Monday, November 22, 2010

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Interesting Facts:
(1) This book was wrongly labeled by Wesley as "soft porn" because it describes two rape scenes.  Due to the efforts to censor and ban the book, many supporters rallied to speak up for intellectual freedom (freedom to read what one pleases) through twitter and blogs.  (2) The book was made into a movie by the same title with Twilight's Kristen Stewart as the main character.
About the Book:
Miranda Sordino begins her freshmen year as an outcast due to a misunderstanding that occured during the summer. What nobody knows is that Miranda is also dealing with being a victim of rape.  She remains silent about it and is determined to speak as little as possible.  She withdraws from everyone and loses interest in everything.  To make matters worse, Miranda has to go to school with the rapist!  Will Miranda ever tell?  Will she ever overcome her tramatic experience? 

Why should you read it?Once you start reading it, you won't be able to stop.  It considers a crime that is all too familiar to many teens today.  Many have confessed that this book made them speak up in life including about being raped. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tyrell by Coe Booth

Interesting Fact:
In this narrative, Tyrell uses the language and dialect that is a familiar characteristic of the Bronx.

About the Book:
Tyrell is a 15 year old boy who has been forced to grow up all too quickly in New York's South Bronx.  His father is in jail and his mother refuses to take on the responsiblity of providing for her family, forcing them into run down shelters. At his young age, Tyrell tries to care for his younger brother to the best of his abilities.  Due to his circumstances, he has had to drop out of school and struggles to stay away from the tempting drug business even though this means giving up the chance to earn fast money. Tyrell is desperate to get out of his situation but he is determined to do so the right way.  One wrong move could either send him to prison or his brother into foster care again.  Unlike his father, Tyrell does think about how his actions will affect his family, mainly his little brother.  The struggles in the story are painful to read about but they are also very realistic.  Aside from all the family issues, Tyrell is also torn between living up to his long time girlfriend's expectations and giving into the volumptous Jasmine who he has recently met.

Personal Thoughts:
Coming from a home where both of my parents took on family responsibilities and always provided a place to call home, it was heartbreaking to read about the harsh environment in which many young people grow up in.  I think that Tyrell helped me understand the challenges that many we come across are facing in their lives.  He can also serve as an inspiration to those that may find themselves in a similar situation where they must sacrifice much of themselves to care for younger siblings and are determined to live differently than those around them.

Coe Booth's Official Site
Coe Booth's Twitter

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Who knew that refusing to sell chocolates could be so dangerous?

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Interesting Facts:
This book was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and it was also released as a movie in 1988.  However, it is important to note that the movie ends very differently than the book.

About the Book:
Readers will be surprised at the intense emotions that are evoked from reading this book which revolves around a school chocolate sale. Something that seems so innocent sets off a storm of chaos.  The story is set in a Catholic private school which happens to be governed by Father Leon and a school gang called "The Vigils."  Father Leon recruits The Vigil leader, Archie, to support and promote the school's chocolate sale.  The Vigils tend to prey on less powerful students and forces them to carry out assignments. Jerry Renult's assigned task is to refuse to sell chocolates for a certain amount of time.  When this time is over, Jerry continues to refuse the chocolates which upsets The Vigils because they view this as a sign of defiance against their authority. As a result, Jerry becomes the sole target of The Vigils' hatred and they begin to unleash a fury of evil upon him.  Jerry begins to feel that there is no way out of this mess and readers will definitely share his desperateness.  Will Jerry cave into their demands or will he continue to stand up for what he thinks is right?   Even though no one has ever beaten the system that The Vigils have established, can Jerry manage to escape it?  How far will The Vigils go to get what they want and just how much can they really get away with?

Personal Thoughts:
I could not put this book down! As I read it, I felt as if I were on an emotional roller coaster at times feeling depressed and at others just outright angry. Sometimes I would forget that the characters were fictional and that there was nobody to actually confront about the matter. I was also reminded of the many young adults who have been victims of bullies. This book identifies bullies, their supporters, victims, and silent onlookers.  It is a story that all must read, whether they have been victims of bullies or not.

The Outsiders was written by a girl?

Interesting Fact: 
S.E. Hinton wrote this book when she was 16.  She decided to go by her initials to disguise her gender from her male audience that may have rejected the book had they known it was really written by a girl.  Since then, "her books have been taught in some schools, and banned from others," (

About the Book:
Pony Boy has grown up as a fighter among fighters in a war between the socs (rich kids) and the greasers (kids from the hood).  It wasn't until he talked to Cherry that he began to really think about what was expected of him and who he really was.  He told her that unlike most greasers, he would never use a broken bottle to hurt someone. Even though Pony Boy would not voluntarily hurt someone, he eventually becomes involved in a socs murder.  After suffering through various challenges and the loss of  two of his closest friends, he is pushed to the edge.  He tries to become a tough guy like the rest of his buddies because he figures it will save him from further pain.  However, he continues to question who he really is and  considers who he may be pretending to be. The Outsiders is a story about true friendship in an environment where the only valuable thing one has is their friends. It is a story about a boy who grows up in a tough environment, with brothers as parents, friends as family, and who finds that he wants to take a different path than the one expected of him as a greaser.
After I read the book, I immediately wanted to see the movie especially because I had developed mental pictures of each character.  That is why I have chosen to include a movie trailer showing some clips from the movie which stars Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, and Emilio Estevez.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Interesting Fact:
This is one of the many books that are frequently challenged, making it also one that is attractive to young adults.  In this book, readers are introducted to several characters that struggle to get along with their peers because of their differences.

About the Book:
Junior lives on an Indian reservation (Rez) and has only one friend who he has also happened to grown up with.  By the age of 14, Junior becomes unsatisfied with attending school at the Rez because he feels that he deserves a better education which he believes will eventually lead him to a better life away from the Rez.  As Junior's goals and interests begin to change, his friend Rowley begins to view him as a traitor.  At the Rez, Junior had always been a target of bullies due to the fact that his disability has left him with some noticeable physical flaws.  When Junior first meets his new school mates he is teased not only due to his physical appearance but also because he happens to be the only Indian in a "white" school.  Will Junior survive school out of the Rez?  Will Rowley and the rest of the people at the Rez ever understand him? 

Visit Sherman Alexie's Official Site and browse through his other books:

Why should you read it?
Like Junior, many of us have faced some type of life altering decisions and challenges.  Some may have even felt like an outsider at home, work, or school.  This is an inspiring story about a young man who is determined to make a better life for himself despite the challeges imposed by poverty, disabilites, and racism.  Therefore, it is a book that is encouraging to all who have faced similar challenges. 

The absolutely true diary of a part time indian 1st edition cover (2007).  Retrieved November 15, 2010, from the Wikipedia website:

How To Find A Good Book

I remember walking into a bookstore or library and wondering how I was supposed to know what book to read when I was faced with a zillion of them!  Here are some simple tips to help you find the good books that you need.  Instead of aimlessly looking at books and judging them by their cover, conduct some research  before hand to help you narrow your search. Prior to visiting the bookstore or library look up lists, such as YALSA's Teens' Top Ten or visit websites such as  It would also be a good idea to join  Goodreads and connect with other readers who may share your similar reading interests and be able to offer reading suggestions.  Don't forget that you can visit author websites to get a preview of other works that you may be interested in reading.  If you would like to learn more about a particular book you can also search for book trailers on youtube or even teachertube.

Here is a list of some popular Y.A. Author Sites: