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Book Review Monday: The View From Saturday August 4, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Book Reviews.
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I have been on a Young Adult book kick lately. I borrowed a whole pile of books for the summer from a nearby middle school. I happen to be on good terms with the librarian – so I had no limit and no late fees!

It was fun exploring the shelves, remembering books I loved when I was a kid and finding new books by beloved authors, such as the one reviewed today. E.L. Konigsburg is the author of one of my most favorite YA books. I was so excited when I found her other books, that I borrowed 3 of them!

The View From Saturday is a Newbury Medal winning story about a group of students who form an Academic competition team and how they came together as a group on their own terms. They each have their own story, but in that “what a small world” kind of way, their stories intertwine with each other through extended relatives, new marriages, new jobs, and school bullies on the bus. One of the young boys takes the initiative to recognize there is something special about each of them, and knows just how to appeal to each one in a way that starts the group on its way to becoming the close friends club they call The Souls. They are each incredibly intelligent, eccentric individuals with just the right life experience to facilitate excellence in academic competition. Like any well-crafted novel, you get the feeling their whole lives have prepared them for this one moment, and what a moment! It’s no spoiler to point out that you know the whole time they must win the competition – but the climax of the story coincides with that moment, at which they win not only the competition, but also the hearts of their audience, their teachers, the reader, and each other. They may be an odd bunch, but they are odd together and you will love them for it!

Monday Book Review: When You Reach Me February 15, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Book Reviews.
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The 2010 winner of the Newbery Medal,When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, is so much more than a middle school, coming of age drama. This mystery-drama brought me back to my own youth as I turned the pages under the covers, because I just couldn’t put it down. Part time-traveling mystery, part coming of age drama, and part paean to New York City, what kid wouldn’t want to be wrapped in Miranda’s life, receiving cryptic, anonymous notes that seem to appear from no where, traversing the streets of the city with a pack of friends, and experiencing the first joys and pitfalls of romance?

Miranda is a sixth grader who is attempting to figure out why her best friend has suddenly abandoned her, how to make new friends, where the mysterious notes are coming from, and how to help her mother win money on the $20,000 Pyramid game show. Her obsession with Madeleine L’Engle’s classic book A Wrinkle in Time is more important than it might at first seem. When her new friend begins to explain an inconsistency in the classic work, as well as pointing to the possibility of real time travel, Miranda begins to take the notes seriously as they state that she will be able to save a life through following the instructions.

Though the mystery of the notes will keep you turning the pages, this is ultimately a book with heart, and friendship, family, and self sacrifice are at its core. Though this may be a young adult novel, this is a great read for anyone.

Monday Book Review: 13 Reasons Why January 18, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Book Reviews.
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13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher’s sensational début (young adult) novel, is a worthy read for a number of reasons.

1. Asher makes why more important than how or when: Asher reminds me of Shakespeare in that he reveals in the first few lines of his work that the main character (Hannah) will die at the end of the story. Now, instead of the reader focusing on “will she or won’t she?” he can focus on why, and that is the meat of the story.

2. Subject matter: Teen suicide is a hot topic and although the entire book Hannah lists  reasons why she killed herself, suicide takes a back seat to lying, rumors, ethics, standing up for yourself, speaking up, and reaching out to those around you. At times Hannah argues that she would still be alive if certain people hadn’t treated her so poorly, but in the end she realizes that she too could have been a much better person.

3. Format: The protagonist, Hannah, has left cassette tapes for the 13 people – her thirteen reasons why, to listen to after she has committed suicide. For the book, we listen to the tapes with Clay Jensen, a quiet kid who always had a crush on Hannah. Clay’s thoughts, memories, and journey dissect Hannah’s monologue, as he follows Hannah’s map around town, visiting the scenes of all her “reasons”. (Asher explains in the back of the book’s Q&A that he was inspired by a headset guided museum tour.)

Asher seamlessly weaves together the story of people all over Clay’s town, showing that the smallest gesture can snowball into a catastrophic one. His story begs us to examine our actions and be more aware of those around us. Besides the interesting format and important subject matter, this book is a page turner, as we yearn to find where Clay fits into the story. I recommend this for everyone because it will make you think about the repercussions of your actions (and give you nightmares about high school!).

Also check out the great interactive web site for this novel here.