I purchased Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher for the library after reading a review that seemed to indicate that the main character T----, who has visible burn marks on his face, was bullied in school. However, reading the story, I discovered that this isn't really the story of your typical middle school bully; it's the story of a middle school socio-path. T---- copes with the difficulties in his world by seeing the truth through the lens of a camera, but will anyone ever believe the truth?
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff is a realistic fiction novel about a middle school athlete who, through a terrible accident, causes the death of another hockey player. The novel follows Trent as he learns to deal with the anger of the small town as well as his anger at himself. This is an excellent novel about friendship and learning to deal with the difficulties of life.
RI Teen Book Award Nominee 2016
The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez by Peter Johnson is exactly what the title says, a snapshot of a middle school boy and the typical trials and tribulations that happen in a person's life. Benny has friends who are suddenly interested in girls, has a grandfather who is getting elderly, and has a conflict with a girl in his class. There are a lot of mini-plot lines, which generally makes a book that I find to be scattered, but it all works in this one. An enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction books.
Usually if a book is set in Rhode Island, I mention it first thing. Even though it is worth mentioning, the impact of the setting of this book is so minimal (except a potshot at RI drivers), that it could really have happened in any state. If you are looking for a book that is truly Rhode Island, then Swim That Rock is your "must read."
If there is going to be a movie, I should read the book...one of my many rules of thumb about how I choose which YA books I'm going to pick up. So, when I saw that If I Stay by Gayle Forman came out in August, I decided that I should read. After reading the book, I must say that I'm surprised that there hasn't been more of a furor over it, but maybe this quiet and philosophical book wouldn't elicit a furor even as a movie?
Needless to say, if I'm surprised that there's no furor, I liked the book. It is one author's attempt to look at that moment when a life is hanging on by a thread and asks the question, do we get to choose what happens to us?
At the beginning of the novel, seventeen year old Mia and her family are in a devastating car accident. Unconscious, she is somehow separated from her body and watches the first responders try to resuscitate her. As the story unfolds, and her friends and family start to gather at the hospital, Mia reminisces about her relationships with her parents, brother, best friend and boyfriend. All of these people cause Mia to wonder if she should stay in the world or not.
This is one of those rare books when I didn't want to try to guess the ending. The world of If I Stay doesn't get a happy one, but it was touching read about one young girl's thought process as she decides.
When I read a review for Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid, I immediately thought "journey novel." Eighth graders should already know what I am talking about. Seventh grade will by February vacation!! I was excited to read it because I tend to enjoy journey novels. I definitely was excited when I got the book from the library and saw the map on the front cover; I do like maps!
After reading it, I would say that my original thought that this is a journey novel is definitely true, but it's a journey novel with a bit of a twist. The overall structure of this book is very interesting. The "journey" of the novel is the protagonist Leila's journey to Alaska to see the Northern Lights. However, her story takes a backseat to four other discreet stories in which Leila acts almost as a guardian angel to another character. Through the whole book, she stops her journey to help out other people who have reached a crisis in their lives. Through these stories within the story, Leila remains a mystery. However, the very satisfying ending answers all the questions I had about her and pulled the whole novel together very logically.
This one is definitely chicklit.
Advisories: some vulgar language.
The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin is set at the fictional Alice Marshall School for Girls, situated in the midst of the No Return Wilderness area, Idado . Students there are sent for a reason--as an alternative to juvenile detention, as a way for parents to control drug abuse, etc. As the reader gets to know Lida, the protagonist, she gets to know some of the her fellow students, and the relationships between these girls as well as Lida's attempts to get to know herself form the basis of the plot of this book.
Delia picked up this book first and surprised me by saying that it was boring in parts, but she was really glad that she worked her way through to the end. (I was surprised because the book jacket summary really captured us both). I really enjoyed the book and never felt that it got slow. The ending was a complete surprise, and at first, I didn't like it, but then I thought that sometimes life doesn't work out nicely and neatly, so it was very realistic.
Readers who enjoy thinking about what makes people tick, like the outdoors and recognize its positive effects on our mental health will all enjoy this book. The key question will be: which Carlino do you agree with?
Advisories: Vulgar language, references to teen alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
I tend to enjoy novels that have two plot strands, one historical and one modern. Conversion by Katherine Howe is the second book I've read this summer with this structure, but I definitely see the pattern a lot in the books I enjoy the most.
The historical plot occurs in the aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts and features the confession of Anne Putnam, one of the girls "bewitched" during this bizarre period of American history.
The modern plot is reminiscent of an incident that took place in Le Roy, NY in 2012, but as a means of writing her own story, the author has chosen to re-set her fictionalized version in Danvers, MA. The story follows a group of girls who begin to experience some strange symptoms including seizures, fainting, twitching, stuttering, etc. While none of these symptoms would be unusual in one girl, the fact that by the end of the book, over 50 girls are affected causes panic in the community. The main character Colleen struggles to understand what is happening around her while also trying to maintain her normal life as a high school senior.
Probably most entertaining to me was the cast of adult characters who react in all too realistic ways to this assault on their children, but I think young adults will prefer to watch Colleen try to unravel what gets coined as the Mystery Illness.
The narration of Counting by 7's is probably what appealed to me the most. Much of the story is narrated by the protagonist of the novel, Willow Chance, a middle school aged genius who loses her parents in a car accident. Holly Goldberg Sloan develops Willow's voice beautifully, and those of us with more average intelligence get to spend a little time poking around in the head of a character that we probably wouldn't understand if we were to meet her in real life.
There are other memorable characters in this novel: Jairo, the cab driver who needs a little confidence in order to go back to college; Mai and Quang-ha, Vietnamese siblings who each befriend Willow in their own way; and Dell Duke, the incompetent guidance counselor who learns to take pride in his work. All of these characters touch Willow's life and are changed by the experience, a testament to the fact that even a twelve year old girl with socialization problems can make a difference in the lives around her.
An absolutely delightful book!
After reading Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, I wanted to give Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere a try since it is one of those titles that has seemed to endure through the years. I was a little disappointed, but I will say that most of my students who have read it, liked it. The premise of the story is that Liz Hall is a young girl who dies in a hit and run accident. She travels by ship to Elsewhere, the author's vision of heaven. The novel chronicles her world as she comes to grips with her new life in Elsewhere. For all of us who have wondered what the next world will be like, the novel provides one person's imaginative vision. It's not a vision I share, but the novel did prod me to think about my own vision of heaven.
Mrs. Carlino: librarian, technology teacher, intrepid reader, armchair (and real when I can swing it) traveler, vegetable gardener, and outdoor lover!
Some other sites where I have reviewed books:
Other lists of great reads:
A .pdf File from the MA Department of Eduction that outlines suggested reading for grade level. The authors that will help you be "well-read":
I found this nice list of classics for middle schoolers thanks to a teacher in New York. Thanks to Mr. Shapiro wherever you are!