aka YA Literature

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Herman Cain's message to Americans: "We need a leader, not a reader."

Barack Obama's choice of where to shop on "Small Business Saturday": a bookstore. And might I personally commend his choice of books, including The Invention of Hugo Cabret, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia?

(On a side note, can you imagine if you had to factor into your choice of books that it was going to be published (and cared about) by news outlets around the world? Would probably make me choose a little differently, kind of the way some people fudge their Nielsen rating reports with more PBS and Discovery Channel shows than is probably strictly accurate.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I haven't posted in forever. (1) I was in Poland most of the summer. (2) This has been the craziest busy year yet. (3) I haven't really read anything that inspires me to post anything.

But . . .

I just finished Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done and it has inspired me to do a post. Anya Balanchine is living in New York City in 2083. This is a NYC that is different from the NYC we know today, but it is also extremely familiar and recognizable. The streets and the major places are all there, but water and other natural resources (like energy and paper) are scarce. Places like Central Park and The Met are still around, but the park is completely denuded and ugly, and The Met is a ramshackle building converted into a nightclub. People deal with rolling blackouts and rampant corruption. Also, chocolate is illegal; the caffeine is a drug.

Anya's family is a leader in the black market chocolate business. Her mother and father are both dead before the story begins due to their mob involvement, so Anya (a junior in high school) tries to keep a low profile. Her older brother Leo is mentally child-like due to the car crash that killed their mother, so Anya is pretty much in charge of taking care of herself, Leo, and their younger sister Nattie. In the course of the story, Anya finds it harder and harder to keep a low profile and out of the family business as her cousin recruits Leo to work at the family headquarters and Anya falls for the new boy at school, Win, who is the son of the assistant DA (who has aspirations to run for DA and "clean up" the city).

If the story were set in present-day NYC, it would still be a good story, but the future setting that is different but not completely "futuristic" to the present really makes the story for me. The idea of chocolate as the forbidden substance is intriguing. I love all the references to places in New York that have been repurposed or changed because of the scarcity issues (wait til you read about the Statue of Liberty!). I really liked all the subtle ways Zevin referenced the ways that people had to deal with scarcity. For example, when Anya has a terrible day at school, she uses her last quarter to splash water on her face. People have to carry change around to get water. The setting was just really well-done and turned a good star-crossed lover story into something much more intriguing. Plus, it's not just a romance story. Anya is a very tough and complex girl who has a lot to deal with and issues way beyond what most teenagers would or should ever have to face. Not to mention she never knows just who she can trust.

Be sure to take the jacket off the book so you can see how the cover looks like a bar of Ballantine Special Dark chocolate!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels

This book of poems by Kevin Young tells the story of the Amistad slave rebellion in 1839 and the subsequent trial in the U.S. There are several poetic forms in the voice of various real historical figures associated with the event, along with Bible verses and excerpts from primary sources. It is amazing.

But it's not a YA book. I say this for two reasons. First, it's pretty challenging. I can't think of any students I know right now who would read it without being required to. Second, there is one poem that has a lot of cussing. It's only one poem in the entire book, and normally I would barely notice and would certainly not bother to mention it, but I read this book for our district's "literature committee." I was hoping to do the involved paperwork to get it approved for use in our high school English classes. But with that one poem, I know it won't get approved. *Sigh* Well, I am certainly going to be recommending it to our English teachers at every possible opportunity so they can use excerpts.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Rhine lives in a future U.S. wherein the course of genetic engineering has brought about a virus that kills males at the age of 25 and females at the age of 20. When the story begins, sixteen year-old Rhine is abducted from New York and taken to a mansion in Florida with two other girls (Jenna, 18, and Cecily, 13). Although they are captives who find out they are to be married to 21 year-old "Governor Linden," they are actually somewhat lucky because many of the other girls who were initially rounded up with them were all executed.

The girls are treated relatively well in one sense. They have young indentured servants who wait on them, they live in a luxurious mansion, and though they have no freedom and only limited privacy, they are not otherwise maltreated. Linden's father, it turns out, masterminds the entire house operation and controls and manipulates Linden. Linden is actually quite kind and believes the girls were all "rescued" from an orphanage. Despite Rhine's growing understanding and affections for Linden, she still despises his father, resents Linden because she misses her twin brother and her freedom, and she has developed feelings for one of the servants, Gabriel.

The plot essentially follows the development of these characters in the house, trying to figure out exactly what "mad scientist" things Linden's father is doing in the basement in pursuit of a cure, and wondering if and how Rhine will escape. It reminded me quite a bit of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Although I liked the writing quite a lot and was very interested, I felt let down by the ending. It was just anti-climactic for me. Also, I kept having questions about the genesis and maintenance of the weird multiple-marriages arrangements that seem to be common but not the only types of marriages (but all of those do require enforcement?). I don't know, that whole situation just never really got explained in a way that fully made sense to me.

The cover is gorgeous. I didn't really get the "chemical garden" aspect of the novel, but maybe that's to be revealed in later books.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Asians in the Library"

If you haven't heard about or followed the incident involving the UCLA student who posted a racially offensive You Tube video blog post entitled "Asians in the Library," you can read a bit about it here on the Hunnfington Post. She's certainly not the only one to find it rude and/or distracting for people to talk on their cell phones in the library. It's quite unfortunate that she brought the racially offensive remarks into it. Of course, there is the library element to the story in that it started with her comments about library etiquette, but this is also an example of where it's important for students to learn and think about the long-term and quite weighty consequences of what they post on the internet.

Lots of hilarious and interesting response videos on You Tube.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Great Plan Has Potential

Do you remember back when I had time and actually posted on this blog and I had My Great Plan? The one where Mari Mancusi and Liz Maverick wear costumes to TLA and then Judy Blume comments here on how it's totally inappropriate? Well guess what: Mari Mancussi is going to be at TLA this year. It's only been four years, but now she finally has the opportunity to pull out the scandalous clothes and diminsh the respectability of YA authors everywhere (hey, she should take this opportunity to go shopping and buy some NEW scandalous clothes! I know I would.). I'll be there with students (covering their eyes, of course). But mine will be wide open, just waiting for scandal to erupt! I'm also hoping a swan hat will be involved.

Saving Nikki by Joyce Pierce

It has been a few months since we have done a book review here on ATR. Cody is off teaching English in Korea, Sheryl is busy building her dream house, and I have been caught up in preparing my students for their state mandated tests. However, I recently read a book that I enjoyed so much that I felt it warranted a review on our poor, neglected blog.

Saving Nikki by Joyce Mosley Pierce is story of a young girl with a troubled life. Abandoned by her mother, ignored by her father, and treated cruelly by her stepmother, Nikki is just looking for someone to love her. She meets the seemingly perfect guy whom she hopes will give her the love and attention she so desperately craves.

This book hooked me with the first chapter. Nikki is a likable character and the I was really rooting for her. It is a quick read and I stayed interested the entire time. The story is all about choices and the consequences of those choices...something I think many teenagers would benefit from reading!

Full disclosure: I do know the author personally (and I think she is fabulous), but that only prompted me to read the book. I enjoyed it fully on its own merits!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I Read Over Winter Break or Why the Kindle is so Awesome

Usually, I really miss my old job at the public library, but getting two and half weeks off for Christmas reminds me that being a teacher has its perks! I did a lot of reading on my Kindle this break, mostly Amanda Hocking's stuff. I read both books in the Trylle trilogy (eagerly awaiting the third and final installment on January 15th) and four books from the My Blood Approves series. I really enjoy Amanda Hocking's writing style and the price can't be beat. Although my husband did question all those $2.99 charges from Amazon. Side Note: Torn (Trylle Trilogy #2) had so many typos in the Kindle version. It drove the English major in me nuts!

I also read Lauren Kate's Fallen, but was so disappointed it in that I didn't bother reading the sequel. I really like her book covers, though.

One thing I love about the Kindle is that the prices for young adult books are so reasonable. I wish the adult fiction prices were as low. I just can't bring myself to pay more than $5.00 for a book that I can get from my library for free.