It wouldn’t be Banned Books Week without a review of a GLBT book, since so many would-be censors take umbrage with the fact that GLBT novels even exist. So, I am taking this opportunity to finally review a book one of my teens suggested I read during GLBT Pride Month. The basic premise of this story was that two [gay] boys were attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss. The strangest thing, though, was that they were not boyfriends. They were, in fact, ex-boyfriends. But, Harry and Craig were not kissing merely for the fun of kissing or even just to break the existing world record. In fact, kissing for 32 hours was a rather grueling experience, both physically and emotionally. But their 32-hour-long kiss was worth all of the difficulties it presented because it was a statement of support for their mutual friend, Tariq, who was the victim of a hate crime. Although the “Greek chorus” of narrators — men who had died of AIDS — seemed a bit clunky at times, I think that narration ultimately worked as a means by which to educate younger readers about [late 20th century] GLBT history, the progress the GLBT community has made thus far, and how far we still have to go. I really enjoyed this story, though I have to admit to shedding a tear or two. I highly recommend this for fans of other David Levithan books (like Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Every Day) and suspect that it will likely end up on many YA literature syllabi as required GLBT reading.
Happy Banned Books Week!
After Del died in a car accident, Ben started helping out on Del’s family’s farm. While working on the farm, Ben started to look out for and became friends with Del’s younger brother, Jimmy, in a capacity much like an older brother. After Jimmy was murdered, Ben felt guilty and escaped his home town by enlisting in the armed forces and heading to Afghanistan. This story is told from Ben’s perspective, in a diary-style letter to someone back home, as he reflects back over the series of events that lead to Jimmy’s death and explains why he feels responsible. The graphic description of Jimmy’s violent death definitely makes this a book for more mature readers, and I am sure some people would ultimately like to see this book banned. I think, nevertheless, that this suspense-filled story is a great way to draw in readers who might not otherwise think they’d enjoy a story that explores such heavy themes as homophobia and hate crimes. A definite departure from the apocalyptic world of Ashes, but equally well written.
Happy Banned Books Week!
To be completely honest, I chose to read this book last summer because it counted for a square on the Adult Summer Reading BINGO card! (It was a gardening theme, and the book had the name of a flower in the title.) The fact that I didn’t get around to reviewing this book until now, nevertheless, is not any indication of the quality of the story. I am just *very* bad at reviewing books as soon as I finish them. I have such a back-log to get through that I often play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to pick which one to do! :-)
Though this book tells the story of a 15-year-old girl named Tiger Lily, it is actually narrated by a fairy named Tinkerbell. [Yes, the same Tinkerbell you've heard of before!] Tiger Lily, a native girl who has always lived as an outcast of sorts within her tribe, is desperate to find a way out of marrying a horrid man to whom she has been betrothed. Tiger Lily spends time in the woods to avoid her tribe and to try to escape her life, if only for short periods of time, and ends up running into Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Not only does she fall for Peter, fully knowing she can’t actually make a life with him, but then Wendy Darling shows up in Neverland… If you aren’t don’t get your heart broken at least once by the end of this story, you don’t have a heart.
Ryan Dean West has a lot going on… First of all, Ryan Dean — yes, that’s his first name — is a 14 year old junior. Even though he attends an elite prep school, or perhaps because he attends an elite prep school, being two to three years younger than the other students in his grade causes a lot of resentment. Aside from being called a baby all the time, he also has to deal with the fact that he landed himself in “O Hall” [the residence hall for trouble makers] and is stuck rooming with a psychopath named Chas. Luckily, Chas is a rugby teammate and, therefore, has *some* reason not to randomly kill Ryan Dean in his sleep. Other than Chas, Ryan Dean’s biggest problem is girls. His age complicates dating a bit, since he would rather date people in his grade and not people his own age. Unfortunately, though it’s pretty clear that Ryan Dean is love with his best friend, Annie, she seems to think of him as a kid. And Megan, who clearly has the hots for him, is Chas’ girlfriend — which may end up giving Chas the excuse he needs to kill Ryan Dean for real. Luckily, Ryan Dean has another best friend, Joey, to help him through all the craziness and to try to talk some sense into him as needed. Although Ryan Dean occasionally feels awkward about the fact that Joey is gay — wondering, for example, if people will think he is gay by extension — he loves Joey like a brother and is [sometimes begrudgingly] grateful for his advice.
Even though the plot is not at all similar, I found that this book reminded me of I Love You, Beth Cooper. Ryan Dean, despite being a “jock,” somehow reminded me of nerdy Dennis Cooverman. Maybe it was his superior book smarts paired with a lack of interpersonal intelligence? One could probably make the argument that the connection in my mind stems from the fact that Ryan Dean got progressively more banged up throughout the story (just like Dennis), but I think I made the connection before the injuries started to pile up. I think that the overall humorous tone, realistic dialogue, and writing style were similar enough for my brain to make a link (though I feel compelled to warn readers that Winger had a very sad twist ending). No matter the reason, nevertheless, I think Larry Doyle fans are likely to be Andrew Smith fans as well.
Fat Angie isn’t exactly the most popular girl at school. She was getting by well enough before, but slitting her wrists and running out onto the court during a basketball game kinda made her a target for the bullies and mean girls like Stacy Ann Sloan. A lot of adults simply take the other students’ word for it when Stacy Ann taunts Angie and says that Angie started a fight, but Coach Laden knew Angie’s sister and has a soft spot in her heart for the troubled girl. After all, she knows Angie’s sister is a big part of the reason Angie is such a mess. Although she was a gifted basketball player and a good student, Angie’s sister decided to enlist in the military instead of going to college. She was later captured in Iraq and has since been presumed dead. Angie refuses to believe that her sister is dead, and she often wears her sister’s old [too small for Angie] basketball t-shirt as a way to keep their connection alive.
When a new girl, KC Romance, comes to town, one of her very first actions is standing up for Angie. Even when Stacy Ann tries to warn KC that Angie is not cool, she doesn’t care. So, Angie goes against her instincts and tries to open up. Making a new friend might not seem like a whole heck of a lot to some people, but it’s pretty heroic when you consider the fact that her own mother and her adopted brother treat her like crap and refuse to acknowledge the anguish that is Angie’s every day. I especially enjoyed the fact that readers were privy to Angie’s inner dialogue so we could share every awkward thought and every frantic grasp for something to say. Whether you want a coming of age novel, a book about bullying, or just something so raw and real you desperately wish you could crawl inside the book to give the main character a hug, you need to read this book. (FWIW, I’ve got my hopes set on at least a Printz Honor for this one.)
It’s not very often that I have enough down time to finish a book in only a couple of sittings — and even more rare that I finish a book and post a review the very next day — but this book was just so awesome that I couldn’t help myself! It was thought-provoking without being too preachy/in your face, told a very unique story, and had characters so well developed that I kinda wished I could jump in the story and hang out with them for a while. What was it about, though, right?
Rafe was a generally good kid, good student, and soccer player. He also happened to be gay. Luckily, because he had super-accepting parents and grew up in a very liberal city (Boulder, CO), coming out was fairly easy. His parents actually threw him a coming out party — his dad referred to it as a “cotillion” — and his mom became active with the local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Despite the fact that he agreed to speak to students at local schools, Rafe started to get upset that his being gay was all some people saw. He decided to go away to a boarding school in New England so he could have a chance to live life as a “normal” guy. It was kinda cool, at first, to see how different life could be… but Rafe soon found out that withholding the truth — even though it’s not technically lying — can cause a lot of collateral damage.
Aaron Hartzler credits his acting ability to all the practice he got at home. After all, having questions about his faith and his sexuality weren’t exactly encouraged by his strict, Christian parents. If he wanted to stay out of trouble, he had to pretend to believe what they believed and to behave as they thought he should. As a child, he found it easy to get swept up in the excitement over the thought that Jesus might come down and take them all away to heaven at a moment’s notice. As a teen, though, Aaron had begun to enjoy his time on Earth too much to hope for the rapture. He also began to question many of the strict rules his parents upheld in the name of religion — especially the rules against listening to popular music and going to the movies. He began sneaking around and breaking rules and, what started off as smaller/more innocent lies, soon became intricately planned deceptions and full-fledged rebellion. Though I grew up attending church, my Presbyterian upbringing was very liberal and I found it fascinating [and sometimes horrifying] to see how vastly different it could have been even though his religion was based on the same holy book as mine.