Friday, May 9, 2014

What we're reading: Sequel

I read The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney, with book club a couple of years ago and liked it. It's about an exclusive private boarding school whose administrators trust the students to always behave honorably. Well, we know that's an ambitious / unrealistic hope! So for those times when they don't, there is a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their classmates, since the administrators won't do it for them. This book deals with date rape, so I would say it's better for 11th- and 12th-graders. It was well written, well thought out, and I liked the way she dealt out the details.

Anarda sent the sequel, called The Rivals, home in my book bag a couple of weeks ago. (She often sneaks books in there with little notes saying "READ ME!") So I read it.

I liked this one too--especially the convolutedness of where the cheating/drugging scandal goes--but I did think there were some parts that were unlikely, and some parts where people's reactions did NOT match up with what I thought they would/should be, so disbelief wasn't completely suspended for me. Still, it was well told, and for those who liked the first book, it is definitely worth pursuing.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Teen review: adult novel

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
480 pages
Fiction, not in a series
Reading level: Mature/Adult
Reviewed by Ari Eckols, 12th grade

The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer's 2013 novel and most recent work to date, is a sentimental yet unflinchingly honest depiction of modern human life. Following the lives of a group of hopeful, intelligent, yet naïve teenagers who first meet at art camp, the reader looks on as the characters mature, chase their dreams, come to terms with their selves, get married, drift apart, join cults, have kids, grow close, grow old, experience joy and trauma and excitement and tragedy.
A beautifully written, detailed and meaningfully told story, The Interestings is both uplifting and sobering. It is a gentle reminder that, while we may do whatever is possible with it, we are still limited by the hand we are dealt. It is a warning against self-absorption and naïvete. It is a reminder to be kind and also to be unforgiving when we must. Most importantly, it is a truthful portrait of life and its ups and downs. And it is very, very good.
Editor's note: While Ari may initially have been attracted to this novel by its protagonists' age at the start of the book (when they are teens), this is definitely an adult novel, following its characters from youth throughout their lives, and may be neither suitable nor interesting to you if you are below a certain age. But we all have eclectic interests and read at different levels, so we thought we would allow Ari to share his review!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Extra credit opportunity

Burbank Public Library is featuring an illustrated talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Miriam Pawel, about her new book, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 6, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Buena Vista Branch.

Ms. Pawel will speak for about half an hour, and then take questions and answers. The book will be available for sale at a special discounted price to those attending, and the author will sign copies. Students who attend for extra credit will be given proof of attendance, PLUS a special United Farm Workers student button at the end of the program.

This book has received major attention, and reviewers have praised it for the thoroughness of the research and for its rounded, honest and incisive portrait of Cesar Chavez and the movement he created. Author Ilan Stavans says that Pawel …”has finally given us the Cesar Chavez we deserve: neither a saint nor a bully but a complex American activist….Future biographies will be measured against it.”

This program promises to present an uncommon opportunity for students to see how our collective memory of an important historical figure is defined, revised, and passionately fought over. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Teen review: Dystopia!

Title: The Darkest Minds
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Number of Pages: 496
Genre: Dystopian
Part of a Series? Yes
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Reviewed by: G. R., grade 9

The Darkest Minds takes place in a dystopian future in which an epidemic has taken over all of America, leaving children either dead, or with strange abilities. The abilities are categorized into colors; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, and Blue. All of the children were taken to "rehabilitation camps" that claimed to help the children get better, but actually they were labor camps. The Reds, Oranges, and Yellows were all taken away (whether they were executed or transferred is unknown), which left Greens and Blues in the majority of the camps. The main character, Ruby, is an Orange, the most dangerous power, living under the pretext that she is a Green. After barely escaping with her life from one of the most horrible camps, she runs into a group of teenagers her age, and they attempt to survive with just each other.

This is one of my favorite books. I am absolutely in love with it, and have read it numerous times. The plot was interesting, and I very much enjoyed the dystopian future they were in (kind of like The Hunger Games or Divergent). I really liked the aspect of the kids having powers. I also fell in love with the other kids (technically teenagers plus a 10-year-old) that Ruby found. The characters were extremely well developed, and all of their back stories were so intriguing that I wanted separate books for each one! I really loved the humor that the author added into the story as well. Even in the most serious situations, the characters would crack jokes to lighten the mood (even though it made the situations worse, and usually ended up with them being attacked or almost killed). The ending was SO sad I cried for over two hours straight--but it's still my favorite book. The cover relates to the story, and is the symbol used for the children with the powers, and surrounding it is barbed wire, representing the camps they were in. I rate this book 5/5, and would definitely recommend this to anyone willing to read it, because it’s amazing.

Editor's note: We also can offer you the sequel, Never Fade, at either the Central or Buena Vista libraries!