Books I Thought I’d Like Less and More Than I Did

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

It’s always disappointing when I discover that a book I thought I was going to love ends up being a dud.  But it’s really exciting when I’m reading a book that I had minimal expectations for turns into a favorite.  Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about those books.

Books I thought I’d like more than I did:

Splintered by A.G. Howard (Goodreads): I was really enjoying this when I first started listening to the audio.  The entire premise was intriguing and I was drawn in.  But then it turned into a weird, way-too-emo for me story that I couldn’t enjoy.  There’s a really long list of things I really disliked about this debut.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Goodreads): I’m still disappointed that I didn’t like this book.  I didn’t even finish it!  It didn’t speak to me and I hated the footnotes.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (Goodreads): This debut had instant action and lots of promise, but ultimately it fizzled about half way through the book.  I never finished it.

Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins (Goodreads): I really expected to like this book.  I like the star-crossed lovers storyline, and I was looking forward to see how the story would play out with one of the characters being Amish.  Unfortunately, the story grew repetitive and stalled out.  I stopped reading it after I discovered that there would be more books.  If I was already bored half way through the first book, I couldn’t let myself invest in yet another series.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Goodreads): I love Lauren Oliver’s writing so I fully expected to love this one.  I was listening to the audio over the summer and made it as far as the second half of the audiobook before I gave up.  I grew bored with the story.  I wanted it to move along faster, and after a while Lauren Oliver’s flowery writing started to sound verbose.  Maybe one day I’ll come back to this one, but it won’t be any time soon.

SplinteredAn Abundance of KatherinesGlowTemptationDelirium

Books I thought I’d like less than I did:

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads): Two students told me about this during my first year teaching my YA elective.  I was really hesitant to read it because I thought I didn’t like science fiction.  After they told me how amazing it was I decided to give it a shot.  It’s one of my favorites and it even made me cry.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Goodreads): I remember when my high school best friend picked this up when we were in college.  She raved and raved about it, but I wasn’t interested.  One of my students gave me her copy to read during spring break a couple years ago, so I finally caved and read it.  I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner because it’s SO GOOD!  I didn’t want it to end.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Goodreads): I remember seeing an ARC of this in my ALAN box in Chicago and thinking, “What is this?”  I had never heard of Jordan Sonnenblick, and I had never heard of this book.  I don’t know why I was so hesitant.  I can’t even remember how I ended up reading it last year, but I enjoyed every minute of it.  It’s funny and heart-warming.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (Goodreads): I tried reading The Warrior Heir during my first year of teaching and really disliked it.  Last year I requested some titles to help me discover more fantasy and this was recommended.  I figured I’d like it, but I had no idea I would love it.  I was completely absorbed in the story and the world.  It’s a long book, and I’m pretty sure I read it in just over a day.  This is a fabulous series.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Goodreads): I tried reading this in the traditional sense and then a year later I tried the audio.  Both times I had to set it aside.  I finally tried the audio for a second time and I was finally hooked.  I think this is one of those “I need to be in the right mood books” because I can’t believe I didn’t finish it the first time I tried reading it.  It’s such a fantastic book that’s beautifully written.  If you haven’t read it yet, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the audio.

The Knife of Never Letting GoWater for ElephantsCurveball The Year I Lost My GripThe Demon KingDaughter of Smoke and Bone

Banned Books Week: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

It’s Banned Books Week so I’m highlighting a different banned book each day this week.  My posts will include the banned book, where/why it’s been banned (or challenged), my opinion, and a student’s opinion.  I’m also hosting a banned books giveaway, so I hope you’ll check it out and enter to win a banned book of your choice.

Banned Book: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Removed from a spring break elective course at the Bedford, N.H. School District (2010) after a parent complained about the novel’s sexual content. The complainant further suggested that the school only allow “youth versions” of particular books or organize a parental review system over the summer that would look at books that students need parental permission to read. A checklist has been proposed that Bedford school officials would use to rate books and other instructional materials.” (Source–Quote taken from ALA banned books resource page)

My Thoughts: I chose to highlight this book first for a couple reasons.  First, I didn’t know until a couple days ago when I was getting these posts ready that Water for Elephants had been banned.  Second, this book wasn’t published as a YA novel.  I read it this past spring after one of my high school students handed me her copy and told me I had to read it.  I was surprised by the mature, sexual scenes but that’s because I’ve been reading YA almost exclusively and had to remind myself that this novel wasn’t published YA.  It did make me wonder what my student thought of those scenes, which we discussed when I gave her book back at the end of spring break.

Despite the maturity of the novel, there are quite a few positive messages in the novel which I think outweigh those scenes.  Jacob, the main character, suddenly becomes an orphan just as he’s about to graduate from college and become a veterinarian.  As a last resort he hops a circus train and is thrown into a bizarre and often dangerous life.  Water for Elephants is historical fiction and Sara Gruen did a wonderful job researching the time period and the circus culture when writing her novel.  Her story focuses on Jacob and how he learns to survive this new life, but also how he shows compassion for both people and animals, learns to stand up for himself, and finds his first love.

I have a copy of this book in my classroom library, because I know my mature readers will enjoy it.  I made sure to buy a copy with the original cover (the movie cover has Robert Pattison and Reese Witherspoon) because I think my boys in class will be more likely to pick it up than they would if I had the movie cover edition.  If you’re looking for a rationale for Water for Elephants, it’s listed as a Scholastic Reading Counts book **side note: I’m not an advocate of boxed reading programs like this, but I know many schools use them.** and it’s a 2007 Alex Award winner.  The Alex Award is given to books that are written for adults but appeal to teen readers.

Student Response: This quote is from Tristan, my student who let me borrow her copy over spring break.  “The book is an adult book to begin with, so why would the author have to worry about sexual content? As far as having it in a high school, I think that teens can handle it. And if a parent has a problem, THEN THEY DON’T NEED TO LET THEIR CHILD READ IT!  But they don’t need to drag other students into it. I do agree this book does contain a lot of sexual content, so I wouldn’t want my middle school sister reading this. But teens can handle it, and parents shouldn’t be naive enough to think this isn’t something their children are oblivious about.”

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