I usually love David Levithan’s books. And I definitely started off loving this book, too. It was great to see an author who would help teens empathize with the people around them by creating a character who lived inside a different body every day and got to experience life from so many different angles. That is, until I got to the day where “A.” woke up as a fat person. I was horrified that Levithan showed so much more compassion for a heroin addict than for someone who weighed “at least 300 pounds.” I mean, I just don’t understand Levithan could insinuate that readers should be more accepting of all the complications that arose from A. living in bodies of people from different ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, and sexual orientations and then be so downright cruel in his descriptions when A. woke up in a fat body. If a person is addicted to food, which this kid Finn very well could have been, just imagine how much harder it could be for him to exist anywhere in society. A heroin addict can always go to rehab and then move away from the area where s/he is likely to run in to his/her old drug dealer and druggie friends… But a fat person can never get away from food — it’s necessary to eat if you want to live! Don’t understand how I can be so livid? Take this paragraph for instance:
When I finally take a look around and take a look inside, I’m not very excited about what I see. Finn Taylor has retreated from most of the world; his size comes from negligence and laziness, a carelessness that would be pathological if it had any meticulousness to it. While I am sure if I access deep enough I will find some well of humanity, all I can see on the surface is the emotional equivalent of a burp.
Sure, Finn could be lazy. But it’s also likely that there is *something* that caused him to “[retreat] from most of the world” and let himself go. I’m sure some people probably love this story and aren’t very upset by this chapter, but I am completely pissed at David Levithan right now.
P.S. I decided to do a quick search to see if anyone else out there had similar feelings about this book, and I was happy to find this review — http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/08/body-image-and-every-day-by-david.html — in which Christie Gibrich reacted with just as much indignation as me. So, yay that someone agrees with me, but boo that this is even an issue! /sigh
Since I heard last night that Rhode Island legalized gay marriage, I thought a review of a book focused on GLBTQ issues was in order this morning!
Liz was born female, but has always felt male. Being Liz in public and being Gabe inside was very difficult, but Liz started to make the transition to Gabe in 12th grade. Having an understanding best friend helped a lot, but having a family that still used female pronouns and refused to use the name “Gabe” was pretty hard. When the next door neighbor, a fellow music nut named John, found Liz a radio show on a local community radio station, it presented an excellent opportunity for Gabe to come out… But, it also meant that Liz would have to find a way to tell John about Gabe sooner rather than later.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children was not just a radio show. It was Gabe’s chance to introduce himself to the world and to work through his feelings with music. Before long, Gabe had fans — the Ugly Children’s Brigade — who would perform random acts of crazy art in honor of his show. It gave him quite a confidence boost to know that people liked the “real” him. Unfortunately, a casual date with a member of the UCB threatened to ruin everything when the girl recognized Gabe as Liz and spread the word on the UCB fan page. I won’t ruin the ending by telling you exactly how things played out, but I am sure you can guess [based on real life] that Gabe’s life got pretty tough after that.
I loved the realistic portrayal of Liz/Gabe’s struggle, the supportive best friend, and the fantastic “soundtrack” throughout. As a former college radio DJ, I especially appreciated the authentic setting of the run-down community radio station and Gabe’s trials and tribulations while he got used to being on air. I had more than a couple of “been there, done that” moments as I read this book.
Period 8 is a class like no other. Regardless of how they get along outside of class, everyone is equal in Period 8. The teacher, Mr. Logsdon [a.k.a. Logs], has a lot to do with that. His only rules are that everyone has to be honest and that nothing leaves the room. Students are encouraged to share or discuss anything they wish, but they are also allowed to just listen to the others if they don’t wish to talk. When one of the Period 8 students — Mary “Virgin Mary” Wells — goes missing, everyone is worried. She never misses school, and her dad is known for being insanely strict, so the fact that she went missing AND that her dad waited three days to report her missing has people feeling very unsettled. Paulie Baum [a.k.a "Paulie Bomb"] is acting strangely too. And even though Paulie is known for ALWAYS telling the truth, Logs can tell he is holding something back. Could Paulie know something about Mary’s disappearance? And, if he does, why wouldn’t he say?
If you’re looking for a story that relates to teens’ lives without talking down to them and seamlessly combines everyday situations with a mystery/thriller scenario — while appealing to guys and girls alike, no less! — look no further. This book was everything fans of Chris Crutcher have come to expect with a little extra thrown in — fast paced, lots of action, and so many twists and turns that I honestly couldn’t guess them all before the story’s conclusion.
August “Auggie” Pullman was homeschooled for all of elementary school. And, although it was technically due to his being born with major facial deformities, it wasn’t because his parents worried about him being teased. It was actually because his many doctors appointments and surgeries would have caused him to be absent so often that it wasn’t worth enrolling him. Even though his mother wasn’t a certified teacher, she did so well with homeschooling that he was not only at grade level but excelled in most subjects. When it came time for Auggie to start middle school [in 5th grade], his mother felt that he would benefit from attending school with his peers and convinced Auggie [and his dad] that he should give it a shot. Knowing how cruel 10- and 11-year-old kids can be, I cringed to think what could happen… and was sad to listen as it sometimes played out as expected. Luckily, this story was about much more than the negativity Auggie dealt with; it was about his zest for life and how contagious it could be to those around him!
Side note: I sometimes get frustrated and/or confused when a story is told by more than two narrators, so I can understand if that aspect of this story has you worried. Let me reassure you that Palacio’s writing [and the multiple audiobook narrators!] gave each of the characters a unique enough voice that it worked. In fact, I think it was very helpful to be able to experience this story from multiple perspectives — including Auggie, his teen sister, her boyfriend, and one of his friends from school. While there were certainly points in the story where I found things to be depressing, there was plenty of hope and joy to balance it out.
P.S. When I was looking for an image of the book cover, I came across an awesome story about a girl named Michelle who is similar to Auggie in both her medical issues and her amazing attitude — http://www.teachmentortexts.com/2012/04/wonder-reminds-us-that-kindness-makes.html#axzz2QZBly0ou … Check it out!
Laurel Daneau’s mother and grandmother were killed in Hurricane Katrina and, no matter how “good” her life might have looked to outsiders, she was haunted by their deaths. Her relationships with her best friend and boyfriend weren’t enough to ease the pain, so she took to drinking and using drugs. Before long, she went from popular cheerleader to shunned meth-head. And though Laurel’s downward spiral was evident to many people who knew her, her own father ignored the signs until it was far too late…
This book is unique in that it’s both a cautionary tale for non-users and a beacon of hope for those already struggling with addiction. I highly recommend this book for all parents, tweens, and teens.
Guy Langman wasn’t really good at anything — quite the opposite of his dad who seemed to be amazing at everything without even trying. Guy was rather thrown when his dad died, even though his dad was technically old enough to be his grandfather, and became suddenly intrigued by all things having to do with death. So, it wasn’t exactly a stretch for him to accept an invitation from his best friend, Anoop, to join Mr. Zant’s Forensics Club. (Especially since it provided a chance to impress some cute girls!) For once in his life, Guy really cared about something and was actually good at it. Which worked out rather nicely as some mysteries popped up in his own life…
Maggie is suffering from memory loss, but she isn’t really sure whether she wants to get back those missing memories. Why? Because those memories would fill in the details of exactly what happened immediately before and after her boyfriend, Joey, accidentally fell to his death. The story her friends gave her [and the police] is that Joey died as the result of a cliff dive gone wrong… but Maggie is afraid there might be more to it than a mere slip. Could it have been something *she* did wrong? After all, Joey had jumped from that cliff countless times, and he was supposed to be helping her with her first jump. Her best friends — Adam, Shannon, and Tanna — are doing the best they can to support her, but they’re having a hard time even managing with their own grief in this tragic time. A perfect blend of mystery and contemporary realistic fiction, especially if you’re in need of a good cry.
The last time Shelby visited her mother, she made three promises — to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. She was only a kid, and she didn’t really even know what the promises meant. She only said yes because she wanted to make her mom happy… but now she has to keep her word so she won’t break the promises she made to her dying mother.
For the first 5 years, it was fairly easy to follow all three promises. Shelby and her best friends, Jonas and Ruby, even maintain a “life list” they’ve created to ensure that Shelby will live without restraint. The monkey wrench in the works, though, is the Princess Ball that her father has agreed to help to run. At this ball, she will be expected to make vows to remain pure, and Shelby is not sure if she can see herself (1) getting married really young or (2) remaining a virgin into her 30s so she can live without restraint AND obey the vow she made to her father. Shelby is determined not to break any of her promises, so she is hoping Jonas and Ruby can help her find a loophole.
Told from the alternating perspectives of two friends, Azure and Luke, this book gives readers a behind-the-scenes view of prom planning like you’ve never seen before. Not only do we get to read about all the crazy details that have to be worked out and the astounding amounts of money that are often spent on proms, but we also get to witness prom history as Azure gets permission from the principal to rework the traditional senior prom into an “alternative prom.” The “alternative prom” idea was their attempt to appeal to a greater percentage of the senior class instead of just the popular/rich kids who usually attend. From lowering the cost of attendance, to making an effort to include GLBT classmates, to offering unique activities like karaoke, the Prom Com really went all out… but some people didn’t appreciate their efforts. When some parents start to complain, Mr. Rosen [the Prom Com advisor] gets replaced, and the new advisor is less than enthused about their unique ideas. Will they be able to pull it off, or will their “alternative prom” get cancelled?
Happy Teen Read Week!
While I find it difficult to read urban literature, because all the incorrect grammar makes me want to twitch, I just discovered that I find *listening* to urban lit much more palatable. Perhaps it’s because my brain is already used to listening to urban slang and grammar from TV and movies? Either way, I was happy I gave this audiobook a shot!
I’ve known plenty of kids like Cole — born with lots of potential but failing in school and getting into trouble because they feel like it’s just too hard to live up to a higher standard. It’s tough to rise above the negative influences when you’re growing up without a dad in the inner city, and Cole was sick of trying. When things started to get completely out of hand, Cole’s mom did something a little crazy — she packed up her son’s things, got him in the car, and drove through the night from Chicago to Philadelphia. When they got there, she explained that she needed a break and Cole would be staying with his dad. A dad he had never known. A dad who, apparently, cared more about the horses he raised than the son he brought into the world. The horse thing really freaked Cole out at first. I mean, who’s ever heard of horses living in the city? [I hadn't until I read this story, but there's more about that on Greg Neri's website!] Through his work with the horses, though, Cole learns responsibility, self-worth, and trust. My gut reaction upon finishing this story: I sincerely hope this book gets turned into a movie so this message can reach more people.
Happy Teen Read Week!