Friday, January 30, 2015

Monster by Dean Walter Myers

"Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie.  Maybe I can make my own movie.  The film will be the story of my life.  No, not my life, but of this experience.  I'll call it what the lady who is the prosecutor called me. MONSTER."

Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for taking part in a convenience story robbery that ended in murder.  The novel is told through a combination of a movie screenplay and journal entries written by Steve to reflect on his experiences.  Steve is on trial with a young man named James King, who is being put on trial for the murder, and two others who have entered into a deal by pleading guilty.  As the trial continues, Steve reflects on the events leading up to the trial and on his feelings dealing with the possibility of the death penalty.  Steve also faces discrimination against him throughout the trial due his race and other stereotypes.  Even though witnesses claim that Steve was a look out for the robbery, he is eventually found innocent.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was an engaging story and one that I would normally not pick up on my own.  I loved that the novel was written in a screenplay format and also included journal entries.  This allowed the author to give a very unique insight to what was happening during the trial and in Steve’s mind.  The book was easy to read, but including a lot of complex themes and brought up many questions.  I also found it interesting the author does not come out and say if Steve was involved in the trial and leaves readers to draw their own conclusions.  

Summer Island by Kristin Hannah

"As mothers and daughters, we are connected to one another.  My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true.  She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong.  She is the beating of my heart.  I cannot now imagine a life without her."

Goodreads Summary: Years ago, Nora Bridge walked out on her marriage and left her daughters behind. Now she is a famous talk show host. Her daughter Ruby is a struggling comedienne. The two haven’t spoken in more than a decade. Then a scandal from Nora’s past is exposed, and Ruby is offered a fortune to write a tell-all about her mother. Reluctantly, she returns to the family house on Summer Island, a home filled with frayed memories of joy and heartache. Confronting a past that includes a never-forgotten love, a sick best friend, and a mother who has harbored terrible family secrets, Ruby finally begins to understand the complex ties that bind a mother and daughter—and the healing that comes with forgiveness.

This book was ok.  I enjoyed the story, but felt like there was a lack of "substance."  I wanted to care more about the characters, but I didn't feel like I got to know them well enough to really establish an opinion.  I found lately that it's really interesting to read earlier books written by some of my favorite authors.  I love Kristen Hannah's recent books (Winter Garden and Night Road to name a few) and I felt there was a huge different in literary quality and character development between them.  Plus I couldn't help noticing some details from Fly Away in this one as well.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Eyes Wide Open : Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman

Eyes Wide Open is a young adult nonfiction book looking at different aspects of the environment.  Topics center on the role that humans play in the environment and include population, consumption, energy, food, and climate.  The book is written directly at a young adult audience to explain why learning about these issues is important.  It looks at how to use information to make informed decisions about what is going on in the world around them.  The information given through out the book aims to provide readers with a positive outlook on the future of the environment.

This book was ok.  It was very informative and well researched, but I wouldn’t think that too many young adults would pick up this book for leisurely reading.  It seemed to read a lot like a textbook to serve as research material.  The book was interesting at first, but I found myself getting board with it after awhile and a lot of the information seemed very repetitive.  I was glad that there were so many pictures and graphics to go along with the text otherwise I think I would have had a much harder time getting through it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

★ 1/2
"If you want something to grow  and be so beautiful, you could have a nice day just from looking at it, you have to wait."

Fourteen-year-old LaVaughn is determined to get out of her poor neighborhood and go to college.  After her father was accidently killed in a drive by shooting, her mother, who has always encouraged her to study and work hard, raised her.  When she answers a babysitting add for a part-time job, she meets seventeen-year-old Jolly, mother of two small children.  Jolly is a single mother and struggles to support her kids on her own while working at a low paying job.  When Jolly loses her job, LaVaughn decides to keep babysitting for her even though she is not getting paid.  LaVaughn eventually convinces Jolly to enroll in the Moms-Up program at her school so she can finish high school while her children are in the free daycare program.

I enjoyed reading this book.  The free verse style and short chapters brought an interesting aspect to the novel.  Even though the book was easy to read, the author included a lot of underlining themes dealing with teenagers living in poverty.  I thought it was unique that the two main characters were a few years apart even though LaVaughn (the younger of the two) seemed more mature and often provided Jolly with advice.  The author slowly allows readers to understand some of Jolly’s problems and why she makes the decisions that she does.  I would recommend this book to others, especially younger teenagers.  Many of the situations mentioned in the novel provide a greater understanding of some of the tough things that many teenagers have to face on a daily basis.  Even though it included many rough elements, the novel ends on a positive note and can serve as inspiration for young adults dealing with these issues.