Still Life with Tornado

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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

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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!

If I Was Your Girl

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If I Was Your Girl (audiobook)

by Meredith Russo

 

Amanda is an average teenage girl.  She moves in with her dad after living with her mom since their divorce, so she has a little adapting to do.  Amanda is also new to being female, having been born Andrew.  She starts at a new school and quickly meets friends who are unaware of her transgender status.  Several boys become aware of her beauty, and she starts dating a boy who loves her, and doesn’t want to know any of her secrets, so he doesn’t know about her being transgender.  Amanda enjoys having friends and being able to be who she really is, until her past comes out.

What I liked about this book was the insight I as a reader was given into a world I cannot relate to and have no experience with.  I am not transgender and I don’t have any trans friends.  I worked briefly with a transgender woman in a school setting, and that is my limited knowledge, except when it comes to reading.  I have no problems with people who identify differently than I do, but I think that reading helps to build understanding, which helps to break down ignorance and intolerance, so I am learning as I live, and hoping I can help my students also build understanding and compassion.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it really bothered me when Amanda left the homecoming dance and ran into a guy who attempted to assault her.  I have never been sexually assaulted, but I have a very hard time reading about it, and this seemed particularly vicious.

Book 61 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

School is out!  Woot woot!  I blasted past my 40 book goal!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (audiobook)

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

 

Ari is a young man when he meets Dante, who offers to teach him to swim.  Both boys are somewhat lonely, isolated from society in a way.  They quickly form a close friendship.  Their personalities are different, but they compliment each other.  This is a coming of age story, and it is broken up into several parts.  It would be hard to give too much detail without giving the story away.

What I liked about this book was the topic.  It’s not that I particularly enjoy stories about young men or women coming out or discovering their identity, but I enjoy stories about people whom I cannot relate to.  I really think people should read books about characters nothing like them, just to broaden their horizons.  I think exposure to new topics will help to build compassion and empathy for others’ situations.  I am not gay, so I will never understand what it is like for someone to learn to be comfortable with him or herself.

What I didn’t like about this book was the violence.  It hurt my soul to read about Dante being beaten because of his sexuality.

Book 59 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Tell Me Three Things

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Tell Me Three Things (ebook)

by Julie Buxbaum

 

Imagine your mom (your best friend) dying of cancer.  Then your dad remarries someone you’ve never met.  Then he moves you into her fancy home in California, away from your friends and all that is familiar.  Then you have to adapt to a new climate, a new step brother who seems to hate you, a new school, and culture shock.  When you’re on the verge of a breakdown, you start receiving mysterious, but helpful emails from a person named Somebody Nobody, who gives you advice on how to survive at your new school.  Jessie narrows the identity of Somebody Nobody down to 3 people, and the end may surprise you.

What I liked about this book was that the end didn’t surprise me.  I pretty much guessed who it was, and it was who I was rooting for.  This is a cute, romantic story that won’t leave you feeling depressed or angry.  It won’t make you want to throw the book away, and you’ll likely finish it as quickly as I did!

What I didn’t like about this book was that the end didn’t surprise me.  Ha ha… I like and don’t like books that are predictable, depending on my mood.  I didn’t like the idea of being “peened” and the word “peen” to begin with.  That made me feel old and prudish.

Book 58 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give (ebook)

by Angie Thomas

 

Starr is a 16-year old girl.  She is black but attends a predominantly white (private) school, and lives in Garden Heights, a poor neighborhood with gangs, drugs, poverty, and a tight community.   Starr’s father is a former gang member who wants better for his children, but one night, Starr attends a party and she and her friend are pulled over by a white cop on their way home.  Her friend, Khalil, is shot and she is the witness.  Starr struggles with both internal and external conflicts as she makes the decision to testify against the cop.  This book brings to mind the recent (and not so recent) shootings and examples of police brutality that have been in the news.  It is a fictional story with fictional characters, but it is reality for many, many people.

What I liked about this book was Starr’s character.  I felt like she was well-written, and I appreciate that this topic was written in a manner in which others will learn and be educated without it being shoved down their throats.  I am assuming people of all races and belief systems will be reading it, not just those represented in its pages.  I am a 30-something year old white lady.  I’m not friends with any gang members (other than former students’ parents) and I don’t live in a particularly dangerous neighborhood, so I can appreciate that I was able to see this problem through Starr’s eyes.  I think bringing awareness is one reason to read diverse literature.

What I didn’t like about this book was the way I was constantly questioning myself and what I do.  I don’t think anyone says, “Yeah, I’m racist,” including myself, but reading this book made me wonder if I stereotype or would think the things Starr’s classmates thought, like seeing a person as a gang member and not a friend, brother, son, etc.  I’m sure I generalize, and it was a good reminder to judge people and situations for what they are individually.  My children are mixed-race, and I don’t want them to see one race differently than the other.  It also made me feel old, because Starr’s parents were listening to music that I listened to, and she kept calling them old.

Book 57 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Holding Up the Universe

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Holding Up the Universe (audiobook)

by Jennifer Niven

AR Level 4.9, 12 points (not for kids!)

 

Jack is a senior in high school who appears to have it all- he’s good looking, he has an on-again/off-again girlfriend, and he’s a ladies man.  Libby is a junior, and holds the title of (former) world’s largest teenager and about 600 pounds.  She was cut out of her house a few years ago, and lost half of her body weight.  Despite appearances, Jack has a brain disorder called face blindness, or prosopagnosia, which means he can’t identify people by their faces.  This puts him at a disadvantage, and he is scared and overcompensates with his “big man on campus” persona.  Libby has a larger than life personality, loves dancing, and isn’t afraid to tell people what she’s feeling.  When Jack bullies Libby, they have to confront their weaknesses, and enemies become friends.

What I liked about this book was the message.  Jack and Libby were opposites in many ways, but both learned lessons about not judging books by their covers.  Despite Libby’s physical appearance, Jack loved her for who she was, which made her beautiful.  Despite Jack’s persona, Libby discovered Jack had a kind heart and loved him, even with his face blindness.

What I didn’t like about this book was the language.  I felt like it would’ve been a great book for my sixth graders to read, except for the cussing.  I understand they are high school students, and that’s how high school students talk, but I also think a broader audience could have been reached if the language was more appropriate.

Book 54 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)