Monster

Hello all. So I had been meaning to read a book by Walter Dean Myers for a while, but I really wanted to after I saw him at the National Book Festival last year. He was definitely interesting to listen to, and his book sounded equally intriguing. So I got one from the library. The book in question is Monster, the story of teenage Steve Harmon, whose life may be a tad different from yours. He’s in jail.

The book tells the story of how he ended up there, as well as what’s it like for Steve, being on trial for murder and all. For me, it was kind of like Night, by Elie Wiesel, in that it offered an up-close and personal look at what it’s like for a kid going through an awful and striking experience, the kind of look that sort of smacks you in the face and makes you think, “Wow.” Myers really succeeds in making his story seem real, which is one of the best things about it. The book is also written in a unique format. It’s a mash-up of Steve’s journal entries and the script for a movie he’s writing, to help him cope with what he’s going through. At first, I was worried that this would take away from the enjoyment of the book, but it didn’t; it was actually pretty interesting. The plot is gripping, especially since Myers continuously holds off on letting the reader know if Steve is actually guilty or not. The characters are just as well-written and interesting, and Myers definitely manages to make Steve, a suspected criminal, a human being, despite the prosecutor’s assessment of him–that he’s a monster. One of the other things I liked about the book was that it offered a look at life in and relating to the courtroom that was pretty new for me, which only makes the book better. All in all, I would definitely suggest you read Monster. It’s an important book, and it deserves it.

Literary Quote of the Day: “When you’re young, you make mistakes. The big thing that’s different now is that when I was a kid, you could survive your mistakes. We didn’t have guns. Today, kids have access to guns. The same kids that would have been in trouble and gotten a stern talking-to are now going to jail for fifteen or twenty years. Instead of bloody noses there are bodies lying in the street with chalk outlines around them. The values are basically the same, but it’s easier to mess up.” –Walter Dean Myers

Lucid

Hi! So I was trying to work on an Author Tidbit (since, you know, it might have been a while since the last one. . .), but my biographical-creative-juices-thingy in my head must be holding out on me because I spent too much time reading The Boondocks today instead of cleaning my room. So I decided to just go with the regular ol’ reviewing a book thing, and hopefully the AT should be up soon.

The book today is Lucid, a collaboration between screenwriters Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass. I’ll admit, I had several book-mood-swings while reading this book. For a while I was like “Oh! This is good!” but then I was kind of like “Hmm.” And finally, I finished it. But we’ll get to my verdict in a minute. There are two main characters in this book, Sloane and Maggie. At first glance, a stranger would see no reason why they would be friends, or even know each other; their lifestyles are so different. Maggie is a seventeen-year-old actress in New York; Sloane is your regular old teenager attending high school is Connecticut. But here’s the thing: At night, they dream each others’ lives. Maggie is Sloane. Sloane is Maggie. It’s not exactly a common set-up. But they’re doing fine. Fine. Until the lines between reality and dreams blur. Things are falling apart, kind of like when your TV’s all static-y and every now and then just a glimpse of the actual program makes it through. No one knows who’s real and who’s a fantasy. But one of them has to be.

The book starts out pretty well; the character’s voices are fresh and really well-written. Plus, I just cannot get enough of Maggie’s little sister Jade. I mean, once a  character says, “Let’s blow this fruit stand,” it’s kind of impossible not to love them. The book seemed to lose a bit of that strength as I got to the middle of the story, and one of the reasons for that may have been because the characters many times did not speak as if they were teenagers, which I just found annoying a lot of the time. For one thing, there were a lot of instances where contractions could have been used but weren’t, which to me sounded awkward. Also, I don’t know if a teenager would really say, “I am so blessed to have so and so,” casually, like they do in the book. But things did look up more at the end, and ultimately it was an okay read. But it is young adult, so don’t go getting this for any ten-year-olds.

Literary Quote of the Day: “If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, then let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture.” –Ray Bradbury, author of many works such as Fahrenheit 451 and Something Evil This Way Comes.

P.S. I would just like to note that this piece of writing is great, and also SO TRUE. Wow, that was a longer-than-usual post. How did that happen? You probably shouldn’t get used to it. Have a great day everybody!

The Fault in Our Stars

Okay, so I know I mentioned this in my last post, but I just loved it SO MUCH that I feel it deserves a review of its own. Plus, I just finished another book by the author, the incredibly awesome John Green, and then was reminded of this book, and one thing led to another, and POOF! New post.

This book is titled The Fault in Our Stars, and tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old cancer patient who spends most of her time inside rereading (and rereading and rereading and rereading) the same book over and over. That, and watching episodes of America’s Next Top Model. Until her mother convinces (or forces) her to start attending a cancer kids support group. It is at one of these meetings that Hazel makes the acquaintance of Augustus Waters, a  former osteosarcoma patient who immediately starts hanging out with her. And–

Okay, here’s the thing I’ve realized about this book: It’s an amazing book. It really is. And it is also a ginormous pain to describe. Like, I could write “And Hazel and Augustus embarked on a long journey of self discovery” or something equally formal, but that wouldn’t really fit in with the rest of the post, now would it? Basically, this story of Hazel and Augustus has a lot of stuff in it, like big ideas and champagne and romance and epicness and all that jazz that makes it so awesome and sad and thought-provoking. It’s a really good book. I love the writing, the story, and the characters (particularly the character’s names–John Green is a genius with names), and I think that other people would, too. It is totally worth a read. So go. Get it. Now.

Really Good Books to Get Your Teenager

Okay, this has been languishing in my Drafts since the beginning of December, and now it’s finally posted! Yay! Let us all cheer and eat virtual cookies.

As I’m sure a lot of you have noticed, the holiday season is taking the country by storm. Which means, of course, it’s time to head to the mall. Because of this, I thought I’d do a post about certain books that I think really deserve to be on your shopping list. And so, I present to you: Really Good Books to Get Your Teenager! Ta-DA!

First up is The Diviners, the newest book by Libba Bray, set in the glamorous 1920s. Evie (or Miss Evangeline O’Neill, if you prefer) is thrilled to be sent to New York City to live with her uncle for awhile, even though it is technically a punishment for some hot water she got into at home. From here on out, it’s nothing but parties and chatting up nice fellas for Evie and her best friend, Mabel. But the carefree frivolity doesn’t last very long. It soon becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose. And with Evie’s unusual, supernatural powers, she may be able to catch him. Here’s the rub: How’s she supposed to do that? This book is pretty thick, but it’s totally worth your time. Now, give me the sequel!

Second: The Fault in Our Stars! Ahhh, John Green made me so sad with this book, but it was really good! The main character of this novel is Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old with thyroid cancer, and who has had her future determined ever since her diagnosis. She spends most of her time either watching the newest episode of America’s Next Top Model or rereading her most favorite book in the entire world, An Imperial Affliction. Oh, and she sometimes attends this support group for other kids with cancer. And this is where she meet Augustus Waters, a one-legged 17-year-old who becomes Hazel’s friend and more. This won TIME’s #1 fiction book of the year for a reason, people.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly. And yeah, I’ve already reviewed this, but I don’t care, because it deserves to be on your shopping list! It follows the adventures of Andi Alpers, (who’s still recovering from her brother Truman’s death) as she goes to Paris with her father (against her will!) to work on her senior thesis. But things get more exciting when she discovers the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, an aspiring player from the time of the French Revolution. Andi is soon so caught up her find that it’s almost an obsession, and she’s desperate for it to have a happy ending. But things start to get rather strange one night in the catacombs. . . I’d just like to say that this book does not disappoint. It’s very thick, though, and kind of complicated, so I’m just warning you. Actually, I’m not. I take that back. Get it anyway!

Divergent. This also already has a review, but we’ll ignore that. This is not your run-of-the-mill dystopian novel. It’s a dystopian novel that is awesome. It tells the story of Beatrice Prior, who must make a choice: Her society, which is located in what was once known as Chicago, Illinois, is divided into five factions, each focusing on a certain character trait or value. They are Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Now that Beatrice is 16 years old, she must decide which of these factions will become her home, after taking the aptitude test that determines which faction she is most suited to. However, there’s just one little problem: Beatrice is Divergent, meaning she had more than one result. Which is just plain dangerous. This book has had a lot of popularity going for it, and it is well-deserving. Veronica Roth is awesome. Now if she would just finish the last book already. . .

Agh, what next? Um. . .oh! How about Poetry Speaks Who I Am? (Okay, let’s just accept that almost every book on this list probably already has a review, or will have one at some point.) This is actually a really good Christmas gift. It’s properly fancy (comes with a CD) and is filled with awesome poetry for teens (I should know), from a myriad of writers. Some of my personal favorites are How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson, Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros, Used Book Shop by X. J. Kennedy, The Writer by Richard Wilbur. . .you do realize I could go on forever, right? So, seriously, get this. For pretty much any teenage poetry-lover (and older ones, too!) it’s a must.

There are tons of other books I demand you get, but this post would be never be finished if I wrote about them all. So let me just say that I love anything by Gary D. Schmidt, The Future of Us, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, anything by Carolyn Meyer or Ann Rinaldi is great, and. . .okay, okay, I’ll stop.

So, anyway, I hope you consider putting some of these incredibly awesome books under your Christmas tree this year, or giving them as a Hanukkah present, etc. Or just giving them to someone randomly, hopefully in the near future, or for a birthday, or New Year’s, or even Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, because any day is a good enough occasion to give someone a book. (Well, that sounded kind of corny, but let’s face it: It’s true.) Happy holidays everybody!

P.S. There is only one more week of school before break. Did you hear that? One more week!

This Is Not A Drill

First of all, I’d just like to say that this book had me from. . .actually, the summary. Yeah, I know, that’s technically not even part of the story, but come on, haven’t you ever read the summary of a book and the idea was just so dang good that you just had to read that book because in your mind it was already awesome? No? Oh, god, that’s awkward. . .ahem. Anyway, then it can be a heartbreaking letdown when the book is actually bad (like, stomping-around-and-punching-pillows letdown), right? But (and I am thanking my lucky stars for this) this book was not a letdown, not to me at least. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? First of all, the book in question is This Is Not A Drill, by Beck McDowell. At the center of the story are Emery Austin and Jake Willoughby, two high schoolers who are currently tutoring a first grade class in French. Which, when you think about it, is not necessarily easy in light of their recent breakup. But they’re managing it, despite the awkwardness. So of course the world decides to send them a curveball one day in the form of Brian Stutts. Brian Stutts, who happens to be a former solder form Iraq and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. And he’s in a room teeming with adorably innocent (kind of) first graders. With a gun. Yikes. . .but it is an awesome idea for a plot, don’t you think? The problem and tension only escalates as the day goes on, building up to the climax. As I have already stated, the plot is awesome, and the writing isn’t half-bad either. So go check it out. Now.

(Please?)

Revolution

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. . .such a good book! As in, it’s really good. It’s Revolution, written by Jennifer Donnelly, and the main character is Diandra Xenia Alpers, or just Andi. Andi has found herself a wreck for the last two years, ever since her brother Truman’s violent death–a death she blames herself for. Her parents are divorced, she’s popping antidepressant pills like chocolate chips, and, oh yeah, she’s about to be expelled from one of the most select and expensive schools in Brooklyn Heights. What a fabulous life! But things are about to get much more shaken up. Suddenly, Andi’s father appears, fully prepared to whisk her away to Paris for winter break with him so she can finish her outline for her senior thesis (or else). Obviously, this isn’t optional. But in Paris, Andi makes a discovery she didn’t expect–the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, a teenage player who lived during the French Revolution. Her story is one of first poverty and ambition, but soon becomes danger-wrought and increasingly treacherous. Andi becomes more and more sucked into the diary, silently cheering Alex on, despite the fact that the events described took place 200 years ago. But one night, the past and the present merge, and the result is. . .well, slightly strange. Okay, a lot strange, and more than a little frightening. This book was, as I think I pointed out before, awesome. While it may be considered thick by some (“How do you read that?!”), and perhaps a little confusing, it’s well worth the effort. The plot is definitely done well, and the writing’s great. All in all, a solid young adult novel.      So. . .go buy it. I command thee!