A Wrap-Up of Recent Reads #3

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon:

I picked up this book at my grandma’s house and was instantly hooked. The main character is a fifteen-year-old boy named Christopher. Although not specifically stated, Christopher seems to be somewhere on the autism scale. He knows all the countries of the world and their capitals, the chapters are labeled by prime numbers, and he has no understanding of human emotions. If he sees five red cars in a row on his way to school, it’s going to be a Super Good Day, but if he sees a bunch of yellow cars—watch out—it’s going to be a bad day. At the beginning of the novel, Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog has been killed. Christopher puts his detective skills to the test and attempts to solve the mystery.

The book is a fast read, and I finished it in just two days. Christopher’s voice really comes through the novel and I found him very relatable. He reminded me of students I had worked with in the past. The book was unlike anything else I had read and I would highly recommend this novel.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson:

When I saw that Laurie Halse Anderson had a new book out, I was interested—but not interested enough to pay for it! So when I saw it on the New Releases shelf at the library, I snatched it up. Laurie Halse Anderson has been a leader in YA fiction with her novels Speak, Twisted, and Wintergirls, so I knew I was in for a good read. What I wasn’t expecting was how fast I was drawn into the novel and how fast I finished it. I had to know what would happen to the narrator and her father. This would be a great novel to use in a high school English class—it’s relevant and would spark some good discussions.

Senior Hayley Kincain is back at a public school after traveling the road with her dad and his semi for the past five years. They were constantly on the move as her father struggled with the memories and nightmares of his time serving in Iraq. Her dad wants to give her a normal life and decides they’ll move back to his hometown, but their life is anything but normal. He can’t hold a job, abuses alcohol and drugs, has a violent temper at times, and refuses to get help for his PTSD. In the meantime, Hayley struggles with memories of her own. She finds out that while her life isn’t perfect, neither is the life of many of her classmates and friends.

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Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore:

This book was popping up on summer reading lists, so when I found out that the price had been reduced on Amazon, I quickly bought it for my kindle. While I wanted to like the novel, it was unsettling and I don’t know how I really feel about it! I feel pretty confident that I wouldn’t recommend it to any of my friends though. One problem I had with the novel was the setting: when does the story take place? Judging from the character’s names (Mabel and Genevra), the fact that they attend a posh, East Coast school, and go to an event where a Degas painting is gifted to the school (and they have dresses made for it), I thought the book was taking place during the 1950s or ‘60s—like Mona Lisa Smile era—but then one of the girls mentions her cell phone and the fact that they won’t have cell or internet service up at their summer cabin. Wait, what?! Cell phone! That totally threw me for a loop. You’ll have to take your chances with this novel.

Mabel Dagmar, a scholarship student at an East Coast college, finally befriends her wealthy roommate Genevra (Ev) Winslow. Mabel is thrilled to be invited to Ev’s summer cottage in Vermont, but she soon finds that this charmed life isn’t quite what she had pictured. There seem to be a lot of secrets surrounding the Winslow family. Why are there heavy locks on the doors? How did the Winslow’s come into so much money during the Great Depressions? Why does Ev’s aunt want Mabel to look into the “blood money” and expose the truth? Are any of the Winslow’s trustworthy? Mabel must choose whether to expose the family or keep their secrets and become one of the Winslow’s.

What books have you read lately?

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A Box of Books

box_of_booksI recently mailed a package to the school I worked at for four years. Inside the box was a stack of books that I had picked up at the Half Price Bookstore, read, and wanted to share. Mind you, I bought these books months ago, but I couldn’t bear to part with them! I almost decided not to mail them at all. Then I looked around at our apartment (which is bursting at the seams already) and decided that since I had read the books, I could live without the physical proof. Here’s what I sent and a review in fifteen words or less, plus some notes to help you decide whether or not you should add it to your summer reading list:

  • Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson: Average teen pulls prank, earning a reputation. He then deals with rumors and ruined reputations.
    • Read Twisted if you like realistic characters and situations, and topics that are relevant to today’s teens. Also read if you liked Anderson’s other novels, like Speak.
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman: Accident lands a girl in a coma. She must decide to live or let go.
    • Read If I Stay if you saw the movie preview and thought it looked interesting, or if you like teenagers put in difficult situations that they must overcome. This one’s a bit of a tearjerker.
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: 1996 teens access their future Facebook pages through AOL CD. Their choices affect their futures.
    • Read The Future of Us if you enjoyed Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, or if you are interested in how technology has changed our lives in a relatively short time, thanks to the internet and Facebook.
  • Starters by Lissa Price: Elderly rent out teenagers’ bodies for fun, but teens soon become mindless weapons.
    • Read Starters if you like YA dystopian novels with strong female leads like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched. This novel has a sequel titled Enders, which I picked up from the library this week, but haven’t started yet.
  • Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian: Lillia, Kat, and Mary help one another seek revenge, but maybe they go too far…
    • Read Burn for Burn if you are tired of YA dystopian novels! This novel has three girls from different social cliques working together on revenge plots. There is also a bit of the supernatural involved. This book is followed by Fire with Fire, which I also read and enjoyed, and I’m interested to see what will happen in the third book in the series.
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer: Meteor pushes moon closer to earth and family must survive with stockpiled food and wood-stove.
    • Read Life As We Knew It if you’re interested in finding out what life would be like if a global natural disaster really happened and you were forced to survive without grocery stores, water, heat, electricity, cell phones, and the internet. The novel is written as a series of journal entries. It is followed up by three other books in the series (which I have not read, and I’m not sure that I will).
  • The Kill Order by James Dashner: Prequel to Maze Runner series. How it all started. Mutating disease released on innocent people.
    • Read The Kill Order if you read the Maze Runner series and are still confused! While this novel still didn’t answer all of my questions, it did help explain how the disease started in the first place. It also shows what life was like right at the time of the sun flares, which are discussed in the Maze Runner books.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: Kid leaves reservation school to attend a white school for hope of a better future.
    • Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian if you have ever felt like you didn’t belong in your family, community, or school. Read this book if you’ve felt like there was more to you and your potential than everyone around you imagined. As the main character is a teenage boy, I feel like boys would be drawn to this book more than girls would. Read this book if you disagree with book banning/challenging and you want to see what all the fuss is about.
  • Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen: Author of Hatchet and Brian’s Winter returns with more of Brian’s story.
    • This is the only book out of the bunch that I didn’t read. I just know that kids always like Gary Paulsen’s books. Students are captivated by Brian’s ability to survive in the wild on his own. I remember reading Hatchet and Brian’s Winter in elementary school and really enjoying them. I think I remember this unit in particular because we even got to build our own forts in the school forest. How cool is that?!

How did I do?  Do you think my box of books will be a hit with teenagers looking for something new to read?