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Posts Tagged ‘Realistic Fiction’

Confessions of a BlabbermouthConfessions of a Blabbermouth
Written by Mike Carey and Louise Carey
Art by Aaron Alexovich
ISBN: 1401211486
Published by DC Comics (Minx)
Date of Publication:

Reader’s Annotation:
When Tasha’s Mom starts dating an intensive newspaper columnist, she’s find out that truth is often stranger than fiction.

Plot Summary:
Tasha is a modern girl. With her popular blog, Tasha can connect with a large audience around the world. Her mother runs an online lingere store and suffers from bad-boyfriend syndrome.

Tasha doesn’t want to meet her mom’s new dating prospect, a romance writer by the name of Jed. Tasha isn’t quite sure that she likes him and tries to avoid any interaction when she can. Jed’s daughter, Chloe, is a young newspaper columnist and now attends Tasha’s school. As Chloe and Tasha deal with their new roles, while their parents continue to date, each discovers that there’s more to the surface they either of them first perceived.

Between Tasha’s blogging and Chloe’s column, the girls also discover that just because you use words in public, doesn’t mean that their meanings are true. Each must find their own voice and the power to speak up before their voices are replaced with another person’s words..

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Critical Evaluation:
Tasha and Chloe are like every other modern young girl in the world. They experience heartache, pain, and love in the harsh world of high school. Bullies threaten you during one day and parents punish you on the next day. As your emotions become more disastrous with each wrong turn, the only way out would be to find an outlet in which to express yourself.

As blogging and social networks have shown, young people use this as a means to express that frustrations or joy in their daily lives. But as it is proven in reality, and with Tasha’s experience, it can come back to haunt you. How you present yourself online versus how you present yourself in the real world can vastly different. How you deal with these situations is how you grow-up and become the person you were meant to be. The internet is a means to establish your voice, but it can also be your enemy.

Author Mike Carey’s writing collaboration with his daughter Louise provides for an entertaining read. The accompanying art by Aaron Alexovich provides a manic tone which matches Tasha’s personality.

Information about the Authors:
From Mike Carey’s Webpage, about a British author, whose works include comic books and original prose, has been a writer since the early 1990s. Carey’s work with Vertigo Comics (Sandman-spinoffs) have lead to the creation of the original series The Unwritten, which we co-collaborates with artist Peter Gross. Carey is the author of the Felix Castor novels.

Louisa Carey is the daughter of Mike Carey. An inspiring writer whose work has been featured on the London Metropolitian Archive, Louisa has recently collaborated with her parents for the soon to be published boo, The Steel Seraglio.

Information about the Artist:
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:
Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Journal Writing, Plagarism

Booktalking Ideas:
How do you connect with others on the Internet?
Is it important to be yourself or to have a fake name on the Web?

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 profanity and slight violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When the Minx line first came out, I thought that the selections were fun and approachable for teen readers, especially for teen girls. While the publishing line has been discontinued, the books still remain fun and approachable.

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

Carey, M. (n.d.) About. Retrieved from mikeandpeter.com/

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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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Stoner and Spaz
By Ron Koertge
ISBN: 9780763657574
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date of Publication: 2002

Reader’s Annotation:
Ben Bancroft’s self-imposed sheltered life was cracked when Colleen Minou pushed her way and changed his life forever.

Plot Summary:
Ben Bancroft has cerebral palsy, a disability that renders his left hand useless and forces him to walk with an exaggerated limp. Ben’s used to being on the sidelines, expecting outsiders to ignore him due to his “disability”. It is primarily this reason why he prefers the darkness of the Rialto Theatre, his favorite place to watch films.

One night, during a screening of Bride of Frankenstein, Colleen Minou barges into Ben’s life, demanding his attention and refusing to shy away from Ben’s taboo subject of his disability. Colleen has her own problems though; addicted to drugs and in an unhealthy relationship with a man far too old for Colleen’s teenage year. Colleen has a “devil may care” attitude that pushes Ben out of his comfort zone.

Yet, before he knows it, Ben begins to have feelings for Colleen. Colleen in turn begins to wonder if the straight and narrow path isn’t as bad as she once thought it was. As each deals with their personal demons, dreams and desires, Ben and Colleen must come to grips with who they are and what it means to be different together.

Unshelved book reivew
Critical Evaluation:
Ron Koertege has a simple writing style in that his stories are short and to the point. This style is never more apparent with the snappy dialogue between Ben and Colleen. There’s almost a screenplay-like quality to the dialogue in which the reader could easily see the character’s conversations played out in a visual medium.

The shortness of the story does not diminish its impact though. It’s clear from the beginning that Ben is out of his element in his interactions with Colleen. Readers who feel detected when speaking with the opposite sex, or with someone they wish to have affection with, will relate to Ben’s confusion and his desire to take a chance and make an intimate connection. Young readers will understand Ben’s reluctance due to his cerebral palsy as while the condition is real, it could be used as a symbolization of a feeling out of place from “normality”.

Colleen’s use of drugs doesn’t dilute the story or turn it into a tale of woe. The facts behind Ben’s condition and Colleen’s addiction are treated with respect. There’s never a feeling that Ben or Colleen are individuals that should entice pity. It’s because of these conditions that the characters are who they are and, for better or for worse, it’s what makes them unique.

Koertge’s story is a fun, quick read that Young Adult readers will enjoy, even more so with the honest, harsh realities of the characters’ life and situations.

Information about the Author:

From Ron Koertge’s Webpage, Koertge began to write young adult literature when his beginning writing career began to flounder. Koertge is in his early seventies and continues to write books and poetry for teens, specifically for young male readers. Koertge’s misspent youth serves as a reminder of the teen mentality, providing a solid foundation for believable characters.

Koertge has written over a dozen young adult novels. Koertge is also a poet, whose poems have been published since the early 1970s.

Ron Koertge on Twitter

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Cerebral Palsy, Addiction

Booktalking Ideas:
What are some methods you cope when you are stressed?
Do you have a safe place you turn to when you need comfort?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Koertge has mentioned in interviews that this book should be read by an older audience.

Challenging Issues:
Stoner and Spaz has been challenged and banned due to drug use, language concerns, and sexuality. In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Koertge expected to be banned because of the material. He doesn’t expect that his troubled characters are role models but characters in which life lessons can be obtained. What’s interesting about the interview is Koertge’s experience with challenges has not changed what he feels is the constant reality of the situation.

“Years ago I agreed to sit on panels on censorship. After all, even in my fifties I was still the Bad Boy of Young Adult fiction. And here’s what I noticed: at the end of the evening nobody had changed his or her mind. In fact, most of the debaters were more firmly convinced of their rightness than before. It was a phenomenon I’ve learned to call Hardening the Collective. Nobody had a good time, nobody laughed, nobody went out afterward with the opposition and had a drink” (LARB, 2011).

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?
After reading Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I noticed the blurb that Koertge wrote on the back of the book. The blurb listed Koertge as the author of Stoner and Spaz. I was curious about the wording of the title and decided to pick up the book at my library. Though it was a quick read, I liked the story and felt it would be worth sharing to teens.

Reference:
Koertge, R. (n.d.). A word from Ron Koertge. Retrieved from ronkoertge.com

Koertge, R. (2011).  Hazardous Material. Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved from http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/post/24379220832/getting-banned-writers-on-the-worlds-oldest-solution

Bonus Features!

Mini Sequel Review!

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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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Drama
Written and Drawn by Raina Telgemeier
ISBN: 9780545326995
Publisher: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic
Date of Publication: 2012

Reader’s Annotation:
During her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, Callie finds that the drama of the stage can follows her off stage.

Plot Summary:
Ever since her parents took her to a performance of Les Miserables, Callie has loved the theatre. While she might not be gifted in the area of musical talent, she maintains her love of performance art by working behind the stages. As the set designer for her middle school’s annual play, Callie has been assigned to transform a blank stage into a Civil War setting.

With the help of her fellow stage crew members, Callie is set to take the drama world by storm. Yet, admits this backstage adventure, the drama of the front of the house begins to merge with the back, creating tensions amongst all the players. New friendships are forged, love is lost and won and all the players learn that in theatre the show must go on.

Critical Evaluation:
Using elements from her own middle school and high school drama classes, author and artist Rania Telgemeier has created a believable story of what it’s like to be on and off the stage.

Telgemeier’s characters are drawn in a way that there’s no confusion about who is who, which could have been an issue with a large core of characters presented. The romantic storyline is an interesting part of the book in that the romance does not primarily focus on Callie. The dynamics between Callie and the twin brothers, Justin and Jesse, highlights that sexuality in theatre is not always black and white. Telgemeier handles the questions and concerns of sexual identity with care, never making judgements or assumptions about one’s worth in a potential relationship or in sexuality. As the entire idea is treated in a positive, affirming manner, the story would be a great recommendation for any LGBT teen looking for relatable material to read.

Overall, Telgemeier’s tale of stage hijinks is a fun read. While the setting is in middle school, high school audiences will still be able to connect with Telgemeier’s themes and situations.

Information about the Author:
From Raina Telgemeier’s Webpage, a current resident of New York City, specifically Queens, Telgemeier is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts. Telgemeierhas adapted and illustrated the first four Baby-Sitters Club books in graphic novels. She has worked on art for X-Men.

Telgemeier grew up in San Francisco. Her previous work include an autobiographical graphic novel called Smile.

Raina Telgemeier on Twitter

Curriculum Ties:
Art, Theatre

Booktalking Ideas:
Have you ever talked to a crush?
What is your artistic talent?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 10-14. Due to the content of the story, this can still have an impact on older audiences, specifically high schoolers.

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 include homosexuality.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I thoroughly enjoyed Telgemeier work on the Baby-Sitters Club adaptations. While this book is set in middle school, the situations can easily be transferred to a high school setting.

References:
Kirkus Reviews. (2012). Drama. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/raina-telgemeier/drama-telgemeier/

Telgemeier, R. (n.d). Info. Retrieved from http://goraina.com/info.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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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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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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Swallow Me Whole
By Nate Powell
ISBN: 9781603090339
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Date of Publication: 2008

Reader’s Annotation:
Two siblings face separate cases of mental disorders.

Plot Summary:
Ruth and Perry are step-siblings, whose ill grandmother has recently moved into their home. As Ruth and Perry grow older, their grandmother’s condition worsens and the siblings begin to struggle with their lives in high school.

Ruth takes comfort in her organized jars filled with insects and creatures stolen from her high school’s science department. This carefully organization helps Ruth maintain some control in her mind, as she consistently sees insects that threaten to overwhelm her. Ruth later discovers that she suffers from schizophrenia as well as obsessive compulsive disorder.

Perry has a wizard that talks to him, claiming that there’s a quest that must be occur. He draws the wizard as a means of controlling the wizard’s commands. Perry just want to make sense of his life without the added bonus of being potentially crazy.

As time passes for each sibling, things grow worse and there looks like there’s no escape from the dangerous of one’s mind.

Critical Evaluation:
Told through black and white drawings, author and artist Nate Powell’s graphic novel is at first a simple family story that merges into a discussion of teen mental disabilities. Powell’s visual style emphasizes Ruth’s struggle as well as Perry’ s encounters with the voice in his mind. The art is so striking that the visions of Ruth’s mind allow us a unique view into her struggle to survive and to be understood. While this visual example could be easily described in graphic detail in a prose format, Powell’s use of shadow is a very effective way of seeing how a mental disability can shape how one sees the world. We see how it affects Ruth’s mind and how Ruth’s perception of the world is contrasted with “normal” sight.

Perry’s struggle, while not nearly as dramatic as Ruth’s problems, still speak about the issues of mental engagement. The voice in Perry’s mind doesn’t control his life as it might for Ruth. It’s still an issue that Powell handles delicately and with respect.

The end result of Powell’s art and story is thoroughly engaging. The ending to the sibling’s story is beautiful and sad and will linger with readers long after they have read the final page.

nate-powell-art

Information about the Author:
From Nate Powell’s Top Shelf Publisher’s page, born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Powell began to work as an art professional at the early age of fourteen, creating pieces for self-publishing. For ten years, Powell worked with adults who had developmental disabilities, which later influenced Swallow Me Whole. Powell is the manager of Harlan Records and continues to performance in various bands. He currently lives in Indiana.

Powell is the author and artist of Any Empire and has worked with different co-collaborators for the historical graphic novel, The Silence of Our Friends and the future graphic novel, March.

Nate Powell Blog

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Mental Illness

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Amazon gives a suggested age range of grades ten 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 feel in love with this book when I first read it. There are not many books that explore visually the concepts of mental illness, specifically with teen protagonists.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Swallow Me Whole. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Swallow-Me-Whole-Nate-Powell/dp/1603090339/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355025611&sr=8-1&keywords=swallow+me+whole

Top Shelf Productions. (n.d.). Nate powell. Retrieved from http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/nate-powell

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