelly really likes about him as do I.

I really liked The Boy Recession and am looking forward to recommending it to my students.  I suggest that the middle school teachers following my blog read this first before passing it on to your students because while I’m not overly concerned about some of the language choices, you may not feel as comfortable with it.  Besides, it’s an entertaining book that should be read!  Maybe Flynn Meaney’s new book can be one more book read before the summer’s over.

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