Crash

I’ve been a fan of Lisa McMann‘s work since I read the first book in her Wake trilogy way back in 2008. I’ve since read that entire trilogy (Wake, Fade, and Gone), Cryer’s Cross, and Dead to You, all fabulous books by an equally fabulous author. (She’s also written a middle-grade fantasy series, The Unwanteds, that’s on my to-read list.)

Yesterday, I finished the first book in McMann’s Visions series. The book is Crash, and it was just as strange, compelling, and captivating as the other books I’ve read by this author.  It’s a very quick read that will definitely appeal to boys, girls, reluctant readers, and those who will devour any book in sight.

Jules Demarco tries to keep her head down. Any girl who usually smells like pizza, drives around in a truck sporting two huge meatballs on top, and has a father who is a hoarder would probably do her best to go unnoticed…but that’s growing more difficult by the day.

Jules recently started having visions of a horrible, fiery crash, and she sees this vision everywhere. On billboards, TV and computer screens, windows, books…everywhere. In the not-too-distant future, an out-of-control truck is going to run into a building and explode, killing as many as nine people. But when? And where?

Jules tries to look for clues as to when and where this crash will eventually happen, and she’s shocked by what she discovers. Someone she truly cares for–a guy from a family that hates her own–will die if she doesn’t find a way to halt this tragedy.

But what can Jules possibly do without people thinking she’s crazy? How can Jules convince anyone to take her seriously when even she doesn’t really understand what’s going on? Especially someone whose family flips out if he so much as glances at Jules?

One thing is certain. Time is running out, and Jules will have to do everything in her power–including putting her own life at risk–to stop the worst from happening. Will she succeed, or will her vision of this crash ultimately take everything from her?

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This book reminded me a little of the Num8bers series by Rachel Ward. (This British YA series revolves around a few people cursed with seeing everyone’s date of death hovering over their heads. Creepy but cool.) Like Num8ers, Crash–and the rest of the Visions series, I guess–deals with catastrophic future events that a young person is trying desperately to change. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that a power like that could come in handy…but I’m not sure I’d want the responsibility.

Crash is a YA novel with some bad language and adult (though not necessarily sexual) situations that may make this better for high school students, but mature middle school students may be able to handle it. I don’t know. You know the tweens and teens in your life better than I do. Use your best judgment.

Crash is the first book in the Visions trilogy. The second book, Bang, is already out, and the third book, Gasp, has a June 3rd publication date.

 

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Mighty Miss Malone

It’s time to celebrate! I’ve finally finished reading this year’s nominees for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award! All in all, I’m pretty happy with the list. Even the books I put off reading were great. My last of the nominees, The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, was an excellent book that I hope my students and teachers will love. This is another historical fiction novel (which explains why I put it off to the end), but the themes in this book are timeless, and I think many young readers will relate to Deza Malone, a character introduced in Curtis’ Bud, Not Buddy.

As frequent followers of this blog know, I don’t read much historical fiction unless I have to–or unless there are elements of science fiction and fantasy thrown in. The Mighty Miss Malone is a book that I had to read…and I’m glad I did. At first, I was reluctant to get started, but it didn’t take long for me to love the main character. A passage I read on page 31 only cemented that.

“I’m different from most people and one of the main reasons is, I think I might have two brains. Whenever I get nervous or mad or scared or very upset, I have thoughts that are so different from my normal thoughts that there isn’t any way they could be coming from just one brain.
My first brain decides it doesn’t want to know about what is happening and stops working. Then my second brain takes over.
And that brain is always looking to start trouble, to hurt someone or break something.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this totally relatable, and I knew from this one glimpse into the mind of young Deza Malone that I would enjoy my time with her.

Twelve-year-old Deza Malone is probably the smartest girl in Gary, Indiana. Everyone–including Deza–knows she’s destined for great things, but the journey from here to greatness is going to be a long, tough road.

The year is 1936, and the Great Depression is in full swing. It’s tough for folks to find work, especially black folks. Deza’s father is no exception. The Malone family is struggling, and things are going to get much worse before they get better. At least they have each other, right?

After tragedy strikes their community in Gary, Deza’s father leaves to find work in Flint, Michigan. He’s promised to send word when things are well, but, when the Malones hear nothing from their beloved father, Deza, her mom, and her big brother Jimmie–who has problems of his own–set off to find Mr. Malone.

Their journey is peppered with disappointment, adjustments to new and often frightening situations, and simply trying to survive in a world that is by no means kind to those who are poor. Through it all, Deza tries to keep her spirits up and her eyes focused on a brighter future. It’s not always easy…especially when her father–and eventually her brother–seem to be slipping farther away. It’s also difficult for Deza to accept that some people (like her new teachers in Flint) can’t see past the color of her skin.

Deza does what she must to be strong for her family. Will that strength see her through the tough times and into a future filled with possibilities? What will Deza learn about herself and the world around her during this journey? Will the Mighty Miss Malone win in the end? Find out when you read The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis!

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This book is yet another of the SCCBA nominees in which the voice of the main character is one of the novel’s main strengths. It really shines through, and, in a book that is filled with its fair share of depressing and desolate situations, Deza brings a bit of humor to make things just a little brighter.

The Mighty Miss Malone is also a book that I hope will generate discussions about the Great Depression, how it impacted children in poverty, and how society still treats the poor. This book may be a work of historical fiction, but I doubt anyone can read this book without making connections to how those in poverty are treated in today’s world. It’s tragic, disturbing, and–I hope–eye-opening.

For more information about this book and others by Newbery Medal winner Christopher Paul Curtis, visit http://www.nobodybutcurtis.com/. Happy reading!

City of Orphans

Well, my summer is nearly at an end, and I’ve almost finished reading the twenty books nominated for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Last night, I finished #19, City of Orphans by Avi (also nominated for the South Carolina Junior Book Award). Had this book not been nominated for the SCCBA, I don’t know that I would have picked it up. It’s no secret that historical fiction is not my favorite genre. (For those wondering, the 20th SCCBA nominee left to read is also historical fiction. I’ve put it off as long as possible.) After reading City of Orphans, though, I’m honestly glad I gave this book a chance.

For the most part, this is not a particularly happy book, but it does explore what life was like for kids in turn-of-the-century New York. (Hint: If you had no money, it was bad.) The title, City of Orphans, refers to the fact that even kids with parents, most of whom were immigrants, were–for all intents and purposes–orphans. It was up to them to figure out how and where to make money, where to go when they needed help, and how to get out of bad situations. In this book, we meet Maks and Willa, two “orphans” just trying to survive in this bleak world.

It’s 1893, and New York City is teeming with people–immigrants, crooks, cops, and, most of all, kids. Kids just trying to survive, trying to make a few cents to help their families. One of these kids is Maks Geless. Maks is a newsie. (He sells newspapers on street corners.)

One night, Maks runs into some trouble on his way home from work. Trouble by the name of Bruno and the Plug Ugly Gang. Maks is sure he’s dead meat…until a dirty, homeless girl with a big stick saves him. This girl, Willa, has lived in the streets for months, and Maks figures the least he can do is give her a place to stay for coming to his rescue. So Maks takes Willa home to stay with his family.

Maks’ family, immigrants from Denmark, lives in a tenement, nearly ten people crammed into one small apartment, but it’s home, and they’re all together…until Maks’ older sister Emma is arrested! Maks is sure that Emma must be innocent. There’s simply no way she could have stolen a watch from someone at the new, fancy Waldorf hotel where she works. Maks’ parents are unfamiliar with the way things really work in America, so it’s up to Maks–and his new friend Willa–to figure out just what happened with Emma and the case of the stolen watch.

All the while, Maks and Willa have to watch out for the scary Bruno and this gang, just waiting to terrorize them and take their meager earnings. Can these two kids save their own necks while trying to get Maks’ sister out of jail? And is anyone willing to help two poor kids–who have no money–without expecting something in return? What will these two junior detectives discover in their quest for the truth? The answers will shock even them and will have the power to turn their worlds upside down. Learn how two kids navigate the perilous waters of turn-of-the-century New York when you read City of Orphans by Avi!

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I think City of Orphans is a great discussion-starter about what kids experienced throughout history. As a former social studies teacher, I can tell you that most lessons focus on what adults did in the past. Not much attention is given to kids’ experiences, and that’s a shame. I think many students today would find lessons more engaging and relatable if they could somehow identify with the people they were studying. Do we need to ignore what adults were doing during historical periods? No, but we shouldn’t discount a large portion of the population just because they’re young. (I see a research project in the future for some of my students!)

I also believe City of Orphans could be a “gateway” book to other works of literature. Those that immediately come to mind are the works of Charles Dickens, particularly Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. City of Orphans, while not quite as bleak–or wordy–as Dickens’ works, has the same kind of tone. I don’t particularly care for Dickens, but others do, and readers who really enjoy City of Orphans may want to explore a few of these classics.

If you’d like more information about this book and others by Avi, visit http://www.avi-writer.com/. You can also like his page on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy City of Orphans as much as I did!

The Aviary

Greetings, dear readers! It’s been a while since my last post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been trying to get through my latest read for a while, and let’s just say that it was extremely slow-going at first. So slow, in fact, that I read at least six other books while I was trying to get into this one. Why did I continue trying, you ask? Well, this book, The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell, is a nominee for the 13-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, and I felt I had to read it if I plan to promote it to my students. A few minutes ago, I finally finished The Aviary, and, while it took what seemed like forever for me to get invested in the story, the last half of the book flew by. (Pun intended.)

Even though The Aviary a work of historical fiction (not my favorite genre) that involves birds, which I’m not a huge fan of (which is odd considering that both of my college alma maters have birds as mascots), I do still plan to recommend this book to my students. It’s a good story, and I think it will spark the imaginations of upper elementary and middle grade readers.

Clara Dooley has been cooped up in the Glendoveer mansion her entire life. Her mother takes care of the house, and young Clara, who has a weak heart, has lessons with the aging Mrs. Glendoveer, widow to the famed magician, the Great Glendoveer. The Glendoveers were once a big, happy family, but tragedy struck–the Glendoveer children were kidnapped and killed–and the family was reduced to little but tears, bitterness, and a longing for times past.

The Glendoveer mansion is shrouded in mystery, a mystery made even more strange by the birds that inhabit the house’s aviary. These birds have lived longer than any birds should, and they have some odd connection to the Glendoveer family. Clara has always been a bit frightened of the birds–who squawk madly whenever she’s near–and her fear reaches a new level when one of the birds speaks a name–Elliot.

As one would imagine, Clara is intrigued by this, and she asks elderly Mrs. Glendoveer if she knows anyone by the name of Elliot. That seemingly simple question starts Clara down a path that will eventually unravel the mystery of what really happened  to the Glendoveer children…and how the birds in the aviary–and Clara herself–fit into the puzzle she’s attempting to solve. But how can Clara hope to figure out what happened if she can’t even leave the house? Well, she’ll have a little help from a new friend, and Clara may just discover that she’s stronger than anyone ever realized…

What really happened to the Glendoveer children? Who is Elliot? What is so special about the birds in the aviary? Why is so important that Clara be the one to uncover the truth? And can this young girl solve a mystery that has puzzled everyone for decades and help the Glendoveer family finally find peace? Answer these questions and many more when you read The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell!

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I think that any reader who really sits down and gives The Aviary a bit of time to get going will be pleasantly surprised by the journey. That being said, I do have a few issues with this book. First of all, it felt like it dragged at the beginning. It usually doesn’t take me quite so long to get into a book, and, honestly, if I hadn’t had to read this book, I would have stopped reading it entirely. Secondly, I didn’t find the cover appealing at all. (I freely admit that I judge a book by its cover.) I found the cover to be kind of boring, and that may have given me some preconceived notions about the book. Finally, the book featured letters from several characters, and those were printed in very difficult to read fonts. Given that many of my students can barely write–much less read–cursive, these letters may be hard to decifer (which is a shame since most of them add quite a bit to the story).

If you’d like more information about this book, check out the official Facebook page or the author’s website. You may also enjoy the book trailer below. Maybe if I’d watched this first, I would have gone into this book with little more excitement. (It doesn’t give away anything, but the music sets the perfect mood for this book.)

Published in: on July 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Freaky Fast Frankie Joe

I’ll be the first to admit that, sometimes, I’m not exactly enthused about books that I have to read for work. Yes, that includes some of my state’s book award nominees. Simply put, I read them because I must. I’m a firm believer that you can’t recommend books to students if you haven’t read them yourself, and, since I promote the crap out of the South Carolina Book Award program at my school, I read all of the Picture and Children’s Book Award nominees before the school year starts. I’ve got a few of the CBA nominees left to read, and most of those are the books that I figured would be difficult for me to get into. I started reading one of them late last night, and, to my great surprise, I finished it early this morning. That book is Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton.

Frankie Joe Huckaby is a twelve-year-old who’s about to face some major changes. His mom is in jail for the next ten months, so Frankie Joe is being forced to leave his home at the Lone Star Trailer Park in Laredo, Texas, to move all the way to Illinois to live with a dad he hardly knows, a step-mom he’s never met, and four half-brothers he didn’t know he had.

Frankie Joe is less than thrilled with the move, and it soon becomes apparent that his new brothers may not be all that excited about it either. One of them, in particular, seems to make it his mission to make Frankie Joe more miserable than he already is. (It seems that school wasn’t exactly a priority for Frankie Joe’s mom, and he’s got A LOT of catching up to do.) Well, mission accomplished. If he didn’t want to return to Texas before, he certainly does now. All he has to do is make a plan to get there…

Frankie Joe knows that he’ll need money to make the 1,400 mile journey back to Texas, so he comes up with a way to earn a little cash. He starts a delivery business for many of the people in Clearview, Illinois. He delivers pizzas, skin care products, groceries…whatever he needs to earn a few bucks, enough to get what he needs to make it back home to his mom.

But what if Frankie Joe is better off in Illinois? His grades are improving, he’s taking on responsibility, he’s making friends, and he’s providing an important service in this little town. Even though he’s determined to make it back to his mom, is that really the best thing for him? Sure, Frankie Joe misses his mom and his friends in Laredo, but is going back to them what he should do? And what will happen when the decision is taken out of Frankie Joe’s hands? What will become of Freaky Fast Frankie Joe? Read this 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee by Lutricia Clifton to find out!

Even though I was a little reluctant to read this book, once I actually started reading it, I was hooked. It’s a great story, a fast read, and, even though the reader may see what Frankie Joe should do, it’s interesting to see his thought processes through the changes in his young life. He deals with moving across the country, new family members, school, name-calling, making friends, and taking responsibility in ways that I think a lot of kids will appreciate.

I think Freaky Fast Frankie Joe is a great novel to use in classrooms to facilitate discussions on a variety of topics. For one, students could explore the differences in geography between Texas and Illinois. They could map out the route Frankie Joe would have taken, discuss the weather he may have encountered, and research the types of plants, rocks, and other things he may have encountered along the way. Frankie Joe also looked up any words that were new to him and found applications for those new words in his own life and experiences. This book could also be used to explore the concepts of blended families, parents in jail, and moving with students–and even adults–who are having difficulty adjusting to similar changes in their own lives.

For more information on Freaky Fast Frankie Joe and author Lutricia Clifton, visit http://www.lutricia-lois-clifton.com/.

Published in: on June 23, 2013 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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War & Watermelon

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. The only thing I can blame is the end-of-year craziness that comes with working in a public school library. Two weeks ago, we had PASS testing (and don’t get me started on standardized tests). Last week, my library had our third book fair of the year. (We raised around $4,000, but my clerk and I are exhausted.) While that was going on, the library remained open for the last week of checkout for the school year. Today, about 9 million books were returned…which now have to be shelved. So, when I get home in the evenings, what little time I do have that’s not devoted to housework, paying bills, or that most heinous of chores–mowing the lawn–goes to doing absolutely nothing. My desire to read has been almost nil, but I have hopes that things are turning around…

Yesterday, I read a book that a student brought to me. The book is Rich Wallace’s War & Watermelon, and one of my fourth graders brought it to my attention. She read it and came to the conclusion that it didn’t belong in an elementary library. Well, of course, I had to read it after that. This student is not one to go crazy over every little thing, so I really took her concerns seriously. (Not that I don’t take all other concerns seriously, but you know how people are. Some get their knickers in a bunch over nothing. This girl isn’t like that.) After reading the book, I have to agree with my student. War & Watermelon is not a book for an elementary school library…but it is a great addition to any middle or high school collection.

War & Watermelon takes place in the summer of 1969, and it explores what life was like for one almost thirteen-year-old boy during this time. Brody is a pretty typical kid. He likes football, he’s starting to be interested in girls, and he’s dealing with drama at home. Typical stuff, right? Well, kind of. This is also the summer of ’69. (Cue Bryan Adams music.) The Mets are winning, man just landed on the moon, the U.S. is at war in Vietnam, and Woodstock is about to hit New York. It’s a lot for a kid to take in, especially when his brother’s about to turn eighteen and become eligible for the draft. Tensions are high at home and everywhere else, and Brody often doesn’t know which way to turn. No matter what happens, though, this will be a summer that Brody will never forget.

War & Watermelon sort of fills in a gap in some historical fiction collections, but I really don’t think it’s a good fit for my school library. Elementary school kids probably wouldn’t understand some of the humor, and they probably shouldn’t understand some of the drug references. (Notice I said shouldn’t.) The main character does go to Woodstock, and many young readers (and their parents) might focus a little too much on the nudity and drug use present at the music festival instead of the message of peace it was intended to be.

I’ll be passing this book on to a local middle school, and I hope that students there will enjoy it. I just don’t think my kids are ready for this book. Do with that what you will.

The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini

This will not be a standard post, but please bear with me.

Like most avid readers, I use books to escape from the pressures of everyday life. Something happened a couple of days ago, though, that even books can’t really help me with. (Please allow me just this little bit to get this out, and I’ll get to my latest read.) On Sunday morning, my uncle was killed in a tragic accident. Anyone who knew my wonderful uncle knew that he was larger than life, so the news of his death was a shock to everyone. I still don’t fully believe it. I’m waiting on him to walk through the door with his huge smile and a hug for everyone he encounters. Everyone adored him, and none of us can really process why this happened. Right now, the platitudes that people offer during times like these mean absolutely nothing to me (or the rest of the family, I imagine). We simply want David back.

I haven’t mentioned this to anyone except my mother, but my uncle’s passing has hit me very hard. You see, Sunday wasn’t just another day for me. It was my birthday. For the rest of my life, I’ll associate that day with the loss of one of the men I loved most in the world. I’m sure the rest of my family will feel the same. My birthday is no longer something to celebrate. That date is something to mourn. I don’t even know how to reconcile that in my own mind, and I know my uncle would fuss about this, but I just can’t help it. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get past my feelings about this, but it is not this day.

I do ask everyone to keep my family in your thoughts and prayers. We’ll need all the help we can get to make it through this tragedy.

I did try to escape through a book during the past couple of days. I put away the book I was reading (which dealt with way too much death), and I began reading a somewhat light-hearted novel that I thought would lift my spirits just a little. That book was The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini by Peter Johnson. (I’ll be calling this book Houdini from this point forward. That title is a little long to keep typing.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I read this book because one of the teachers at my school was concerned about some swearing in it that a third grader had brought to her attention. Before I made any decisions on whether to keep or remove the book from my school library, I knew I had to read it, so I figured now was as good as any time. Yes, there is a little swearing (the “d” word a couple of times), but, in my opinion, it was not gratuitous, and it fit the character’s situation. (Not every kid is raised in a wholesome, religious, stable, conservative family.) The main character also mentions that a good, publishable kid’s novel (which he’s trying to write) shouldn’t contain any explicit sex. (He’s right, by the way.) Some kids and parents might simply see the phrase “explicit sex” when browsing through this book and decide to throw a conniption fit. I was a little concerned as well…until I actually read the book.

Houdini tells the tale of a thirteen-year-old, nicknamed Houdini as the title suggests, who has decided to write a novel about his life after hearing an author speak at his school. He explores what makes a good kids’ novel and proceeds to write the happenings of his rather eventful life. He talks about his family’s struggles with making ends meet, his brother’s deployment to Iraq (and what happens when he eventually returns), dealing with the neighborhood bully, and his relationships with his friends and neighbors. At the end, even Houdini is surprised at how writing (and noticing) everything around him changes not only him but his family and friends as well. He realizes that nearly everything is interconnected and that, if he takes the time to really get to know someone, they may just surprise him.

Even in this dark time in my own life, Houdini put a smile on my face. This was a good book that I think a lot of readers, particularly boys, will relate to. After reading it, I will say that this is not a book I would recommend to a third grader. I think this book is okay for readers in fifth grade on up. Middle grade readers will enjoy it.

Here’s the big question: am I going to remove Houdini from my school library? No. I think it does have a place in the elementary library, but I do believe library professionals–including myself–should know their readers and be mindful of which readers are mature enough to handle a book like this one. (Also be aware of which parents or teachers will have a problem with a bit of swearing or frank talk between a group of thirteen-year-old boys.) As I’m sure everyone knows, maturity levels vary greatly between a group of kids (or adults). What one reader may find offensive or scandalous, another will view as commonplace or even funny. As always, keep this in mind when recommending any book to a reader, no matter what his/her age may be.

Waiting for the Magic

Last night, I finished yet another of next year’s nominees for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award. If my last read made me want some pie, this one made me want a house full of dogs. The book is Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan (author of the Newbery Award winning Sarah, Plain and Tall). This book is super-short, but it packed quite the emotional wallop. I laughed, I cried a bit, and I craved a bit of the magic the characters were looking for in this book. I think animal lovers will especially adore this book, but everyone will find something to love and relate to.

William, his sister Elinor, and his mom are facing a difficult situation. Dad has just walked out, and none of them knows when–or if–he will return. So how do they cope? Mom decides to take William and Elinor to the local animal shelter to adopt a pet. Most people would return home with a dog or cat, but this family is a little different. They adopt four dogs and one cat! All of the animals seem to get along, though, so it kind of works out.

This family still misses Dad, but the animals help to fill the void that their father left behind, especially when William discovers just how “magical” these animals are. (Elinor has always known about the “magic.” It took William a little longer to experience it.) If someone is young, old, brave, honest, or joyful, he/she can communicate with the animals. One just has to open his mind and heart. The “magic” will find its way in.

When Dad eventually returns (after an unexpected development), Elinor is eager to forgive and welcome him back home. William is not so willing to let go of his father’s abandonment. His furry friends guide him toward forgiveness, and with their assistance, the entire family–with a few extra special additions–grows closer together than ever before. Can the whole family experience the “magic” that comes with loving their special pets (and each other)? Read Patricia MacLachlan’s Waiting for the Magic to discover just how magical love, joy, bravery, and forgiveness can truly be.

Waiting for the Magic is a heart-warming, poignant book that, in my opinion, might make you look at the animals around you a little differently. I’ve been playing with the idea of getting a dog for a while now, and this book may have just pushed me a little farther toward the animal shelter! This book is a very easy, quick read, but the message is one that everyone–no matter the age–will find inspiring.

The Comeback Season

A couple of days ago, I finished reading The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith.  (If that name rings a bell, it’s probably because she also wrote The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight…which I reviewed in March of this year.)  As a baseball fan, I was intrigued with the idea of a love story that essentially centered on a baseball team—even one that I’m not crazy about.  (The Chicago Cubs are featured in this book.  I’m a life-long Atlanta Braves fan.  Sadly, fans of both teams have grown accustomed to disappointment.)

Anyhoo, I was prepared for a light, fun read with lots of sports metaphors and a couple growing closer through their love of the game.  In one sense, I got what I was expecting.  In another, however, I got so much more.  The Comeback Season is much more than a love story.  Yes, there’s a tale of young love, but it’s also a book about moving forward and surviving…even when all hope is seemingly lost.

Ryan Walsh loves the Chicago Cubs.  It’s something she shared with her dad.  She loves the Cubs so much that she’s skipping school to catch opening day at Wrigley Field…on the tenth anniversary of her dad’s death.  (She’ll probably have more fun there anyway, even if the Cubs lose as they so often do, and even if this day brings back some pretty painful memories.  School is not exactly a good experience for Ryan.)  She doesn’t know what to think, though, when she runs into Nick, the new kid in school, also trying to score a ticket to watch the Cubs play.  Sadly, neither Ryan nor Nick gets a ticket to the game, but they do strike up a tentative friendship based on their mutual love for the Chicago Cubs.

When Ryan returns to school the next morning, she’s not quite sure how to act around Nick.  Are they school friends or baseball friends?  Will he be like every other person in school—even people Ryan once considered friends—and act like she’s invisible?  Much to Ryan’s surprise, Nick acknowledges her existence and seems to not care that she’s an outcast.  Their mutual love for the Cubs—and the hope that the team will have a good year—brings them together like nothing else could.

There may be something else, though, with the power to tear Ryan and Nick apart.  Something that neither of them knows how to fight.  Something that makes them question everything they’ve ever known or hoped for.  Nick is hiding a big secret, and when Ryan discovers what’s going on, she begins to lose faith in everything…including the baseball team that’s carried her through some of her toughest moments.

Ryan doesn’t think the Cubs will be enough this time, and she doesn’t know how to deal with the turmoil that is sure to come.  Ryan is losing the hope that is a part of every Cubs fan’s world, and she’s not sure how to get it back…or if she can, especially when it becomes clear that Nick—her only friend in the world and the boy who’s stolen her heart—is about to face something much more difficult than a baseball game.  Will this be a losing season for Ryan and Nick, or will they be able to come back from the biggest slump either of them has ever faced?  Read The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith to learn how true Cubs fans hold onto hope even in the toughest of times.

I did enjoy this book, even though I was less than thrilled with the ending.  I hate to say this, but The Comeback Season reminded me a little of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (probably the best book I’ve read so far this year).  I didn’t like this because, even at the beginning of this book, I had a feeling that I knew what was coming…and how I was going to react to it.  (I was right.)  Now, The Comeback Season, in my opinion, wasn’t nearly as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but the trials of at least one of the characters were similar to what happened in TFiOS.  Do with that what you will.

For more information on The Comeback Season and other books by Jennifer E. Smith, visit her website at http://www.jenniferesmith.com/, or follow her on Twitter @JenESmith.

Inexcusable

There are several unread books on my shelves that have been there for years.  One of my goals this year (and next year) is to get around to reading some of these books (mainly to make space for even more books).  This week, I decided to take a break from reading Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue (which is awesome…but long) and read one of these sadly neglected books on my shelf–Inexcusable by Chris Lynch.  This book was released in 2005, and I’ve been meaning to read it but never got around to it until now.  It’s a short, fast read that will appeal to reluctant readers, and the subject matter–what can only be called date rape–is a topic that should be explored with any and all teens.

Keir Sarafian is a “good guy.”  Ask anyone.  He doesn’t get into too much trouble.  He’s a great son and brother.  He’d rather cut off his own arm than hurt anyone close to him.  So, it’s absolutely impossible that he could have done what Gigi–the love of his life–is accusing him of.  No.  He absolutely couldn’t have raped her.

As Keir tries to figure out why Gigi is saying these awful things, he reflects back on the past year.  He thinks about the good times and bad, things he could have done differently, mistakes he made, and whether or not he really is a “good guy.”  What could have possibly led him to this point, and what will happen to him now?  Is there any way he can convince Gigi that this is all some huge mistake?  Or is Keir’s biggest mistake believing that he couldn’t do something this horrible?

It becomes clear to the reader pretty quickly that Keir is not the “good guy” he’s built himself up to be in his own mind, but it is interesting to see his thought processes.  What makes someone so delusional that they can’t see what’s right in front of them?  In Keir’s case, I think we can partially blame his father, who sees nothing wrong with getting wasted with his teenage son.  We can also partially blame sports culture.  This idea that athletes are above the law does nothing to help these guys when the you-know-what really hits the fan.  Mostly, though, the blame lies with Keir, who fails to take a long, hard look at his own actions.  It seems he’s always pushing the fault onto someone else’s shoulders.  After all, he’s a “good guy,” and he couldn’t possibly do something really bad.

In my opinion, Inexcusable is a good book for teen readers, especially those who don’t quite understand the true meaning and seriousness of date rape.  Some of the content and language is mature, so I wouldn’t put this book in the hands of middle grade readers.

Another book on this topic that you may want to consider is The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.  While Inexcusable looks at date rape from the male’s point of view, The Mockingbirds looks at the female perspective and what a girl can do to fight back when something this horrible happens to her.  Of the two of these books, The Mockingbirds is probably my favorite, and I will hopefully find time to read the sequel, The Rivals, soon.

Published in: on October 4, 2012 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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