Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

The Murder ComplexTitle: The Murder Complex

Author: Lindsay Cummings

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: June 10th, 2014

Interest: Dystopian / Sci-fi / Debut author

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

It’s been a while since I’ve read a dystopian/sci-fi novel, so when I was at Barnes & Noble I decided to buy The Murder Complex. I’m happy with my purchase because I know it will be a hit with my students, especially those who like The Hunger Games, Legend, Blood Red Road, Divergent, and the like.

Before I get into how Lindsay Cumming’s debut will appeal to fans of other popular dystopian/sci-fi novels, I need to go over a couple areas. First, I like that we read this story from both Meadow’s and Zephyr’s points of view. I do hope, however, that in the second book their voices are more distinct. I only knew who was speaking based on the chapter headings, their situations, and when Zephyr would use words like “flux” and “skitz” to swear. It was nice understanding more of the world and story since we can read from both points of view, but I didn’t feel a connection to either character. I didn’t really worry about them or care for them like I have for characters in other novels. The constant action and mystery kept me reading more than the characters did.

The setting and the concept, however, are interesting and what sets this book apart from the rest. I can’t go into too much detail here without giving away major plot points though. I’d like to learn more about it in the second book . Hopefully these two pieces along with the character development and voices will be stronger.

It’s difficult to find a dystopian novel now that hasn’t been influenced by the major players published before it. Sometimes that turns me off more than other times when I’m reading, but this time around I appreciated it simply because I can tell The Murder Complex has been influenced by so many of my students’ favorites. It will help me lead them to another series once they finish one or while they’re waiting for a book in a different series. I’m going to break the comparisons down by book for this part of my review.

The Murder Complex and Legend by Marie Lu:

  • The first big comparison is that in both books we’re reading two different point of views. Also, we’re reading a male and female POV in each book which adds additional appeal to readers.
  • The second big comparison is that the main characters in both books should be at odds with one another for various reasons but they’re drawn together. I like the relationship between Day and June in Legend much more than the relationship between Zephyr and Meadow. Zephyr and Meadow have insta-love and I still don’t understand why. I do like, however, that their relationship doesn’t dominate the story. Readers looking for a book without a lot of romance will appreciate that.
  • Meadow is strong and devoted to her family just like June is.
  • I think The Murder Complex is more similar to Legend than any of the other books I’m going to compare it to.

The Murder Complex and Blood Red Road by Moira Young:

  • The strongest comparison to this book is that Meadow and Saba could cause some serious damage to their enemies if they ever paired up in a book. They are fierce.
  • The settings in both books are stark and dangerous.

The Murder Complex and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Young:

  • Meadow is extremely protective of her little sister Peri just like Katniss is protective of her little sister Prim. They’re even both named after plants (or names connected with nature).
  • Zephyr has been drawn to Meadow longer than Meadow knows, much like Peeta and Katniss.
  • Meadow doesn’t want to be involved in this conflict, much like Katniss doesn’t want to be involved in the Hunger Games. It boils down to both protecting their families and doing what they feel is inherently right.

Hopefully these comparisons will help you connect Lindsay Cummings’ debut with readers. If you want to recommend this book to a middle school student, however, I suggest reading it first. There are a number of bloody and violent scenes that don’t go beyond YA, but they may upset sensitive readers.

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations for Divergent/The Hunger Games Fans

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This year more than any other year, my students have been voraciously reading dystopian stories. It only took a couple of readers and my fangirling over Allegiant to turn Divergent by Veronica Roth into a huge hit in my classroom and throughout the high school. I have a very long list of students waiting for all three books, so I’ve been busy recommending other titles that might help them get through the waiting period for Divergent. I also have quite a few students asking for books that are like The Hunger Games trilogy.

Since today’s Top Ten Tuesday post is all about recommendations, I decided to compile a list of books I’ve been recommending to my students who are looking for book like Divergent and The Hunger Games.

For the students who want an awesome heroine…

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Goodreads) & Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Goodreads)–Both heroines are tough and all-around awesome. I’ve gone so far as to say that Saba from Blood Red Road makes Katniss look like a wimp.

For the students who crave adventure & suspense…

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads), Legend by Marie Lu (Goodreads), Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Goodreads)–I haven’t recommended Legend as often this year as I normally would because I’m going to read it out loud when my seniors are reading 1984. Quite a few of my seniors have been racing through the Unwind series.

For the students who want to experience a futuristic world gone wrong…

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert (Goodreads), Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Goodreads), The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads)–Showing the trailers for The Fifth Wave made this an instant hit.

For the students who want some romance…

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Goodreads), Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Goodreads)–Some of my students have a tough time with the writing style in Shatter Me, but most of them can’t get enough of this series.

Book Trailer Thursday (118)–Catching Fire Movie Trailer

I’m sure many of you have already seen this trailer, but for those of you who haven’t, here you go!  Catching Fire is my favorite book in The Hunger Games trilogy, so I’m really excited to see this when it releases on November 22nd.  I haven’t read the book in a long time, and to be honest, I probably won’t reread it because I want to enjoy the movie without criticizing every last detail that’s left out or messed up.  This trailer makes the movie look promising.  I’d love to know what you think of the trailer!

I originally wasn’t planning on including the summary because I think most of us know what this book is about, but it’s never good to assume.

Catching Fire Movie PosterSummary (From Goodreads):

Sparks are igniting.
Flames are spreading.
And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel in the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before…and surprising readers at every turn.

2nd Hour Book Love

Yesterday I posted the results from my 1st hour Honors Sophomore Seminar class, and today I’m posting the results from my 2nd hour Honors Sophomore Seminar class.  This is the smaller of the two classes, and I have a nice mix of both avid readers and revitalized readers.  When I went over the results with them, some were surprised by the favorites and others were excited about them.  I’m kind of surprised that so many backlist titles made the list, to be honest, but I’m happy they’re still so popular.

Top Choice: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

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

“I really like the idea and concept of the trilogy.” -Jenna
“It has a great combination of action, comedy, drama, and romance.” -Hannah

Honorary Titles:

Crank by Ellen Hopkins (Goodreads)
**Side note–Ellen Hopkins’ school visit really made an impact on my students 🙂 Reading Crank was a different experience for them after hearing Ellen speak about her life and the story behind the book.**
“Meeting Ellen Hopkins in person really made a difference.” -Hallie

crank

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (Goodreads)

“It’s a really fast read that’s intense and depicts a harsh reality.” -Sophie

livingdeadgirl

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (Goodreads)
**Side note–I don’t like this new cover at all, but I’m using it in case you’re looking for a copy at the store.**

“I like the way it’s written in reverse order and that we get to read Nick’s journals.” -Hannah

Breathing Underwater Paperback

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)
**Side note–This just released in paperback!**

“I loved this book.” -Haylee

The Pull of Gravity paperback

Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads)

“It’s really funny.” -Emma

Swim the Fly audio

Split by Swati Avasthi (Goodreads)

Split paperback

Tilt by Ellen Hopkins (Goodreads)

Tilt

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (Goodreads)

“It’s freaky to think that’s actually real and that as a kid he did all of that stuff.” -I can’t remember which one of my students said this :/

My Friend Dahmer

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman (Goodreads)

“Intense, a harsh reality, and I like the multiple points of view.” -Jenna

want-to-go-private

Review: The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

Title: The Forsaken

Author: Lisa M. Stasse

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: July 10th, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Dystopian

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): A thought-provoking and exciting start to a riveting new dystopian trilogy.

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse is a cool new addition to the dystopian YA genre.  It’s fast-paced, and while there are comparisons to The Hunger Games, The Forsaken is its own book.

Lisa M. Stasse’s debut is full of non-stop action.  Within the first few chapters readers are taken to The Wheel with Alenna and thrown into a precarious situation.  Teen readers looking for a book that’s adventurous and fast-paced are going to love The Forsaken.  So many of my students will stop reading a book because of “the slow parts.”  There aren’t any slow parts in this book.  It actually felt like the story had a rhythm; there would be an intense scene full of flight-or-fight scenarios and then there was a more subdued scene after that.  I’m really expecting my students to enjoy this one, and I’ll be sure to hand it to those looking for something that’s “like The Hunger Games.”

I like the premise of The Forsaken as well.  No one really knows why these kids, like Alenna, have been shipped to The Wheel.  There’s plenty of speculation, but nothing is really understood until the last couple chapters.  There’s also the feeling that everyone on The Wheel is being watched, but no one knows who’s monitoring them or where they are.  The premise and setting made me think of Lord of the Flies and also Variant by Robison Wells.  I haven’t read The Maze Runner by James Dashner, but I think they might be comparable also.  There’s just something intriguing about leaving teenagers to their own devices without any direct adult supervision, especially when they’re stranded on an island.

While I enjoyed the fast pace of this book, the beginning needs more world building and character development.  We’re given a glimpse of what the country is like and how the government has taken over, but we don’t know many details about it.  More are revealed at the end, but I needed something extra to get me more invested in the story.  I also need more time with Alenna before she’s sent to The Wheel.  We barely get a chance to know her before she’s sent there.  The whole process happened in a blink of the eye, although much of that is part of the story and the mystery behind why certain kids are sent away.  The Forsaken felt very plot driven to me and I usually prefer character driven stories.  I want to feel like I connect with the character(s) and I didn’t feel that way at all while reading this.

As a reader, I wanted a little more from The Forsaken, but as a teacher I know many of my students will enjoy it.  The students in class craving an action-packed adventure will love every page of Lisa M. Stasse’s debut.

Other Reviews:

Fountain Reflections

Literally Jen

What My Students Read From March-June

Many of my freshmen felt like all they did this past school year was read since our curriculum is so heavy in reading (not a bad thing at all!).  The last trimester of English 9 is especially heavy in reading because they read Romeo & Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, and just this past year we added a YA thematic unit connecting with To Kill a Mockingbird.  I went through my class library check out binder and tallied up all the books that were borrowed and read during the months March through June (our last trimester) to see which ones were the most popular.  I think the numbers would have been higher in a different trimester, but I’m still impressed with my students 🙂

From March through June, my students read 261 different titles from my class library.  Most of those titles were read more than once which summed up to 472 books read during that time period!  I know my numbers aren’t exact because many of my students forget to check out books when they borrow them, and many of them grab books from friends in class without me always knowing about it.  This also doesn’t include the required books they read for the trimester.

**You can click on the cover image to get to the Goodreads page**

Most Popular Book (Borrowed 10+ Times)


I’m not really surprised by this.  Living Dead Girl is always a favorite, every trimester.

Borrowed 6-8 Times


Borrowed 4-5 Times


 

  Borrowed 3 Times






Book Covers: What My Freshmen Think

A week ago I posted about what my Y.A. Lit students think of book covers.  The day it posted I received tons of feedback and also passed out a book covers survey to my freshmen to get a broader view.  This time I added two parts to the survey: providing their gender and providing examples of book covers they like.  I polled 43 boys and 34 girls for a total of 77 freshmen.  My post also includes images of some of the covers mentioned in the surveys.

1. What about a book draws your attention the most?

  • Cover design–58%
  • Author/reviewer blurb–3%
  • Summary–39%

2. What kind of cover design do you prefer the most?

  • Models on the cover–25%
  • Objects/scenes related to the story–75%

**Note–This was the same in my Y.A. Lit class**

3. What kind of color combination draws you the most?

“There isn’t really a color combination that draws me in more than others.”

“Red and black”

“Bright colors”

“Red mixed with black and white”

“Bright and dark in one”

“Pink, purple, blue–cute colors”

“Green and yellow”

“Orange and blue”

“Neon or 1 or 2 solid colors and an all caps, stencil, huge title.”

“I really don’t care, but if it has fun colors it will catch my attention.”

“It doesn’t matter, I pretty much read what you say is good.”

4. Is font style & placement important to you? Explain.

  • Yes–40%
  • No–60%

“Bold and artistic to draw me in to see what the title is.”

“Not really. It’s more about what it says than the font or placement.”

“I like it when the font is popped out and in your face.”

“Not really, it really depends on what’s between the covers.”

“The author’s name should be at the bottom.”

“Not really because I’m going to read the title no matter what.”

I Hunt Killers is a good example when font matters.”

5. Would you feel comfortable reading a book w/a gender-specific feel to it? (Guys reading a book w/a “girly” cover.)

  • Yes–65%
  • No–35%

“Not really, unless somebody points it out (multiple times).” –Male

“I don’t care as long as it’s a good book.” –Male

“Yeah, as long as it’s not hardcore manly.” –Female

6. Do you prefer to see the character’s “face” or would you rather imagine the character on your own?

  • See the character’s face–34%
  • Use your imagination–66%

“Seeing the face ruins the book for me.”

“Seeing their face is easier, but imagining them is more fun so either one.”

“I do sometimes. I really like the models on the covers of Wither and Fever.”

7. If possible, please provide some examples of covers that you like and why.

Divergent–The symbol looks to be on fire, and it is connected to the story.”

Bad Girls Don’t Die, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, If I Stay, Where She Went, Night World.  All of these books have interesting covers.”

“I like the cover for Stupid Fast because it looks like he’s alone; it makes you wonder.”

Payback Time because it’s about sports.”

Epic Fail–It’s cute and fun.  Catching Jordan–It kind of explains the book.”

The Hunger Games–Looks tough and serious.  Shiver–Draws my attention.”

“Anything by Simone Elkeles. Hers have models and they really interest me.  I like covers that look romantic.”

Fracture, The Hunger Games, and Living Dead Girl because they leave you with questions.”

Other Words for Love because it’s cute.”

Split and Crescendo

Catching Jordan–Cute and pops”

The Pull of Gravity because I like the colors and how you can see the characters, but everything’s sort of muted.”

“I like the cover for I Hunt Killers because it catches my attention.  I also like the cover for Trapped because it helps me visualize the school they were trapped in.”

Forever by Judy Blume and Boy Meets Boy because Forever is girly and I like the colors in Boy Meets Boy.”

House of  Night, The Mortal Instruments, Hush, Hush, stuff like that.  I like that the models aren’t too detailed but enough to get an image of the character.”

“I like the cover for Across the Universe because there are people but not faces; it’s mysterious.”

Boy 21, Paranoid Park, and I Hunt Killers because they just stick out or have the character on it.  They let you picture something while staying mysterious.”

The House of Night series: This is because they show the main character’s unique tattoos.”

Divergent–very bold”

Insurgent because it makes me wonder why there is a tree with a circle around it.”

“The cover for Hold Still is good because even though it shows the girl, it also briefly tells the story just by looking at it.”

Judging Books By Their Covers: 10 Deceptive Covers

I try not to judge books by their covers, but I do more than I probably should.  Thankfully now that I’m blogging and active on Twitter and Goodreads, I’m reading far more reviews than I ever have before which has helped me look past covers.  When it comes to covers, I’ve found that I’m much more judgmental about them when I’m thinking about my students and what will draw their attention.  For these reasons I really like this Top 1o Tuesday prompt because it’s giving me a chance to narrow down the most deceptive covers.  When I put this list together, I thought about books that I was hesitant to read because of the cover, books that I wish were better suited for their audience, and books that give the wrong impression about the topic.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads): I’m a HUGE fan of this trilogy, but when I first heard about The Hunger Games at the MCTE (Michigan Council of Teachers of English) conference I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon.  My friend and I stopped at a book store after the conference to check out some books and I passed up The Hunger Games because the cover looked boring.  Thankfully I looked past my judgment and read it.  I appreciate the cover now 🙂

Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison (Goodreads): This cover is gorgeous!  And it ends there.  I saw this cover and thought it was going to be a romantic, gushy book.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Besides the fact that this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read, the cover and the plot don’t mesh AT ALL.

Tempest by Julie Cross (Goodreads): There are two issues I have with this cover.  The first one is that I thought this was a book about fallen angels or something when I first looked at the cover.  The characters are in the sky, one is falling, the other is reaching, it screams paranormal love story to me.  I never would have guessed it’s about time travel.  I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that a guy is narrating the story.  That’s my second issue.  I can’t stand it when perfectly good books with guy appeal are given girly covers.

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin (Goodreads): Both the hardcover and the paperback cover for this book are deceptive.  It’s obvious judging by both covers that Martin’s novel deals with a relationship.  I’m not sure who the audience is though.  Both covers are more appealing to girls than guys, but our narrator has an incredibly authentic male voice.  I really think guys would enjoy and relate to this book, but I don’t see any of my boys in class borrowing my copy.  I talked it up all over the place to grab the guys’ interest, but only the girls are borrowing it.

I Know It's Over Paperback Hardcover I Know It's Over

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann (Goodreads):  Cryer’s Cross is a really cool book full of creepiness.  The original cover fits the mood perfectly with the desk and the creepy handwriting.  I am not thrilled with the paperback cover at all.  Romance is not a big focus in Cryer’s Cross, but this cover gives the impression that it is.  The mystery involved in the story isn’t represented in this cover either.

Hardcover Cryer's Cross Cryer's Cross Paperback

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (Goodreads): I love this book, and I love teaching it in my Y.A. Lit class.  One of the main reasons I’m such a big fan is because it’s almost always a winner for my reluctant male readers.  Admittedly, many of my students tell me that they would never pick this one up based on the original cover, but once we start reading it they really appreciate the cover.  When the paperback was released I showed my students to get their opinions.  For the most part they don’t care for it.  Their reasons match my own.  This cover says nothing about the book and the abuse that goes on.  The models don’t exactly look like they’re in love, but Nick’s anger isn’t represented.

Breathing Underwater Original Cover Paperback Breathing Underwater

The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (Goodreads): Something about this cover leaves me with the impression that it’s girly and upbeat.  Maybe it’s the pink.  Maybe it’s the hip jutted out to the side.  The problem with this is that this is not an upbeat book.  Virginia is battling some heavy issues (no pun intended).  She has very low self-esteem, her brother has been accused of something horrible, and her family is falling apart.  It’s a good book, but the cover needs to look more serious to fit the tone of the book.

Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupula (Goodreads): Tell Me a Secret is an unputdownable book.  It deals with serious issues and broke my heart at the same time that it left me feeling hopeful.  I think the cover gives the impression that it’s a serious book, but it looks like it’s about a romantic relationship.  There really isn’t any romance to speak of.  Tell Me a Secret deals with Miranda’s sister’s death, Miranda’s pregnancy, and problems with Miranda and her parents.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace (Goodreads): But I Love Him is another unputdownable book.  The cover, while being dark, doesn’t strike me as serious as the topic is.  The sea glass heart looks a little too friendly to represent a book about a broken and abusive relationship, but this heart is on the cover because of the symbol it represents within the story.

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle (Goodreads): I haven’t finished reading When You Were Mine yet, but I’ve read enough to wish that the cover was different.  It’s a different spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, so we know it’s a love story and we get that impression from the cover.  I’m just not a fan of covers like this because it doesn’t give us any other information about the book.  It looks like any other love story out there, but based on the premise of this book it should have a cover with more personality or more of a story.

My Favorite Read Alouds

Did you have any teachers in high school that read a book to your class simply for the enjoyment of listening to a good book?  I didn’t.  I really don’t remember any of my middle school teachers doing this either.  A few of my elementary school teachers read to us, but it was less frequent after 3rd grade.  I’m thankful my parents read to my brother and me on a regular basis since this didn’t happen all that much at school.  When I was working towards my bachelor’s degree the idea of reading aloud to my future high school classes never occurred to me.

The summer I took Dr. Steffel’s YA Lit class at CMU my plans changed.  I’ve mentioned Dr. Steffel many times before, and it’s because she’s been such a positive influence on my teaching career.  On the first day of our class, we sat in a circle and she read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos.  She used different voices and everything.  I was astounded!  I couldn’t believe we were being read to in a college course, but I loved it.  Even though Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is young for a high school classroom, I really enjoyed the story.  Everything we did in class and everything Dr. Steffel did in class served a purpose; she wanted us to follow her lead and bring these lessons, strategies, ideas, etc. into our classrooms.

I tried my first read aloud while student teaching.  I had a few sophomore English classes, so I decided on Shattering Glass by Gail Giles.  It’s an edgy book, and there’s some bad language and mature situations, but it’s an excellent pick for reluctant readers.  I was  nervous about reading this during student teaching, but I went ahead and did it anyway.  I had a rationale prepared and everything.  My students loved it and often asked me to read “just one more chapter.”  Since then I’m much more comfortable reading books where characters swear, but I make sure to choose books that aren’t over the top in that category.  It sometimes shocks my students to hear me read those parts, but we have a conversation about why that language is in the book and how we won’t be using that language in class.

So let’s get to my favorites already! 🙂  I like these books for a number of reasons, but one of the most important qualities I look for in a potential read aloud is the amount of dialogue.  Too much dialogue can get confusing when reading it aloud, especially since the kids don’t have the book in front of them to follow along.  I also try to pick books that I know will be entertaining and have a nice moral. Shorter chapters are always a plus too.  And I need to really like the book too, because otherwise I’m not going to enjoy reading it out loud over and over again.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–I’ve read Speak out loud so many times!  It’s such a powerful story and so easy for my students to relate to.  Plus, since Melinda isn’t speaking to anyone all that much, most of the book is made up of her thoughts and opinions which is easy for the kids to follow.  The characters are well developed, and well, it’s Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Do I need more reasons? 😉

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads)–Last trimester is the first time I’ve read this out loud.  My freshmen were really interested in it because of the upcoming movie (Ahh!! This Friday!!), so I decided to give it a shot as a read aloud.  Some of my students weren’t sure at first because the beginning of the book is a bit slow as the world develops and we get to the training center and the actual games.  Once we reached that point, they were begging for more chapters.  It helps that many of the chapters end with cliffhangers.  My only complaint is that the chapters are so long.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Goodreads) (My Review)–I don’t remember what prompted me to choose Hex Hall as a read aloud, but I did for the first time last year.  I read it to my freshmen and the majority of them LOVED it.  In one class, we even went on to read the sequel Demonglass.  Oh my gosh did we race through that book!  It ran right into the very end of the school year, but we finished it.  Sophie is very clumsy, sarcastic, and easy to like.  She reminds me of  a female Ron Weasley.  There’s some foul language in Hex Hall, but nothing that was overly shocking or made me pause.  I should note that in general, I’m on the liberal side of things when it comes to YA and what I put in my classroom.  Many of my students prefer realistic fiction, but besides one or two in each class, even my die-hard contemps fans liked Hex Hall.  The guys even laughed and wanted me to read more 🙂  I read it again this year to a new group of freshmen and had the same enthusiastic response.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I’m actually in the middle of reading Boy21 aloud for the first time.  I’m reading it to my freshmen classes, but I wasn’t sure what they would think.  After reading Hex Hall and The Hunger Games this year, I didn’t know how my kids would react to a sudden switch to something realistic.  We voted on Friday, and the majority of all my classes chose to keep reading it.  Boy21 is a powerful read with a fantastic message without being preachy.  It’s diverse, has guy appeal without alienating the girls, and it’s humorous.  The chapters are short so I have more flexibility in how much I choose to read each day.  Finley doesn’t like to talk that much, so the dialogue is balanced with Finley’s thoughts and observations.  Right now my kids are really curious about Russ, aka Boy21, and what’s going to happen between him and Finley as the story progresses.

Here are a few more titles I’ve had success with reading aloud:

  • My Brother’s Keeper by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads)
  • Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen (Goodreads)
  • Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)

Here are some titles that I’ve recently read and plan to read aloud in the future:

  • Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I just finished reading this book, and I just know my students would love it as a read aloud.  It has a wonderful balance of narration and dialogue.  It’s really funny and full of heart.  It’s a clean book in regards to sex and language, but there is a minor scene that involves drinking.  I think it’d work for middle school classrooms as well as high school classrooms.
  • Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin (Goodreads) (My Review)–We read so many serious stories in high school that I like to mix it up and read something funny out loud when I get the chance.  Kelsey is hilarious and just a fun character to read.  This is a pretty clean book as well which I always appreciate.  There are a couple scenes with drinking, but I they’re definitely not glorifying it!  I think we’re going to finish Boy21 with enough time to read another book, and if that happens I’ll be reading this one to my freshmen next 🙂  I love this book and would read it to more than just my freshmen.

Book Trailer Thursday (42)–The Hunger Games!!

There’s a good chance most of you have already seen the official movie trailer for the movie The Hunger Games.  I have to feature the trailer anyway because I’m WAY excited for the movie!  I’ve shown my classes and now I’m showing all of you 🙂 So… What do you think?  Have you read The Hunger Games?  Do you plan to read the book (or finish the series)?  How many of you want to see the movie?!  Just from the trailer, it looks like they’re staying faithful to the story.  **Fingers crossed that they do**

I did want to search out some additional book trailers, but in all honesty, I’m simply too busy.  I’m leaving for Chicago to attend NCTE/ALAN this afternoon and I’ve been running around like a crazy person trying to pack and prep my classroom before leaving.

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