Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dream or Nightmare?

Janie is a high school student who, ever since she was eight years old, gets pulled into people's dreams if they are sleeping somewhere nearby. This often happens to her in the school library where she spends her study hall, since many students use it as an opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Most of the dreams she experiences involve falling, giving speeches while naked, and fantasies involving various love interests. When she gets pulled into Cabel's dreams, however, she faces a level of frightening violence unlike anything she's ever experienced. As the novel progresses, Janie learns how to control her participation in the dreams, which allows her to learn help the people in them. Although I think Wake's premise is fascinating, McMann's writing style made it difficult for me to enjoy the book. The chapters are very short, and are made up mostly of dialogue, which I felt robs the book of some depth and development. Possibly enjoyable as a very short, fun read, but don't count on much challenge. 1.5 out of 4 Bananas.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Best Sequel Ever!

What an awesome book! Catching Fire is the sequel to The Hunger Games, a semi-dystopian novel about an America divided into 13 Districts, run by the Capitol. The Capitol asserts its authority by forcing each District to send two teenage "tributes" to the annual Hunger Games, which are a Mad Max type of fight to the death. Catching Fire picks up where The Hunger Games left off: Katniss and Peeta have won the Hunger Games and are supposed to be enjoying their victory tour throughout the Districts. They gradually become aware, however, that some of the Districts are in revolt, and that Katniss is somehow connected to the uprisings. There is a sharp turn of events, and Katniss and Peeta find themselves back where they never thought they'd be: in the Hunger Games arena. Super fantastic sequel that I liked even better than the first book! 4 out of 4 Bananas!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Two Stories of Poland

Although it got off to a slow start for me, Brigid Pasulka's A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True ended up being an unforgettably beautiful, heartfelt, gorgeously written novel that I will be recommending to everyone I know. It's written as two stories told in alternating chapters which, of course, become interwoven and are really just two parts of one big story. The first story is set in the WWII Poland of a mountain village, and the second is set in modern day Krakow. I love stories that strongly evoke a place and culture (sort of like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and anything by Lisa See), and Brigid Pasulka (an English teacher at Whitney Young Magnet High School in the Chicago Public School system!) is a master at bringing Poland and its culture, of which I knew nothing, to life. 4 out of 4 Bananas!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Boot Camp: Check Your Humanity at the Door

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser is a chilling look at real-life army-style bootcamps for troubled teens. I remember seeing old '90s talk shows such as "Jenny Jones" and "Maury" (which I actually just learned is still airing- good for you, Maury!), where desperate parents, with the help of the show, would ambush their out-of-control teenagers and have them carted off to a disciplinary boot camp. Todd Strasser's Boot Camp begins much the same, with main character Garrett on his way to Lake Harmony, a boot camp in upstate New York. Garrett's parents are sending him away because he has been skipping class and continuing a relationship with one of his teachers, who has since been fired from her job. Garrett argues that he does well in school without going every day, and that love knows no age, so why is his relationship wrong? As soon as Garrett arrives at Lake Harmony, however, he is barraged with messages about how worthless he is, how wrong he is to disobey his parents, and that before he can "graduate" from the boot camp, he must accept that he was wrong and be willing to submit fully to his parents. Methods of "education" employed by Lake Harmony include solitary confinement, lying face-down on a cement floor for hours and days at a time, emotional abuse from employees and other students, as well as student-on-student beatings. Although Boot Camp's main character is (I assume) unlike a typical boot camp resident and did not have problems with drugs, alcohol or violence, Strasser did his research on boot camps and paints a disturbing picture of a real-life phenomenon. 3 out of 4 Bananas

Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award 2011 Nominee

My Summer Reading List

In addition to several "candy bar" reads that I enjoyed this summer, I made a point to read as many Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award 2011 nominees as I could. Here is a visual tour of my reading list: