A Book Battle

Ok, so one of my favorite blogs to read is Rose Read. The writer, Emily, is a former high school English teacher turned Library and Information Sciences grad student. She posted about a book battle tag today and I decided I’m doing this tag, too, even though I wasn’t tagged in it! I just like this idea, and amazingly, I’ve read all the books in this list. So here goes.

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the blog who tagged you and link back to them
  • Your first book is the last book of the person who tagged you
  • Follow the list of books the tagger you gave you and then face off “book 1 vs book 2”
  • As soon as you have a winner, choose 7 more books and blogs to tag

Emily ended with Cinder by Marissa Meyer, so that’s the beginning of my book battle. Here are the books she chose for the next round:

  1. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  4. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky
  7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

ROUND 1: Cinder vs. Illuminae


Cinder wins. I just finished reading Illuminae two nights ago. While the last 50 pages were thrilling, I am hesitant to read the next book. Cinder, on the other hand, was a wonderful read and I read the next three books in the series…as well as the extra novellas, too!

ROUND 2: Cinder vs. Ready Player One


I’m going to have to choose Cinder again. I really enjoyed the Lunar Chronicles. That being said, I gave both books a 4/5 rating on Goodreads. They’re both good!

ROUND 3: Cinder vs. Ender’s Game


Oooo. This gets tricky. Cinder is fluffier than Ender’s Game, if you know what I mean. It’s girlier and there’s romance. It’s more fun. But then again, I really enjoyed Ender’s Game and read another book in the series too. The writing is smart and edgy. Hm. I guess…Cinder.

ROUND 4: Cinder vs. The Outsiders


This may seem strange, but I’m going to pick The Outsiders. This was my favorite book to teach. This was the one book I had to tell students to not read ahead in, but then was secretly thrilled when they did! I had students who would take the book home and read it in one night. I loved reading this book out loud in class to my students. It’s a classic.

ROUND 5: The Outsiders vs. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


The Outsiders. Easy. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is important, but Ponyboy, Soda, Darry, and Johnny have my heart.

ROUND 6: The Outsiders vs. The Perks of Being a Wallflower


The Outsiders, no contest. I gave The Perks of Being a Wallflower a 3 out of 5 on Goodreads. I get why people like it, but it wasn’t a favorite of mine.

ROUND 7: The Outsiders vs. Eleanor & Park


Eleanor & Park. This is the book that made me want to read everything that author Rainbow Rowell wrote – including a book that was just a fictional book within a book (I’m talking about you, Carry On!). I feel like Eleanor & Park is going to become one of those great Young Adult books that every teenager should read and love. It wasn’t just instalove like in a lot of YA books – it was a real, full-fledged relationship. The characters truly cared about one another and made each other better. I would have loved recommending this book to my students.

Ding, Ding, Ding! Eleanor & Park for the win!

If you’re interested in completing this book tag, you’ll start with Eleanor & Park for your first book, and here’s my lineup for the next battle:

  1. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  2. The Girls by Emma Cline
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  4. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  5. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  6. The Martian by Andy Weir
  7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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?

Another Banned Book Sighting

diaryofparttimeindianMSN posted an article about a recent book banning in an Idaho school district. The novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is written by Sherman Alexie and is a 2007 National Book Award Winner. Having recently read this novel myself, I wanted to discuss this current event.

For those of you not familiar with the book, it’s about a teenager named Arnold Spirit, or Junior, who is growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Life on the reservation is tough and his family struggles to make ends meet. Alcoholism, violence, poverty, and death are things Arnold deals with on a regular basis. Wanting to create a better life for himself, Junior decides to leave the reservation school and attend a high school where everyone is white and seemingly better-off than him. Junior includes drawings and cartoons as he tells his story about not fitting in on the reservation or off the reservation.

I had heard a lot of praise about this novel—some from students themselves—so I decided to pick the book up when I saw it at the Half Price Bookstore. I had a little trouble getting into the story at first, and I wouldn’t say it was my favorite book, but I can appreciate Sherman’s intention and creativity. I can see how teens, especially those with difficult home lives, could relate to the book and find a friend in Junior.

According to the MSN article, parents in the Idaho school district felt that the book was, “was rife with profanity, racial epithets and anti-Christian rhetoric,” and that “the book contained sexually charged material inappropriate for their children, was peppered with pejorative terms for women, people of various races and those with learning disabilities and mocked Christian beliefs.” Furthermore, a mother counted “133 profane or offensive words in its 230 pages.”

In the age of helicopter-parents, are the parents in the article correct in believing the book is bad for their children? Well, there are some swear words and derogatory language, but to me, the parents completely missed the point of the novel. Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Catcher in the Rye all contain offensive language, yet they continue to be taught in schools across the United States. The reason for this is because parents typically understand that there is a message greater than the language and an educational value in the text. Why didn’t the parents see the value in a story of a boy who tries to improve his own life and faces adversity along the way?

The only time when I feel a book should be challenged is when it is inappropriate for a particular age group or maturity level. But in the case of the Idaho story, the book was being used in a tenth grade classroom. Tenth! Not middle school, not junior high—but real, live, high school students! Tenth graders are entirely capable of having conversations about tough topics. The book is recommended for ages 12 and up. With a Lexile text score of 600L, the book is actually fairly simple to read—especially for high school students. It surprised me that parents of tenth graders got so upset about a book being used in their child’s classroom. I’m curious to know what books are allowed in the classroom.

I love the message Gretchen Caserotti, director of public libraries in Meridian, shared: “Teen fiction is often a reflection and extension of adolescents’ realities. We believe books are a powerful and safe place for kids to see outside themselves and explore a world that is increasingly diverse and complex.” And her comment makes sense. That’s why adolescents have long been drawn to books like The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower: they’re looking for a bit of truth amidst the chaos of growing up.

What are your thoughts? Was the Idaho school district correct in banning the book from tenth graders? Have you read the book? If so, what did you think about it?