I’m always amazed when authors can take several different characters and tell one story through their various points of view — especially when they are so very different as the characters in this story. Here, we have five different teens who meet for the first time at their high school’s freshman orientation day and write letters to themselves to open again when they graduate. Zoe is the daughter of a famous movie star [who is in and out of rehab], and she’s afraid that people only ever want to talk to her to find out more about her mom. Jake isn’t quite sure where he stands now that he opened up about his true feelings for his [formerly?] best friend Teddy and bailed on football. Mia is so unsure of herself that she keeps trying to reinvent her persona with the hopes that she will eventually “find” a Mia she can be comfortable with. Gregor is a band geek who is hoping for “more” out of his high school experience — especially if that “more” would involve Whitney. And Whitney is the pretty/popular girl who seems to have it all while she actually feels like her life is coming apart at the seams.
We follow these characters in their journey through high school and witness how even the smallest of bonds and seemingly minor interactions can actually make a big difference in people’s lives. My only problem with this book is that it felt a little too condensed. It felt like there could have been more character development and more interaction if only there were time… I almost wish it had been stretched out into a series so we could get more details from each year. Who knows? Maybe there will be some novellas released to give readers extra background and to fill in the gaps of each school year. (A girl can dream, can’t she?!?)
Jules McCallister-Morgan is a no-nonsense, over-achieving, OCD kind of girl. Considering the fact that I was a lot like her in high school, I found it kinda funny to see how often I caught myself wishing she would just relax a little and enjoy her final year of high school. Even the teacher who acted as advisor to the school paper, Mr. Wheeler, expected that Jules would relax a little once she hit senior year and actually scored the position of Editor… But then her rival for the editor position, Sadie, went and started a new student-run TV program called TALON and all bets were off. As far as Jules was concerned, that was an act of war! Mr. Wheeler did his best to keep the rivalry from getting out of control, but he didn’t stand a chance against a bound and determined Jules (not to mention the other newspaper staff members who were upset). Things might not have gotten so heated if Alex hadn’t betrayed her, but what else could you expect when a super-cute, former boy-band member comes into your school and dates you but then works with your arch nemesis?!?
Is this book very realistic for most teens? Probably not. Was it extremely entertaining? Absolutely! If you want drama and romance in a book that will make you alternately laugh out loud and groan with frustration over a “smart” girl who can be pretty clueless at times, I suggest you check this one out!
When I read Fangirl last year, I fell hard for Simon, Baz, and the Watford School of Magicks. I was desperate to read more than was revealed in Cath’s posts. Fortunately, I happened upon an article about the impending publication of Carry On and knew it was only a matter of time before my wish would come true! The only problem was that my requests for other books and audiobooks from the library kept showing up, so I kept putting this story off. (It probably wouldn’t have been such a problem if I had gotten Carry On from the library and had a time limit, but I downloaded it from Audible and knew I had as long as I wanted. #firstworldproblems)
I think what I love most about Rowell’s writing is that it really nails all the nitty gritty, true-to-life details of adolescent friendships and romances. Carry On was extra awesome because it had all that PLUS magic, mystery, and monsters! The only things I found disappointing were that (a) I waited so long to actually listen to this audiobook, and (b) there was only one book! 😉 As a die-hard Potterhead, I really enjoyed comparing and contrasting the stories of Simon Snow and Harry Potter. Some people have argued that this story is too derivative of Harry Potter, but I fully recognize that there are a great many “Chosen One” stories and that having similarities doesn’t make it a rip-off. After all, some people say that Harry Potter is basically Star Wars! And though I am not big on re-reading anything, since there are far too many books out there waiting to be read, I have a feeling I will listen to this audiobook (or maybe even read the book) at least one more time…
This book was a haunting read. Any book about school shootings strikes fear into my heart, being that I work with kids and have children of my own, but this one was particularly eerie. I know I’ve read books before that gave harrowing depictions of the different perspectives of characters experiencing a school shooting — like This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. But, what makes this book stand out from the crowd is that it provides the perspectives of many different characters’ interactions with Kirby Matheson [the shooter] in the days, months, and even years leading up to the shooting. The author explores a variety of relationships people had with Kirby, effectively highlighting the many clues that were missed or ignored.
When compiled in a story such as this, it becomes rather obvious that the young man was struggling with anger and depression and that someone should have stepped in; that an intervention may have been able to prevent this tragedy. But, as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. I can only hope that readers will take this book to heart and apply the information garnered to recognize if and when the people around them are struggling with anger and depression. If we can increase the chances that people will recognize someone in need of help, we can increase our chances that we can get people the help they need before they resort to violence. For more resources, check out the CDC’s page on Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention.
I’m so glad my library request for this book was fulfilled in time for me to post a review during Transgender Awareness Week! Though there are many YA novels that focus on the GLBTQ experience, some of which include transgender characters — like Almost Perfect and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children — I cannot think of a single book for middle grade readers (aside from George) that even mentions transgender people, let alone talks honestly about what it means to be a transgender child. I appreciated the way that Gino brought readers into George’s mind in order to demonstrate how the often-rigid gender roles and expectations in our society might affect trans children/people.
Though the existence of GLBTQ people is nothing new, our society still has a long way to go before many people in the GLBTQ community will feel accepted, let alone embraced. In addition to activists working toward recognizing and providing equal rights and protections for people of all sexual orientations and gender identifications, it is also extremely important for children to have access to stories like this. Not only so children can build an empathy for people who have different sexual orientations and/or gender identifications than themselves, but also so that ALL children can see themselves reflected in the literature they read. #WeNeedDiverseBooks is about SO much more than ethnicity.
If and when my library teens want to discuss what is going on in their lives, they know am available as a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, or as a resource for finding agencies that can provide further help. I sometimes joke that I should have had a minor in social work because of all the problems that have been brought to me, but I am mostly just honored that I am a trusted adult to whom the teens will come when they are dealing with serious issues. Some of my teens have come to me while they were in the process of coming out and/or transitioning, and though I am a very curious person by nature, I have done my best to be supportive without prying. Out of respect for the difficulties faced by coming out and/or transitioning, I think it is only fair to let the person who is coming out/transitioning take the lead in the conversation. Thankfully, there are brave young people like Arin Andrews who are willing to share their own stories so that transgender and cisgender people can better understand both the obstacles transgender people face and the resources that are available to them as they decide how they would like to move forward with their lives.
I thought Arin did a great job of explaining the process of [female to male] transitioning both simply and thoroughly; the fact that he managed to do so without being didactic was very impressive! Though Arin’s transition involved both hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, he was careful to explain that there are many people who opt to transition differently and that all choices are valid. I was especially grateful for Arin’s candor about dating and sex, since I am sure many people are curious about how that all “works,” when one or more of the people in the relationship is transgendered, but don’t know how to ask without prying/being rude. I think this book would be an excellent resource for someone who is preparing for or struggling with his/her own transition, but I also think it is an important book to share with cisgender teens. As a woman who feels perfectly at home in the body into which she was born, it has taken years of conversations with transgendered teens to even begin to fully appreciate their struggle. I can only hope that the open sharing of stories like Arin’s will help future generations to be more understanding and empathetic and that the struggle for trans rights will soon become a part of history.
I still cannot get over this cover! Even though I have way too much going on and don’t really have much time for reading lately, I saw the cover of this ARC and *knew* that I had to find the time to read it if my request got approved. (Thanks for the approval on NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire!) Much like I am drawn to stories about serial killers, I am captivated by the stories of school shooters. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t worship mass murders or anything. I’m just so curious about how they could think like they do. I mean, I’ve gotten depressed and angry plenty of times in my life — but I just can’t conceive of ever getting to the point where taking the lives of other people would become an option, let alone seem like the right idea.
Imagine being dismissed from a normal/boring school assembly only to find that the doors to the auditorium were locked and someone who was hiding up on the stage has come out shooting. This story is told from the varying perspectives of several students affected by the shooting, both inside and outside the auditorium, for the duration of the terrifying 54 minute ordeal. I especially appreciated the perspective of the shooter’s sister. Though it took me three sittings to finish [because I was just too busy/tired and couldn’t find the time to read it straight through], this book begs to be read in a single sitting. People who enjoyed Nineteen Minutes and/or Give a Boy a Gun should check this one out. (Release date = 1/5/16.)