Friday, December 18, 2009

Why did Devon throw IT in the Garbage?

IT was her baby only a hour old!

Devon was a straight A high school student and a soccer goalie that was heading for the Olympics - but right now she is sitting on trial for attempted murder of an infant! Her infant!

One morning a dog walker opens a dumpster and opens a bag of garbage - one with newspapers, a chip bag, a juice can, bloody towels and a living newborn baby! The police start canvasing the neighborhood for answers. Devon's mother arrives home from her night shift job to find her daughter wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa staying home from school because she was feeling sick. Mom flirts with the cute police officer that comes knocking (the police want to know if Devon heard or saw anything since she was home all night and the baby was found earlier that morning in the dumpster behind her apartment building)and lets him in. When Devon stares blankly at the officer questioning her, Devon's mother tells her to stop being rude and rips off the blanket Devon is wearing. Devon is soaked in blood and promptly passes out.

Devon awakens as she arrives in the ER and can't figure out what is going on. Everything is hazy and bloody images of IT keep floating into her mind. The next thing Devon is in an orange prison jumpsuit in court for attempted murder and sent to juvenile detention to away further judgements.

Dom, a female defence attorney takes her case and starts to help Devon piece together what happened. Throughout the story, we hear Devon's memories of the last nine months.

Was she pregnant without knowing it?


Was she in denial of the pregnancy?


Did Devon knowingly cover up the pregnancy and purposely try to kill IT,the evidence?

This book is told through Devon's present situation with flashbacks of events that happened over the last nine months. The three questions above are the main reason for the story of AFTER. The reader is presented information through flashbacks, Dom's courtroom evidence and is presented Devon's emotional instability/confusion over her whole situation. The flashbacks cause the reader to try to also figure out what happened - did or did she not know she was pregnant? Did she knowingly hide the pregnancy from the world AND HERSELF? What about the extra hard soccer trainings to get rid of the stomach, use of stretch clothing, faked soccer injuries, and a misleading doctor's physical!?!

In 350 pages, AFTER by Amy Efaw, shows the the emotional confusion caused by an unplanned pregnancy that resulted from one sexual encounter during a quick summer romance. Throughout this book Devon is completely confused and at times so is the reader. There are only females in this storyline, males aren't really present in this book. I also think males would be turned off by this book's discussions and flashbacks about sanitary pads, bloody birthing, oozing breast milk and uterine cramping. This book would be better as a selected read than a mandatory read. The book could be used to discussed denial, mother/daughter hardships, teenage mothers, body changes in pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, unwanted babies and dumpster babies.

I was turned off by the legal doings of Dom trying to get Devon out of her crime. Dom used the legal system to get the charges lessened and dismissed due to the way the police entered Devon's apartment. She was Devon's attorney so she was trying to get Devon's case dropped without holding Devon responsible for her actions of dumping the baby in the dumpster without remorse or concern for the baby.

I'm still deciding if I liked this book or not - there is a definite ending with moral so the reader isn't completely left hanging.

Here is a quick article and news report about a real dumpster baby and the psychological reasons as to why she might have done it:

Here is an article about the misused Nebraska child dumping issue:

Here is the website for safe surrender laws - the law allowing newborns to be giving up to prevent dumpster babies:

Unwanted baby stories that shock you into discussions in a classroom:

Monday, December 7, 2009

The True Enemy!

Imagine living in a dystopia society where everything is ruled with a stern iron fist. There is no such word as freedom, but instead all of your actions is monitored and controlled. Sounds terrifying right? Well, the book Truancy by Isamu Fukui explores this very concept. For Tack and his sister Susie this is the harsh reality of their life. In their chaotic society the mayor seeks full control over his city. He desires control over the way his people sleep, eat, and learn. Yes, that is right, I did say learn.

For Tack and Susie school is dreadful. The mayor uses schooling to brain wash kids to conform them into his control. At a very early age, children are taught the value of following rules and conforming to superiors. Education as we know does not exist. Instead school is embedded with dreadful laws and policies. However, the only thing that brings Tack comfort in this cruel society is his loving, sweet, and tender sister. Nonetheless, war is wedged when Susie is killed in their district 20 school that is governed by Zyid. Zyid is the leader of the Truancy. The Truancy is a group of rebels who are fed up with the mayors strict educational rules. Consequently, they decide to no longer sit, but fight back. In the mean time, Tack vows revenge on the one who killed his sister. However, things become tricky as Tack plans to conquer the enemy, especially since he does not know who the true enemy is. Unfortunately, it is Zyid who is responsible for Susie death. In trying to kill a chief Educator, Susie is caught in a car explosion created by Zyid. Unconsciously, Tack becomes a member of the Truancy, killing educators trying to revenge his sister. In fact, he becomes the leader. Eventually Track will have to cook up a new plan, but who is the enemy? Moreover who will he wage war aganist?

Overall, I thought the book was a good read. I feel that elementary kids would love this book, likening their school system to the confined one they read about. in this book All though anyone could read the book, I personally feel it is more geared toward boys because of all of the graphic fight scenes. However, though I think kids would read this book merely for fun there are some good themes within it. I think the most prevalent themes that youthful reader could learn from reading this book are fighting for what you believe in, and the tragedy of acting out of revenge.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound tells the story of two families; one white, the other black, both living in Jim Crow South's Marietta, Mississippi in 1946.

Henry McAllan chooses to move his wife, Laura, and their daughters to a cotton farm in Delta Mississippi; closer to his family. He becomes so wrapped up in maintaining his land and crops that Henry is oblivious to the fact that his family is falling apart. His wife, Laura is infuriated with him for forcing her out of urban Memphis to a rural shack in the middle of Mississippi.

Jamie is Henry’s younger brother. He feels that he is constantly living in the shadows of his older brother. He returns from World War II and goes to live with Henry and his family. His sinister and demeaning father awaits his arrival and praises his war victories, but soon turn cold; demeaning and ridiculing Jamie as he’s always done. Jamie secretly turns to liquor as an escape from war trauma and reality.

Hap and Florence Jackson live in a shack on the McAllan’s farm. Both Hap and his wife Florence work for the McAllans. Hap dreams of purchasing his own land and having his eldest son, Ronsel, helping him keep the property up. Hap can not dream of working for whites any longer than he has to. Florence is strong-willed and is the glue holding the Jackson family together.

Ronsel returns home from the war only to find that to the white folks of Marietta, he is still just another Negro. They do not seem to care that he risked his life and nearly died saving his country. Ronsel knows that rural Mississippi is no place for someone like him: educated, opinionated, and filled with ideas. Despite of the fact that his family is in Mississippi, Ronsel’s heart is somewhere else.

Ronsel and Jamie develop a secretive friendship. They are brothers; soldiers of war, who fought for the same cause. In the Jim Crow South, a friendship like this is dangerous and can even be deadly. Can people of different races really ever be friends and if so at what costs? What role will each of these characters plays into the tragic fate of these two families?

Hillary Jordan delivers a novel that brings back all the anguish, discuss, and hatred associated with the Jim Crow South. The development of each individual character is amazing. Jordan allows the reader into the mindset of each of the main characters. Readers are able to get every perspective of the same story, as Jordan creates a dialogue and analysis for each character. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, with a conclusion that resonates as all too familiar in the 1940’s.

Mudbound contains some explicit and racist language and violent content. This is an excellent book for mature teens interested in World War II, the Jim Crow South, and reading a novel that challenges people to stand strong on their beliefs.

Stitches by David Small

Ahhhhhhh!!! If he could scream, he would, but he can’t. Fourteen-year old David Small is practically unable to speak. He has awakened from what was supposed to be a routine follow-up surgery without a voice. What is even weirder is the way that everyone around him is acting. Every since the day he arrived home from the hospital, his parents have begun acting secretive. What are they hiding and why?

David Small lives with his parents and older brother. Their family is similar to the typical non-functioning family. His great grandfather tried to kill himself by drinking poison, which instead, ironically, damaged his vocal cords and caused him to be mute. His grandmother is in insane asylum for trying to kill her boyfriend by setting their house on fire. Then there’s his immediate family. His father, Edward, is a doctor who spends as much time as possible away from home, avoiding his wife and family. His absence angers David’s mother so much that she is constantly slamming doors and cabinets throughout the house. David’s mother, Betty, is bitter and stingy, replacing her problems with materialistic possessions.

David’s health problems began when he was a child. He had problems with his sinus and digestive systems. Since he was a doctor, it was not uncommon for Edward to attempt to remedy David’s sinus problems by giving him a series of countless x-rays. When David was eleven, his parents notice that he appears to have a bulging skin protruding from his neck. A trip to a specialist, one of Edward’s friends, confirms that David has cyst that needs to be removed. Betty is infuriated when she finds out that her son has a cyst that needs to be surgically removed. But her fury is not because doctors will be poking and prodding around inside her little boy; it’s because of how much money the surgery will cause. Betty decides that the surgery is unaffordable and can be put off until next year; she then goes on a shopping spree.

David is home from the hospital, recovering from his surgery. No one can hear David when he tries to speak, not because he barely has a voice, but because this is the way that it has always been. David has always been invisible to his parents and everyone else. He submerges and loses himself in his drawings, escaping into his dreams. No one has told David that the lump in his neck is cancer; he just stumbles upon a letter written by his mother to his grandmother and finds out on his own. David’s anger causes him to rebel. Can he be saved from his destructive and rebellious behavior? Will he learn to forgive his father for all of the x-rays that exposed him to the disease? What will become of David Small?

A picture really is worth a thousand words. If you have never read graphic literature before then you are in for a surprise and a well-awaited treat. David Small quickly moves you through this movie-like novel filled with vivid pictures. What is not expressed through words is shown in pictures. For those who think that picture books are just for children, think again. The graphics tell the story better than the few words used throughout the novel. Small captures expressions and actions that show emotions indescribable by words. Flipping through the pages of this novel was like a breath of fresh air

Swallow Me Whole

This graphic novel by Nate Powell, is about two step-siblings and how they cope with their debilitating mental illness. The story is told through Ruth's and Perry's eyes and experiences. Ruth is the main character in the story and suffers from delusions, paranoia, schizophrenia and OCD. Her brother Perry's illness is not as severe, but he suffers from delusions. Ruth and Perry have above average intelligence and get good grades in school, but due to their illness they seem a little weird and have trouble making friends. They are very lonely kids and have only each other to confide in. The family has a lot to deal with, two mentally challenged kids and a grandmother that has also moved in with them. She is ill and can no longer care for herself due to dementia and old age. The grandmother has also suffered with mental illness and has learned to cope with it by painting.

Ruth and Perry are aware of their condition, they've always felt different from normal children. Ruth knows that no one else can see, hear or smell the things that she does. Ruth tries to get some control of her life by collecting, and sorting her insect collection. Perry hallucinates a small gnome or wizard that appears on everything he writes with, and orders him to draw until he's exhausted. Perry tries to cope with his hallucinations by drawing. As the children get older their illness worsens. The parents seek medical help, but the medications aren't very effective. When the children are older they are able to build relationships and live a somewhat normal life, at least for a short period of time. Ruth gets a job at a museum, working in the insect section. Her obsessive behavior takes over and she ends up stealing an insect exhibit for her collection. After this incident she begins to lose control at school and home. Her condition worsens and she begins to lose grip with reality. Can Perry save his sister from losing complete control?

The black and white illustrations give us insight into Ruth and Perry's minds.
The reader is able to see the challenges that Ruth faced just to make it through the day. The tiny words in each page represent the reality that Ruth is unable to hear. The book is written in a comic style, which makes it interesting for YA readers. I found the book interesting, but a little difficult to follow.

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

“I pop back into my body then, to share this thought with myself: The world doesn’t make any sense at all. People tell you it does, try and pretend it does. But I know now what kind of place this is, what kind of world we live in. And my breath catches in my throat, and my heart rips apart not just for me, not just for Nina, but for all of us.”

- Wherever Nina Lies

Each day sixteen-year old Ellie relives her nightmare. In her dreams her and Nina, her older sister, are laughing and sharing jokes, but in reality Nina is gone. She disappeared two years ago, leaving her younger sister Ellie, with many unanswered questions. How could she just leave like this? Sure their father had abandoned them and their mother is always working, but they still had each other.

Now it is just Ellie and her mother. Her mother does not speak of Nina; she assumes that Nina has runaway with someone to start a new life. Ellie feels all alone. Nina’s presence stills feels so close. Her scent resonates throughout the bedroom that her and Ellie once shared and there are even strands of her “graduation blue” hair in the shower. Ellie still holds out hope that one day Nina will climb through their bedroom window and reappear. She knows that her sister is alive, but has no idea about where she should begin to search for her.

Amanda is Ellie’s best friend. They spend every free second together partying and hooking up with boys. Amanda has become a replacement for Nina. She and Ellie share secrets and she even give into some of Ellie’s attempts to find her sister. After two years, enough is enough. Amanda wants Ellie to stop chasing after random clues and face the fact that her sister is never coming back. Ellie begins to believe it too, she has relinquished her search for almost a year when she finds another clue as to where her sister may be. One of Nina’s drawings mysteriously appears at a used goods store where Amanda works. Ellie and Amanda follow this clue to a wrecking party where Ellie meets the mysterious and handsome, Sean.

Sean is a gorgeous and mysterious seventeen-year old. He seems so perfect and polite. Ellie confides in him about Nina and her search to find her. Sean immediately tells Ellie that he will help her find her sister. She has finally found someone who believes that she may actually have a chance at finding her sister. This chance encounter takes Ellie on a romantic cross-country road adventure that she will never forget. Together she and Sean follow clue after clue, each time getting closer and closer to where Nina may have traveled.

What if Ellie never finds Nina? What is Nina is not the Nina that she knew? What if Nina is… dead? Ellie may find more than she bargained for as she sets out in search of her older sister, Nina. Will what she uncovers be more shocking than what she has expected to find?

Weingarten keeps you on the edge of your seat as you flip through the pages of this novel. Her vivid details of Ellie’s flashbacks of Nina pull the reader into the novel. Readers become captivated by the exquisitely detailed drawings, those pictured throughout the novel as Nina’s artwork. Ellie possesses an unwavering spirit and determination to her sister. This spirit evokes sympathy from readers causing them to empathize with her pain and suffering. There was never a dull moment and the story ends with a twist that readers may never see coming. This novel may not be suitable for all audience because there are minor references to drugs, suicide, and murder. It is recommend for those ages fifteen and older.

Somebody by Nancy Springer

Ever had the feeling that something just isn’t right? That the life you are leading belongs to someone else and is not your own? Why are we always moving and why does my dad make my brother and I change our names and hair color each time?

Meet…. Um, let’s see. You can call this new girl by whatever name you like because at the moment she is whoever you want her to be. There is something suspicious about the way her father isolates her and her brother from society; how they are always moving just as they get settled into a community. They are not allowed to have friends over to their house, get on the Internet, have cell phones, or take pictures. Why is her dad being so secretive? What does he have to hide and where is her mother? Did she really run off and leave her children, like her dad said that she did? Something just does not add up.

This is the life of Sherica Suloff. One day she remembers her real name and begins to put together pieces of her past: memories that she’d been forced into forgetting. A trip to the library and an Internet search changes everything! Sherica meets Mason, a young boy who appears to be about her own age, well at least the age that she has been told she is. With Mason’s help, Sherica slowly begins to dig up the skeletons from her past: deep dark secrets hidden by her father. Is he trying to protect himself or his children?

Sherica has found out too much. There in black and white is the truth about her family. Is it too late for her to go back to her secret life?

This two-time Edgar Award winning book has just about everything that a reader could want: suspense, drama, and relativity. Springer takes you into the mind and secret life of fifteen-year old Sherica: the chubby girl with no identity. Somebody is recommended for young teens. The book is an easy read it does not contain difficult terms or a controversial subject matter. The book is very enjoyable, however the ending leaves some unanswered questions about the fate or Sherica and her family. Springer leaves the reader yearning for a follow-up book. Could this be the beginning of a series?

Dreadful Pasts Reveals Devastating Truths

Going too far by Jennifer Echols is a wonderful read. The initial start was a lot rawer than what I would expect, but it defiantly captured my attention! Immediately as a reader you are placed in the scenario where Meg, her boy toy Eric, and some friends head out to an isolated railroad bridge. As a reader, you are given hints that this decision is not the best as Meg and her friends hint on the couple who supposedly got killed by a train the prior year. Nonetheless, they go anyway. The graphic details begin right away. I was astonished to read the entire scene of Meg and her boy toy Eric making out. Meg vividly explains how Eric grabs her hair and bites her neck creating passion marks. Moreover, unlike traditional novels, Meg is totally in control. She is lured and turned on with the rush of making out in public. She is over sexualized as she brags on herself for being a sexual expert.

However, the fun soon ends as the cops show up to ruin the erotic party. The rebellious teens are soon arrested. Instantly, Meg friends, Tiffany and Brian crumble becoming overwhelmed with fear. In the mean time, Meg once again reestablishes herself as the brave heart in control, displaying no fear of authorities. However, Meg’s tough girl behavior comes to an end when she is along in the police station. This along time allows Meg to be sensitive and reveal her true nature of worry and regret. In arriving to the police station everyone parents come to pick up their children except for Meg’s parents. Consequently, Meg is forced to spend the night in the police station. During this stay, Meg does nothing more than express her desire to escape her small town. She longs to go away for college. Additionally, she expresses her excitement for going to Miami for spring break just to get away. Unfortunately, this dream is shredded as she learns that she must sacrifice her spring break get away of “drinking and flashing tits” (37) to accompany John After, the cop who arrested her, on his job for a week as punishment for getting arrested

When their lives intertwine for a week both Meg and John After are forced to face dreadful pasts and devastating truths. Was it an accident that John After just happened to be patrolling the railroad or is he invested some kind of way? Most importantly, what is the driving force that causes Meg to be this rebellious, overly sexual averted teen who wants to escape her hometown?

This is a great book, but the characters are very complicated. They slowly unfold and display inner truths. However, I know that young adult readers will appreciate the rawness of the characters, precisely Meg. Meg demonstrates the fear of love and relationships, and most importantly letting your guards down. John After reveals how the past can take over your life and torment you if you cannot let it go. Therefore, youthful readers can be entertained and learn vital reasons at the same time. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book to older mature teens. The sexual content and language is strong throughout the book so I would suggest for the reader to be 17 years of age.
Exclusive interview with Jennifer Echol on Going too far:

The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and HIV Positive by Marvelyn Brown

What if the person you loved gave more than just his love; he gave you his death?

“It’s hard to explain, but I saw the two of us linked by fate. He was the only person I knew with HIV in Nashville. He was my first true love…there was part of me that believed we would end up together…”

Nineteen-year old, Marvelyn Brown thought that she had struck gold when she met the man of her dreams. After countless failed relationships, Marvelyn has given up on finding true love and being happy. But it seems that her luck has changed or has it? A trip to the park sparks a chance encounter with Prince Charming. He is perfect; polite, gentle, and mature. Marvelyn is finally happy. She has a man that she loves and who loves her back.

Marvelyn lies in the intensive care unit of Tennessee Christian Medical Center helplessly fading away. Doctors are baffled by what has caused the once lively and athletic nineteen-year-old to deteriorate so quickly. She has been in the hospital for weeks, before she got her diagnoses: HIV positive. Marvelyn knows exactly who the culprit was based on the timeline given by the doctors, but she has no idea what HIV is or what it means for her life.

Prince Charming is in complete denial and to make matters worse, he doesn’t even look or act sick, so how was Marvelyn to know he had a disease? It takes him months to admit that he has the disease and that he has infected her. Marvelyn’s life has just been turned upside down and she must now face her biggest fear, being alone and exiled from her family, friends, and community. She knows her fate and begins to plan her funeral. Marvelyn Brown is ready to die…until she finds something to live for.

Follow Marvelyn on her journey as she struggles with self-love and acceptance in her quest for the truth behind the foreign disease living inside of her.

This book is the voice of the new generation of young adults, Marvelyn's message hits home and tugs at heartstrings, without the vulgarity typically found within a story of this nature. Her story mirror the all too common behavior that many teens engage in. The Naked Truth is raw and uncut. Marvelyn is straightforward about how ignorance about the sexually transmitted disease. Her story is a haunting revelation of the increasing number of young people continuing to become infected with HIV. Brown raises awareness about the misconceptions and stigmas associated with HIV. The Naked Truth ignites arousal and a sense of wanting to promote awareness within communities. Marvelyn's story is relatable in that she is typical young adult leading an ordinary life and suddenly she has an incurable disease. Marvelyn Brown could be your daughter, your sister, your best friend, your niece or your granddaughter.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Have you ever loved somebody that didn't even know you existed? That's how Zachary feels everyday. He has watched Miranda from afar, she is different than the others. When you are in love, your thoughts and actions are influenced by your emotions- sometimes a very dangerous thing. Zachary's love for Miranda clouds his judgement, he goes out of his way to ensure her safety and well being. Did I mention that Zachary is Miranda's Guardian Angel?

One night, Miranda and her friend head through a cemetary on their way to meet some boys-an idea that Miranda wasn't too keen on. Bored and uninterested, Miranda slows down and eventually is lost.
Dark and alone, Zachary sees Miranda only steps away from danger. He makes a quick decision and decides to break rules. He unveils himself to Miranda in an effort to save her; the moment he does so, he is stripped of his wings and is fated to life as a mortal.

Simultaneously, Miranda is captured by a vampire and is taken to become the new vampire princess. Zachary watches powerlessly. Miserable at his unsuccessful attempt to rescue her, Zachary is conflicted as a mortal. He is, however, given a second chance, but has a daunting task ahead of him-kill the vampire lord. (and save Miranda of course).
Even as a vampire, Miranda is very different from her peers. Quiet and kind as a mortal, Miranda isn't quite getting the ropes. Her new celebrity status in the vampire world is very opposite of her normal teenage life. She is not good at giving orders or attempting to be scary.
Zachary teams up with Miranda to get his mission accomplished. Will Zachary regain his Guardian Angel status? Will Miranda fall in love with him? This page turner, will certainly leave you thirsty for more. Check out the book trailer video for a tease.

The book would appeal to the fantasy readers in the classroom-vampire books for teens are very accessible. The style is alsoparticularly interesting. The story is told from both Zachary and Miranda's point of view, so that readers can get multiple angles. Teachers can use this novel to open discussion about love, personality characterisitcs, popularity, and breaking rules.

Terrified To Talk!

Faint, and numbness are ways that an individual may feel when encountering a terrifying experience. But have you ever heard of a terrifying experience being likened to engaging in a typical conversation. If not, you will be astonished with Gary Paulsen's Notes From The Dog. This book tells the story of a 15 year old boy named Finn who is a loner. His ideal summer includes submersing himself in as many books as possible and avoiding as many conversations as he possibly can. As a result, for his summer he limits himself to talking to only 12 people which includes his father, grandpa, dog Dylan, and friend Matthew.

However, when Johanna, the new neighbor arrives, things change. Johanna is a cancer survivor who is full of life. She is 10 years older than Finn, but treats him as an equal. Nonetheless, Finn has a fear of interacting with anyone one new. When engaging in social conversations he becomes overwhelmed with sweat and anxiety. Moreover, anytime Karla, his school crush, appears he nearly have an heart attack. Throughout the book Finn consistently reveals his loves for books because they are safe and cannot talk back! However, things change!

Johanna becomes indulged in Finn's inability to converse. Most importantly, she knows that Finn is an awesome kid who needs guidance, attention, and a boost of confidence. As a result, she takes the role of his mentor. She teachers him how to express and believe in himself. Additionally, she show him the importance of living life unrestricted. Conversely, Johanna is unaware of just how handy her advice will be. Soon Finn becomes Johanna facilitator and number one supporter through her struggle of breast cancer. He takes the role of caring for Johanna as she undergoes chemotherapy. Furthermore, he even agrees to create a garden to make Johanna happy. Through Finn's ability to show endless humility, he becomes the new social butterfly! However, will he be social and confident enough to finally awe Karla into a date? Although this coming to age book has a pretty common plot, it is full with emotion and courage that will not disappoint!

I would defiantly suggest this book to youthful reads rather male or female. This book conquerors many themes such as the power of self security, and resilience. In this emotional roller coaster, Finn develops from a awkward insecure kid to a mature and confident young man. Most importantly, Johanna displays inner strength and resilience as she struggles with cancer. She remains gentle, vibrant, and full of life. She demonstrates that life is precious and should be valued regardless to current circumstances. I also think that this book will defiantly encourage young adult readers who deem themselves as social outcasts as Finn did. It will show them that with confidence and self belief any thing is possible.

Nuns and the Undead and Celibacy, oh yeah!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a debut novel by British writer Carrie Ryan, and is the first book in a series of three. It follows the emotional story of Mary, a young girl living in a post-apocolytic, dystopian society in a woods surrounded by secured walls. Think The Village, with no lame twist ending. Mary's world is isolated to her single village, and run by a (crazy) religious order of nuns, called The Sisterhood. The Sisterhood controls everything that happens in the village and assures its citizens that leaving the village will result in immediate death and horror. See, the thing is, outside Mary's village, the world is full of Zombies! The Sisterhood calls them the Unconsecrated, and they will eat your brains. (No, really, they will. We see lots of it in the book. This book does not mess about with the goriness - there is LOTS of it, including a Zombie baby. Getting killed. ) The book plays out as Mary tries to figure out who she can trust, with a pretty uninteresting love story that ends in betrayal, lust and you guessed it...zombies! The book, overall, was pretty unoriginal. There were a few cool ideas, and the narration is fairly interesting, but on the whole, The Forest of Hands and Teeth was way less cool than its title led me to think it would be. My basic problem with it was that it was laden, much like the garbage Stephanie Meyer writes, with this theme that caving in to your desires results only in some kind of horrible zombie (or vampire, in Meyer's case,) hell, where you must live with your decision to be sin-laden for all eternity. Its an old, silly message that writers have been feeding to teenage girls for decades. And its preachy, and its boring, and its annoying. If you're going to write about gore and sex, write about gore and sex. Don't lure young girls into reading your stuff, then tease them with a little gore, and a little sex, and then shove a message down their throat.
Besides my whole issue with that, the book had a semi interesting plot-line, but it got caught up in cliche, and plot lines that have been done over, and over, and over. There's a video preview to the book, release by Random House, which is kind of neat.
I'd recommend this book to young adults, sure, but its not going to be doing anything challenging to them, mentally. It was an easy read. (At something like 320 pages, I read it in only a day and a half. During finals week!)
Oh! But don't bother reading it, because they're making a movie. It'll offer the same amount of brain work to watch this film as it did to read the book. Ooh, and they're going cast a "Hollywood A-Lister."


The Queen of Hearts, The Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and The White Rabbit are all present in Tommy Kovak’s graphic novel, Wonderland. There is only one person missing….Where’s Alice?

This is a tale of Wonderland, without Alice. Instead it follows the White Rabbit’s servant MaryAnn. The White Rabbit is accused of treason after the Queen of Hearts believes that he allowed the monster, Alice, into their land. Faithful MaryAnn accompanies him as they flee from the death sentence made by the Queen, “Off with his head!” They meet most of the same characters as Alice did, but they have all altered slightly. This tale parallels Alice in Wonderland, and was published by Disney. This graphic novel will also answer some un-answered questions from the original Alice in Wonderland. Will MaryAnn and The White Rabbit escape the wrath of the Queen? And what kind of interesting situations and characters will they come across? Chaos has taken over Wonderland, and Tommy Kovac does an amazing job with keeping the audience right in the middle of the drama.

I believe that this could be used in middle and high school classrooms. It is an easy read, but it is interesting with; character developments, plot twists, and great images and passages. I think it would also be an interesting book to examine in graphic design or art classes. Kovac’s art work is exceptional, and kept me hooked throughout the whole novel.

I believe that this is a great book for reluctant readers, especially if they enjoy art. With minimal words and elaborate drawings, the pictures carry the audience through the novel. I thought it was strange though that I found this in the Children’s section at the Harold Washington Library. I feel like the images and some language is not suitable for anyone under the age of twelve. I think that this is a great creative piece that deserves some acknowledgement. This book can definitely help start projects on; graphic novels, the importance of illustrations, or spin-offs of other stories.

Geek Charming

Will popular princess, Dylan, risk it all for the safety of her designer purse?

Dylan, the rich and popular queen at Castle Heights High School, had an A-List lifestyle. A popular jock of a boyfriend, plenty of shopping buddies, and a status so high that she was even in love with herself. That was until Dylan accidently dropped her designer purse into a fountain. Josh, a nerdy film boy at high school, decided to get it for her for only one favor: Dylan had to be agreed to be filmed, documentary style, by Josh to see the in and outs of popularity. Once the in crowd sees this geek following them around, they all begin to shun Dylan. Will Dylan ditch the dweeb to reclaim her thrown? Or will geek finally become the new chic?

I believe that Geek Charming, by Robin Palmer, is filled with many strengths for readers. I feel like this read should be aimed at more middle school audiences. It is dealing with the use of stereotypes and clichés. This is a popular issue for students going through middle and high school. The idea of young and true love is apparent throughout the book. Also, what popularity really means to students and how it could hurt their self esteem. Palmer also touches on the ability a person has to change, whether for good or bad.

I would not use this book to teach my whole English class, but I would not be opposed to having a student read it for an independent study. I do not think it is necessary for teachers or students to read this text. Even though it touched on multiple themes, it lacks a sense of really important issues. It is a really girly book. I would rather my student read something like Looking for Alaska, to learn about teen love, than this book.

Have you ever heard of a SECRET READER?

Why would someone be a secret reader? Eddie Corazon is a secret reader because he needs to maintain his reputation. In LouAnne Johnson’s latest novel entitled Muchacho, she depicts the life of many teens in the U.S. today.

Eddie lives in a dangerous part of New Mexico where there are a lot of gangs, theft, and drug dealing. Eddie once saw his cousin shoot another man in the face. Many of the students in Eddie’s class do not try to do well in school because they feel like they are confined by their circumstances. Even Eddie feels like this, but for some reason he secretly reads. When the teacher calls on him, he acts like he is dumb and has no interest in school.

Eddie decides to join the dance class at his school in order to meet girls. He meets a new student named Lupe and they begin to date. Lupe is not like the other girls because she is very focused on her education and does not want to have sex. Eddie actually respects that Lupe has morals and she sees positive qualities in Eddie. After a car accident, Lupe’s father forbids Eddie to see her. Eddie’s father also sends him away to live with his uncle.

Eddie decides to change his juvenile delinquent ways so he can impress Lupe’s father and change for the better for Lupe. He also wants to change for himself after reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Eddie begins to take school seriously and even begins to write poetry, which he is talented at.

To find out what happens with Eddie and Lupe you must read this novel! The novel was just published in September of 2009. LouAnne Johnson also wrote My Posse Don’t Do Homework, which was made into the movie called Dangerous Minds.

This book should definitely be used to teach inner city students for Literature class. Many of the problems Eddie struggled with are similar to teens in CPS. I would recommend this book for high school readers because there are swear words used on a few occasions. I also think many suburban teens could relate to Eddie’s character because he has conflicts with his family and Lupe that he has to resolve.

If I were to teach this novel, I would warn parents about the some of the controversial language in the book. In addition, many Spanish words are used in the novel, so the students need to look up those words to understand the meanings.

Hispanic students will relate to this novel because Eddie depicts what it is like to be Mexican living in America. He discusses the American/Mexican controversy of immigration. There is also a part in the novel where the homosexuality controversy is discussed by the other students in his class. The teacher who teaches this book must indicate that they are not advocating any particular position, but should inform their students why these contents are in this novel.


Can vampires and humans live side by side?!? Well that is exactly what is happening in Untamed by mother and daughter team, P.C & Kristin Cast is the fourth installment in the House of Night Series. This book begins right where the previous book left off. Zoey Redbird the main character, who is sarcastic, smart, and a vampire finds herself in the mix of some major action. Her entire school has been pushed to the limit by the killings of two vampire teachers. Zoey asks her grandma to help her and her friends get end and get to the bottom of what is happening at the school. Zoey’s grandma agrees, but gets hurt in an accident and ends up in the hospital. Zoey soon realizes that she needs to protect her grandma who is like extremely close to her, from some human/crow like creatures called raven mockers. In addition, Zoey no longer has a boyfriend and her friends have made her an outcast. One top of all that, Zoey finds out that her mentor High Priestess Neferet has decided to declare war on humans which Zoey is torn about. The action does not stop in this book all the event occur over the time span of a few days, but this does help to keep readers interest. Another bright spot is that the characters are well developed and interesting in the book. However one negative is that I was left slightly confused because I have not read any of the earlier installments to this series. Therefore, I strongly recommend reading the earlier installments first to understand more of the background information. This book has some mature language so I would recommend it for all upper-class high school students and younger students based upon maturity levels.

Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by Writers Famous & Obscure

Can you sum up your view of love in six words?

In the collection, Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine, hundreds of people submitted six word memoirs of the ups and downs of romance. Who knew that in only six words you can say so much? An example would be Zak Nelson’s submission of, “I still make coffee for two”. Every page throughout the book is different. When one page can be filled with up to five memoirs, another can be a sketch (submitted by the author) along with the memoir typed on the bottom of the page. These memoirs were submitted by a variety of people through; snail mail, e-mail, or even social networking sites like Twitter. Submissions were gathered and published into one amazingly diverse book.

I believe that this is a great book for reluctant readers. The book is obviously a quick read of 237 pages of six-word memoirs. This book can be seen as seemingly simple but also critically deep at the same time. This would be very influential for teachers, and has already been implemented in the classroom. I think this would be a great tool in order to practice on analyzing quotes. It would be fun to give each student a memoir, and ask them to predict and write the author’s unique story.

I believe that this book is suitable for both teens and teachers. Each memoir is different and would be easily relatable to any aged person. I believe that a major theme in YAL is love. This book ties up hundreds of ideologies of love and love stories.

Un-Gentlemenly Gentlemen in Green Manor: Assassins and Gentleman

A gentleman has never been as dangerous as in Green Manor: Assassins and Gentleman!! Written by Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated by Denis Brodart this graphic novel is a collection of six short stories totaling 56 pages. The stories are set in London at the Green Manor gentleman’s club where the members, all males, discuss the perfect crime and how to kill people off, some being the other members of the club, without being caught. Each story typically begins with the murderer, who is one of the gentlemen, asking a question to the other patrons or spinning a story which reveals that the gentleman who initially began the story, or posed the question is indeed a murderer. “Delicious Shivers” sets the tone of the book by one of the gentlemen asking the question of whether or not there can be a murder without either murderer or victim. He then goes on to describe how this is possible and as surprised as I was, it is possible!! The books main focus is not who committed the crimes but rather how they committed the crimes, which is often described by the murderer himself. To add more layers to the stories, they are narrated by a psychotic prisoner, who used to work at the Green Manor, to a visiting doctor. This causes readers to wonder if the stories are real, or a part of the prisoner’s imagination or if the prisoner was ever psychotic before working at the Green Manor. Despite the fact that this book is about committing murders it is surprisingly not as violent as I expected with many of the crimes happening ‘offstage.’ Green Manor: Assassins and Gentleman includes murder, poisoning, intrigue, and blackmail all the ingredients for a sure thriller.
The art work is fitting for the time period and tone of the book. In fact the illustrations are one of my favorite elements of the book. The characters are in typically Victorian London attire and the Green Manor itself has the appearance of being lit by candlelight. Although this book is set in Victorian London my main concern is that all of the main characters are male and women only play the roles of victims which is a negative for me. This leads me to caution recommending it to younger males. An example is in the second story, “Post-Scriptum”" in which one of the gentleman promises to kill a woman at a certain hour and place, and bets a famous detective that he can't prevent the murder.

White Noise and Loud Silence - Why you should read The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

To be fair, let me just say that I went into "The Knife of Never Letting Go" with high hopes. I was profoundly excited when I saw the author's name - Patrick Ness, and thought him to be the author of my favorite children's book of all time, a hardcover picture book called "Sam, Bangs & Moonshine." Sam, Bangs & Moonshine is a 25 page story that talks about a little girl who can't decipher whats real, from what she imagines. Her dad is a fisherman who calls her stories "moonshine." Sam eventually comes to the realization that she can't always be pretending that her cat is talking, or that her dead mother is a mermaid, or that she has a pet kangaroo, and its all very touching and adorable. The illustrations are great, too.
So imagine my surprise, after having read the entirety of this novel, (no small feat, mind you - its a massive 496 pages!,) thinking that Patrick Ness is this incredible, maleable, amazingly dual writer, who can illustrate and write amazingly creative and cute children's books, and also write a thickly symbolic and moving dystopian novel for young adults, when I find out that Patrick Ness didn't actually write my beloved "Sam, Bangs and Moonshine" - and that he's a basically unknown first time author, and Eveline Ness wrote "Sam, Bangs and Moonshine!" They are two totally different people! Regardless of my mix-up, I'd like to hope that my fondness for an author with a similar name did not affect my opinion of Patrick Ness's "The Knife of Never Letting Go." Which was incredible. I would highly recommend this book to any adult, or young adult.
The book is about a young boy named Todd, who lives in a town called Prentisstown - an isolated villiage that's full of only men. After an attack from the "Spackles," all women have been eliminated due to a spreading disease, that also gives men the ability to read each other's thoughts, and animals the ability to communicate with humans. Because there are no women, the men of Prentisstown are a dying race. And I love me some dystopian imagery.
The never-ceasing sound that results from everyone's wide open brains is referred to as "Noise," and is by far, one of the most unique ideas to enter Young Adult literature since Philip Pullman's "Daemons." The portrayal of "Noise" is amazing. The font, the font size, the tone, all changes with the flow of the Noise that Todd is hearing. It's during a walk through the woods that Todd stops hearing Noise, and first meets Silence. And Viola - a girl. The story develops from this point on, and I really, really, don't want to ruin it for you. But the story is gutwrenching. I cried, like five times, reading this book.
The following is a post from a fellow blogger who enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go as much as I did. She words how she feels about Todd's emotions towards women.

"And therefore without Noise their thoughts can’t possibly be guessed, which makes them seem dangerous, and so they are feared, and so it's decided that they must be eliminated. And this is why my favourite scene in the book is when Todd realizes that, Noise or no Noise, boy or girl, he knows Viola. They can communicate.
I can read it.
I can read her.
Cuz she’s thinking about how her own parents also came here with hope like my ma. She’s wondering if the hope at the end of our hope is just as false as the one that was at the end of my ma’s. And she;s taking the words of my ma and putting them into the mouths of her own ma and pa and hearing them say that they love her and they miss her and they wish her the world. And she’s taking the song of my pa and she’s weaving it into everything else till it becomes a sad thing all her own.
And it hurts her, but it’s an okay hurt, but it hurts still, but it’s good, but it hurts.
She hurts.
I know all this.
I know it’s true.
Cuz I can read her.
I can read her Noise even tho she ain’t got none.
I know who she is.
I know Viola Eade.
It’s a lovely scene, and it’s a brilliant book.
" ( This blogger's poing of view is dead on. The language of the book is so unique and so beautiful, its hard to believe its written in a 1st person southern dialect - something that usually ends up being clumsy, forced and awkward to read.
Bottom line, you should read this book. And you should tell all the teenagers (and adults) that you know that they should read it too. Ness's writing is impressive, to say the least. His voice is one that speaks to all of us, as outsiders, as loners, and as ones who have a hard time understanding those around us - even if we can read their thoughts.

The book is the first in a series of three, and the other one isn't even out yet, so it'll definitely be added to my bookshelf come Fall.

As a warning, the book is pretty violent, and its pretty intense. Its not for the faint of heart. (There is at least one animal murder and one throat stabbing and lots of other stabbings, and some serious heavy bludgeoning with lots of blood.) I would say about 12+ for this book, as a rough estimate.

If I Stay

Seventeen year old Mia seems to have everything a girl wants; fun-loving parents, a happy family, a friend that is like a sister, and a boyfriend who is romantic and edgy at the same time. One, moment took all those things away from her.

After a car accident, that killed the rest of her family, Mia has to make a choice. She is having an outer-body experience, and can hear and see the doctors working on her in the ICU, her family and friends talking to her, and her boyfriend going to great lengths to try and get her to stay. Mia has the power to decide to either die in the hospital bed, or to go on living without her family. In the novel, If I Stay, the author, Gayle Forman, takes the reader is taken on a quest, showing us her memories of being with her family and friends. These stories are her favorite memories of life, and those harder times. It is kind of like her life is flashing before her eyes, but in memoriy form. It is interesting to see which memories she chooses, and why that memory in particular is going to be influential in her decision to stay or go.

I saw nothing but strengths in this book by Forman. The author writes in away to not allow the reader to pity Mia, and Mia does not try and pity herself. She uses great imagery and reasoning in Mia’s debates, that it allows the reader to see both sides of her decision. If she stays, she will have to live without her family and become an orphan, and if she goes, she will have to leave behind her true love and her best friend.

I definitely believe that this would be a great book to read as a class in middle school. It was a quick read (under 200 pages) and it was hard to put down. I think this book would be great for reluctant readers, because it keeps the audience in suspense throughout the whole book. It provides a lot of themes all rolled into one; coping with the death of a loved one, young love, and the responsibility of growing up. I would say, for those who love, Lovely Bones (which is now becoming a movie), read this book! But the choice, as always, is up to you!

Karma for Beginners

The book "Karma for Beginners" is a story about a young 14 year old girl, Tessa, who lacks stability and proper parenting from her mother. Her father abandoned her at a young age and her mother is a hippie, who likes to travel from place to place and has unstable relationships with men. When ever one of her relationships terminates, she relocates to another place and drags Tessa along with her. Their next trip is to Catskills, because Tessa's mother feels she needs to find spiritual peace and freedom. Once in the Catskills, the mother is very happy at the ashram there, where followers worship a guru in an orange robe. Tessa does not feel comfortable there, she feels like an outcast among freaks. As her mother gets more drawn into the rituals of the guru, she hardly pays any attention to Tessa. This lack of attention leaves Tessa to wonder the compound. While wondering, she meets Collin, a twenty year old college drop out, that fixes trucks for the ashram. At first she likes him because he's normal and funny, they share the same taste in music, and begin to spent a lot of time together.

Tessa enjoys spending time with Collin because she feels, a special spiritual connection with him that she's never felt before. As time progresses, she starts to make poor decisions. Tessa begins leaving the compound to hang out at Collins place or with his friends. She eventually looses her virginity to him and begins abusing illegal drugs, like marijuana and acid. Collin's attitude changes towards Tessa, he is not as caring towards her after they become intimate, but it could have been due to the ingestion of drugs. Although the ending was surprising, I was expecting something better, some justice for Tessa.

This book is yet another example of what happens when children don't have the required parental guidance. The mother was so absorbed in herself, that she hardly noticed her daughters need for guidance. I believe the mother must of had some type of psychological break, to be so neglectful of her own child. It makes me wonder why the father abandoned them when Tessa was very young, he probably couldn't keep up with the mother, or maybe he felt no emotional tie to either, since he was in a rock band.This story portrays what happens to kids when they have no parental guidance. Tessa was only fourteen and engaged in sexual relationships with a twenty year old man. That is statutory rape, where Collin should have been arrested. She made terrible choices that could have been avoided, had she a more responsible parent.

I do not recommend this book for YA literature, I don't think it's appropriate because it involved to much drug use, sex and vulgarity.

Turning Tricks

Did you know the average female prostitute in the United States is only 13 years old?

In Ellen Hopkins most recent novel, Tricks, she explores the reasons behind young people turning tricks, also known as prostitution. Tricks has five main characters that all resort to selling their bodies for different reasons.

Eden is the daughter of a local pastor and her family is very religious. She believes, but not as whole-heartedly as the rest of her family. At church one day, she meets Alex, the most wonderful boy ever! They begin a relationship, but keep it a secret because Eden knows her parents will not approve. Unfortunately, Eden is caught and sent away to a religious camp for young people. While there, Eden tries to figure out how to leave. She learns that good behavior will not do so she resorts to using her body. Jerome, one of the counselors, is infatuated with Eden and she uses that to her advantage and he helps her escape. Eden winds up in Las Vegas, trying to make ends meet.

Seth is gay. He has known it since he was a little boy. He lives with his father on their farm. His mother passed away from cancer recently. Seth hides his secret from his father. He travels to other cities to meet other men and begins a relationship with a man named Loren. All is well until Loren has to do an internship far away and their relationship ends. Seth’s dad discovers his secret and kicks him out of the house. Seth doesn’t know where to go so he goes to a gay bar to find someone who will ‘keep’ him. Seth becomes Carl’s trophy boyfriend and they move to Las Vegas. Seth’s sole responsibility is to look good, which he does and attracts the attention of a man. Carl finds out and Seth is kicked out again. He eventually finds a new man to ‘keep’ him and works on the side in hopes of moving out and starting his own life.

Whitney lives in her older sister’s shadow. Her mother could care less about her and her father is never home. Whitney is dating an older boy named Lucas. One night, she loses her virginity to him and tells him she loves him. After that, he stops talking to her. She confronts him and he tells her that the thrill is over and having sex with a virgin isn’t as good as he thought it would be. Devastated she calls Bryn. Bryn is a man she met at the mall who was clearly interested in her, but she wasn’t because at the time she was dating Lucas. Bryn comes and picks her up and consoles her. Whitney falls head over heels for him. Bryn has to move to Las Vegas for work and asks Whitney to go with. She does, but later on realizes it was a mistake. Now it’s too late. She is addicted to heroin and Bryn is her john, also known as a pimp.

Ginger lives with her Grandma, Iris (mom), and her five brothers and sisters. Iris is a prostitute and even sold Ginger to men while she was growing up. One night, she comes home to find a man waiting for her. He said he already paid in full and Ginger knows exactly what that means. After he has left, she decides she needs to get away. Ginger runs away with Alex, her girlfriend, to Las Vegas where they begin working for an escort service. Toward the end, Ginger and Alex are arrested for soliciting a cop. Ginger decides it time to call Gram.

Cody lives with his mom, stepdad, and younger brother in Las Vegas. His stepdad died, his brother ends up in juvenile detention, and he maxes out the family credit cards with his gambling. Cody realizes his mother is not going to make ends meet waiting tables at Denny’s and decides he needs to do something to help out.

In Tricks, Hopkins delivers yet another ‘edge of your seat’ novel. Hopkins specifically wrote this novel to explore the reasons behind teenage prostitution. All five of her characters turn to prostitution because they feel like it is the only option they have left to fix their situation or survive. I would recommend Tricks for juniors or seniors in high school. Tricks should also not be used as part of a curriculum in my opinion. As with her other novels, Tricks is a book written for mature readers. It deals with the controversial issue of prostitution, which many parents would likely oppose. In addition, some students would not be able to handle some of the graphic depictions that Hopkins has written. I do not think Tricks can be used in other subject areas either. You could use some excerpts to highlight different topics for health. For example, Whitney becomes addicted to heroin and Hopkins describes how she looks. A health teacher could read this excerpt to show the physical side effects of heroin use. I think Tricks would work best as a choice novel for mature students. Like Identical, Tricks is a long novel (over 600 pages) and is written in narrative poetry. Students may be apprehensive to read Tricks because of its length and style. Once again, I enjoyed this novel. If you like Identical or Tricks, I would highly recommend reading Crank and its sequel, Glass. Crank still deals with serious issues, but it is not as controversial as her most recent novels.