Monday, February 28, 2011

Boys, Girls & Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman

The author of the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls comes out with a novel that switches from mean girls to mean boys and the world of hazing. The novel starts out being so typical it was not memorable, but it turns around...a bit.

Charlie is the new girl (that's right - girl) in school after she decided to go to a different high school than her 8th grade class in order to get away from her bully friends. She's surprised to see her former best friend Will who moved away a few years ago and Nidhi - a girl from 8th grade who was an unfortunate victim of Charlie's former friends Lauren and Ally. The new school, though, is a new start for Charlie as past mistakes are forgiven with Nidhi and she reconnects with Will. In the meantime, she falls for Tyler - a friend of Will's and his fellow soccer and lacrosse player. Typical high school live ensues - including the disappointment that the boy she likes doesn't like her. Then, the mean boy dynamic come through as Tyler and Will try to get accepted in the lacrosse team and are ordered around/humiliated by the upperclassmen. Tyler also becomes a mean boy as he lashes out a girl who rejected him. Charlie, worried about Will though, warns him about getting too involved in the hazing and Tyler's immature behaviors. It all escalates to an almost fatal accident where Charlie has to decide whether to expose the players or keep her mouth shut since lacrosse players are worshiped in the school - even by teachers.

It takes a while for the book to get truly interesting since it is so typical and unmemorable. For a while I kept waiting for the "mean boys" to appear and that wasn't really until the second half of the book. It was briefly mentioned in the beginning, but not much really happened. I almost felt that this book would have done a better job showing the troubles if it had been written from Will's perspective instead of Charlie's. With Charlie telling the story it's all a reaction to things she's seeing and stories she's hearing. If Will told the story, the audience would have seen things first hand. But I can't rewrite the story so I'll just have to deal. I think the author did a good job of showing Charlie's struggle at the end. Many times athletes are worshipped in schools to the point that they can do no wrong. If she told, she'd get Will in trouble and she risked no one believing her - which does happen. There is also a good comparison of of mean girls vs mean boys as Charlie reflects upon her friendships last year.

This book could have been better. Showing it from Will's perspective definitely would have done a better job allowing the reader to experience the hazing. Also, it could have picked up the pace and gotten to the point quicker. A little less adjusting to a new school and typical high school life would have captured my attention a bit more. Then again, I'm not a teenager, so maybe the pacing is just fine for that generation.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Revolver - Marcus Sedgwick

One day Sig pulls his father out of the frozen waters of Giron, Alaska. He is to late to save his father for he has frozen to death. Sig takes him back to their home. Not to long after that a stranger comes knocking saying he has business with Sig's father. Sig lies about the whereabouts of his father. When the stranger sees the body on the table, his business now is with Sig. The stranger introduces himself as Gunther Wolff, and he wants his gold back. Wolff claims that Sig's father stole gold from him about 10 years earlier, and has been searching for him since then. Sig knows nothing about any gold. Wolff believes he's lying, but Sig knows the truth. His only hope to escape is a revolver stored away in the pantry.

A quick and enjoyable read. It plays off of the saying the sins of the father are visited upon the son. To me it seemed like Sig's father wasn't sinning, he was just trying to make sure his family would be well off after Wolff was taken care of. What wouldn't a father do to provide for his famly, especially in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1890's and early 1900's?

This is a Printz honor book for 2011. The Michael Printz Award is an award given to a Young Adult book that exemplifies literary excellence in Young Adult literature. There is one winner and four honor books.
T.B. 2/24/11

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Here's how Vera Dietz describes herself. I am motherless, and in the last year I lost my best friend twice, fell in love with a guy I shouldn't have (twice), got beat up by a skinhead Nazi, and had things thrown at me, including beer cans, money, and dog shit. (page 261) Her mother left her and her father several years previously. Her father is stoic, silent, rather strict, recovering alcoholic. Her best friend who first dumped her, then tried to win her back, then died is haunting her. There is something she needs to do, for him and herself, tell the truth about several events. It will clear his name and stop a couple of not so great goings on. And so Vera tells her story of her senior year, the struggle with grief and anger, the experience with alcohol, the bullying and also looks back on how it all came to be. Vera is a strong female who works her bumby way through everything and her father is ultimately supportive and caring even though he has a tough time showing it. I wish like crazy that Charlie could have lived, that the disaster hadn't happened, that Jenny Flick could have been punished for what she did. But then this story could not have been. Readers who like Alex Flinn will likely enjoy this story. I did.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

After Long Silence by Helen Fremont

This book is a memoir/biography as the author tells not only her story, but the discovery that her parents were Jewish and the impact that has on her life.

Helen always felt that something was off with her family and after a little digging and investigating, she and her sister discover that their Catholic parents were actually Jewish. Startled by this discovery, Helen begins researching places where her parents grew up and talking with people who knew them, desperate for the whole story of her parents' past, a past which neither will talk about. Then, one Fourth of July, her mother divulges most of her past but refuses to speak more of it. Aside from the stories of growing up in Poland before the war, she tells of how her sister Zosia went to Rome and fell in love with a government official and the two had to lie about her religion so they could get married. With that new identity and Zosia's beauty, she was able to "work the system" once the war becomes more serious, and helps her parents in their war torn home. One way she did this was by giving her sister (Batya - Helen's mother) her own identity - a Catholic girl named Maria who worked as a translator for the Italians. Just as easily as Batya became Maria, she became a young soldier trying leave Poland and escape to Italy. As Batya tries to survive Poland, Helen's father tries to survive jail in Siberia. Her mother and father had met long before the war and fell in love but were separated and then reunited after years of struggles and impossible odds.

Many situations happen to the families during the war (far too many to address here). Even though we know they end up "happily ever after" you fear what's going to happen to them next. I have to admit that this isn't the typical image of the Holocaust. It's focused very little on concentration camps and gas chambers, but more on the struggles at home and the means of avoiding detection without the "Anne Frank method" of hiding. Her father seemed to have the "typical experience" but little was focused on his struggles and I wish there had been more. It was really interesting the lengths that they went to survive and the affect it had on Batya and how it affected her identity to the point that she and her sister don't even remember what her real name was. You can't help but question, though, why Helen pushed so hard to know the truth when she knew talking about it upset her parents. They don't support this novel and it seems selfish to put them through it all. A lot of it has to do with identity and coming clean - the author also struggled with telling her parents that she's a lesbian - but does anyone have the right to force someone to relive that horrible experience if they've lived the most of their lives trying to forget? One thing I didn't like about this novel was how removed it felt - it's a person telling another person's story. Since she doesn't know all of the details, she had to embellish a bit, and sometimes you only get snippets of the experience. That's the struggle with telling someone else's story, though, especially when they're not sharing everything.

It was definitely an interesting story. Some of the young adult appeal is hard to see since initially it seems like the main character is Helen who is an adult. In reality, though, the story is about Batya and her struggles starting when she was a teen and going into her twenties. Sometimes, though, it's hard to see the people at that age or to remember how fast people had to grow up during those times.

You Killed Wesley Payne - Sean Beaudoin

Seventeen year old Dalton Rev may look like your typical teenager, but he really is a Private Investigator. He has transferred to Salt River High to solve the murder of Wesley Payne. Wesley was a smart kid who apparently, according to the principal, committed suicide. On his first day he starts questioning people about the murder. He gets a crash course in the clique system of this high school. You've got the Balls, the Foxxes, the Pinker Casket, the Yearbook Committee, the Euclidans, the Populahs, and lastly the Fack Cult T. As Dalton digs deeper into the murder he uncovers a plan which would have the Euclidans and the Populahs being the top dogs at the school. Wesley Payne seemed to be at the forefront of this uprising, which would be a likely motive to kill him. Dalton thinks that is part of it, but there has got to be more. In a place where no one is who they seem, and teachers are paid to look the other way, Dalton is determined to figure out who killed Wesley Payne. Who knows the killer might just be right under his nose.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. After finishing a Stephen King novel, this was a nice change of pace. This is a guy book, so the girls may or may not like it. There were a few of the plot elements were kind of out there, and I wouldn't see them happening at a real high school. They did add the what if factor to a very funny and enjoyable novel, where no one is who they seem.

T.B. 2/15/11

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Los Juegos Del Hambre por Suazanne Collins

Que idea tan mas genial se le occurio ala autora Collins. Este libro es el primer libro de una trilogia, es una obra de arte.
El libro esta dividido en tres partes, approximadamente son 300 paginas.
Esta novela toma tiempo en un tiempo futuro, el pais de Estados Unidos ya no exsiste, ahora es un nuevo pais llamado Panem. Este pais no tiene estados sino distritos y solo tiene 13 distritos.
La protagonista de esta novela es Katniss ella vive en el distrito 12. Su padre se murio en un accidente en las minas de su distrito, y solo se quedo con su hermana menor y su madre.
Bueno cada año en el pais de Panem el govierno celebra los juegos del hambre, el objetivo es mostrar a los cuidadanos que basicamente nadie puede con el govierno. Dos cuidadanos son seleccionados de cada distrito haciendo un total de 24 participantes, al final solo tiene que quedar el ganador. Este juego es de sobreviviencia, de vida o muerte.
Por echos de la vida, la hermana pequeña de Katniss es seleccionada, pero Katniss no puede permitir eso. Al final Katniss decide entrar al juego, en vez de su hermana.
Ya una vez en el juego Katniss y Peeta su compañero de juego desafian al govierno, como nadie nunca lo habia echo. Y aqui es cuando la historia llega a su cliamax de la historia.
Esta llena de intesos detalles, y cuando terminas el libro, te lo puedo asegurar que ya estaras queriendo leer el segundo libro de la trilogia.
Se los recomiendo a todo mundo, el final es como nada de lo que te puedes imaginar.