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Posts Tagged ‘Death and Dying’

I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip
By John Donovan
ISBN: 9780738721347
Publisher: Harper & Row (Flux for the reprint edition)
Date of Publication: 1969

Reader’s Annotation:
After the death of his grandmother, Davy adjusts to his new life with his mother in New York City.

Plot Summary:
Davy’s grandmother has just died, leaving Davy and his dachshund Fred, without a home. Eventually his mother takes Davy and Fred back to New York City, enrolling him in a private school. Davy is unsure about his future and the path of his new life. Davy’s mother is happier at a party with a cocktail in hand. Davy’s father has a new girlfriend who connects better with Davy than his own mother.

When Davy enters his new school, he meets Douglas Altschuler, a competitive jock who slowly becomes Davy’s friend. As the boys grow closer, a question begins to form in Davy’s mind: Why do I care so much about this boy? Breaking through the taboo topic of homosexuality, John Donovan’s landmark novel is the story of what it means to grow up and to become an adult in a already confusing world.

Critical Evaluation:
John Donavon’s tale of friendship and maturity is a quick but interesting read. At times the story seems too simple in that Davy’s voice is more childlike instead of a young teen’s voice. As the novel progresses, the first-person voice improves, highlighting Davy’s entrance into maturity.

In regards to the sexuality of the book, the homosexuality act between Davy and Douglas is conducted off the page. From a 21st Century perspective, this seems too tame. Yet, to even suggest such an act, especially in Young Adult fiction, would have been an incredible risk in the late 1960s. Donavon almost treats it like an afterthought. The parental reactions are a true reflection of their characters and it would have been surprising if the parents had acted differently.

Donovan’s themes of childhood maturity doesn’t just stem from sexual identity but from family situations. Davy acknowledges that his life was better because of his grandmother and that his parents will never achieve that inspirational status. One might question why Davy was placed in the care of his grandmother but it becomes apparent with Davy’s interactions with his parents that his brief encounter with his grandmother was a blessing. Towards the end of the novel, it’s clear that Davy was actually better off without either of them, which is why Davy’s maturity will be stronger than he could imagine.

While the book is not primarily focused on LGBT issues, it’s still a great book to suggest to a young LGBT audience. Audiences might feel a connection with Davy’s confusion and gain an understanding of the history of LGBT issues.

Information about the Author:
From his Obituary in the New York Times, John Donovan was a graduate of  the College of William and Mary. He gained his law degree from the Univeristy of Virginia and worked with the Library of Congress in their Copyright Office.

He served as the executive director of the Children’s Book Council. He was the author of four books and two short plays. He died in 1992 at the age of 63.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Sexual Identity

Booktalking Ideas:
Who do you turn to when you need to talk to someone?
Is there a place you like to escape to when everything becomes overwhelming?

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.

Potential issues would include homosexuality, substance abuse, and poor family relationships.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
This was the first book that addressed homosexuality in a neutral fashion. This would be a great addition to any teen seeking advice about their sexuality identity.

Reference:
New York Times. (1992). Obituaries: John Dovovan, 63; Wrote, Books and Plays. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/01/obituaries/john-donovan-63-wrote-books-and-plays.html

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Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants
By A.S. King
ISBN: 9780316129282
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:

After a bully threatens Lucky Linderman, his mother takes him to Arizona, where he begins to learn what it means to stand up for one’s self.

Plot Summary:
Lucky Linderman is considered a “problem” teen with “social problems”. This assessment stems more from an assignment for his social studies class. Lucky was to create a survey and asses the results in a research paper. The question he presented was what landed him in trouble:

“If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?”

Naturally the school’s administration is up in arms. Lucky vows to never smile again.

Six months pass and Lucky does his best to avoid trouble. This changes dramatically when he helps a young girl find her missing bikini top at the bottom of the pool. Lucky was the only one willing to help the girl as the bully in Lucky’s life refused to help and threatened anyone who did. Now Nader McMillian has Lucky in his sights and won’t be satisfied until Lucky suffers. Unsatisfied with her husband’s response to the situation, Lucky’s mother decides to take him to Arizona to visit her brother and his family.

During his time in Arizona, Lucky begins to find strength and confidence, pushing out of the comfort zone he had struggled to maintain. His uncle teaches him about body building and he meets an eccentric girl who is a hair model. While Lucky begins to understand how to stand up for himself, he continues to have dreams where he talks to his grandfather, a Vietnam POW that was missing in action. As the dream conversations continue, Lucky begins to understand the different meanings of strength and that life has a way of healing old wounds, depute age or time.

Critical Evaluation:
Using magical realism and fantasy as a means of exploring Lucky’s reactions and emotions, A.S. King provides readers with a stirring tale of a broken family struggling to heal itself. The pacing of the story was at first confusing as King moves from flashback to dream sequence to reality quite quickly. The rhythm is found soon enough and the reader adapts swiftly enough.

While the story does focus on the bullying aspect between Lucky and Nader, the larger story is how a family becomes broken before it’s even created. King shows readers that family dynamics are created through our experiences and upbringing. What affected a father in his youth, affects his son in the present. Families have generational patterns, for better or worse. It’s up to each member to recognize those patterns and evolve for emotional survival. King’s skill as a writer is highlighted here with this family dynamic. It’s hard to read at time because you want the characters to have larger reactions. Yet, you can’t help but want to read the book because it means the characters have stayed true to themselves.

The dynamics between Lucky and his young grandfather are heartbreaking in that you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Lucky had his grandfather when he was younger. Yet, Lucky does eventually realize that he wouldn’t have become the person he was now. The same could be said with the relationship between Lucky’s father, as the grandfather’s absence plays a large part on how Lucky’s father reacts or, in most cases, doesn’t react.

The book succeeds because of King’s writing talent and her imagination. Between Lucky’s conversations with imaginary ants or watching as a group of militant young high school girls perform The Vagina Monologues, Everybody Sees the Ants will provide readers with both humor and thought-provoking ideas.

Information about the Author:
From A.S. King’s Webpage, Amy Sarig King was born in Pennyslvania, where she currently lives with her husband and children. While she has always desired to be a writer, King has a degree in Photography from the Art Institute of Philadephia. King has written four books with a fifth to be published in the Fall of 2013. King is a public speaker for libraries and schools and has worked in writing workshops to assist other writers with their skills.

King’s Webpage provides resources for educators and teens in regards to her books.

A.S. King on Twitter

A.S. King on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Death and Dying, Family Relationships

Booktalking Ideas:
What types of conversations do we have when we are alone?
How important is communication? With friends? With family?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews recommends a reading age of 14-18.

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 be bullying and violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been impressed with A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz, I was excited to see she had written more titles. Everybody Sees the Ants was an engrossing read and timely as well. As the issue of bullying continues to gain recognition, I thought this would be a great book to recommend for those who have suffered bullying in the past.

Reference:
King, A.S. (n.d.). Author. as-king.com Retrieved from http://www.as-king.com/html/author.php

Kirkus Review. (2010). Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/as-king/please-ignore-vera-dietz/

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Life as We Knew It
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
ISBN: 9781595141712
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date of Publication: 2006

Reader’s Annotation:
After an asteroid destroys a portion of the moon, humanity must struggle to survive against the Earth’s changing catastrophic conditions.

Plot Summary:
Miranda Evans has a simple, normal life. She still has the complexities of having divorced parents, a new sibling on the way, and regularly scheduled homework. But maybe compared to some kids, Miranda’s life is a happy one.

One night an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it out of its orbit, leaving the moon only two-thirds whole. In that moment, the Eastern Seaboard has been flooded and there are worldwide reports of massive tsunamis destroying ocean communities, even countries. Slowly, Miranda’s life begins to change for the worse. There’s gas rationing, electricity is scarce, and food has become the most valuable commodity in the world.

As the days go by, the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better. Friends leave or die and family members are lost or missing. It’s now every man for themselves. For Miranda and her family, it’s a fight to survive another day.

Critical Evaluation:
Susan Beth Pfeffer  initially drew inspiration for the story from a B-movie called Meteor, which starred Sean Connery and Natalie Wood. After watching the film, and dismissing it’s horrible premise, Pfeffer began to question what would happen if a teen was faced with an apocalyptic scenario. The resulting answer was Life as We Know It.

The book is a dark piece of fiction as with each day that is presented in Miranda’s diary any lingering hope of survival continues to diminish. Pfeffer is honest in the grim portrayal and presents a realistic idea of what the damage to the moon could cost the inhabitants of the Earth.

The characters of the story are portrayed as realistic in that there is a desire for the past to return as life would be easier. But handling a catastrophic transition isn’t easy for anyone and such changes don’t happen over night. Miranda’s mother is portrayed as practical, looking at the means of helping her children survive instead of just her own well-being. The young adult reactions are a mixture of selfish desire and with scared realization. Again, there is honesty in the characterizations which makes the novel hard to read at times since you know everything will not be rosy.

It is not a happy tale and those looking for a joyful ending would be better served looking else where for their entertainment. Pfeffer succeeds in this endeavor in that she writes well, which is reflected in Miranda’s observations.

Information about the author:
From Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Blog, Pfeffer is the writer of over 70 books. Her focus has been towards Young Adult and Children’s fiction starting with the publication of her book Rainbows and Fireworks in 1973. Pfeffer lives in New York with her cat and continues to write fiction, with titles outside of The Last Survivors series.

Susan Beth Pfeffer on Twitter

Genre:
Fantasy/Science Fiction, Horror/Thriller

Curriculum Ties:
Astronomy, Survival Skills

Booktalking Ideas:
What would you first do if the world was about to end?
What supplies would you need if you hope to survive a catastrophe?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 19-20. The book features a sixteen protagonist was written for a young adult audience. I would suggest an age range of 16 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 nightmares caused by anxiety of the characters’ conditions.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When I first picked up this book, I couldn’t finish it. The story became too depressing and it felt too tangible. When I picked up the book a few months later, I found that the story was still engaging but I could handle the apocalyptic storyline better. There are a great number of dystopian books for Young Adults on the market today. Susan Beth Pfeffer’s tale of Earthly doom gives a realistic perspective of what would happen in this type of disaster. And for that reason alone, I think it’s a great book to give to teens. It’s a great alternative to mainstream dystopia.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Books by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Beth-Pfeffer/e/B001H6QEWY/ref=la_B001H6QEWY_pg_6?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_82%3AB001H6QEWY&page=6&ie=UTF8&qid=1354854426
Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Life as we knew it. Retrieved from Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/susan-beth-pfeffer/life-as-we-knew-it/

Pfeffer, S.B. (2010). The big idea: Susan Beth Pfeffer. Whatever.Scalzi.Com. Retrieved from http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/04/06/the-big-idea-susan-beth-pfeffer/

Bonus Features!

Mini Review!

The Last Survivors Series

(more…)

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Kimmie66
By Aaron Alexovich
ISBN:9781401203733
Publisher: Minx, DC Comics
Date of Publication: 2007

Reader’s Annotation:
Telly Kade has just received a suicide note from her best friend, Kimmie66, to which Telly must discover if it’s fake or real.

Plot Summary:
Telly Kade, a Seattle resident, lives like any other teen in the 23rd century. She lives with her brother and her overworked father. When she’s not stuck with the dishes or the many chores of the house, Telly escapes into her Virtural Reality world where she spends time with her friends Kimmie66 and Nekokat.

One day Telly receives a letter from Kimmie66. The letter is a suicide note, though Telly hears no news about the act. Telly is confused and decides to find the truth behind Kimmie66’s note.

But there have been problems with the VR and Telly can’t help but wonder if Kimmie66 has become a ghost in the machine.

Critical Evaluation:
Alexovich’s tale of technology gone awry is actually a bright story where many fictional technology stories are more bleak. There still is sadness in Kimmie66’s tale and you can’t help but feel sympathy with Telly’s search and discovery. But overall, the future that Alexovich paints is far more hopeful than many other futuristic teens stories currently on the market.

The art has a fun balance with whimsical and gothic tones. The black and white shadowing adds to the stories mystery. Alexovich’s uses of blocking gives the story a more added mysterious flare that supports Telly’s journey.
kimmie 66 art

Information about the Author:

From Aaron Alexovich’s Facebook page: Graduated from the California Institute of Arts with a focus on Character Animation. Alexovich has worked on comic books through DC Comics and SLG Publishing as well as animation on the Invader Zim cartoon.

Aaron Alexovich on Twitter

Aaron Alexovich’s Web Page and Comic
Genre:
Science Fiction, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Virtual Reality

Booktalking Ideas:
How are online friendships different than real life friendships?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Ages 15 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 violent situations and horrific elements.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having feel in love with Aaron Alexovich’s art in Confessions of a Blabbermouth, I was excited when he published his own work. The story is fun and unique and would appeal to young science fiction fans.

References:
Alexovich, A. (n.d). About. Facebook. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/aalexovich/infoAlexovich

 

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The Outsiders
By S.E. Hinton
ISBN: 9780143039857
Publisher: Penguin Books (First Published with Viking Press)
Date of Publication: 1967

Reader’s Annotation:
Ponyboy Curtis, a Greaser, finds himself in trouble after an attack from a Soc.

Plot Summary:
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, there are two sides, two types of people; the Socs who are the rich kids and the Greasers who struggle to make ends meet. Ponyboy Curtis is a one of the greasers. With his parents dead due to a tragic car accident, Ponyboy’s older brothers, Sodapop and Darry, work hard to support the family while pushing Ponyboy to finish school. Ponyboy sometimes resents that he’s forced to focus on school, never understanding the sacrifices his brothers have made to support his eduction.

Ponyboy’s best friend is Johnny, a boy who has suffered too much violence in his young life. Together, Ponyboy and Johnny make up the younger part of their Greaser group, alongside their reckless friend Dallas, Two-Bit and Steve. One night Ponyboy meets Cherry Valance, a doc who helps Ponyboy to break down the ideal barriers of the Greasers versus Soc mentality. That same night, Ponyboy and Johnny face-off with Cherry’s boyfriend, Bob. What happens from that encounter changes everything for Ponyboy and he must face the consequences of that night and the actions that followed. In the end, Ponyboy discovers what it means to have a label and that a family is what we have when we stand by the ones we love.

Critical Evaluation:
S.E. Hinton’s tale of different social classes have stood the test of time mostly because Hinton wrote from personal experience. Hinton felt that her generation wasn’t being portrayed honestly in Young Adult fiction and set out to tell the truth about her life.

This is a a story about social struggle and how being a teenager doesn’t change that struggle but sometimes makes it worse. Ponyboy knows that his life isn’t ideal and as a teenager, his voice is constantly ignored by those who have his “best interest” at heart. But like millions of teenagers across the globe, Ponyboy feels misunderstood and begins to find his voice in the midst of all the confusion.

Ponyboy’s relations to the social class scheme is an important lesson for readers in that it shows the world is not fair and never will be. What’s important is that a connection is formed with friends and family that will last a lifetime. That support is important in that it shows it’s not easy to go through life alone. An example of this would be in the action of Dallas, who suffers for being a loner, despite his varied personal connections.

The story still resonates with Young Adult readers in that the concepts of alienation and social class remain prevalent, even more so in this ultra-connected society.

The A.V. Club on The Outsiders

Information about the Author:
From S.E. Hinton’s Webpage, Hinton first published The Outsiders as a response to lackluster teen novels that had been published in the 1950s and 1960s. Being a teenager herself, Hinton wanted to present a story in which a reader would understand the real issues that faced teenagers.

After the publication of The Outsiders, Hinton found that she was experienced writer’s blog and didn’t write anything new for three years. Luckily, her future husband encouraged writing bits at a time until she eventually finished the book That Was Then, This is Now. Hinton continued to write Young Adult literature, growing in strength as a writer. She has also written the adult novel, Hawkes Harbor.

S.E. Hinton’s Webpage

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Drama, Classic American Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
What would you do for your family?
What would you do for your friends, if they were threatened?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
As the book was written when Hinton was in her teens, the book has an intended audience of such. Recommended age range would be 15 and up.

Challenging Issues:
The Outsiders is a frequently challenged and banned book. Complaints against the book cite gang violence and obscenities as some of the reasons. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged again in the future.

Why did I include this book in the titles selection?
This book pushed the boundaries of what teens read in the 1960s. The story still resonates with teen and adult readers. While there are some faults with the narration of the story, the themes of alienation and family/friend connections are issues that teens continue to face. This is a book about teens, written by a teen for teens.
Reference:
Hinton, S.E. (n.d.). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html

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Hate List
by Jennifer Brown
ISBN: 978-0-316-04145-4
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2009

Reader’s Annotation:
Valerie Leftman must deal with the physical and emotional aftermath after her boyfriend opens fire at their high school.

Plot Summary:
One day, without warning, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend Nick, opens fire in their high school cafeteria. Six students were killed with Nick ending the violence with his suicide. As the school reels from the tragedy, the reasons for the attack are questioned and the blame falls on part on Valerie. For Nick and Valerie had created a list of people for whom they hated; people who have wronged them in the past and for which Nick and Valerie felt threatened. While the list was meant to be a release for Valerie, it turned into a declaration of intent for Nick.

Five months after the attack Valerie is beginning to heal. She’s about to finish her last year of high school. But first Valerie must come to grips with Nick’s act of violence and the part she played in his life.

Critical Evaluation:
Drawing inspiration from a song lyric by the band Nickelback, author Jennifer Brown’s novel of personal redemption is a timely story, which unfortunately still populates our modern news. Told through the eyes of Valerie, the story is more about personal redemption versus the reasoning behind school violence. Brown’s take on the violence of Nick can be considered harsh in that Brown is graphic in her descriptions. Brown does not present the incident with rose-colored glasses and the reader might finds their level of shock to be on par with Valerie’s reactions.

The aftermath of Nick’s destruction is treated with care, but like the violence in the cafeteria, the reality is not rosy. Valerie suffers guilt in her role of the incident and the reader might be inclined to be less than supportive of the Valerie’s character. The supporting cast of character. In the end, Brown has produced a quality book that should be read by anyone who has suffered from bullying.

Information about the Author:
From Jennifer Brown’s Webpage, Brown, a graduate of William Jewell College, is a former columnist with The Kansas City Star. She left the position to become a novelist. She has written three young adult titles, with a fourth to be released in 2013 and a fifth in 2014.

Brown began as humor writer but started to write the Hate List due to a Nickelback song lyric that lingered in her mind. Brown was bullied herself in high school and understands the toll of being a victim of bullying actions.

Jennifer Brown on Twitter

Jennifer Brown on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Personal Identity, Social Identity

Booktalking Ideas:
Are there levels of anger?
How does bullying affect your life?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews has a listing for ages 19-20. Given the nature of the material, this book should be listed as ages 15 and up.

Challenge Issues:
Hate List has been challenged due to the book’s violence and its language. In Blue Springs, a school district in the Kansas City area, a group of parents protested nine out of fifteen books that were on a freshmen extra credit list.

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 had picked this book up on a whim during my summer vacation. The subject matter is an important one in light of the bully issue in school as well as the rise of school violence.

Reference:
Brown, J. (n.d.). Bio Retrieved from http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/bio.htm

Brown, J. (n.d.). FAQ. Retrieved from http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/faq.htm

Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Hate List. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jennifer-brown/hate-list/

Miller, S. (2011). Blue Springs parents want books banned from school library. Examiner.com. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/blue-springs-parents-want-books-banned-from-school-library

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews
ISBN: 9781419701764
Publisher: Amulet, an imprint of the Abrams
Date of Publication: 2012

Reader’s Annotation:
Greg Gaines would prefer to lead a neutral life and have no enemies during high school. This wish is challenged when he’s forced to be friends with Rachel, who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Plot Summary:
Greg Gaines doesn’t want to be noticed. He doesn’t want trouble from anybody at his high school. He would prefer to live out his high school experience without any conflict as he doesn’t feel it’s worth his time. So Greg spends his days jumping from one clique to another in the hopes that no one will notice his lack of affiliation with any of them.

Greg has one good friend and that friend’s name is Earl. Earl is a profane, short, black kid with too many brothers and a mother with a substance abuse problem. Greg and Earl share a common interest in films, specifically offbeat foreign films. This stemmed from a time when they were bored and found Greg’s father’s collection of films. It was after watching Werner Herzog’s Aquirre, The Wrath of God that they decided that they should make their own films. Their first picture was a sequel to Herzog’s Aquirre titled “Earl, The Wrath of God II”. (The plot contains a journey to find the lost city of EARL Dorado. The short film was shot on location in Pittsburgh)

In between Greg’s desire for animity and Earl’s hormonal profane nature, Greg is pushed into the high school experience when his mother forces Greg to socialize with Rachel, a family friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. As Greg continues his interactions with Rachel, he becomes aware that he needs to come to terms about his desire to be left alone. And as the days grow shorter for Rachel, Greg begins to understand, that he has a bigger influence on his life than he thought he did.

Critical Evaluation:
Jesse Andrew’s first novel isn’t so much a story of a boy trying to find his place in the world but a love letter to the power of cinema. Greg and Earl’s love for Werner Herzog is a symbolization that their paths will not always be easy and that a lonely road can be the more interesting option.

Greg’s relationship with Rachel is fun to read, despite the issues with death and cancer. While there is a hint of romance (more from Earl’s perspective instead of Greg), the story is more of a hormonal mess on the part of Greg, who clearly has no clue of what he is doing in his life. Greg’s relationship with Earl is also fun to read merely for the fat that they are on the opposite spectrum of personalities. Their lack of other friends and mutual love of films is their common ground. Other aspects of their long and funny friendship makes for hilarious, snappy dialogue.

Andrews has a very funny, twisted sense of humor that plays well into the characterization and the dialogue. The first-person voice of Greg is well-written, though the character can be too negative at times. Andrews employs different techniques to his writing as the novel is presented in both prose and screenplay formats. This does not diminish the story but enhances Greg and Andrews’s love of cinema.

Overall, the story was funny and superb. The characters were amazing and well worth any lucky reader’s time and effort.

Information about the Author:

From Abrams Books author profile, Jesse Andrews is a graduate of Harvard University and a resident of Brooklyn, New York.  This is his first novel.

Jesse Andrews on Tumblr

Jesse Andrews on Twitter

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Filmmaking, Foreign Films, Cancer

Booktalking Ideas:
How are movies an escape from reality?
Do you have a favorite director?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests a reading age of 14 to 18. I would suggest a higher starting point with 16 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 language concerns.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
During a vacation to Seattle, I had a chance to visit my favorite bookstore, Elliot Bay Books. This book had a nice display in the Young Adult section. I sat in the section thumbing though the first pages and found myself entranced. When I discovered I had read the first three chapters, I thought it might be a great idea to purchase the book and finish it during my trip home. It has become one of my all-time favorite books and it has increased my love of Werner Herzog, a director not really known for lovable films.

Reference:
Abrams. (2012). Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Abrams Books. Retrieved from http://www.abramsbooks.com/Books/Me_and_Earl_and_the_Dying_Girl-9781419701764.html

Kirkus Reviews. (2012). Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jesse-andrews/me-and-earl-and-dying-girl/

Bonus!

Aquirre, The Wrath of God Trailer

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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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The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2
Publisher: Dutton Books, A Member of Penguin Books
Date of Publication: 2012

Reader’s Annotation:
As Hazel Grace Lancaster continues to deal with her diagnosis of thyroid cancer, she is unexpectedly faced with the possibility of love and a window of happiness.

Plot Summary:
Sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster has thyroid cancer. While she has been able to live with the disease for three years, she is aware that her time is short. As Hazel faces the concept of a limited life, she is forced into group therapy by her parents who are concerned she is falling into a depression. During her time at group therapy, Hazel meets Augustus Waters (Gus) who is in remission from a form of cancer that took away his right leg.

Gus is instantly smitten with Hazel. Hazel finds herself in a struggle as the idea of any relationship seems like a waste when time is limited. The question that now faces Hazel is will the pain be worth it in the end when love and life have expiration dates. As Hazel grows closer to Gus, her life begins to evolve and she begins to understand a life is not just a personal journey but an experience best served with other people.

Critical Evaluation:
Hazel Grace’s story is one that many readers will instantly connect with, even those without cancer. In fact, while cancer is a catalyst for the story, it is not the common theme and is not used as a crutch for the story’s plot. Hazel’s largest problem is the reality past her cancer; what it means to live a life and to have an impact on someone else’s life. This concept, which seems so simple at first, is a powerful one that Green navigates quite well.

Young adult readers will connect with Hazel and Gus’s stories because Green is not condescending in his characterizations. The characters are real and tangible. As they are caught between childhood and adulthood, their inner struggle will connect resoundingly with young readers. John Green’s tale of love and identity is beautiful and achingly haunting. Green understands the teen condition and is joyful in his celebration of life and happiness.

Information about the Author:
From John Green’s Webpage, a graduate of Kenyon College, Green is the author four books, with a co-authorship on a five. He also contributed a short story for the Let It Snow anthology. Green draws inspiration from his surroundings, looking at life questions instead of just plot scenarios.

Green, along with his brother Hank, created the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, which originally began as a video correspondence between the two brothers. The site http://www.youtube.com/vlogbrothers has over 840,000 subscribers with over 270 million video views.

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Tumblr

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Cancer and Recovery

Booktalking Ideas:
What does it mean to be an impact to the world? To a friend or family member?
What would you discuss with your favorite author if you had an opportunity to do so?

Challenging Issues:
John Green is no stranger to his books being challenged. Looking for Alaska has been questioned in the past due to its sexual content. The Fault in Our Stars has no current challenges. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 15-18.

Why was this book chosen?
I was assigned to read this book as part of my course work for Materials for Young Adults course through San Jose State University. I found that while it was required reading, the emotional impact was far greater than I expected. The characters moved me to tears. When such a book affects a reader through emotions, it seems a waste to hoard the book to oneself. I chose this title because I think Young Adults will appreciate a writer who writes for their mentality. The characters were tangible and dealt with issues that any modern teen faces each day. While the cancer aspect of the story is an important element to the plot and evolution of the characters, the decision to love and to be loved is a universal concept, especially to Young Adults who are experiencing love for the first time.

Reference:
Green, J. (n.d.). John Green’s Biography. Retrieved from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/

Kirkus Review. (2012). The Fault in Our Stars. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-green/fault-in-our-stars/

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