The Rundown- July ’17

As I finished this blog, I just realized that all three protagonists in these stories are orphans. How appropro for the month of July ūüė¶ ¬†They’re also all classified as “children’s” or “juvenile” fiction, which is interesting.

 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (new read)

51V2oJ1tNTLThis is one of those books that I’d heard of at a young age, but never knew anything about. The introduction was written by an author who first read it as an adult and said she wished she had done so as young girl because it would have been life changing for her. I didn’t have such a strong reaction, but I can understand the sentiment.

16 year old Kit arrives to her aunt and uncle’s house in Connecticut after leaving Barbados when her Grandfather dies. Their 17th century Puritan community is much different than the freewheeling lifestyle she left behind and her uncle doesn’t approve of the influence she has on her teenage cousins. She also befriends Hannah, who is declared a “witch” by most of the town, but Kit feels she is just misunderstood.

Kit has a lot of fire and passion, and wants to do her own thing. That could definitely be inspiring to young girls making their way through the perils of teenagedom.

VERDICT:¬†This was a departure from many of the books I’ve read lately. The time period of the story is underrepresented in general and it’s rare to see a heroine with such a mind of her own from then as well. For those reasons, I’d keep this book on the list.

 

Saffy’s Angel¬†by Hilary McKay (new read)

Saffys_AngelThe first word that pops into my mind after reading this book is “heartwarming.” I never heard of the story or its author before, but I’m glad I did!

Saffy is a member of the Casson family, with three other siblings: Caddy, Indigo and Rose. Her parents are both artists, with her father working mostly out of town in London. One day, Saffy (short for Saffron) realizes her name is the only one not on the paint chart hanging in their kitchen. She then discovers that she had actually been adopted by her aunt and uncle after her parents died. ¬†Soon after, her grandfather passes away and leaves her an “angel,” whose identity is unknown. We then see Saffy on her journey of self-discovery as she searches for her angel.

I think a lot of kids (and adults) would be able to relate to this story in some way. Even if you’re not adopted, wondering how you fit into any type of group is a common issue we all deal with at some point of our lives.

I was impressed at how well McKay was able to flesh out so many characters in such a short novel. Each of the children have distinct personalities that shine through, even though the main focus is on Saffy. I saw that there are several other books featuring this family, so that might be part of the reason.

VERDICT:¬†I don’t know if this is one of the best books of all time, but it was definitely a sweet and enjoyable story. It’s a toss up for me!

 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (new read)

61lEzC6Sz3L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_This next read came with a lot of hype. I remember when it won the Caldecott Medal and how shocking it was, since most winners are short picture books and this novel clocks in at over 500 pages!

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a unique mix of text and illustration. The story itself was interesting. It contains a real historical figure, that of filmmaker Georges Melies, and many of the details are true, although the other characters are fictional. It takes place in Paris in the 1930s. Most of the action is in a train station, where Hugo lives and takes care of the clocks after his father passes away. It’s categorized as a “historical fiction steampunk” novel.

I really don’t want to say too much more about the plot because part of the fun for me was knowing very little about it before reading and being intrigued at every turn. This is a widely lauded story for good reason– any age would appreciate it!

VERDICT: I thoroughly enjoyed this story and agree with its inclusion as one of the best. It was an enjoyable and suspenseful read.

**I watched the movie this morning and was underwhelmed. Some of the action went by really fast in the movie, that would take pages of illustrations in the book. The reader can control the pace. It also appears that a couple of characters were completely eliminated. I think they could have done more. You can skip this one!**

The Rundown- June ’17

0-439-02348-3The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins (reread)

I started out my summer rereading this dystopian trilogy. I read it for the first time six years ago (around this time actually!) and it immediately dropped into my favorites category. Here’s what I said then:

These books were by far the most exciting {I read this summer.}There was hardly ever a dull moment (except maybe in the third one). Perfect summer reads in my opinion. I flew through these books, hardly able to put each down once I started it. Definitely recommended!

I still agree. For the uninformed, here is the gist: in the future, North America is condensed to a nation named Panem, with the all powerful Capitol in the middle, surrounded by twelve districts. Each year, to remind the districts of their power, the Capitol sends two kids from each one into an event called The Hunger Games. There, they fight to the death until one victor is left standing…. did I mention the entire nation watches this live on television? The books follow 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, who becomes one of the tributes (the contestants) after volunteering for her younger sister, whose name is picked.

As I previously stated, these books are jam packed. The world Collins has created is intriguing and, at times, scary. She does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters and settings, creating extremely vivid images. Katniss is a great protagonist and role model, even through her flaws. To me, this is a trilogy that spans age, gender, culture, and genre. Anyone can get into this and relate to something. Especially in these times!

VERDICT:¬†There is no doubt in my mind that this series deserves a place among the best of all time! “Catching Fire” is my favorite of the trilogy, but they’re all great ūüôā

**You can find Ashley’s review HERE**

**After reading, I watched all four of the movies this weekend. Watching them so closely after reading, I basically consider them the Cliff Notes of the books. There is SO MUCH that is left out, especially in “Mockingjay.” You may want to watch a movie or two to see if you’re interested in the story, but then definitely read the books because they are such a better experience! After I saw the first movie when it came out, I wrote a little piece about the differences, which you can read here.

 

The Wall by Peter Sis (new read)

thewallThe full title of this book is¬†The Wall: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain.¬†Seeing the full title immediately had me intrigued. Second surprise: it’s a picture book! Thus, I was able to read this while I was at school last week opening the library for summer checkout.

Peter Sis’ memoir tells of his life growing up in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. The story is told mostly through drawings and panels. Some pages contain several of his journal excerpts to show the passage of time. He aligns the rise of Communism with what he’s allowed to create and listen to throughout the years.

I think this is a great way to introduce young adults to this difficult topic. It simplifies it and also makes it personal. His drawings are in black and white, with uses of red (and sometimes other colors) for emphasis. The illustrations are focused and specific, and draw out quite a bit of emotion. They’re great conversation starters.

It was really interesting to read the progress of events from someone who was there. I learned several new things myself! For instance, in 1968 a new leader took over the country and they were on the way to making progress away from Communism. However, Russia got wind of it and came in and took back over, which set them all the way back.

VERDICT: Even though I had never heard of it previously, I think this book deserves its place on the list. The story is one that needs to be told. The way Sis constructed this book is purposeful and accessible. A must read historical text!

 

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (new read)

johnny tremainThis was one of the books I wasn’t looking forward to reading from this list, so I figured I’d power through after getting to read some of my favorites!

In the introduction to this book, the backstory to this Newbery winner was told. Forbes wrote this story immediately after winning a Pulitzer Prize! for a book about Paul Revere. She decided to use all the research she had done for that book to write a children’s story. That is amazing to me. To write for two wildly different audiences about the same topic (and win awards doing both!), is impressive.

The story takes place on the eve of the American Revolution in Boston. Johnny Tremain is an apprentice in a silversmith shop. While working on an important order for John Hancock, Johnny sustains an injury and the course of his life is altered. We see Johnny’s journey over the next two years, with the story ending just after the beginning of the war.

Because of Forbes’ research, the story is extremely detailed and specific. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes I got bogged down in it. I enjoyed the first third of the book, but the more I read, the less interested I became. It, of course, turned into a story of politics and war, which I don’t typically care to read about. However, I think it was well written and historically accurate to my knowledge.

VERDICT:¬†Good historical fiction, especially for young adults, is lacking in general. Since my aversion to this book is purely based on preference, I think it should be included on the list. It’s a great teaching tool, and I think it would appeal to many students.

 

The Rundown- May ’17

imageThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (reread)

I first read this book in fifth grade, after browsing my elementary school library shelves for something I hadn’t read yet. (Yep, I literally started in the “As” and just pulled new books to read!) I don’t completely remember how I felt about the book back then, but I think I read a couple of the sequels afterwards, so I must have liked it enough to continue the story.

I started the book this time by reading it to one of my fifth grade Book Clubs.¬†We ran out of time to finish it, so I hope they read the rest of it themselves! It didn’t make the best read aloud in my opinion, but I know lots of teachers who love to read it with their class, so to each their own.

Anyway, once I started reading it by myself, it went much more quickly. The thing that struck me then and now is how different it is from the movie. Most of the events are the same, but the movie has completely rearranged the order of what happens. That threw me off at first. I had to separate what I thought I knew about the story and concentrate on what was happening in the book.

This really is a great fantasy story and the characters Baum has created are unforgettable. Try not to think about the movie and you will enjoy it much more!

VERDICT: This is a classic that deserves its place on the list. I do think the movie did a lot to cement its legacy, but the book has lots to offer in its own right. The world Baum has created is fantastical and enjoyable!

 

**Check out Ashley’s review HERE**

The Rundown- March/April ’17

It took me a loooong time to get through this first book, hence the doubled-up post.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (reread) Huckleberry_Finn_book

There were two things I remembered about this book: the majority of the book is written in dialect and the rampant use of the “n-word.” The combination of those two made it a difficult book to get through, not to mention it’s just plain LONG.

This book is a sequel to¬†The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but there’s no need to have read that in order to be able to follow this. There’s a succinct recap in the first chapter that gives all the pertinent information.

Huck Finn runs away when his father shows up back in his life without the best of intentions. He runs across a neighbor’s slave, Jim, who is trying to escape his life as well. They decide to help each other on the way to freedom.

It’s a journey story with a lot of stops along the way. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, which becomes more difficult when they are referred to with multiple monikers. As they go through different territories along the Mississippi, the dialect changes with each new place and Twain uses it all. I had to slow down a lot and hear the voice in my head to be able to understand what they were saying!

VERDICT:¬†In general, it’s a decent story. It has a good premise and there are some important themes. It wasn’t my favorite book, but I can’t think of a good enough reason not to keep it on the list, so… let’s keep it.

**Check out Ashley’s review of it HERE**

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (new read)¬†

91DRp5i5J-LThis is another of those books I’ve heard of my whole life, but had no idea what it was about. Now that I’ve read it, I wish I had know the premise, because my elementary-aged self would have LOVED it. As it is now, I still think it’s a fun book!

Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse who has four children to take care of. It’s the time of year when the family has to move their house for planting season, but her youngest son, Timothy, is ill. She finds her way to a group of creatures called the rats of NIMH, who help her come up with a plan.

When I first started reading, I got bored pretty quickly. As the problem begins to unfold though, it quickly became more interesting. One of the best parts of the book was finding out about the rats of NIMH– who they were, what they did, and how they came to be there. I can’t give any of that away though!

VERDICT:¬†Once again, I don’t know if this is really a “young adult” book– I mean, can any Newbery winner be considered one? However, I really enjoyed it as a unique fantasy adventure. Definitely recommended!

The Rundown-February ’17

99d907a82a51c2a3a7d24634879c753cAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (reread)

I first read this book back when I was in elementary school, but I really just remembered more of the characters, than the story itself.

In the introduction to this edition of the book, it’s mentioned that Carroll actually told the original version of this story to a friend’s daughters one afternoon on a boat ride. He later wrote it down for them, and then expanded upon it before it was published.

Reading it as an adult, I could feel the stream-of-consciousness. Alice basically just wanders from character to character, having strange conversations. It got “curioser” and “curioser,” for sure. A caterpillar smoking a hookah? A Mad Hatter drinking “tea?” It has all that and more.¬†I generally am a big fan of fantasy, but the plot is lacking, in my opinion.

VERDICT: Even though the characters are fun, I don’t think the story is engaging enough to be included on this list. I’d rather go watch the old Disney cartoon!

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (new read) images

I was really interested to read this, based on the title. I thought it would be nonfiction, or historical fiction. What I got instead was a collection of sonnets woven together into a picture book.

How did a picture book end up on a list of best young adult novels? Good question.

The book is ambitious. It includes an introduction about how the author chose to write in this style, sonnet notes, an artist’s note, and a one page summary of information about Emmett Till and his death. I appreciated the different take, but at the same time, wanted more. It felt like a book written almost specifically to be taught and analyzed, rather than one to pick up and read for enjoyment.

VERDICT:¬†It’s hard for me to make a judgment on this one. The subject is important, so I’ll let you make up your own mind.

dannychampionoftheworldDanny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl (new read)

This was one of the few Dahl books I hadn’t read. It’s not the typical fantasy he is known for, but it still has some of the same stylistic features.

Danny and his father live in a small caravan behind the filling station and garage that they run. They have a close relationship, due to the fact that Danny’s mother passed away when he was a baby. His father tells him wonderfully fantastical stories every night, including the first appearance of “The BFG!” When Danny is nine years old, he discovers his father has a secret liking of poaching peasants. The action takes off from there.

As I said, it’s not what we normally expect from Dahl, but he has crafted a story that is equally humorous and heartwarming. The bond between Danny and his dad is uplifting, and there were lots of laugh out loud moments.

VERDICT: This book has a wide appeal, and is one of the few showcasing a single dad. I give it a thumbs up as a great addition to the list!

The Rundown-January ’17

areyoutheregodAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret¬†by Judy Blume (reread)

This is what I wrote about the book the first time I read it:

“So I finally read this book for the first time, as a 22 year old. I must say, it didn’t really knock me off of my socks the way I thought it might. I mean, this is probably one of the most talked about and controversial books for pre-teens… and I thought it was just alright. Maybe if I had read it as an adolescent, it would have resonated more with me, but as an adult, it’s just another book. Now, if you wanna read it just to say you have, then go for it. It’s quick and easy, and not a horrible read.”

My most recent take was not super far off from my original thoughts. However, I did have some new insights as someone now more than twice as old as the protagonist. For one thing, it had more of a nostalgic feel. It took me back to my teenage days, when things were much simpler!

I was also able to pay more attention to the religious aspects of the story this time. Margaret has not been raised in any particular religion and is searching for her beliefs. She talks to God frequently and seems lost without having had any guidance in this area. It definitely makes a good conversation starter.

Overall, this book is definitely going to skew towards the female demographic. I doubt there are many adolescent males who want to read about bras and periods. Just saying.

VERDICT:¬†I think this book is going to be another toss up. Based on my previous memory of the book, I would have considered it a definitive “no.” However, upon the rereading, I found more merit and can see more of the appeal.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (new read) 51taoalah7l-_sx334_bo1204203200_

This was another of those books that I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. I was pleasantly surprised!

Gaiman tells the tale of Nobody “Bod” Owens, whose family is murdered when he is an infant. He is raised by several supernatural beings in a graveyard near his house, as the killer continues to search for him. We see glimpses of his life every couple of years, up through his¬†time as a teenager.

There are lots of supernatural elements of this story, which at first was a little bit of a turn off. However, those elements became essential to the understanding of what was happening and, ultimately, the climax.¬†It kept my attention, and the last “short story,” was a real page turner.

VERDICT:¬†It’s hard to argue with most Newbery Medal winners, and this one is no different. It’s a unique and well executed idea, with a broad appeal. Even if supernatural tales aren’t your thing, I think you’ll find enough to keep you entertained.

lotf-front-coverLord of the Flies by William Golding (reread)

I had to read this book in high school and hated it. For some reason, this felt like a good time in the history of the world to read it again. Guess what? I still hate it.

I really did try to go into it with an open mind, but I just can’t get with it. I know there are plenty of people who like this book. I know there are important messages to be gained through this book.¬†But it is sooooo hard for me to read.

I don’t feel like I need to go much into the plot of this book because it is well known. Just as a refresher though, a plane full of schoolboys crashes into an uninhabited island. They battle over who should be in charge and their natural inclinations take over. You can imagine the rest.

On the back of the current edition, the author of The Hunger Games said this is a big influence on her work. That makes sense, but for some reason, THG is much more palatable for me than this. It also happens to be one of my favorites, which is even weirder.

VERDICT: I guess it depends on what the criteria is for whether this is one of the best young adult novels of all time. I did not enjoy reading it at all, but I will give it a place on the list based on the theme and message it is trying to convey. If you do like this book, you should also give Conrad’s¬†Heart of Darkness a try. It deals with the same theme.

The Rundown- December ’16

Thank you winter break for giving me time to read both of my books this month ūüôā

the-wind-in-the-willowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (new read)

Okay, this is, by no stretch of the imagination, a young adult book. It is absolutely a children’s book. In addition, I think a¬†book that plenty of people have heard of, but I doubt many have read.

To be honest, you aren’t missing much.¬†I’m glad I had plenty of time to plod through this narrative, which could be quite boring at times.

The book’s chapters don’t always seem to connect with one another, even though they contain the same characters: Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad. They act like people, but also retain traits of their animal selves, which is an interesting hybrid. The animal foursome has adventures, but some are of the “don’t try this at home variety.”

***SPOILER ALERT***

For example, Toad steals a car and when he is imprisoned for it, manages to escape by dressing like a woman and steals the same car again. What??!!

VERDICT: I¬†don’t think this would appeal to any young adults that I know,¬†and I really didn’t see the great appeal. Therefore, I would not include it on the list.

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (new read)Hobbit_cover

I have a confession: I was scared to read this book. When I think of Tolkien, I think of hundreds of made up names and places that I can’t pronounce or keep track of. I purposely read it during my break though so that I could have all the time I needed. I am happy to say that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought!

I actually really enjoyed this story of Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit who accompanies a band of dwarves on their quest to reclaim treasure from the evil dragon Smaug. It chronicles their journey and all the challenges they face along the way. It even continues past the point where I thought it would end! Tolkien really has a way of pulling the reader into the story when it’s least expected.

If you enjoy fantasy, you will like this book. Not only is the story itself excellent, there are so many fantastical characters: hobbits, dwarves, dragons, goblins, trolls and even elves!

VERDICT:¬†This was a perfect selection for the list. It’s a great book about self-discovery on top of everything else.

**If you’re worried like I was, you might want to try watching the first movie (it’s a trilogy) to see if you can follow it. I can’t wait to go back and watch the whole trilogy and see what they added!

*You can read Ashley’s review¬†HERE*

The Rundown- November ’16

511ytvbz02l-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Grey King by Susan Cooper (new read)

True confessions: I was SO BORED during the first half of this book. It took me forever to get through. Add to that the Welsh names and terms, and it was a struggle.

I also found out, as I picked it up to read, that it was Book 4 out of a five book “sequence.” Although a quick recap and prologue was given in the beginning, it felt a bit like picking up Harry Potter right before the final confrontation. There wasn’t enough background for me to be really excited when the climax finally happened.

The Grey King¬†is #4 of¬†The Dark is Rising¬†sequence. Will Stanton has discovered he is the last of the “Old Ones,” who are dedicated to saving the world from evil. In this particular book, he, along with some family members and friends (including the son of King Author?), work together to achieve a defeat of the titular character.

With all I previously said though, I really enjoyed the second half of the book, once the action picked up. It was a great little fantasy, with all the typical things you would expect.

I think many kids would enjoy this book, but I would recommend starting at the beginning of the sequence, so that everything that happens makes sense.

VERDICT: To truly be one of the best, the whole book needs to be on point. For that reason, I would not include this on the list.

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (new read) monster

I’m not sure where to begin with this book. I guess the first thing to know is that Patrick Ness wrote this book based on an outline from Siobhan Dowd, an author who passed away from cancer almost ten years ago. It’s all explained in an Author’s Note at the beginning, and¬†I feel that Ness evoked her spirit¬†as he wrote this book.

It was incredible– heartbreaking. Deceptively easy to read for such a difficult subject. Conor’s mother is ill and he has nightmares every night. ¬†One night, he wakes to a real life monster, but not the one in his dreams. It tells Conor ¬†he called it, and it wants to know his truth.

When “the truth” is finally revealed, it was like a gut punch, and then a release. It is the single most therapeutic thing I have seen or heard since my father died. ¬†I can’t really talk about it much without giving away some of the story.

I will say this: if you have had someone close to you die after battling a long term illness, you  need to read this book. I think young adults choosing to read this will be greatly moved.

VERDICT: Yes. Yes. Yes. This book has jumped in my top 10 of all time and I plan to read it again several more times in my life.

**Just yesterday, I saw they have made a movie from this! I must admit, I am kind of worried, since I loved the book so much. I hope they gave it the reverence it deserves. Anyway, you should read this before you go check out the movie!

to_kill_a_mocking_birdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (reread)

Is there a person on this planet who hasn’t read this book? Even if you didn’t choose to read it yourself, chances are, you’ve read it for school at some point.

Since the first time I read it, I have said this is my all time favorite book.¬†It’s been many years since the last time I picked it up though, so I was kind of nervous reading it again! I was afraid it wasn’t going to live up to what I remembered.

I needn’t have worried too much. I have read multitudes of books since then, and this still solidly sits in my top five. I do find it interesting how my views towards it shift as I get older.¬†Thinking about some of my more recent Challenge reads, such as¬†Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry,¬†this also deals with some heavy issues. I think part of the widespread appeal is the story is palatable to most and relatable to all.

¬†There were so many details of this story that I forgot, and they were nice surprises as they came up. I did forget how much the “N-word” came up though–off-putting, but necessary. Part of what I love though is the¬†wise words Atticus has, and some of the realizations Scout and Jem come to:

“…before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” (105)

“…you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life…no matter who he is…that white man is trash.” (220)

“If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? “(227)

VERDICT: Of course this should be on the list. Every person should read it at least once in their life, and being a young adult is the perfect time!

The Rundown- October ’16

frindleFrindle by Andrew Clements (new read)

This is another book I had never heard of before this list. I am somewhat familiar with the author though.

Nick Allen loves to, as the back blurb of the book says “liven things up” at school. It may be in the form of a prank, or it may just be his epic ability to lead teachers on a tangent. However, his fifth grade teacher is a no-nonsense kind of woman, so he has to think especially hard to figure out what to do. He finally decides on creating a new word,¬†frindle, and embarks on a quest to spread it to his fellow classmates. Did I mention his new teacher loves the dictionary? His plan soon escapes his reach though and we see the ramifications.

I enjoyed this book a good bit, and flew through rather quickly. I think there’s¬†some good messages in it about perseverance and believing in yourself. It also shows the powerful relationship that can occur between a teacher and a student, in many different ways.

I would say this book skews toward the younger end of the list and I’m not sure kids would want to read it much past elementary school.

VERDICT:¬†I don’t really think that this book should be on the best 100 young adult book list. It’s a good book, but I just don’t think it packs the punch of some of the other titles.

**Click¬†HERE¬†to see Ashley’s take on this book!**

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo (new read) 510g3ts61jl-_sx334_bo1204203200_

I can say one thing for Kate DiCamillo: she is a very imaginative storyteller. I was eager to read this after enjoying her other entry on the list, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. However, I found that this shared much more in common with her first book, Because of Winn Dixie.

Rob and his father live at a Florida motel after Rob’s mother passes away from cancer. His father forbids him to ever talk about her or even mention her name. In addition to that, Rob has a skin condition that draws unwanted attention from others and he is forced to stay home from school. Needless to say, he doesn’t really have any friends, until one day he meets a girl named Sistine. That also happens to be the same day he discovers a caged tiger in the woods behind the hotel. Coincidence?

What a strange little book. The imagery DiCamillo conjures is breathtaking, but odd. I was certainly invested in the characters and what was going to happen to them. It stirred up lots of emotions, both good and bad. The best part of this story though, for me, comes from the title of the book. I can’t really tell much without spoiling some of the story, but it’s parallel to some advice that Rob is given in the book that is just beautiful!

VERDICT:¬†This one is a toss-up for me. I certainly liked it, and I would encourage others to read it. I just don’t know if it screams “best of.” Why don’t you give it a try and let me know what you think?

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (new read)

51zcs5bmbyl-_sy344_bo1204203200_I gotta say, I wasn’t looking forward to this one when I found out it was a graphic novel. After reading it though, my outlook completely changed!

This book tells three different stories: the first is of Jin, the only Chinese American student at his school before another boy from Taiwan moves there and tries to befriend him. The second story is about Danny, an All American boy whose Chinese cousin comes to visit and effectively destroys his life. The third tale is about the Monkey King, who has mastered many disciplines and wants to take his rightly place with the highly immortal. All three characters feel isolated for different reasons, and must reach out for help to get out of their situations. The three stories intertwine beautifully at the end.

The themes of stereotypes and isolation are woven throughout. In each story, we see how the characters are treated and perceived based on their heritage. It brings to light unpleasant truths in a palatable manner. This selection is certainly for the older end of young adults, but I think it’s more likely to reach people in this format. It was so easy to read!

VERDICT: The Asian point of view is sorely underrepresented on this list and I think this entry effectively shares it. It made this reader think about the portrayals I’ve seen and how they’ve shaped my opinions. I thought this was a great book and definitely agree with its inclusion on the list. I can’t wait to read Yan’s other entry for this challenge!

The Rundown- September ’16

4115psz4mgl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Boyproof by Cecil Castellucci (new read)

This one was completely new to the point that I never even heard of it before this list came out. It didn’t take long to see why.

Boyproof is the story of Egg, a science fiction obsessed misfit who has little room in her life for boys, or anybody for that matter. She takes her name from the lead character of her favorite movie, Terminal Earth, and dresses as closely to her as she can get away with. One day, she meets a guy named Max and starts to wonder if all of her thinking has been wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought this book was fun to read. It was written in a diary format, so all the events were in easily digestable chunks. It was also set in Los Angeles, where both of Egg’s parents were in the movie industry. That led to frequent pop culture references and talk about their work, which I loved, of course!

However, this book was SO predictable. You can probably already tell from my brief synopsis what’s going to happen. For better or worse, it’s worth noting.

VERDICT:¬†Cute book, but I have no idea what it’s doing on a “Best of” list.

 

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (reread) 

rollofthunder1This is a book I remember liking as a young girl, but I mostly remembered the sentiment and overall theme, not much about the plot.

Upon reading this as an adult, I LOVED it. I wish that every person in America would stop what they are doing right now and read it. That is not an exaggeration. The point of view represented in this story is so needed right now and would give many people insight into what they still don’t seem to understand.

The story is told from the point of view of Cassie Logan, a 9 year old black girl living in Mississippi in the early 1930’s. She lives with her parents, three brothers, and grandmother. We see the Logan family in their day to day life– the challenges they face at school, at home, even in their attempts to buy things that are required to live.

As I saw someone mention online, we read and hear lots about slavery, and the civil rights movement, but we don’t always study much about the in between. This story enlightens much of that era, and it’s not always pretty.

VERDICT:  I can say, without hesitation, that this book should be included on the list. I even venture to say it should be considered in the top ten. The important subject matter, little heard point of view, and well written prose all warrant its inclusion.

**I couldn’t let the Logan family go after just one book. I also reread the two novels that succeed this one:¬†Let the Circle Be Unbroken¬†and¬†The Road to Memphis.¬†I was able to reread my own 20+ year old copy of the latter. By the end, Cassie is a 17 year old young woman, and it’s amazing to read the transformation. The saga is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting, and I’m so glad I was able to reread these with fresh eyes.