30 Day Book Challenge: Day 28 – Favorite Title

Studies show that people only have seven seconds to make a first impression.

I think it takes maybe two seconds for a book to make a first impression. The first things a reader notices about a book are its cover and title. Those two pieces can hold a TON of information and function to draw readers.

That’s why titles have to be memorable!

For that reason, I chose Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

parttimeindian-jacketpb

 

Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I LOVED this book! I hope I get a chance to teach it in my classroom. It’s wonderfully written with a balance of humor and heart and honesty.

Some teachable topics for this book:

-Identity, especially for minorities

-Graphic novels

-Banned books

-American history

-Discrimination and prejudice

I think it also appeals to those reluctant readers because the novel is accessible and relatable. It brings home a serious, thought-provoking message without sounding preachy. There are also PICTURES! Like this one!

part-time-indian

 

I hate the assumption that pictures in books are meant for children. There is an ever-growing audience for graphic novels that are renowned for their literary content. The pictures in this book add to the story and make it more diary-like.

Finally, this book with an amazing title has recently been banned in New York which, as many readers can attest, makes a book even more interesting!

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 19 – Favorite Book Turned Movie

the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower-posterPerksofbeingwallflower1

Sometimes when the stars align, hell freezes over, and we all hold our collective breath at the same time- a book to movie adaptation is just as good as the book. Obviously, this is a rare occurrence, but it IS possible.

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those rare occurrences.

The story of teenage Charlie’s adventures were perfectly translated onto the silver screen this past year. I was so nervous for how they would make the movie because the characters and the narration fit together in the novel’s world so perfectly that I didn’t think any adaptation could do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the movie! I was disappointed that they didn’t play up the whole Charlie being abused thing and they skimmed over some of the other more serious issues, but overall I was pleased. I think it captured the book’s feeling and the character’s heart and quirkiness. The casting was perfect. I also think that it helped that Chbosky, the author, helped adapt the book to a screenplay. I honestly think this should be standard for book to movie translations.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 16 – My Favorite Genre

Young Adult Literature

I’m an English major so I read a wide variety of works. I’ve been introduced to so many genres in the past few that I didn’t even know existed! It’s good to read things from every genre, but I keep going back to YA.

Why I love YA:

It’s interesting that YA, compared to other literary genres, is relatively new in the world of words. It is believed to have grown in the 1920s and really started flourishing in the 1970s and 1980s when it became clear that there was a serious demographic gap between juvenile lit and adult lit.

I, like many other YA readers, don’t consider myself a “young adult” in the strictest term, although the age limits are loose and constantly fluctuating throughout generations, but I still enjoy reading the genre. I think it’s because being a young adult is such a defining period in our lives. You start to grow up and figure out who you are. This is super difficult! We all remember the struggle. And at any age, we can all relate to feeling like we don’t have everything figured out. (Do we ever feel like we do?)

YA appeals to me because we can always be reminded how much we can change and how the world can be a scary and beautiful place. No matter how old I get, I will sometimes feel like I don’t fit in. I’ll deal with serious issues. I’ll remember what it felt like having a crush or falling in love. I’ll know what it’s like to have that one best friend or inspiring teacher or that girl you hate. I’ll relate to being frustrated with my parents or my hair.

Maybe we never really grow up, or maybe we’re always growing up. Either way, young adult literature is there to help with stories and characters and words.

tumblr_inline_mr27wxaYFN1qz4rgp

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 11- A Book I Hated

9844

I read this book on the recommendation of a youth librarian at my local library. She asked me how old I was and pointed me toward this book. This is a reason that I resented some of the librarians in my childhood. They assumed that every person in an age group or gender enjoyed the same books. Book recommending is a tricky practice, but I would have appreciated some more thought.

Anyway…

I didn’t like Prep for several reasons. I couldn’t relate to the protagonist, Lee. I found her annoying, dumb, and way underdeveloped. The books spans Lee’s four years at Ault boarding school, but she remains the same. Even after she graduates, she’s emotionally stunted. She’s so ruthlessly self-centered that I wanted to punch her, and not in a character I love to hate way. I also didn’t think any of the other characters throughout the novel were likeable or believable. It felt like such a stretch to imagine that they could exist. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know.

I was also freaked out by so much of the “adult content” in this book, not because I was too young but because the author writes with no finesse. The book has no soul. The plot goes nowhere. The pacing is glacial. There isn’t anything there for me. It’s a pretty lengthy book, and I remember forcing myself to chug through and read it. I have no idea why.

I think Sittenfeld is capable of writing, if she was writing about something other than a thinly veiled memoir of her boarding school days.

Goodreads summary:

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.

As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Ultimately, Lee’s experiences–complicated relationships with teachers; intense friendships with other girls; an all-consuming preoccupation with a classmate who is less than a boyfriend and more than a crush; conflicts with her parents, from whom Lee feels increasingly distant, coalesce into a singular portrait of the painful and thrilling adolescence universal to us all.

 

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

tumblr_mr5g64tU2b1s45n02o1_400

It’s a mouthful, like, I even have trouble typing it, but the title grabbed my interest. I used to argue vehemently about how love at first sight was an urban myth. Love is more than just liking how someone looks or feeling a spark during eye contact (I have learned this the hard way before). My pragmatic and romantic sides are constantly battling each other, and this book is a good example of that.

Hadley is on a flight to London to be in her father’s wedding to her new British stepmother whom she’s never met. She misses her flight and has the usual unpleasant interactions with strangers in the airport when she meets Oliver, a boy her age that is willing to extend some much-needed kindness her way. Turns out, he’s sitting next to her on her new, rescheduled flight to London, and he’s a good-looking Brit (don’t you love when that happens?). He helps her with her claustrophobia during their flight, and they talk all night and have some adorable sexual tension laden moments. They are clearly on the track to some romance, only to be separated after they get off their flight thanks to stupid airport security.

Of course, as fate would have it, they happen to meet again.

tumblr_mr9mznBhbq1qbrq9uo1_500

This book was a fast, fun read that was just adorable. I kept reading it, thinking this would be the book that I would want to write if I wrote YA lit.

I’ve read some criticism online about the plot being unrealistic, but I think that’s the point. I mean, the title kind of pokes fun at the idea of love at first sight. People like myself enjoy these stories because they don’t happen so often. Sometimes you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy these types of stories.

This brings me back to the pragmatic vs. romantic argument.

My pragmatic side thinks it’s completely ridiculous for Oliver and Hadley to fall in love so quickly, especially in a sequence of happenstances. It tells me love is something that grows out of a long time of talking and getting to know each other, and, even after that, it’s rare for it to last. Long-term relationships are like business partnerships with a lot of negotiations.

But my romantic side says that love doesn’t follow any rules. There’s no mathematical formula for falling in love. Sometimes it’s fast. Sometimes it’s slow. Sometimes it grows out of a long relationship. Sometimes it happens in a second. Sure, it’s rare, but it’s not impossible. Pragmatism helps us survive, but love keeps us going because it gives us hope.

There are some interesting insights into how family dynamics work and how change can help and hurt that I enjoyed reading.

tumblr_mqvizm121R1snahxdo1_500

I liked Hadley, and I liked hearing her take on things.  She’s funny and real, someone you’d be friends with. I love the banter she and Oliver share. It’s a pleasure to read.

This book is about hope and the happy moments in life that can sneak up on you. It’s not the most well-written book I’ve read, but there’s an undeniable sweetness in it. Read this book if you’re looking for a fun, simple read that will make you smile. I look forward to reading more from Smith.

My favorite thing: there are references to Charles Dicken’s Our Mutual Friend that are just great. Like this opening page!

tumblr_mqgya5wB3e1r1hm1so1_500

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

tumblr_mqjps806p61rrkt9ro1_400

One of the most buzzed about books in the past year! I was draw to this book for some shallow reasons: I love the name Eleanor; I loved the cover art; I love red hair; I thought it looked like a super cute love story. Though these were superficial attractions, the heart of the book drew me in.

I was going to summarize this one for myself, but the Goodreads blurb is PERFECTION.

A stunning debut young adult novel about cassettes, comic books, misfits, and the incredible experience of first love.

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

tumblr_mrhcqnU3mq1sps68wo1_500

What I liked:

  • I AM SO STUPIDLY IN LOVE with Rowell’s characters. I love how endearingly and realistically human they are. They have flaws. They’re stubborn. They make mistakes. But they’re funny, kind, brave, and loving.
  • I love that Eleanor is not a size negative three. I feel like I either read books about characters who are reed thin and tall and lanky, or they’re overweight and suffer because of it. Rowell makes it clear that Eleanor isn’t skinny without making the character’s identity revolve around her weight. THANK YOU! It is so refreshing! She’s not super beautiful or super hideous (in her mind). She’s just a girl, and her world doesn’t focus on her appearance, even when people make fun of her or call her “Big Red.” She wears what she wants and isn’t afraid to be who she is.
  • I love that Park is part Korean. Rowell manages to orchestrate a humorous and interesting family dynamic between Park and his family: his younger, more masculine brother, his white father, and his cosmetologist Korean mother. There are moments when the family is light and happy, but there are also moments that really touch on important issues like parents’ expectations of their children, being mixed race, and having family problems that are bigger than what to have for dinner.
  • Eleanor and Park don’t hit it off right away. They bond through reading comics on the bus.
  • The story manages to be sensual without being over the top. It’s extremely appropriate in the best way possible.
  • The plot is great and full of little twists and turns. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I went through my day, and I devoured the book because I needed to know how it ended.
  • It portrays people and circumstances in a real way. I don’t want to give anything away, but Rowell does a great job of giving each person layers and real emotions.
  • It portrays young love (or any love for that matter) as it is: beautiful but sometimes difficult and awkward with great moments mixed in.
  • There are righteous nerdy references.
  • It was written in third person which presented a unique narration and perspective on the characters that I enjoyed.
  • The ending is amazing. I like Rowell’s style. Many people have said that they’d like to see a sequel to this book, but I think there’s something to be said for a good, solid stand-alone book that doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up with a perfect little bow.

tumblr_mldgvb97re1r3ibgko1_400

What I didn’t like:

  • If I had to pick something, I would have liked to have read more about Eleanor’s family situation.

A Love Letter to Rainbow Rowell:

d20121001_00-720x363

Thank you for being you. Eleanor & Park was fantastic, but learning more about you has made it all the better. I love that you interact with your fans (including me!) on your personal Twitter. I love that you’re not afraid to be wacky and write about real things, but you also have a great romantic streak. Your cover art for your books is awesome, even if you had nothing to do with it, it still reflects well on you. Thank you for writing this article about Eleanor’s weight and why Park is Korean. Your website is super cool. I can’t wait to read your other books: Attachments, Fangirl, and Landline. Finally, your name is Rainbow, and that is pretty freaking awesome.

tumblr_mgjp99DKPo1relpvho1_250

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 6- A Book That Broke My Heart

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

I’ve been wanting to write a post about this book for a while, and this is the perfect opportunity. I read a borrowed copy of this book on a road trip to New Orleans for a Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society convention (It was a blasty blast). The trip was half a day long; I had gotten almost no sleep; I was in a car with people I barely knew (but they were very kind and awesome). So I start reading this book, and I finish it within hours, and I’m just sitting in the backseat of this rental car with tears pouring down my face, trying to sob quietly so these people who barely know me don’t think I’m psychotic. They saw me, but thankfully they’re English majors too so they understood.

tumblr_mqahorKCqv1sznmkko1_500

This book breaks my heart because I just really wanted a happy ending, even though I knew there couldn’t possibly be one. I loved the characters so much that I wanted a miracle to happen. I wanted literary proof that bad things don’t happen to good people, especially when they’re young and in love. Green’s writing in this novel is so beautiful and meaningful that it filled my heart with warmth, even after all the tears. Yes, it broke my heart, but, in the end, I was ok with that because, like the characters, I found that the experience was worth the pain.

 

My other posts about John Green: Looking for Alaska    An Abundance of Katherines 

Since You Asked… by Maurene Goo

30da3c06a426cd3b-SinceYouAsked_LoRes

When Holly Kim, copyeditor for her high school newspaper, accidentally submits an article full of her honest opinions about her high school, she gets her own column instead of punishment. Holly rants and raves about what bothers her and tries to find balance between being known for speaking her mind, keeping her Korean family’s values, and trying to survive high school.

I had really high hopes for this book!

I thought the cover and title were cute. I loved the premise. Scholastic Inc. published it. It had all the great makings of a great read.

Yeah, not so much.

The characters were all, well, caricatures. They were all annoying and over the top. All of the dialogue felt forced or unnecessary. Holly Kim, the main character is barely likeable. The book reads like someone in middle school wrote it. I am honestly surprised it was published.

I kept reading, hoping it would get better, but it never did. I thought, when Holly got to write her own column, that I was in for some insightful or poignant observations about life in high school or being Korean-American. No. When she got a tip-off that the student government might be rigging the homecoming court election, I thought she would use journalism to expose her school’s underground politics. No. I thought there might be some swoon-worthy moments with her secret admirer. No. I thought that when Holly suffered through her Korean family’s unique Christmas traditions, she’d find value in family or her culture. No.

The plot lines are never developed.

tumblr_mcs6e3JWAn1ro2d43

Goo tries too hard to be funny and tongue-in-cheek. From this book, I seriously doubt her chops as a writer, especially one in the YA genre.

Overall, I found the book a huge disappointment and a real struggle to read.

*Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

11235712

Remember the sweet fairy tales of Cinderella or the Disney movie with the catchy songs about true love? Marissa Meyer changes everything you thought you knew about the story and turns up the volume. Meyer trades Cinderella, damsel in distress, to Cinder, cyborg on a mission, frolicking animals for androids, and the glass slipper with a mechanical foot.

Set in the futuristic streets of New Beijing, the novel opens on Cinder, a renowned mechanic replacing her mechanical foot with a new, more proportional model when a disguised Prince Kai visits her booth and urges her to fix a very important android for him. Not moments after his departure, a sign of the plague that has been ravaging New Beijing makes an appearance, setting everything into motion. When the plague hits her family and she becomes involved in finding a cure as well as the handsome Prince Kai’s affairs and a potential war with the lunar people from the moon, Cinder begins to learn more about her mysterious past and how her existence may change everything for the world.

It’s no secret that Fairy Tale Revisited is extremely popular right now. For me, it started with Beastly by Alex Flynn, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that was made into a movie a few years ago. There have been dozens of other contributions to this growing genre including TV shows like Ever After and Grimm and movies like Snow White and the Huntsman. We don’t seem to grow out of our love for fairy tales.

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. These stories have been around for centuries and come from all parts of the world, constantly changing form for their audience but never losing relevance. Could Charles Perrault or the Brothers Grimm have ever imagined a cyborg version of their Cinderella?

Probably not. Enter the genius of Marissa Meyer.

I can’t begin to express how much I enjoyed this book. The characters, even the background ones, are so great. Cinder is a more modern (obviously) and independent upgrade. She has no need for a fairy godmother, though she is stuck with an evil stepmother and sister. Cinder is an excellent role model because she is so hard working and brave without being inhuman. She has vulnerabilities and valid emotions. THIS is how you create a great young adult novel female protagonist.

tumblr_inline_mj3psomZsu1qesb52

She also represents minorities in that cyborgs in New Beijing are essentially second-class citizens. People treat her with disgust. I think this speaks to readers who find themselves in between identities like those of mixed race or even those with prosthetics. I think discussing these issues would be great in a classroom setting or a book group. Have we ever felt like we didn’t belong because of something that makes us different?

I also enjoyed that the story took place somewhere OTHER than Europe or North America. In fact, it is believed that the story of Cinderella originated in China during the 9th century. Today, China is a booming technology giant. They’re also known for their royal families. Obviously, Meyer knew what she was doing when she set this scene for her story. It is told that Cinder is from Europe (though her exact origin is unknown), but her prince charming, Prince Kai, is clearly Chinese. Interracial love! I don’t think we see enough of it in young adult literature. This could be another discussion point.

tumblr_mlydbkNo9O1rcy99do1_500

The story has a few flaws as far as practicality and continuity and exploring more of what the author sets up, but there are also three more books in the works after this one so maybe all is explained in the sequels.

As far as teaching the book, I can’t see myself using it in curriculum just because I don’t think the academic tone or writing is there. I also don’t know that this novel would interest young male readers. However, I think the whole cyborg and android thing might carry some weight when trying to appeal to the masculine reader.

I would definitely recommend this to others! I can see it being very popular with late middle school to early high school readers.

Movie rights HAVE been sold and the screenplay is finished. I can’t wait for it to premiere on the silver screen. Romance and robots can’t fail.

Pick this book up immediately. It’s a great and quick read full of futuristic mystery and just enough sweet romance to make your heart do little flips. To tell you how much I enjoyed reading it, I literally downloaded the sequel Scarlet an hour after I finished Cinder. The second book continues where the first left off, adding a Red Riding Hood character into the mix. The next two installments of the series are set to include Rapunzel and Snow White.

tumblr_ls0eaol30c1qlsh9h

If you enjoy both of these books, Meyer has also come out with short stories, “Glitch” and “The Queen’s Army” as prequels to both of the books. You can read them both for free here:

http://www.marissameyer.com/books/short-stories/

Meyer’s website also includes her book recommendations that I have already added to my MUST READ list. Check it out here:

http://www.marissameyer.com/books/book-recomendations/

Check out Meyer’s pinterest board (how cool) for the Lunar Chronicles here:

http://pinterest.com/marissameyer22/the-lunar-chronicles/

Read an awesome fan interview with Meyer here:

http://izabella.tumblr.com/post/55065922902/we-skyped-with-marissa-meyer-and-she-answered-our

13206760

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale, and Nathan Hale

rapunzels-revenge-206x300

I absolutely loved this book. I was surprised to find it in the juvenile section in the library since it was featured in the YALSA list. It’s also about a fairy tale character so I wasn’t sure if this would be advanced enough for young adults.

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of humor and narration in the story. There was also a lot of violence as Rapunzel used her hair to whip and tie up the bad guys. The authors took a classic story and revamped it for a modern audience and an older reader demographic with great success.

The pictures in it are great because they look like the type that would be found in a young child’s picture book, colorful and cartoony, but also take on a comic book vibe with all of the action in each panel.

What I loved most about this book was how Rapunzel was an Annie Oakley style heroine instead of a damsel in distress. She’s funny and brave. She was a joy to read about.

The only criticism I have is that I found it difficult to read, but I believe that’s just because I’m not used to reading graphic novels. I would absolutely recommend this. AND there’s a sequel: Calamity Jack!

Curriculum Connections/ Caveats: I would suggest this book for a middle school reader, especially a girl. It’s a great transition from juvenile to young adult literature. It’s a more mature Junie B. Jones fun in graphic novel form. I think it’s also important that it features a girl protagonist since many super heroes and graphic novel characters are geared toward males. However, I would also suggest this book to young boys because it’s action packed enough to keep them interested, and it allows them to see a girl in a role that is not often seen.

RapunzelsRevenge Illustration1