Long Way Down

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Long Way Down (audiobook)

by Jason Reynolds

 

Long Way Down is a powerful book about what it’s like to live in a place where people suffer from gun violence whether they are in a gang or not.  Will’s brother was just shot.  He and his mother are grieving their loss, but Will has to follow the rules:  don’t cry, don’t snitch, and get revenge.  He takes his brother’s gun and goes to follow rule number 3 when he is visited by the ghosts of several people he knows who died of gun violence.

What I liked about this book… first of all, the audiobook is read by Jason Reynolds himself, which to me, MADE the audiobook.  I may need to relisten just to get it all again.  Second of all, the language is beautiful (yet the subject is quite the opposite).  The entire book sounds like it should be read at open mic night.  I want to share this with an old friend who teaches kids to write poetry.  The use of repetition and metaphor make it sound like a poem.  Third, the power of the subject matter… I’m a middle aged white lady who lives in a nice neighborhood (although I did grow up in the projects and heard gunshots at night, but never knew anyone who was gang related growing up).  I cannot relate to any of it, but the power of the story gave me insight into a world I will never know first-hand.  I could go on with what I loved about this book, but nothing will stick with me more than the end.  Those last 2 words.  Just read it.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it’s a pretty short book.  However, the length of it was appropriate.  I just wanted more.

 

Book 22 of 40

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Miles Morales

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Miles Morales (hard cover and ebook)

by Jason Reynolds

AR level 4.9, 9 points

 

Miles Morales is based on the Spiderman comics.  I was really excited to read this one since it is by one of my favorite authors, and he can write no wrong as far as I’m concerned!  It is known at the beginning of the book that Miles is Spiderman.  His current battle is fighting the guys who are stealing shoes from the kids in the neighborhood.  Miles’s spidey sense is really bothering him around his history teacher, Mr. Chamberlain, and Miles learns that he has been having strange dreams involving his family members, including his uncle who was a criminal.  As it turns out, Mr. Chamberlain is part of a larger group of weird men headed by the Warden, an evil villain who is spreading racism and preventing young black men and women from being successful.  Miles finds himself in a position to fight for social justice.

What I liked about this book is that it has that message of social justice, and although the Warden was defeated, Mr. Chamberlain was still keeping Miles down.  There are many “Mr. Chamberlains” out there, and it is up to us to stand up for the “Mileses” out there.  However, I’m not sure that my sixth graders would catch on to that.  I feel like it wasn’t direct enough for them to get the point.

What I didn’t like about this book is that it seemed like the reader had to already have a background in Spiderman and Miles Morales.  I didn’t realize it was a separate comic until after the story ended.  I’m sure someone more familiar with the comics would appreciate the story a lot more.

Book 18 of 40

Patina

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Patina (hardcover)

by Jason Reynolds

 

Patina is the second installment in the track series.  I’m not sure how many there will be, but Ghost was the first book, and I loved it!  Patina is still a great novel, but I wasn’t as attached to the main character, Patina, as I was to Ghost.  Patty (Patina) is a young woman who has a lot on her plate.  She is the only African American girl at her fancy private school, and has put up a wall that makes it hard to get to know anyone.  She takes on a lot of responsibility with her little sister Maddy, even though she lives with her aunt and uncle (who adopted them) since her dad passed and her mom had her legs amputated due to diabetes.  Patty’s aunt Momly works hard to make sure everyone is well taken care of, but Patty still has the burdens of school, pleasing her mom, being poor in a rich school, having a white Momly, and being the best on her track team.  When there is an accident, Patty’s life takes a turn and she starts to realize what is important to her.

What I liked about this book is the compelling character that Reynolds has written.  I really enjoy his writing style, and I wish he had more middle grade-appropriate literature, but he is more of a young adult author.  For me, Patty is relatable, even if I am not in her situation.  I can relate to feeling like I have to take on more responsibility than I actually need to, and then feeling the weight of that choice.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it left me with a cliffhanger!  I don’t need a cliffhanger to keep me returning for more… I will continue to read Jason Reynolds’ books, regardless.  NOW I have to WAIT for his next one to come out to find out if Patty actually won the relay (although I think she did).

Book 6 of 40

All American Boys

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All American Boys (audiobook)

by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

 

All American Boys is a book that needs to be in the hands of everyone.  I really appreciate Jason Reynolds as an author, and I thought this one was really well co-written.  Both voices come out loud and strong.  It is about a boy named Rashad who is picking up some chips and soda, and is mistakenly accused of stealing by a cop.  The cop then beats the crap out of him, putting him into the hospital.  Quinn, in the mean time, witnessed what happened, but the cop is a family friend who is like a big brother to him.  Quinn can’t get past the fact that what the cop did was wrong, and he has to decide whether to push aside his loyalty to do what is right.  Rashad deals with his own feelings, being accused of doing something wrong just because he is black.

What I liked about this book was that it was told from two perspectives (and read by two different people on the audiobook).  Rashad is a black teen, and Quinn is white.  Jason Reynolds is a black author and Brendan Kiely white.  I liked that it was written and told from a black and white perspective.  I will never ever understand what it is like to be an African American living in America, facing discrimination and racism.  What stood out to me was the list of rules Rashad had to learn that were not part of my education as a white teenager.  These are the kinds of things that help us understand what is going on in today’s society (although I wouldn’t limit it to today- it seems like a lot hasn’t changed from 70 years ago).

What I didn’t like about this book (although I understand) is the cussing, only because I want to share this with my students.  Unfortunately, while many of my students hear (and use) the kinds of words, I am not about to respond to angry parent complaints.  It has a message that NEEDS to be heard, but it’s definitely a YA book.

Book 12 of summer 2017!

Ghost

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Ghost (paperback)

by Jason Reynolds

AR Level 4.6, 6 points

 

I loved this one.  Ghost is the nickname Castle Cranshaw gave himself due to his speed.  Ghost learned to run when his father chased him and his mother out of their house.  Now, Ghost lives with his mom in the poorest part of town with dreams of becoming the next Lebron, but he finds himself on a track team with a tough coach.  This coach sees potential in Ghost, despite the trouble Ghost gets himself into.  Finally, Ghost learns that he has control of his life and starts making better choices.

What I liked about this book was… everything.  This is a great read, and I look forward to the next book in the series, Patina, which should be out this fall.  I liked the positive message, the positive role model, and the fact that Ghost faced consequences for his actions and learned a lesson.  I think it shows there is hope when you take control of your life instead of just drifting along.

What I didn’t like about this book… there wasn’t anything.  It is my first Jason Reynolds book, and I look forward to reading more from him.  I think he has a strong voice, and readers of all ages can appreciate his style.

Book 42 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)