What Light (audiobook)
by Jay Asher
AR Level 4.5, 9 points
What Light is about a girl named Sierra who lives in Oregon on her family’s Christmas tree farm, but travels south to California for a month to sell the trees with her family. She is torn between spending December with her best friends in Oregon, and her friend in California. Sierra tries not to get attached to a cute boy named Caleb, especially with the rumors floating around about him, but they soon meet and spend time together, and being teenagers, they fall for each other quickly. Sierra also has to come to terms with the rumors about Caleb. Now that Sierra has broken her rule about falling for someone she will only see one month out of the year, she has to decided whether they should continue their relationship.
What I liked about this book was that it was light, and it didn’t make me think too hard during the summer. It is a Christmas-themed book, but good summer reading.
What I didn’t like about this book… I was disappointed. I remember 13 Reasons Why as being powerful, emotional, and engaging (I mean there’s a series based on the book!). I had higher expectations. This wasn’t anything super special. I was waiting for a climax that never happened.
Book 8 of summer 2017!
Hour of the Bees (hardcover)
by Lindsay Eager
AR Level 4.5, 9 points
Hour of the Bees was talked about last year, and it was one I never got to before the ALA awards (it didn’t win). It was really good! I don’t know what took me so long! Carol isn’t looking forward to her summer on her grandpa’s sheep ranch. He has Alzheimer’s, and her father’s plan is to sell the ranch and get him moved into a retirement home. Carol’s job is to help them get the house packed up, while watching her little brother, avoiding her older sister, and missing out on her friends’ exciting summer before starting middle school. She is annoyed by the bees that keep appearing around her head, despite the intense heat and drought. Carol is also in charge of watching her grandpa Serge, but she finds herself immersed in his stories about Sergio and Rosa and a magical tree. What starts out as a story about an annoyed tween becomes a fantastic story that will have you glued to your book. I read most of it in one day.
What I liked about this book was the way it sucked me into the story of Sergio and Rosa and the magical tree. I knew where the story was likely going, but I was really hoping it wasn’t a strange alternate reality (think of Don Juan DeMarco with Johnny Depp). This book did not disappoint. I was happy with where it was going and how it ended, and I may have even shed a tear at the end.
What I didn’t like about this book was the character of Alta. She bugged me, and I didn’t like the way she was a super B and then became nice in the end.
Book 7 of summer 2017!
Hello, Universe (ebook)
by Erin Entrada Kelly
AR Level 4.7, 6 points
Hello, Universe is a book that has been on Mock-Newbery lists, so in an effort to read all of the books before the ALA awards, I had to read it. Virgil is a shy, weak, Filipino boy who lives with his parents, 2 outgoing brothers, and his Lola (grandma). He is friends with a Japanese girl named Kaori who believes she has psychic powers and can tell fortunes, so he seeks her help to become friends with Valencia, a deaf girl, while avoiding a bully named Chet. Valencia also seeks Kaori’s help, and together they have to solve a big problem partially caused by Chet. This story is mainly told from Virgil’s point of view, but it is also told from Valencia’s, Kaori’s, and Chet’s. As we see the story progress and friendships unfold, we are shown several situations, and we have to decide if they are a series of coincidences, or fueled by fate.
What I liked about this book was the coincidences that kept popping up. I like when stories are well thought-out. I thought the stories Lola told and the situations with the friends all coincided well. There are probably a lot of little things that I might pick up on if I read the story again.
What I didn’t like about this book was that Chet was not as well-developed of a character (for being one of the main characters). I also lost interest, and had to power through to finish it. I didn’t feel it would be a Newbery winner, but I can certainly see the merit in the writing.
Book 6 of summer 2017!
Real Friends (paperback)
by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
AR Level (no quiz yet)
Real Friends made my heart hurt. It hit way, way, way too close to home for me. Not the home I live in today, but the one from when I was in elementary school. This is the story of Shannon, a girl with a vivid imagination who enjoyed writing. She wasn’t perfect, and didn’t always do everything right in her friendships nor with her siblings, but she was gravely mistreated by the girls in the popular group and misunderstood/ignored by her mother. Shannon had to find out the hard way that being in the popular group isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially with mean girls who often dress better and compete for attention. Shannon finally realizes who she is and she stands up for herself, but not before suffering a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety, basically ruining her elementary school experience.
What I liked about this book is that students can either relate to Shannon’s experience (like myself), or they can see how damaging being in the popular group can be for someone on the outskirts. It was really hard to read this, because it was such an emotional story. I think it is really important for girls to read this book, because it seems like someone is either out with the in crowd, or the in crowd itself.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it did hurt to read it. I didn’t want Shannon to be abused by her “friends” at school or her sister at home, but it is her experience (the author’s), and important to read.
Book 5 of summer 2017!
Still Life with Tornado (ebook)
by A.S. King
Still Life with Tornado is a strange book, to say the least. Sarah is a sixteen year old aspiring artist living in Philadelphia with her mom and dad. She has decided not to return to school since it isn’t original, but we learn that something happened that traumatized Sarah. She spends her days wandering the streets, following a homeless man, whom she admires and claims is original. We also follow her at age 10 on vacation with her family in Mexico, where she isn’t traumatized, and isn’t aware of the pain she and her family will go through. She doesn’t see her parents’ marriage unraveling, and she’s oblivious to the severity of the abuse her mom and brother endure at the hands of her father. This is an odd read, and very, very sad, but worth it to see it through to the end.
What I liked about this book was the time switching and point of view. That could make it a little hard to follow at first, but it also made the story more engaging and the characters more complex. The point of view was mainly Sarah, either present or from the POV of her 10 year old self in Mexico. A few chapters were from her mom’s POV, and that gave insight into Sarah’s parents’ marriage, which was a major factor in Sarah’s existential crisis.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a little hard to follow in the beginning. I didn’t understand that she was having a breakdown, and I really wanted to know more about the problems of the story. I had to get used to the idea that the details of the plot would be revealed as time went on.
Book 4 of summer 2017!
Ramona Blue (audiobook)
by Julie Murphy
Ramona is a high school senior in Eulogy, Mississippi, a small town on the gulf that was impacted by Katrina. In fact, Ramona, her sister, and dad live in an old FEMA trailer in a trailer park. They are very poor, and Ramona feels the financial burden when her older sister gets pregnant. Ramona has always identified as lesbian, but she questions this when she falls for her best friend, who is a boy. She and Freddy recently broke up with their girl friends and have rekindled their childhood friendship. With a baby on the way, Ramona holds several jobs and thinks little of her own needs. This story describes Ramona’s journey and all that she comes to terms with, whether it is her future outside of Eulogy, her sexual identity, her feelings for her family, or her long blue hair.
What I liked about this book was that Ramona is a character you feel compassion for. You want the best for her, and you want others to treat her right. Actually, most of the characters are well-written, and you feel like these are your friends. I like books that appeal to my emotions. I also appreciate books that make me think about things I cannot relate to so I can put myself into someone else’s shoes, and this definitely made me think.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted to know more about Ramona’s future. I guess there wasn’t really anything I disliked. It was engaging and kept me reading.
Book 3 of summer 2017!
MARCH: Book One (paperback)
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
AR Level 4.6, 1 point
Book One of the MARCH trilogy introduces us to John Lewis’s upbringing and entrance into the Civil Rights Movement. Rep. Lewis was raised in the South on a farm. He preached to the chickens while fighting for the chance to attend school and gain an education. Others saw something in him and gave him the chance to use his skill and passion to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and join the movement. In this book, he stages peaceful sit-ins so African Americans could eat at food counters.
What I like about this book is it gives details on something I know bits and pieces about. It is a graphic novel, and non-fiction, which is unusual. It is a great way to retell history in a way that is not exactly entertaining, but engaging. I want to make sure all of my students read this book so they learn about a part of history that is important, but not taught in detail.
What I didn’t like about this book isn’t something that can be helped. Because of the context, there is a lot of language in this book. I know the word nigger is one that is used in must my students listen to and their parents don’t blink an eye, but it different when I am providing a book that includes it. It is important for them to see how this word was used and why it isn’t to be taken lightly. I just worry that not everyone will see that, and I’ll have to take this valuable piece of literature out of my library.
Book 2 of Summer 2017!