Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This is another adult book that has teen appeal. Jodi Picoult is an author that appeals to a wide audience and tackles thought provoking topics. In her latest book she addresses a high school shooting (teen interest). The previously blogged book also dealt with a school shooting, but that shooting was more isolated and between three students. Picoult's novel addresses a wider attack, with the shooter rampaging through the school, killing ten people. The shooting happens within the first chapter, Peter clearly being identified as the shooter. The novel then follows the characters after that event and focuses on multiple people involved. Besides Peter there are his parents (Lacy and Lewis) who have to figure out their guilt in this event and their relationship with their son; Josie, a student who was not shot by Peter and who lost her boyfriend in the shooting; Alex, Josie's mom and a local judge; Patrick, the detective who found Peter and Josie at the end of the shooting; and Jordan, the defense attorney hired to represent Peter. All of these characters have their own drama and importance in the days following the horrific event.

It is a compelling novel, especially as it battles the affects of bullying in the shooting, an explanation that almost sounds cliched as it seems to be the root of most teens that turn into gun wielding murderers of their peers. Peter's guilt is established early on in the novel, so it is interesting to see the strategy his lawyer comes up with for getting an acquittal - an ending I prayed wouldn't come as I sympathized with the victims (nicely done on the author's part). As intriguing as I thought this book was, I felt as if those feelings only referred to half of the book. As a big fan of Picoult's novels, I was disappointed in her latest, particularly because of the writing style/layout. Because she has so many characters that she's focusing on, a page in a half or so would be on one character, and then it would change to another, and another and there was a constant transition that became slightly tiresome. But that's not my main complaint; it was relatively easy to follow those transitions. What I did not like was how one chapter was present while another was in the past. 17 years ago. Present. Then 12 years ago. Present. 1 year ago and so on. I understood the importance of these backtracks as they established character and showed relationships between the characters, but I felt as if took too much time away from the story. There are simpler ways to establish that two characters are friends rather than completely detailing the character's birth or the third grade. Part of this complaint might just be my reading preference (I prefer something more linear and straightforward) but I felt some of the back pedaling was just too much character development for my taste.

The novel wasn't horrible, but it wasn't my favorite of Picoult. She's somewhat known for throwing in a curve ball come the end of the novel, but this time it was predictable which added to disappointment. People who like straightforward stories that go from one point to the next, won't be thrilled with this novel and it's constant visit to the past. The past does enhance the characters, but it slows the story. Overall, this was an interesting look into the aftermath of a school shooting.

Monday, March 19, 2007

To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman

This book is actually an adult book that (based on the cover) sounds like it might have young adult appeal. However, this post comes as a cautionary tale about not being deceived. Sometimes adult books are placed in the adult section for that reason. At the same time, sometimes books sound exciting on the back cover, when they are relatively dull and troublesome to read.
To the Power of Three is the story of three high school girls (young adult appeal) who are involved in a school shooting. According to the running story told to the police, Perri shot Kat and Josie and then shot herself. Kat was killed, Perri ended up in a coma, and Josie suffered a foot injury. Ever since the third grade these girls had been best friend, inseparable. However, something happened their senior year that wrecked the friendship of Perri and Kat. The full explanation of this story does not appear until the end of the novel.
Harold Lenhardt is the investigator on this case and doesn't feel it is as straightforward as Josie (the only one capable of explaining) tells it. Certain things just don't add up, which draws in the mystery and intrigue that this novel could have easily provided. On top of this, you have Kat's father Dale, the son of the developer of their hometown, a man with plenty of power to stir things up. You also have Peter, Kat's one time boyfriend who is now on his way to play Guy Pierce's younger brother in a movie. His importance in the novel does not show up until the last third of the book. And then there's Eve, a young girl who heard about the shooting and who might know more than she's saying.
This novel has plenty in it to hold your attention and weave an interesting tale. However, the delivery falls short, especially as the author spends too much time on character development and not enough time on plot. Most of the novel seemed to be one character's background after enough, leaving the actual murder investigation to the second half of the novel and even then it is further intermitten with background stories. This just drains the reader, making the novel seem like a struggle to finish. In the end, I don't know how much young adult appeal this novel has beyond taking place in a high school and involving teen girls. At the same time, I don't feel that it has much of any appeal as I didn't feel it was that good of novel.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie author: O'Keefe

Alexandra saw murder where there was none. A teenage boy drowned in a pond. A kid who could swim, had won medals swimming, hated swimming, had drowned. It didn't make sense.
She had never met the kid yet she claimed she knew him, was friends with him. Alexandra accused the school bully, the victim's best friend, his father, a teacher and then went after them. She was angry at the world and cruel. She got cruel back. She never asked the right questions, the obvious ones, not of the father, the teacher, Dennis, the boy's friend and now her only friend. She creates versions of others lives only to have her creations shattered by the truth. I guess the questions aren't asked because she already suspects the answers. I guess her anger at the loss of her virtually unknown father and her mother's reluctance to talk is the source of her intense anger and her campaign to find a murder where there is none. When someone she has reluctantly begun to care about because of his persistence in caring about her is almost killed because of her scheming to name a killer, she grows to understand her behavior somewhat and appreciat somewhat the people who care about her. JDW 3/16/07

Monday, March 12, 2007

Daughter of the Ganges By: Asha Miro

This is a novel, or memoir about Asha about growing up in an Indian orphanage. Asha lived in Northern India till she was six years old. She then became adopted by a Spanish couple from Barcelona, Spain. Asha then learned the language Catalan, which was the dominant language spoken in Barcelona.

Then twenty years later Asha returns to India to find out more details about her childhood. She (Asha) finds out she was born in a rural village, and finds she has a sister she never knew she had. Asha goes to the town where she began her childhood in a small town called Nasik. Not only does Nasha discover truths about herself, but finds unbelievable suffering of her people in the homeland. Asha finds that her Mother died at chilbirth, and her Father could not manage Asha, so he gave the child his daughter to the Nun Convent when she was a baby. Asha lived in the Convent for six years before she was adopted by the Catalan couple. I myself have an adopted cousin, so I know what it is like to be "chosen" as my cousin says. Adopted is not used. My cousin also searched for her real Mother before she was married. She my cousin was not to happy with what she found.
This novel also takes into consideration the adoption, but the need of modern facilities like Schools, Health Clinics, and even electricity.
I recommend this book to anyone who would care to learn about another country(India) that has many possiblities to progress.

LRD 3/12/07

The Secrets of Peaches By: Jodi Lynn Anderson

This is a novel about 3 girls who one summer live close to a peach orchard. The young girls are Murphy, Leeda, & Birdie. The girls encounter different problems with their lifes. The girls become close friends in the summer. They encounter emotional feelings when all the girls go to different Colleges. I believe two girls go to NYU. Murphy tells everyone she is going to a community college which is not the truth. Throughout the novel we see the girls handling the boys . Each girl tackles the boy relationship differently . The novel is pretty detailed about all the events taking place.

Frankly, this novel for the first 100 pages for me went super slowly, and very tedious to read. After I got through these pages, I was curious as to what the plot would unravel. This novel turned out to be very good, and a lesson well learned. I t dealt with the power of friendship, and how important it plays in each individual 's life.
LRD 3/12/07

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Delia, Annabelle, Bailey, and Zo are four friends who like to hang out at eachother's house's and sleep over on friday and saturday. They normally go to the mall, well its more Delia giving fashion advice to the rest of them. They go shopping for dresses for the upcoming dance on monday and they stop by a vendor cart that is in the mall and they each buy something and Bailey gets temporary tattoo's. They each put one on and Bailey starts hearing voices saying "To fight, to live" and "We two of three bestow this gift." It isnt until the night when Bailey starts having dreams about two people Adea and Valgius that she realizes something isn't right about these tattoos. Each one of them gets a power. Bailey can start fires, Annabelle can enter people's minds, Delia can transmogrify objects, and Zo can forsee future events. Bailey's dreams help them uncover what they are destined to do. They are to stop Alecca who betrayed Adea and Valgius a long time ago. They enlist the help of a lingist professor to help them decipher what the tattoo's mean. They also meet up with the vender that sold Bailey the tattoos and she explains as much as she can to them. When it comes down to the final battle it happens to be in their school gym where the seal is located, and on the day of the dance. After the battle is won the tattoos fade away later that night except for Bailey's. She is a decendant of Adea and Valgus and has become the third fate after defeating Alecca.

A fast moving novel that blends mythology with todays world and also reminding us that sometimes we are destined for something else even if we think that we're not ready for it.


My Father, The Angel of Death by Ray Villareal

Jesse has moved around quite a bit in the last 12 years because his father is known as the wrestler the Angel of Death for the ACW wrestling promotion. They have recently moved back to San Antonio, Texas, because thats where his parents are from and Jesse's grandparents live there also. Jesse hopes that things will be different for him in school, because before once the kids knew that his father was The Angel of Death, it would be all about Jesse's father not him. Shortly after he starts school, the kids find out that his father is the Angel of Death, and some of the kids try to see if they can meet him. Even one of his teachers tries to arrange for The Angel of Death to come and speak at the school to make up for Jesse's bad grade on a test. Then on the weekend before a huge pay-per-view Jessie, his mother and father, and grandparents go to visit the Alamo. All is good until a few other people recognize Jesse's father and then it becomes all about his father. He wonders if his parents will separate like they did before. His father assures him that him and his mother are not separating. Jesse's father then invites Jesse and his mom to come with him, and be there live at the Final Stand PPV in Madison Square Garden in New York City. Before the PPV he gets to spend time with his father, something that he hasn't had much of. During the Angel of Death's match he is injured and realizes that it is time to hang up the wresling boots and be with his family.

A very good book that captures the strain on a family that has a famous wrestler as a husband and a father.


Monday, March 05, 2007

black swan green by David Mitchel

Mitchell is British and the many British phrases will be a road block for teens who might try to read this book. It reminds me of Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and McCammon's Boy's Life. This is one year in the life of a teenaged boy. Each chapter is an episode, not necessarily neatly wrapped up for the reader. Jason is a bit of a misfit, always one step behind the latest trends, more interested in writing and school than many of the kids his age. He stutters. He is subjected to nearly endless bullying as is the one kid he prefers as his friend, but is afraid to show it. The bullies are, unfortunately, teachers' pets and they are blind to what is going on. Jason's parents have problems and no real time for him. His sister is popular, bright and involved in her own life so he is pretty much on his own. Apparently a sometimes cool teacher leaves a well placed article on bullying out where Jason finds it when on an errand for the teacher. Keeping that article in mind, Jason finally takes control of his situation with surprising results. Anyone who has ever been bullied will appreciate this story if they stick with it. This was selected a best book for teens for 2006.