Flat-Out Celeste (ebook)
by Jessica Park
Not too long ago, I read Flat-Out Love at the request of a friend, and while I started out cynical, I’m a sucker for a good love story. Or a bad one. Or one that is only so-so. What ever the quality, this is a love story, and I got sucked in right away, and wanted more from the characters. Flat-Out Celeste is the third installation, and a secondary character is now is the main character.
Celeste struggles socially. We as the readers might immediately think aspergers, but she is never actually diagnosed. Celeste is beyond smart academically, but does not have any friends because of her awkwardness. She has her choice of colleges, including Ivy League, but she starts getting emails from Jason, a student liason at Barton College, and they correspond regularly until it becomes flirtatious. They finally meet, and go out on a very awkward date. Celeste’s social anxiety starts to improve, and she and Jason make an instant connection. Despite some tough situations, Celeste’s life seems to be on track with Justin. She decides to try and fix her brother’s relationship with his exgirlfriend Julie (whose romance began in Flat-Out Love). All in all, this is a book filled with hope (for the socially awkward) and love (for all). It isn’t cheesy, but you may throw up a little in your mouth during some of Celeste and Justin’s conversations.
What I liked about this book was that it gives me hope for my weirdos. I have had several students with autistic-like behaviors, students who wouldn’t understand a social situation no matter what drawing or map you made for them, etc. If Celeste and Justin can kindle a relationship and keep it going despite a distance, then there’s is hope!
What I didn’t like about this book was that there were so many errors! It was like the book had never seen an editor and was just published to the Internet. It bugged me, but it didn’t take away from the story itself.
Book 4 of 40
Flat-Out Love (ebook)
by Jessica Park
Flat-Out Love is super cute! It’s that love story genre that isn’t always my first choice, but I usually enjoy the books when I read them. Julie Seagle is a college freshman in Boston, a city she’s completely unfamiliar with. She finds herself homeless, duped by a fake Craigslist ad, but her mom’s college roommate comes to her rescue and lets her stay in their home with Celeste and Matt, her two children. Matt is a geeky college student, and Celeste is a “different” eighth grade girl. There is also a mysterious brother named Finn who isn’t around, but Julie has a Facebook romance with him. Their mother Erin and father Roger are absentee parents, being busy with their careers, so Matt is left to take care of Celeste, including carting around Flat Finn, a cardboard cutout of Finn. Julie steps in to be Celeste’s friend, take some of the load off of Matt, and help Celeste fit in and be a little less strange. Of course, there is love and everything hits the fan. This is also a bit of a mystery (slightly predictable), but it was a fun read, and engaging until the end.
What I liked about this book was the romance, of course. Without the romance, I’m not sure the storyline would have been nearly as engaging. A mysterious brother? Drunken phone calls? A nerdy but handsome brother who goes out of his way to be a knight in shining armor? It has everything.
What I didn’t like about this book was the shocker with Finn. That was upsetting. Predictable, but upsetting none the less. I am not sure how I felt about his story. That’s all I can say without giving away too much.
Book 19 of summer 2017!
The Someday Birds (hardcover)
by Sally J. Pla
AR Level 4.8, 9 points
I really enjoyed this book, another on the Mock Caldecott lists I’ve found online. I’m continuing my quest to read them before the winners are announced, but honestly, I expect to still be left confused about where I went wrong with my book choices!
The Someday Birds isn’t a feel-good story, but it is filled with hope and growth and knowledge kids wouldn’t get otherwise. Charlie is a 12 year-old boy who clearly has Asperger Syndrome, or is on the Autism Spectrum at the very least. His OCD requires him to wash his hands 12 times (since he’s 12 years old) several times a day when he feels unclean or is stressed. He has a bathroom rating scale, and only eats chicken nuggets. He’s also obsessed with birding, keeping a bird journal and learning everything he can about a famous birding expert, Tiberius Shaw. Before the novel begins, Charlie’s mom dies (when he was two). Sometime recently, his dad was traveling in a jeep in Afghanistan as a journalist when his jeep was hit by a bomb and he suffered from a brain injury. While he survived, he is in a hospital while doctors perform tests to try and get him back to normal. Charlie, his older sister Davis, and younger twin brothers are left in the care of their grandmother. Their dad is transferred to another hospital on the other side of the country, and Ludmila, a mysterious woman who appeared in their dad’s room, is in charge of taking care of them. The four traumatized kids then make the trip across country and learn about their country, their caretaker, and themselves.
The name The Someday Birds comes from the list that Charlie and his dad made prior to the accident. They wanted to see certain birds someday. Charlie makes it his goal to see these birds for his dad, to cheer him up.
What I liked about this book was the learning opportunities it provides its readers. For example, I’d say 9 out of 10 kids (and that’s being generous) have never heard of the war in Bosnia, or Bosnia itself. Ludmila recounts her experience and gives students insight. It also allows readers to see through the eyes of someone with OCD or Autism. They can look at his choices and see why he makes them, but then see how they affect others. Of course, readers get to learn more about birds, and that is always something I enjoy!
What I didn’t like about this book was nothing, really… it was a good read. No complaints.
Book 10 of summer 2017!
Rain Reign (hardcover)
by Ann M. Martin
AR Level 4.3, 5 points
I had mixed feelings about wanting to read Rain Reign, because 1) it got good reviews and was in the discussion for a Newbery, and 2) it’s be the same author as The Baby-Sitter’s Club, one of my childhood favorites. I think I read nearly all of them at least twice (some more) until she stopped writing them herself. Plus, I had no idea what the book was about, but that hasn’t stopped me before.
Rose is a 12 year-old fifth grader with high-functioning autism (aspergers syndrome). She is obsessed with prime numbers and homophones, which are repeated to the point of annoyance throughout the book, but to me, this emphasizes how some people get so frustrated with her. She lives with her dad, who is a mechanic and frequents the local bar, but her uncle takes her to and from school, and acts as a better role model and seems to understand Rose’s uniqueness. Rose also has a dog named Rain (Reign, the homophone) and one day during a superstorm (Hurricane Susan, aka Hurricane Irene), her dad lets Rain out, and Rain doesn’t come back. Rose is forced to make some tough decisions, as well as the people around her.
What I liked about this book is the development of Rose’s character. Ann M. Martin was always good at writing well thought-out characters, and you could really put yourself in their shoes. Rose isn’t a character most of us can relate to, being autistic, but it helps to see life with her disability through her eyes. For my students, this means teaching compassion and understanding and tolerance, and I am ALWAYS up for a book that will teach these important traits that aren’t in the curriculum.
What I didn’t like about this book was how sad it was. It was sad while being hear-warming at the same time. It restores your faith in people to do what is unselfish, both on the part of Rose and her father. So I guess that’s a good thing, not something I didn’t like! If you’re a reluctant reader, this book will suck you in immediately. It took me a few hours from beginning to end, and I finished it in one day.
Book 4 of 10 (summer goal)
Counting By 7s (hardcover)
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
AR Level 5.6, 10 points
This is the story of a girl named Willow. She is clearly different from her peers (I’m assuming the author looked up autism or Aspergers syndrome to do research). Willow is in the genius range, and is fascinated by medical conditions (especially skin ailments), gardening, and the number 7. She has skills in rebuilding computers, financial planning and organization, and knowledge in general. The story begins when she starts seeing a counselor, Dell Duke, after being accused of cheating on a test. Dell is an underachieving, overweight, and unmotivated human being who does as little as possible to get by. Everyone’s world is turned upside down when Willow’s parents die in a car accident (not a spoiler- we learn this almost immediately). Willow is taken in by Mai’s mother and brother. Mai’s brother is also a student of Dell’s, and we see changes in all of the characters as Willow’s story is told. Each character finds the goodness in another character, and as they learn and grow from their experiences, we also learn and grow from hearing Willow’s story. Spoiler Alert: there are several situations that caused my eyes to fill up with tears, and it wasn’t a book allergy.
What I liked about this book was that it is told from the perspectives of multiple characters, and there are no evil characters in this story. Everyone reveals the good in them, which far overpowers the bad qualities. I think it is refreshing to read a book where all of the characters become better and reveal a positive influence. I also appreciated that although Willow is clearly “different” from other middle school students, no one really makes fun of her. The author hints that she does things that might make people tease her, but the teasing isn’t made obvious in the story. Bullying is not the point of a book about a unique personality.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it is really sad at parts! I cannot imagine losing parents at such a young age, and being a parent myself, it is hard for me to imagine the pain my children would feel without me. I can handle books about death, but for some reason, the pain of losing a parent or a child is overwhelming. It has a wonderful message, however, and despite the sad parts, it is worth the read.
Book 31 of 52