Monday, July 30, 2012

Bad Girls Don't Die

Alender, Katie. Bad Girls Don't Die. New York: Hyperion, 2009.  Web.

My Thoughts
I liked the mystery of this book. There were some moments that foreshadowed what might be happening, but Alender didn't force the plot. As I read the story of Alexis (Lexi), her family and the house that truly became a character, I thought about how it would be neat to merge this story with Miss Peregrine's that I read earlier in this summer. Creepy places, abnormal happenings and distinct characters fill both book's pages. This book has a interesting doll that takes an important part of the plot.  

I read this book on my phone and found myself book marking pages that I thought I would include on the blog. Looking back on some of the marks, I realized I missed some foreshadowing moments.

"Home is where the heart is" is not just the Homecoming motto.

The Doom Squad is a group of kids who fit in together because they don't "fit" anywhere else (61). I visualized students that I know who feel the same way. As Lexi explains, "That's the pathetic thing about high school. Everyone tries so hard to be something they aren't" (60). Amen! Lexi has her own opinions about the different high school cliques. "Preps are like cheerleaders, only with less jumping" (70). I liked Lexi's humor and her insight. When her world begins to merge with a cheerleader, she explains, "Alexis's universe, Megan's universe. One is over here, and the other is waaaaay over there. Completely separate. And that's how I liked them" (300). I can hear her. I like how Alender doesn't just use the stereotypes to create flat characters, but she tries to dig into the idea that we are all the same and can put aside our differences when the time comes to help one another. She uses this story to help defend the idiom that you can't judge a book by it's cover, just as you can't judge a person by their appearance or who they eat lunch with at school.

I liked that Lexi made use of her school & public libraries. I found the episode with the school librarian to be humorous and true (294). I am dreading my first run in with a CPA  (Concerned Parents Association) group questioning a book. They might even question this book.

Alender had her characters use outdated technology (a microfiche reader). I wondered if my students would get the same visual I had while reading this. Thanks, Alender, for trying to memorialize a piece of equipment that helped me through many research projects!

The entire cast of characters seemed relevant to the story and helped the mystery unfold. As in real life, pieces of information come to us from various sources and don't always make sense until the entire mosaic is created.

I know that is it necessary, but I didn't like how I read to page 553 to find "Seven months later" and the story gets a summarization to propel us to the current evening of Prom. That visual was pretty cute, and I realized that a YA novel would not be complete (perhaps) without a nice prom scene with a movie ending.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Savage Grace

Despain, Bree. The Savage Grace: A Dark Divine Novel. New York: Egmont, 2012. Print.

My Thoughts
This was the worst written books of the trilogy. I think Despain figured that she had a readership, so she didn't have to try hard to sell this book. I was very disappointed!

There were some very unrealistic scenes (despite the fact that Grace is an infected werewolf) that I just didn't buy into. Again, it seemed that Despain was forcing the story. The entire set up for the challenging ceremony seemed too cliche, "let's kick some butt girl power!"

Some things are explained in this installment, like what a perfected urbat is (Despain 188). We learn more about Daniel's genealogy and the new character Talbot appears (and reappears and reappears). The clues pointing to his character were too obvious.

The title reference is on page 470. Ironically, I was at Disneyworld when I was reading the Peter Pan reference (page 382).

I kept thinking that I probably would like this book more if I didn't feel like I'd read it before now or if I was a 17 year old girl looking for a 17 year old heroine story.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Looking for Alaska

Green, John. Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Books, 2005. Print.

My Thoughts
I am so thankful I didn't choose to teach this novel to my summer classes. It is a good read, but I don't think I'm ready to face the controversial topics with students as a required reading assignment.

The book starts with a countdown to "before" and the reader doesn't learn what the event is until page 139. After this event, the chapters are divided by so many days "after."

Miles is a loner. He doesn't have friends, he's not athletic, but he does have a special talent: he memorizes famous people's last words.

The Colonel (Chip) is Miles' roommate. The Colonel hates rich kids and tries to prank as many of them as possible just to prove his (perceived) superiority over them.

Alaska (who named herself at the age of 7 because "it was big, just like I wanted to be" is the campus free spirit. She is an avid reader who claims not to have a home (Green 53).
Takumi rounds out the friend quartet. He is the "Asian kid" that is not a computer genius (Green 103) but defines himself as a rapper.

Lara is the Romanian love interest to Miles.

These five characters go to school at Culver Creek, where all the usual high school drama surrounds them. Except, they have more drama!

Green explores many of the questions and issues that face teenagers. I think he does a great job capturing the reality of teens' lives and how one decision can absolutely change a person.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Lost Saint

Despain, Bree. The Lost Saint: A Dark Divine Novel. New York: Egmont, 2011. Web.

My Thoughts
This is the second installment of the Grace Divine story. She is searching for her lost brother Jude and must unravel the truth behind her special abilities. The timeless questions of what is truth, who should I trust and what do I believe are addressed in the story.

There were several twists in this story that helped make the good versus evil story more plausible. Sometimes what we believe to be true isn't and those we trust shouldn't be trusted.

There are some new types of mystical animals introduced. Gelals and Akhs (pronounced like socks) are part of the Shadow Kings paranormal teen gang. I thought this part of the book was a cliche. Caleb leads a pack of "unwanted" teens to do his bidding.

I was happy to see that Despain's Christian messages were still showing through the story. She writes about Grace and Daniel being so close, yet not having sex because Grace wants to wait for marriage (Despain 283). Later in the book, Daniel proposes (giving hope to Grace while she faces insurmountable odds), so I think book three will unite them in marriage. I hope Despain doesn't get too steamy for my YA audience.

Another major character that appears in this story is Talbot. It was interesting to see how Despain tied this character to her first book. The family tree link might be contrived, but I was glad to see it (337).

Near the end of the book, we find that Daniel was black wolf and now is white (586). I'm sure this is color symbolism (I will always be an English teacher) that will explain itself in the third book. I can't wait to read it and find out what happens to the Divine Family. Dad was left out of the last part of this book, so I'm anxious to see when he surfaces again. I'm thinking he's more wolf than it appears.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2011.

My Thoughts
This book is kind of creepy. Jacob has heard his grandfather's stories of living on an island, escaping death from the Nazi's. His grandfather's dying words give a cryptic message that Jacob feels compelled to understand. His quest sends him to a remote English island where he finds the old house that his grandfather described.

Last night I had nightmares because of this book! There are some very strange characters and occurrences that I saw in my dreams. Perhaps I won't read this before going to bed anymore.

I think this book would make an excellent movie! I'm not sure how all of the special effects could be done, but the writing has my brain seeing the action. This book is part action, part mystery, part fantasy and overall well written. It includes photos that the author claims are real.