Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

"I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me. Finally it was decided that the best thing would be to send me here."

So Belzhar begins ...

Jam is sent to The Wooden Barn, a boarding school for emotionally fragile teenagers because she can't deal with the death of her boyfriend, British exchange student, Reeve.

At The Wooden Barn she is assigned to "Special Topics in English" where she and a handful of other students will read only one novel all semester and keep a journal. The novel is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

At first Jam doesn't want to write - why examine her feelings when she can barely make it through each day?  But the first time she does write, something amazing happens .. something that can't be explained.

Belzhar is an emotionally wringing experience. I would only suggest this book to very mature readers eighth grade and up. The ending is mind-blowing and the reader's heart will break for Jam.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrop

Davey and his family are on a long-awaited vacation on an island off the coast of Key West, Florida.

Davey's favorite thing to do is read, and on the first day of vacation he wakes up early and without telling anyone heads to a quiet spot on a secluded beach with his favorite book.

The water there is so warm and feels so good to Davey that he wades in farther and farther. Before he realizes it, he is up to his chest. But when he tries to swim to shore, he can't. Unbeknownst to him, there is a very strong riptide that is preventing him from swimming any closer. He is soon exhausted from his efforts and now must simply try to survive until someone rescues him.

Because the water is so clear, Davey can see fish swimming around below him. Some tiny fish nibble on his foot. He isn't panicking because he is sure someone will miss him soon and send a rescue team out to find him. Suddenly he sees a larger shadow below him ...

Read this exciting, fast-paced novel if you like books that you can read in one or two nights. I really couldn't stop reading this and read it in one afternoon - it was great!

Book trailer by Naomi Bates - thank you, Naomi!

Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas

Top Ten Reasons You Will Like This Book:

10. You like to read humorous books.
 9.  You want to take a break from all the serious books you've been reading.
 8.  You have or know someone who has diabetes.
 7.  You are a fan of the author who also wrote Ask Again Later.
 6.  You like to read about first crushes.
 5.  You don't like to read books about stereotypical characters.
 4. You like to try to solve the mystery in the book as you read.
 3.  You like to finish a book really quickly.
 2.  You don't like reading to be "painful" - it should be fun.
 1. You don't want to be totally "clueless!"

This is a fun fast read about a group of teenagers who work in a Whole Foods-type of grocery store. They are all accused of a crime that is committed in the store and told they cannot leave until they are questioned by the police. Unfortunately, it is Christmas Eve and tonight of all nights, everyone wants to go home.

Told from Chloe's point of view, this story is a fast, funny, light-hearted read, that has just enough substance to keep you caring about all the characters.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Budo has existed for five years which is a very long time for an imaginary friend. Nine-year-old Max relies on Budo for many things and Budo helps Max both in school and at home. 
This very imaginative novel is told from Budo's point of view. We learn about Max's difficulties from Budo. We also learn about the lives of other imaginary friends. Budo looks pretty much like an real-life boy, but other imaginary friends may not be fully formed. Budo can walk through doors because when Max invented him, he imagined Budo walking through doors. Other imaginary friends may not even be human. Other than their "owner," imaginary friends can only be seen and heard by other imaginary friends. 

Budo becomes even more important to Max when Max is abducted from school. No one but Budo has any idea where Max is. But since Max is the only person who can see or hear Budo, Budo can't really help very much. 

I can't believe that a book about an imaginary friend could have me in it's grip, reading compulsively for just "one more chapter." And I can't believe I cried when Budo was describing his relationship with Max.

I loved this book and I love the way Matthew Dicks writes.  Our teacher book club is reading this as our next selection, but I think students from 7th grade on up would also really enjoy Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Melody has a photographic memory; she remembers everything she hears. She is insanely smart - the only thing is no one else knows. Melody can't speak, walk, or even eat on her own because she has cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, no one knows the "real" Melody.

She is in a special class in school with other students with disabilities. Teachers come and go with very little consistency; Melody is so very tired of learning the alphabet year after year. There is no interaction with other students in school until the school begins a new inclusion program where Melody and several other students from her class are integrated into several mainstream classes.

Told from Melody's point of view, this is the story of how Melody goes from the girl in a wheelchair who cannot speak, to a valuable member of the school's competitive quiz team.

Melody's journal is not without many bumps in the road. Not every student is willing to look beyond Melody's disabilities. And many times this book made me very angry, but I am so very glad I read it.

Out of My Mind made me look at myself and wonder if I have ever prejudged someone; I'm sure I have, but this book has made me very aware that I never want to do it again.

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

Laureth's father has gone missing. He is not returning any of her texts, and her mother doesn't know where he is and doesn't seem to care. Laureth and her younger brother need to find him. The only clue they have is an email from a "Mr. Walker" who says he found her father's notebook. The problem is the notebook was found in New York City, far away from their home in London.

However, the biggest obstacle they face is that Laureth is blind. She must navigate the airport and New York City with just her young brother Benjamin leading the way.

Once in New York the suspense builds as Laureth and Benjamin try to find their father using very bizarre and disturbing clues they read in his journal.

This is a rather quick read. I would love to know what students think of the ending. So, please, let me know when you finish this book!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor

Calling all fans of The Fault in Our Stars ... you will love Maybe One Day!

Olivia and Zoe are best friends. They attend high school and ballet school together and have plans to go to New York City to join a professional ballet company. Their plans change when they are told they don't have a future in ballet and are dismissed from their school.

This becomes the least of their problems, however, when Livvie is diagnosed with cancer. Maybe One Day is the emotional story of true friendship and how two teenagers and their families deal with a life-altering event.

Although it's very emotional, there is also some romance and some light-hearted moments, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written story, but I did need some tissues close by.