The Rundown- June ’16

Happy summer! I think I tried to make up for all the books I didn’t read earlier this year by reading them all in June 😛

wrinklecover9A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (new read)

I still don’t know what I just experienced.

A Wrinkle in Time is fantasy, science fiction, and spirituality all rolled into one.

Meg Murry, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin, are sent out on a journey to find their father. To put it simplistically: with the help of a colorful cast of characters, they travel through time and space to defeat the evil thing that lurks.

And that is very simplistic. There are lots of things about this book that I can’t explain and frankly, that I don’t completely understand. I think that’s part of the appeal though. It was easy to get lost in the story and want to know what was going to happen next—because I couldn’t possibly predict it!

I appreciated the fantasy aspects of the story the most. Most of the science fiction elements bogged me down a little, but I liked the explanation of the title. A cool concept! The spiritual parts came mostly near the end, and it didn’t seem like they really fit with the rest of the story, but it wasn’t distracting enough to take away from it entirely. The variety does broaden its audience. Depending on the kid, I could see someone reading this for the first time all the way from upper elementary to early high school!

VERDICT: I honestly can’t name one other book I’ve read that is anything like this (not even ones that include time travel). For its pure uniqueness, this book deserves to be on the list!

*Once again, apparently this book is the first in a “time quintet” written by L’Engle and she even has written books beyond that featuring the same family. Therefore, you have lots of options to continue if you love this book!

 

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (new read)5113IWSiaoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I had never heard of this book before the challenge, and was only vaguely familiar with the author. When I read the synopsis, it sounded interesting enough. Little did I know what a rollercoaster ride I was about to take!

TJ is a multiracial teenager who lives with his white adoptive parents in an almost all white town in Washington state. Although he has a lot of athletic prowess, he doesn’t participate in any school sports, much to the chagrin of the athletic community at his school. When he decides to start a ragtag swim team, he puts an even bigger target on his head.

I’ll admit, I initially was turned off by this book. The language and plot got raw really fast. This is a book with a lot of “issues.” Adoption, special education, racism, elitism, abuse, bullying—it’s got it all. As I settled in though, I got invested in the characters and what was happening to them. I laughed. I cried. I cringed. It made me think of some of my students I’ve had throughout the years, and how they will turn out when they’re older.

I would say this book skews older based on the subject matter and language. I wouldn’t recommend anyone under 14, at the very youngest to read it. At the end of the book, it had a list of accolades it had received, and the first one listed was that it was one of the ALA’s most challenged books when it came out. They seemed very proud!

VERDICT: This is one of the times I wish I knew what criteria was used to pick these books. I don’t know that this is a book that I think every young adult should read. It does bring in some perspectives that some people may never encounter, so in that way I guess it makes for a good entry. It’s a toss-up for me.

 

N24680The Pigman by Paul Zindel (new read)

Even though I’d heard of this book many times, I had never read it and had no idea what it was about. Long story short, this book is about two teenagers, Lorraine and John, who unintentionally befriend a middle aged man, who comes to be known as “The Pigman.” The story details their friendship over the course of a few months, with chapters that alternate the point of view between the teens.

I can’t really tell you too much more about the plot without spoiling some things. What I will say is that ultimately this book is depressing. I did not enjoy reading it because I kept waiting for something bad to happen. The friendship was odd in general, and I don’t even know that someone would write a book of this manner today. The main character also reminded me of my dad in some ways, and that made me sad.

This book is on lots of high school required reading lists, which is unfortunate, because the last thing teenagers need is to be forced to read depressing literature, with all that angst going around!

VERDICT: Like I said, I’ve heard praise for this book many a time, but I just don’t see it. I think it’s really strange and don’t understand the motivation for writing it, unless it’s supposed to be a cautionary tale. I threw it on the floor when I finished it because the ending made me so mad!

 

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (new read)838771._UY200_

So, I originally put this on my “reread” list, but after beginning it, I’m pretty sure I’ve never read it. I think I got it mixed up with another title, The Chocolate Touch maybe. This is another book that is on lots of required reading lists and, in many ways, I can see why.

Although it was quite easy to read, the first half of the book was hard to follow. There are SO MANY CHARACTERS and the chapters would jump around and not have the same characters in consecutive chapters. They also had similar names and characteristics, so it was hard to keep track.

At its heart, this is a story about nonconformity. However, it takes a long time to get there. Trinity High School is a Catholic all boys school where they have a “secret” society called The Vigils. Jerry Renault is a freshman, new to the area, who gets tapped for one of the society’s infamous assignments. What unfolds is fairly unsavory.

The second half of the book reminded me somewhat of Lord of the Flies, though in a more formal setting. It presents questions like: Should you fall in line because it’s easy? Or should you do what you think is right, even if it’s hard? What about the repercussions?

VERDICT: I think it’s very telling of the time period in which it was written (1970s), but I think it’s still relevant today. What a great think piece for teenagers and a springboard for discussion and self-reflection. Although it wasn’t immediate, I do think The Chocolate War has earned its place on the list.

 

I’d love to know what y’all think of these books! Have you read any of them?

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The Rundown- April ’16

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (new read)Hatchet1

Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of survival stories. That probably explains why I never read this book when I was younger, even though I had plenty of opportunity.

Hatchet is a story about a thirteen year old boy named Brian who, on his way to visit his father, goes down in a plane crash. The pilot dies and he is forced to go at it alone. We read all about the trials and tribulations he goes through as he tries to survive on his own.

Kids could actually learn a lot from this book as far as wilderness skills go. It details the processes of trying to start a fire, how to obtain food, and making a shelter.

Although I didn’t care for the subject matter, in general, it was a well written book. It seemed realistic as far as I could tell and the epilogue at the end even put some specific names to plants and animals that were described in the story. It’s also a great lesson in perseverance.

VERDICT: I will go ahead and agree that this book has earned its place on the “best of” list. Between the story itself, the realism, and the social/moral dilemmas presented, I think it’s a well rounded book. It has a fairly broad appeal.

**If you find that you really enjoy this book, there are apparently at least four sequels that feature Brian, so you could read a whole miniseries if you want!