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Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
ISBN: 9780141439518
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Date of Publication: 2002 (Originally Published in 1813)

Reader’s Annotation:
Elizabeth Bennet struggles with balancing the needs of her family when a new neighbor moves near the Bennet’s family home.

Plot Summary:
Elizabeth Bennet is the second-oldest daughter of the Bennet household. Her older sister is named Jane and she has three younger sisters; Mary, Catherine “Kitty” and Lydia. Jane and Elizabeth are the more mature sisters, while Kitty and Lydia enjoy their immaturity. Mary is the quiet one, preferring to study instead.

Mr. Bennet, the father of the girls, has a dry-wit and enjoys irritating his wife. Mrs. Bennet is an excitable woman whose only focus is successfully marrying her daughters off to single eligible men. She often pushes potential relationships at the expense of her daughters’ humility, creating more trouble than success. Her reasons for her actions do lie in necessity. Mr. Bennet has no male heirs and the house will go to his nephew, Mr. Collins, when he dies. The girls will be left with nothing.

As the story begins, news of the Bennet’s new neighbor have reached the household. Mrs. Bennet is excited in that Mr. Bingley is wealthy and single. When the Bennet household meets Mr. Bingley, he becomes instantly smitten with Jane, and she with him. During this first encounter, the Bennet family meets a friend of Mr. Bingly, a wealthier young man by the name of Mr. Darcy. A quiet, proud man, Mr. Darcy insults Elizabeth in their first meeting, leading her to have a harsh opinion of his character. At the same time, a regiment of soldiers have settled in the area. Elizabeth befriends one of the soldiers who has a past connection with Mr. Darcy.

From these different meetings, miscommunication and misunderstanding begin to emerge and all parties involved find themselves to be in a fine mess of their own doing. But who is right and who is wrong? And what does it mean for the Bennet sisters?

Critical Evaluation:
Jane Austen’s classic about misunderstandings continues to be an influence on modern literature and modern popular culture. Many romantic comedies continue to use the format, most famously Bridget Jones Diary which was an adaption of Austen’s material. Austen’s ability to observe and comment on the absurdity of class situations and the needs of society provide for witty dialogue that readers will enjoy.

The story remains interesting in that it highlights how unsure the concepts of love can be for those experience the feelings for the first time. As the characters come from a time in which physical contact in improper situations can create scandal, the power of a mere handshake can create disjointed feelings within each party. Combine this confusion with the issues of social class (only being able to marry within your economic ranking) and wealth (seeking a marriage partner that will lead to a lifetime of welfare comfort), it’s no wonder that Darcy and Elizabeth were left in a confusing state for the majority of the novel.

The issue of marriage is an interesting one for modern readers in that it again mirrors our modern times. How much pressure is there for young girls to marry, even in this more feminist driven society. Female self-worth is deemed by beauty and the success of a relationship. The question of “Do you have a boyfriend” are asked to single girls and they are looked upon as hopeless if they fail to marry. While this has slowly changed throughout the decades since Austen’s time, there is still an emphasis on the value of a woman based on her ability to marry and reproduce. The important lesson of Austen’s novel is that Elizabeth still chooses to be with who she wants to be with. She has a choice and it leads her to happiness. And that’s an important lesson to remember, no matter what era you live in.

Information about the Author:
From Jane Austen’s Wikipedia Page, born in Hampshire, England in 1775, Austen left very little information about herself due to her desire for privacy after her death in 1817. Her sister Cassandra fulfilled her sister’s wishes and burned a majority of Austen’s letters.

From what has been ascertained about Austen’s life is that Austen was born in a large family to a father who was a rector. Austen began to write at an early age and eventually published her first full novel in 1911. Austen wrote six books, with some work unfinished. She died at the age of 41 due to illness that had lingered in her body for over a year.

Genre:
Romance, Classics

Curriculum Ties:
English Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
Has your mom ever done something to embarrass you?
How important is a first impression?
Reading Level/Interest Age:
14 and up

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I’ve recently have become addicted to a YouTube series produced by Hank Green, John Green’s brother. The series is called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s a video blog about Lizzie Bennet and how she copes with her parents, her sisters Jane and Lydia, and the strange boy she’s just meet, William Darcy.

The series is a modern adaptation of a classic using a format rarely used for this type of storytelling. The series is compelling and fun. Fans of the show are looking towards the original material to compare and discovering the joy that is Jane Austen’s words.

YouTube: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Tumblr: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Jane Austen. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Austen

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Jane-by-April-Lindner-Book-Cover

Jane
By April Lindner
ISBN: 9780316084192
Publisher: Poppy, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
Date of Publication: 2010

Reader’s Annotation:
Forced to find work after her parent’s death, Jane Moore becomes a nanny for the daughter of Nico Rathburn, world famous rock star.

Plot Summary:
When a tragic car accident kills Jane Moore’s parents, she’s left with nothing. With no money to pay for college, Jane begins to look for work. Her luck improves when she’s hired as a nanny for a young girl named Madeline. Her father is the famous rock star Nico Rathburn.

When Jane arrives at the Rathburn mansion, Thornfield Park, she is unprepared for the beauty and size of her new home. As she learns to adapt to her new life and surroundings, Jane begins to hope that one day she can go back and finish her degree. This desire changes when Nico returns from his latest tour, sending Jane into a fit of unexplained emotions. As Jane and Nico become closer, strange sounds begin to linger in the mansion; strange things that happen in the dead of the night. And soon Jane discovers that secrets have a way of rarely staying hidden.

Critical Evaluation:
April Lindner’s modern adaption of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a treat to read, especially for those readers who are fans of costume dramas. While Jane Moore might not have the harsh background that Jane Eyre experienced in her youth, there are still similarities that still lead the modern Jane to Thornfield with equal parts sadness and excitement. Modern Jane is described as plain like original Jane but still posses the previous incarnation’s desire to be from their forced situations.

Nico Rathburn is a lovely substitute for Mr. Rochester. The use of rock star mythology fits with Rochester’s own questionable background in that it allows the character to be mysterious and distant while still pulling us readers, unknowingly, into his fiery personality. The other cast of characters have been tweaked to fit the modern age, but the original spirit still remains.

The story is entertaining and well-written. Fans of the book, intrigued by the plot, might be better served seeking the original version. The original version still packs more of a punch mostly due to the gender inequality of Bronte’s time. While modern Jane still is hindered by her low self-confidence, her strength in finding her voice isn’t as strong as Original Jane’s journey. The impact of Jane and Nico’s reunion does feel like a checkpoint of the Bronte plot, though Linder still provides a great ending for those who might not be familiar with the original material. Linder’s adaption is a great gateway novel for readers to explore the classics.

Jane Eyre

Information about the Author:
From April Lindner’s Webpage, Linder is a professor of English at St. Joseph’s University. Lindner originally intended to major in art at the University of New Hampshire. She met her husband at said University. They currently live in Philadelphia area.

Lindner is also a poet and has had a collection published. She recently returned to the world of the Bronte sisters with a modern adaption of Wuthering Heights called Catherine. Lindner is currently working on a adaption of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, called Lucy.

April Lindner on Twitter

Genre:
Romance, Modern Adaptation

Curriculum Ties:
English Literature (Adaptation of Classics)

Booktalking Ideas:
What would it be like to work with someone famous?
Have you ever wanted to escape from a relationship?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews gives a suggested age range of 15-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would include language and sexual situations.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been a fan of the original book, I was wary of this new version. I was surprised to find I enjoyed it. The book is a great way to introduce a wonderful classic to those readers who might be reluctant to read classic literature.

References:
Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Jane by April Lindner. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/april-lindner/jane-lindner/
Linder, A. (n.d.). About Me. Retrieved from http://www.aprillindner.com/about

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Stargirl

Stargirl
By Jerry Spinelli
ISBN: 97803758233x
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Date of Publication: 2000

Reader’s Annotation:
Leo Borlock’s world is turned upside down when he meets the new girl at school.

Plot Summary:
Leo Borlock is an average high school student at an average high school in Arizona. On an ordinary day an extraordinary girl makes her first appearance and instantly captures Leo’s heart. Her name is Stargirl. A former homeschool student, Stargirl decided to enter public school to find out about the high school experience.  She believes in living life to the fullest and looks for any opportunity to find joy in her surroundings.

At first, the school rejoices in her individuality, finding her to be a piece of fresh air. But as the school year progresses, opinions begin to change and soon the school begins to attack Stargirl for being different. Leo finds himself caught in a struggle between his love of Stargirl and the pressures of high school society. Leo finds he must choose between what is considered “normal” and what it means to follow your heart.

Critical Evaluation:
High School can be a horrific place to experiment with individuality. In the beginning you might be judged as the freak and ignored by the majority of the student body. You might be looked upon as a novelty, something to be stared at in amusement before everyone else goes about their day.

Stargirl believes in being herself. She doesn’t know anything different than that concept. When Leo tries to ignore the majority’s negative opinion about Stargirl, he finds he doesn’t like the isolation as much as he thought he did. The need for acceptance is a powerful trait for anyone at any time in their life. While we want to see Stargirl become the jewel of the school, we understand Leo’s dilemma. He wants to bask in Stargirl’s individuality, but the opinions of others stifles his feelings and in the end allows the relationship to whither and fade out of existence.

Any reader who struggles with the concept of individuality or identity will feel empathy over Stargirl’s journey. The same readers will understand Leo’s struggle with group think and high school popularity issues.

Information about the Author:
From Jerry Spinelli’s Webpage, a graduate of Gettysburg College, began his writing career early during his high school years. His first book, Space Station Seventh Grade, was written in between his work as a men’s wear editor.

Spinelli has drawn inspiration from his own childhood and by watching his six children grow up. He is the author of 30 books as well as the grandfather of 21 grandchildren.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Non-confromity

Booktalking Ideas:
What’s your idea of being normal?
What does it mean to be friends with someone outside of the “norm”?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews gives a suggested age range of 11-14.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
While Jerry Spinelli is known for books catered to a young age, Stargirl is perfect for young adults due to it’s honest discussion of conformity and group think mentality.

Reference:
Kirkus Reviews. (2000). Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jerry-spinelli/stargirl/

Spinelli, J. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from http://www.jerryspinelli.com/newbery_008.htm

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Beastly
By Alex Flinn
ISBN: 9780061998669
Publisher: HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Date of Publication: 2009
Reader’s Annotation:
Kyle Kingsbury has two years to break the curse that has made him into a beast. The cure? To fall in love and to be loved in return.

Plot Summary:
Kyle Kingsbury has it all. He’s handsome, smart, rich, and is the most popular boy at Tuttle Private School. His father is a famous news anchor and provides Kyle with anything he needs. One day, Kyle notices a strange girl in his English class. She’s dressed in strange, dark gothic clothing and is vocal in her dislike of Kyle’s selfish behavior. On a whim, Kyle asks this girl, Kendra, to the school’s dance, plotting a way to humiliate Kendra in front of the entire school. Kendra says yes, though she remains wary of Kyle’s intentions.

As planned, Kyle ditches Kendra at the dance, mocking her in front of the attendees. Kendra’s reaction frightens Kyle in that she offers no revenge but a warning. When Kyle arrives back home after the dance, he discovers Kendra is waiting for him. She is actually a witch and curses Kyle to become a disgusting beast; a creature who matches Kyle’s ugly soul. Kyle now has two years to find love and to be loved in return, for that is his only cure for the curse. As time slowly melts away, Kyle finds himself learning what it really means to give your heart to someone, that love is how we protect and care for another, and love is not merely a feeling but an action that changes us forever.

Critical Evaluation:
Alex Flinn’s modern take on the Beauty and the Beast story is a delight. It is a quick read and slightly predictable, but still entertaining. Flinn presents Kyle as a genuinely selfish boy, but we can’t help but sympathize with his character in light of his father’s neglect. It is clear that Kyle’s behavior and opinions stem from his father’s influence. There are glimpses of hope for his behavior, but when Kyle is changed into the beast, the reader can’t help but be glad for this inevitable transformation.

The character of Beauty, Lindy, is portrayed as a strong-willed young woman who has been forced to survive on her own. While fairytale mentality often showcase young women longing for a knight in shinning armor to rescue them, Lindy is neither weak or stupid. Her intelligence is celebrated in the book and is a trait that Kyle uses in order to woo her heart.

The ending of the book, which I will not spoil, is very much on par of the original fairy tale. Lessons are learned and everyone involved become better people. But it’s an important lesson in that in shows that people CAN change and that our preconceived notions of our friends or strangers can be altered with time. While the book is not one based on the premise of bullying, it does highlight how being different should be celebrated. And that it is our differences that make us great and beautiful.

Information about the author:
From Alex (Alexandra) Flinn’s Webpage, Flinn was raised in Miami, Florida, where she lives today. After witnessing the after effects of dating violence during an internship with the State Attorney’s Office, Flinn was inspired to write her first book, Breathing Underwater. From the success of her first book, Flinn continued to write realistic fiction and has found continued success in her fairy tale adaptations.

Alex Flinn’s Webpage is a great resource for reading guide for teens and educators.

Alex Flinn on Facebook

Genre:
Fantasy, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Fairy Tales, Self-Image and Self-Worth

Booktalking Ideas:
How important is a first impression?
Who are we when no one is looking?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews provides an age range of 19-20. Flinn’s prose is geared towards a younger age range and would be ideal for ages 14 and Up.

Challenging Issues:


There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be drug abuse.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When I was looking over my selections for this assignment, I realized that I was lacking the fantasy genre. I found this at my local library branch and decided to take a chance as the story of Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales. Retelling of fairy tales seems to be a trend in popular culture and this version of Beauty and the Beast was nice addition to the myth of that tale.

Reference:
Flinn, A. (n.d.). About Alex. Retrieved from http://www.alexflinn.com/html/bio.html

Kirkus Review. (2010). Beastly by Alex Flinn. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/alex-flinn/beastly/

Bonus Features!

Lindy’s Story

(more…)

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The Thief
By Megan Whalen Turner
ISBN: 9780060824976
Publisher: Greenwillow Book, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Date of Publication: 1996

Reader’s Annotation:
The greatest Thief of Sounis has been captured and is forced to serve the King in a quest to find the legendary Hamiathes’s Gift Stone.

Plot Summary:
In the faraway land of Sounis, a thief sits in a filthy prison cell, awaiting his punishment. Gen might have been too cocky in his claims that he could steal anything, including the King’s Seal.

Gen is given an extraordinary opportunity when the King’s Magnus releases Gen and takes him on impossible quest. Joined by two apprentices, Sophos and Ambiades, and a soldier, Pol, Gen is forced to survive as the group travels to find a stone call the Hamaithe’s Gift. It is said that the stone possess power that will help the owner control the lands of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia. The King of Sounis expects Gen to prove his worth as Gen has claimed that he can steal anything.

But as the journey continues into dangerous territory, alliances are questioned and no one is who they are perceived to be. It’s up to Gen to find a way out of certain death and a way home.

Critical Evaluation:
The first in the unofficially titled “Queen’s Thief” series, Turner’s novel of an arrogant thief is a treat for any reader looking for adventure and mystery. It should be assumed that Turner is an excellent card player in that she keeps her secrets tight to her chest until the story needs them. Once the suspense is properly created, Turner succeeds in providing a large payoff that readers can’t help but cry out in joy. Gen is a fun enigmatic character because we discover early on that Gen is a clever boy. As the story progresses we begin to realize the depths of Gen’s intelligence. To be a thief is to see a bigger picture that ordinary people rarely see or want to see.

The greatest asset the book presents is that how you are perceived is just as important as who you truly are. We are taught, more so now in this gage of bullying, that we should be proud to be who we are and to hold that pride with joy and satisfaction. An interesting note of Turner’s novel, and with the rest of the series, is that sometimes it’s worth playing up other’s expectations of you, if it means achieving your goal. Gen is expected to fail. He is expected to be a cocky thief whose only successful trait is to brag about his conquests. And that’s what people see and expect but nothing is ever what it seems. A surface view never shows the incredible details outside of a picture frame.

Young readers will be engaged in Gen’s adventure as well as be enticed by the journey’s mystery. Fans of this book will more likely move to the next book in the series, eager for more adventures in the land of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia.

Information about the Author:
From Megan Whalen Turner’s Webpage, Turner graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in English Language and Literature. She worked at a bookstore before she began her writing career. Her husband is a professor at Case Western Reserve University. Turner won the Newbery Honor in 1997 for The Thief.

Genre:
Fantasy, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Mythology

Booktalking Ideas:
What does it mean to be clever? To be Street Smart?
How can a puzzle be used in adventure stories?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Review lists the reading age as 10 and up, while Amazon lists the reading age as 8 and up. I would still recommend this series to teen readers because of the use of mythology and of the different love relationships that are essential to the story lines.

Challenging Issues:


There are no current challenges for either book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include theft and mythology.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). The Thief (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1). Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/The-Thief-Queens-Book/dp/0060824972/ref=pd_sim_b_1

Kirkus Reviews. (2010). The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/megan-whalen-turner/the-thief/

Turner, M.W. (n.d.). Megan Whalen Turner – About. Retrieved from http://meganwhalenturner.org/AbouthteAuthor.html

Gen and Attolia fan art

The Love of Kings and Queens

Bonus Features!

“The Queen’s Thief Series”

(more…)

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Teen Wolf
Developed by Jeff Davis
Produced by MGM Television and Music Television (MTV)
Original Release: 2011
Number of Seasons: 2

Annotation:
After teenager Scott McCall is bitten by a mysterious wolf creature, Scott discovers he had become a werewolf.

Summary:
Scott McCall exists on the fringes of his high school in Beacon Hills. Together with his sarcastic best fried. “Stiles” Stalinski, the pair hopes that this will be the year that they actually get to participate on the school’s lacrosse team instead of spending another season on the bench.

One night Scott and Stiles decide to quietly  follow Stiles’s father, the town sheriff, on an interesting case. A young woman is missing and the boys hope to find the girl first. As the boys roam in the forest, they are attacked by a mysterious wolf creature. Scott is bitten but survives the attack. The boys escape and make it home, scared but alive.

Overnight, Scott begins to feel changes in his body; his senses are heightened, his asthma has disappeared, and he now posses super-strength. In the midst of these changes, Scott meets Allison Argent, the new transfer student whose family has a unique history.As Scott and Stiles begin to discover the reasons behind Scott’s transformation, another figure enters their lives; the mysterious Derek Hale. Scott and Derek share a common trait. Both are actual werewolves and they are not alone.

Critical Evaluation:
From Teen Wolf’s Wikipedia page, loosely based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox comedy film of the same name, the show rarely resembles the original outside of the name and werewolf premise. Teen Wolf’s creator, Jeff Davis, was more inspired by the films The Lost Boys and Stand by Me, using the visual style and the story-lines as inspiration. Davis succeeds in that the show isn’t like any other current teen drama. The character feel like real teenagers and are rightly punished by parents who don’t exist in the sidelines, like many other teen shows often do. The parents are often part of the teens life and rarely are used when the plot calls for a humane lesson.

The horror aspect of the show is surprising in that it really is scary. The show avoids major horror film cliches by reminded the audience that while the main characters are teens, they are now idiots and they do have the common sense to run away from danger if needed. The best part of the program comes during Dylan O’Brien’s performance of Stiles Stilinski. Playing second fiddle to Tyler Posey’s Scott McCall, the character provides great comic relief but is never just the humorous character. Like many characters of the show, there is more depth that what is perceived and that makes for compelling drama.

Information about the Creator:
From Jeff Davis’s Wikipedia page, born in Milford, Connecticut and a graduate of Vassar College, Davis studied film and later received a master’s in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. Davis found success when he helped created the program Criminal Minds. His greatest success has been Teen Wolf. He serves as executive producer, head writer and show creator.

Genre:
Fantasy, Urban/Modern Fantasy, Horror/Thriller, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Horror Stories, Modern Mythology

Booktalking Ideas:
Why would you refuse to have a power?
How do our surroundings change who we are?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
15 and up

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include sexual situations, violence, horrific situations, and child disobedience.

Why did I include this series in the title selection?
I started to watch the program as it kept popping up in discussions with my younger friends. I watched one episode to try it out. Five hours later, I had watched half of season one. The show’s true portrayal of teens is a great choice for teen audiences.

References:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Jeff Davis (writer). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Davis_%28writer%29

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Teen Wolf. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Wolf_(2011_TV_series)

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gilmore_girls-show

Gilmore Girls
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Produced by Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions
Released by Warner Brothers Television
Original release: 2000
Number of Seasons: 7

Annotation:
Lorelei Gilmore and her daughter Rory live in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, where the town is filled with interesting, eccentric characters.

Plot Summary:
When she was sixteen, Lorelei Gilmore discovered she was pregnant. Instead of marrying the baby’s father, Christopher Hayden, Lorelai leaves her parent’s home in Hartford and make her own way in the world. The mother and the baby eventually make Stars Hollow their home. Lorelai found work as a maid at the Independence Inn, where she rose through the ranks from maid to becoming the Inn’s executive manager.

Lorelai’s daughter, Rory, is a bright, young woman who has just been accepted into Chilton Preparatory School. This news is exciting as it means it’s one more step closer to Rory’s dream school, Harvard University. Unfortunately, Lorelai doesn’t have enough funds to pay for the tuition. With no one else to turn to, Lorelai swallows her pride and seeks assistance from her parents; an action that Lorelai tried to avoid due to their antagonizing relationship. Lorelai’s mother says yes, they will pay for Rory’s tuition, but on the condition that the two younger Gilmores join the senior Gilmores, Richard and Emily, for dinner every Friday night. For Emily and Lorelai’s relationship has been cracked for sometime, as what you wish for your child isn’t always what they desire.

Critical Evaluation:
With sharp dialogue and snappy settings, Gilmore Girls remains a well-written, funny program that explores issues such as family relationships amongst social classes, teen relationships, and the power (and craziness) of living in a small town. Because Lorelai was a teenager when she gave birth to Rory, the family dynamic is often sister-sister instead of mother-daughter. This dynamic comes into play as Rory grows up and begins making decisions without her mother. This conflict is mirrored in Lorelai’s interactions with Emily and provides for both laughs and drama. The supporting cast enhances the quirky small-town of Stars Hollow and viewers will be delighted when those small characters make brief appearances.

The music of the show is an important piece of the program as it’s almost the third staring member of the cast. Lorelai’s love of 80s music was a highlight in the first season when The Bangles appeared as guest stars. Rory’s best friend Lane loves music but hides it from her strict mother. Lane eventually starts her own band with Sebastian Bach, the former lead singer of the rock band Skid Row, stars as her bandmate. Carole King, who lent her music to the theme song, later plays a music shop owner. Grant-Lee Phillips plays the town’s troubadour.

The later seasons saw a change in the storyline that almost detracts from the relationship between Rory and Lorelai. It’s an issue that is somewhat solved in the end. Viewers of the show will be sad when the series eventually ends, as Stars Hollow because a part of their life and we can’t help but feel like family.

Information about the Creator:
From Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Wikipedia page , inspired by the quirky, witty dialogue of Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen, Sherman-Palladino has made a reputation of creating television programs that involve obscure popular culture references and quirky dialogue. Married to fellow writer Daniel Palladino, started as a staff writer for the sitcom Roseanne. She created different projects after leaving Roseanne but found no success as many of the projects were cancelled.

Sherman-Palladino created Gilmore Girls during a quick pitch to Warner Brothers. The show became an instant success with family groups in part to the relationship between Rory and her mother Lorelai. She left the show before it’s final season. Her latest success, Bunheads, will have its second season starting in January 2013.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Popular Culture

Booktalking Ideas:
How do you relate to your parents?
Are there things you keep hidden from your parents?

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include some sexual situations, especially during later seasons.

Why did I include this series in the titles selection?
Being a fan of the show since it’s first episode, the snappy dialogue and parental relationships are a would be treat to any teenager looking for quality television.

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Amy Sherman-Palladino. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Sherman-Palladino

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By Stephen Chbosky
ISBN: 9780671027346
Publisher: MTV Books/Pocket Books
Date of Publication: 1999

Reader’s Annotation:
As Charlie begins his first year in high school, he must navigate between what it means to be a friend and what it means to be yourself.

Plot Summary:
On the day before the start of his freshmen year in high school, Charlie begins to write a letter to an anonymous recipient. Throughout the year, Charlie continues to write letters about all the things he experiences.

For Charlie is a shy boy. His favorite aunt died in a tragic car accident when he was young and his good friend killed himself last year. An artistic soul, Charlie longs to make a friend but finds himself to be more of an observer on the sidelines.

But something magical happens to Charlie. He makes not only one friend but two which leads him into a whole new world he never imagined. Together with his new friends, Patrick and Sam, Charlie begins to emerge from being a mere observer to a person with purpose and direction.

Combining family drama with the chaotic world of high school, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the tale of a young man struggling to find his voice and to find love with friendship and other possibilities.

Critical Evaluation:
Tackling issues such as depression, suicide, abuse (sexual and substance), homosexuality, teen sexuality, and homophobia, this teen classic continues to have an impact on its audience. It’s clear from Chbosky’s writing that he feels that it is important to maintain an honest discussion of these highlighted topics. Chbosky doesn’t shy away from these issues and does use them in a away that they don’t feel like plot devices but a natural part of Charlie’s growing maturity.

The interactions with Patrick and Sam were amusing at the beginning in that it seems that the duo are merely humoring Charlie, but as the year goes on, it’s clear that Charlie has begun to have an impact on their lives as well. While Charlie is meant to be an observer, a wallflower, he does miss key elements due to his innocence. One can’t help but wonder if Charlie’s parents have been overprotective of him, shielding him from situations that other kids find normal or if Charlie’s depression has clouded his sight.

The book does showcase a tie to the writings of J.D. Salinger, specifically with The Catcher in the Rye. While the character of Holden Caufield might be more known for his alienated behavior, he shares a sense of loneliness in Charlie. The letter writing format of the story doesn’t detract from the storyline and is an entertaining format to read.

Information about the Author:
Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A graduate of University of Southern California, Chbosky has worked in film and television. His first book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, has been recently adapted into a film, which Chbosky also directed.

Stephen Chbosky on Twitter

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Abuse, Homosexuality, and Alienation

Booktalking Ideas:
Why are some memories are fresh and why are some forgotten?
Have you ever felt alone in a crowd?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Ages 16 and up.

Challenging Issues:
According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a highly challenged or banned in 2009. (OIF, 2010). Those who have challenged the book have cited issues with the book’s discussion of sexuality (masturbation and homosexuality), the use of drugs and alcohol, and language.

The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I read this book when it first came out in 1999. I was instantly enamored with the material and felt a deep, lasting connection to Charlie and his life. When I attended a screening for the recent film adaptation, it was exciting to see a large group of teens scattered throughout the theatre. What was even more excited was to overhear the teens discuss the difference between the book and the film. For a book to continue to resonate with teens, after over ten years since its publication, means that this is an important book to recommend to teens, and possibility to older readers as well.

Reference:
Office for Intellectual Freedom. (2010). Spotlight on censorship – The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  OIF Blog. Retrieved from http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=1525

Simon and Schuster. (2012). Stephen Chbosky/Official Publisher Page. Simon and Schuster. Retrieved from http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Stephen-Chbosky/1843916

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Bonus Feature!

Mini Film Adaptation Review!

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If I Stay
By Gayle Forman
ISBN: 9780142415436
Publisher: Speak, an imprint of the Penguin Group
Date of Publication: 2009

Where She Went
By Gayle Forman
ISBN: 9780142420898
Publisher: Speak, an imprint of the Penguin Group
Date of Publication: 2011

Special Note:
I had thought of doing a separate review for these two books but I felt that since they are so closely connected to each other, I should treat these two novels as one complete story. Hence the double feature review.

Reader’s Annotation:
If I Stay: When a tragic accident leaves Mia Hall in a coma, she must decide if she must live or die, stay or go.

Where She Went: In the aftermath of Mia’s decision, Adam Wilde must come to terms with the accident and his place in Mia’s life.

Plot Summary: If I Stay
Mia Hall has a great life. Her parents are supportive and she loves her younger brother. She’s been accepted to Julliard and she’s in love with a wonderful boyfriend. All of this changes one snowy morning when Mia’s family is torn apart in a tragic car accident. Now Mia must contemplate a new life where everything is different.

As Mia reels from this new reality, she spends a day contemplating her past and considers her future. If she leaves this new life, she would be free from the inevitable heartache. If Mia stays, she must face a different future than she once imagined.

Plot Summary: Where She Went
Three years after Mia’s car accident, Adam Wilde is a successful rock star. Yet, despite his fame, Adam is still attached to his memories of his first love. By chance, Adam and Mia meet once again in New York City. From that chance encounter, Adam and Mia begin to connect once again, walking through the city as they look back at their past and their future. Will this random chance lead to a second opportunity for happiness?

Critical Evaluation:
Gayle Forman’s tale of love, death, and reconciliation was an enthralling read. Forman places a lot of love in the characters, which provides the reader with the means of an honest connection to the story. The story does delve into more mature themes for the second book, which is understandable in that the characters are in their early-twenties. It doesn’t distract from the story but enhances the natural evolution of the characters.

The story is a great showcase for young readers in that it provides an understanding that not all relationships are perfect. Relationships work best when each party involved are confident in themselves before they give love to another. Mia and Adam’s struggle in finding themselves in the midst of tragedy and success feels genuine in that Forman never forgets to show that these characters are still very human and feel pain and joy like the reader.

Audio Evaluation:
The method in which I read these two books was through an audiobook. The audiobook editions were fun in that both narrators gave great performances. I found myself enthralled with the manner in which the book was read, ignoring my surroundings until I could get to the end. I would highly recommend the audio versions of these books, though be careful where you listen as parts will induce tears.

If I Stay was read by Kirsten Potter

Where She Went was read by Dan Bittner

Information about the Author:
From Gayle Forman’s Website, Gayle began her writing career at Seventeen magazine and branched out to freelance work with other magazines such as  Cosmopolitan and The Nation. After traveling the world with her husband, Forman began to write stories for a younger audience. Her first book, Sisters in Sanity, was published in 2007. Her next two books, If I Stay and Where She Went, were published in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Forman’s next two books are scheduled for publication towards the beginning and end of 2013.

Gayle Forman on Twitter

Gayle Forman on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Romance, Death and Dying

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Near Death Situations

Booktalking Ideas:
What role does music play in your life?
How has your family impacted your life?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
While the material is given a listing on Amazon for ages 14 and up, I would agree with the Kirkus Reivew that the material should be for older teens, specially for the second book with its more mature themes.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for either book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include sexual situations, after-death discussions, and the use of substance abuse in the second book.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I picked this book up on a whim while browsing the YA selection at the Kensington/Normal Heights Branch. I instantly fell in love with both the writing style and the storyline. I visited the material once again when I discovered there was a sequel to the book, which was a wonderful compliment to the first.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Where She Went: Gayle Forman. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Where-She-Went-Gayle-Forman/dp/0142420891

Kirkus Review. (2010). If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Kirkus Review. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/gayle-forman/if-i-stay/

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Why We Broke Up
By Daniel Handler with Art by Moira Kalman
ISBN: 9780316127257
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
Reeling from a sudden break-up from her boyfriend Ed, Min writes a letter as a means of understanding why the relationship was doomed from the beginning.

Plot Summary:
On the porch of the house where Ed Slaterton lives, a package has just been delivered. The package is a simple box filled with mementos of a failed relationship. Objects such as a movie ticket stub, a matchbox, a coin, and a kitchen tool lay within the box as well as a letter describing the significance of the contents. The letter, written by one Minerva Green, recounts the beginnings of their relationship and how it was doomed to fail. Told in flashbacks from Min’s point of view, Why We Broke Up describes the pain and heartache of a first love that doesn’t survive.

Kalman-Matchbox-218x300

Critical Evaluation:
Young love is a topic that will always be revisited because we have all experienced love and lost in our past, especially at a young age when we’re still discovering our own self-worth. Daniel Handler’s book about a doomed love can be engaging in that we can’t help but remember our own first relationship or that first crush and wonder why it didn’t work out like we wanted it to. We can’t help but wonder if our lives would have been different if we had left earlier in the relationship or if we had stuck it out. Life is fully of unknowns and what-ifs, more so in the teen years than in any other time because the world still seems endless with amazing possibilities. When young love ends, it seems like nothing else matters and there’s no more hope for any of us.

In regards to the relationship between Ed and Min, while at times the situations seem childish and bitter, this is often the manner in which high school relationships operate. Too many feelings all at once which crash and burn with casualties surrounding the messy situation. Min is enraptured with Ed, even though they barely share anything in common. Min is hopeful, like many girls her age, that everything will work out and that love will win all. At times, Min’s issues about the relationship seem too much in that it almost borders on obsessive, with a path towards stalker behavior. While this might be a negative quality to the book, it’s an important key in that Min is still a young girl, struggling to find her voice. She might not comprehend the bigger picture and the experience she gains through this relationship will help her see how wrong she was to have hope.

Moira Kalman’s art is a lovely set piece to the book, providing visual examples of the items in Ed’s box. The use of visuals are important in that it highlights what was important to Min, even if the items seem silly and redundant.

Overall, Handler does give a solid effort in portraying young doomed love. Young readers, specifically those in mourning of a lost love, will find comfort in Min’s cathartic words, but might find her actions over the top. Granted, the use of symbolization is an important plot device to carry the story. It’s hard to reconcile that one person would save every memento of a relationship, every a relationship that barely lasted three months.

The story has inspired a webpage called the Why We Broke Up Project, wherein readers can share their own tales of heartache from a break-up.

project

Information about the Author and Artist:
Daniel Handler is a graduate from Wesleyan University. He currently resides in San Francisco, a city where he was born and raised. Handler is the author of three adult titles as well as a musician. His alter-ego, Lemony Snicket, is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Daniel Handler does not have a personal webpage, though his alter-ego, Lemony Snicket, does.

Maira Kalman is a resident of New York City. She is a writer and an illustrator, having published thirteen children’s books. This is her second collaboration with Handler, with the previous collaboration published with Handler’s alter-ego, Lemony Snicket. Kalman’s art has been exhibited in the United States and China.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Letter Writing, Relationships and Communication

Booktalking Ideas:
What mementos do you have that remind you of another person?
Do emotions manipulate our decisions in life?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Amazon has a suggested reading age of 15 and up. Kirkus Reviews suggests 14 and up.

Challenging Issues:


There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would include sexual situations, drug and alcohol use and theft.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I had picked this book up at my local library branch because I was familiar with the author’s previous work. The story is universal in that all young relationships can be turbulent . The mixture of hormones and fluxing emotions swirl are a common theme for teens. This is a great book for any teen who has suffered in love for it shows that they are not alone and it’s okay to feel heartbreak, even in a short-term relationship.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d). Why we broke up. Amazon.Com. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Broke-Daniel-Handler/dp/0316127256/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354389663&sr=8-1&keywords=why+we+broke+up

Barclay Agency. (n.d.). Daniel Handler. The Steven Barclay Agency. Retrieved from barclayagency.com

Kalman, M. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from http://www.mairakalman.com/about/

Kirkus Reviews. (2011). Why we broke up. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/daniel-handler/why-we-broke/

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