Novel: Between Shades of Gray

betweenshadesofgray

Bibliographical Information:

Title- Between Shades of Gray

Author- Ruta Sepetys

Genre (s): YA, Historical Fiction

Interest Age: 15 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Lina and her family are ripped from their Lithuanian home and taken to a  work camp in Siberia. She must learn to survive throughout WW II, and pray her family does as well.

Plot Summary:

We meet Lina, a 15 year old girl living in Lithuania. June 1941 her family is taken by the Soviets to live in a prison labor camp in Siberia. From the start Lina has hostility towards the soviets and even some of the people in her camp. She meets some people along the way who show her strength and courage like she has never seen. And she has also seen the worst of people. Lina shows hope and passion when the world seems to lose both. Lina works towards her freedom and seeing her Papa again, but unfortunately the harsh realities of the time period show that not everything ends up all right.

Critical Evaluation:

It’s a horrible reality of what happened during Stalin’s reign of terror, but it’s so beautifully written that it will reach hundreds of thousands of people and let it be known exactly what happened during this time. I connected with every character, including the “villain” characters and that is really rare for me. I think Ruta does an amazing job of researching the time period, and bringing to light a part of history not many know about.

Author Bio/Information:

“Ruta Sepetys (Rūta Šepetys) is an internationally acclaimed author of historical fiction published in over fifty countries and thirty-six languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide. Her novels, Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy are both New York Times bestsellers, international bestsellers, and Carnegie Medal nominees. Salt to the Sea, her latest novel, was an instant bestseller and debuted at #2 on the New York Times list. Her books have won or been shortlisted for over forty book prizes, are included on over twenty state reading lists, and have been selected for several all-city read programs.

Ruta is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. Born in Michigan, she was raised in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Ruta attended college to study opera but instead graduated with a degree in International Finance. Prior to publishing her first novel, she spent twenty years in the music industry helping artists and songwriters distill story through song” (“About”, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: World War II, History

Booktalking Ideas:

How does Lina have the courage to go through what she did?

What do you feel about learning a new part of history?

Challenging Issues:

I don’t see any challenging issues occurring except for maybe some weariness about some violence that occurs and the conditions Lina and her family have to endure. But I will explain that it is a novel about WW II and it is historically accurate to what was happening to families like Lina’s at the time.

References

About. (n.d.) Ruta Sepetys. Retrieved from http://rutasepetys.com/about/

Advertisements

Novel: Breathe My Name

breathemyname

Bibliographical Information:

Title- Breathe My Name

Author- R.A. Nelson

ISBN- 1595140948

Publisher- Razorbill

Copyright- 2007

Genre(s): Young Adult

Interest Age: 15 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Frances Robinson was the only surviving child of a woman who murdered the 3 oldest daughters. Now Frances, who was adopted after surviving, is getting letters from her mother after she has been released from prison.

Plot Summary:

Frances Robinson has the perfect life, she has a great family and she just met this cute new boy. But Frances can never forget her past. The truth is, Frances was adopted by the Robinsons but before that she had a biological mother and 3 sisters. When living with her mother, Frances believed to live in the made-up country of Fireless. One day, Frances’ mother, Afton, suffocated her children but Frances managed to escape. Now after years of being in prison, Afton is out and contacting Frances. Frances must take a journey to find out the truth behind her sister’s murder, and take along the new boy she has just met Nix.

Critical Evaluation:

I love R.A. Nelson, one of the nicest people to speak with. I picked up this book and knew it was going to be a good one. The story is like none I have ever read before. I love Frances and her parents, the Robinsons. I found myself not wanting to put this book down. I really like the relationship between Frances and Nix. This book is one of my favorites and it will stay on that list for a very long time

Author Bio/Information:

“R.A. Nelson’s work was selected as a finalist for National Public Radio’s list of the “Best Young Adult Fiction Ever Written.” He was chosen a Horn Book Newcomer and his books have been nominated to the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list and recognized by the Parents’ Choice Awards, the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list, Booksense Kid Picks, the Miami Herald Best Books of the Year, teenreads.com Best Books of the year, and others. Nelson is a recipient of NASA’s prestigious Silver Snoopy Award for “outstanding support provided to the Space Shuttle program” (Goodreads: About R.A. Nelson, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Should Frances revisit her past?

Challenging Issues:

There will be some questions about the content on this book since it deals with the murder of children, but I will reassure parents that it is essential to the plot of the novel and is dealt with in a way that is agreeable for teens to read. I choose this book because of it’s subject and it was written beautifully and will impact teens.

References

Goodreads: About R.A. Nelson. (n.d.) Goodreads. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/474489.R_A_Nelson

Novel: Throne of Glass

throne-of-glass

Bibliographical Information: 

Title- Throne of Glass

Author- Sarah J. Maas

ISBN- 1299906953

Publisher- Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Copyright- 2012

Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure, YA

Interest Age: 14 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Celaena Sardothien can gain her freedom from a notorious labor camp by agreeing to be the Crown Prince’s champion in a battle to become the royal assassin.

Plot Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is known as the Assassin of Adarlan and has the reputation to boot. She was sentenced to hard labor to salt mines for her crimes. She is taken from the mines to meet with the Crown Prince. He chooses her as his champion in the King’s competition to find a royal assassin. If Celaena wins, she gains her freedom but has to work for the man who put her away. If she loses, she heads back to the salt mines. She goes up against other criminals, while trying to keep her identity of Assassin of Adarlan a secret to help her win the competition. Celaena begins to form friendships with the Crown Prince and his best friend the captain of the guard, Chaol. She continues to train at the castle, and learns of ancient magic. When the champions start to get killed off in mysterious circumstances, Celaena must figure out the mystery and continue to train to become the royal assassin.

Critical Evaluation:

I like the plot behind this book! I think this story was written very well! Sarah includes a lot of backstory and information in this book, but it does not feel rushed at all. The characters are relatable but I do believe that some added backstory would be nice concerning Celaena’s original training as an assassin. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I think teens will too!

Author Bio/Information:

“Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, as well as a USA Today and international bestselling author. Sarah wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in thirty-five languages. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog. Empire of Storms, the fifth Throne of Glass novel, is available now.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hamilton College in 2008 with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Religious Studies” (“About Sarah”, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: 

What moral implications does Celaena have to face in her line of work?

Challenging Issues: 

There may be some challenging in regards to magic use, but I will explain the plot of the story line and how the plot promotes good vs. evil. Overall, I choose this book because it has an interesting story line and is a new popular release.

Classic Novel: Forever

forever

Bibliographical Information:

Title- Forever

Author- Judy Blume

ISBN- 033039780X

Publisher- Pan Childrens

Copyright- 1975

Genre(s): Young Adult, Romance

Interest Age: 15 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Katherine and Michael meet and fall in love. Once they fall in love, they decide to have sex for the first time, but will those feelings last a summer apart?

Plot Summary:

Katherine and Michael meet at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party. After that, they spend every waking moment together. They fall in love. Katherine feels pressure to have sex with Michael. Although Michael is not pressuring her, Katherine knows that he has had sex before. Kathrine plans on having sex with Michael, so she visits Planned Parenthood. Her mother also gives her information on safe sex. Katherine and Michael have sex. Katherine starts to make her life revolve around Michael. Her parents are concerned and they end up taking summer jobs in different states. Katherine soon develops feelings for another guy while gone. She learns that she learned a lot from her experience with Michael and from her parents.

Critical Evaluation:

I really enjoyed this book. I think Katherine was really smart in her thought process towards sex. I enjoyed Katherine as a character, and I feel like teens will relate to her experience and thoughts during this time. Judy Blume does an amazing job at relaying experiences that teens can relate too, and that they might have even experienced themselves.

Author Bio/Information:

“Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Blubber; Just as Long as We’re Together; and the five book series about the irrepressible Fudge. She has also written three novels for adults, Summer Sisters; Smart Women; and Wifey, all of them New York Times bestsellers. More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into thirty-one languages. She receives thousands of letters a year from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her” (“Judy Blume,” n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: Sexual Education (could be used for a health course)

Booktalking Ideas:

Does Katherine take the right steps towards making this big step in life?

Challenging Issues:

This book has been challenged and banned a lot over the years. It was one of the first books for young adults that talks frankly and openly about sex. I would be prepared to tell adults that this novel promotes the idea of safe sex education. It is beneficial to teens because then they can be informed and smart about sex.

Novel: Daughter of Deep Silence

daughter-of-deep-silence

Bibliographical Information:

Title- Daughter of Deep Silence

Author- Carrie Ryan

ISBN- 0525426507

Publisher- Dutton Books for Young Readers

Copyright- 2015

Genre(s): YA, Mystery, Thriller

Interest Age: 15 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Frances Mace loses everything aboard the luxury yacht Persephone, but she must face it all again years later when her plot for revenge can finally come to light.

Plot Summary:

Frances Mace is aboard the Persephone with her family when it is attacked by men in masks welding guns. Everyone aboard the ship is killed except for Frances, her best friend Libby, her love interest Grey Wells and his U.S. Senator father. Libby and Frances escape on a life raft. The two girls are found by Libby’s father’s ship, but Libby does not survive. Grey and his father tell the media and country that the ship was  by an enormous wave, not ever mentioning the men and the guns. Frances is taken in by Libby’s father and takes on Libby’s identity at a foreign boarding school. When Libby’s father dies, Frances as Libby must go back to the town in which all of his possessions reside, and Grey lives with his father. Frances begins to put her plan for revenge in motion, but can’t seem to stop old feelings from popping up.

Critical Evaluation:

I really enjoyed this book. I would say that this reminds me of popular teen TV shows that are out right now. Frances was a true character, who of course flipped flopped with emotions throughout the novel. I think Carrie Ryan did a great job with building character relationships, and allows the plot to twist and turn in a natural way. Overall, I believe this is a good book and that teens will enjoy it.

Author Bio/ Information:

“Husband and wife Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis have been in love with each other’s writing (and with each other) since meeting in law school a decade ago. Carrie is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning Forest of Hands and Teeth series, which is based on a world she and JP created together. She is also the author of DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE and INFINITY RING: Divide and Conquer, as well as the editor of FORETOLD: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction. Although they’ve been important parts of each other’s writing for years, THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE is their first full collaboration. JP and Carrie currently live in Charlotte, North Carolina” (Biography Carrie Ryan, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Unit: Natural Disasters

 Booktalking Ideas:

How does Frances deal with her emotions throughout the novel?

How would you handle yourself in Frances’ situation?

Challenging Issues: 

I can see that some adults may have an issue with the revenge aspect of the story line, but I will explain why that aspect is relevant to the story line. I decided to include this book to the collection to show a contrast between the two Carrie Ryan book I’ve included and this is a recent popular release.

References

Biography Carrie Ryan. (n.d.). TeenReads. Retrieved from http://www.teenreads.com/authors/carrie-ryan

Novel: Some Girls Are

somegirlsare

Bibliographical Information:

Title- Some Girls Are

Author- Jennifer Niven

ISBN- 0312573804

Publisher- St. Martin’s Griffin

Copyright- 2010

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary

Interest Age: 15 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Regina Afton has always done what her best friend Anna has told her to do, but when rumors go around about Regina and Anna’s boyfriend, Regina learns what it’s like to be on the other side of Anna’s favor.

Plot Summary:

Regina Afton goes to a huge party with her friends, including her best friend Anna and Anna’s boyfriend Donnie. While at the party, Anna passes out and Donnie tries to rape Regina. Regina confides in Kara, another girl in her group the Fearsome Fivesome. Kara tells Anna that Regina and Donnie got together. Anna decides to make Regina’s life hell. They begin by bullying, and gradually escalate to basically torturing Regina. Meanwhile Regina begins to become with friends with Michael, someone who she used to bully herself. Regina begins to see how things used to be, and see the benefit of cutting her old friends out of her life.

Critical Evaluation:

Courtney Summers does a beautiful job of bringing to light issues that occur in many high schools. The bullying was realistic that any teen that reads this novel will be able to relate to seeing this happen, making this happen or having it happen to them. Regina is a realistic character, and Summers does a great job of not making her the stereotypical YA main character. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book because it made me think at a deeper level and it will make teens do so as well.

Author Bio/Information:

“Courtney Summers was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. When she was around 10 years old, her local theatre’s production of Man of La Mancha (directed by her father) sparked a dream of telling stories that would move people the same way that musical had moved her. At age 14, and with her parents’ blessing, Courtney dropped out of high school to pursue her education independently. During this time, she explored various creative mediums in search of the one that would best suit her desire to be a storyteller. At age 18, she wrote her first novel and never looked back. Her first book, Cracked Up to Be, was published in 2008, when she was 22. To date, she has authored five novels and is best known for her unapologetic, difficult female protagonists” (“Courtney Summers”, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: Relationships, Friendships

Booktalking Ideas:

Have you ever experienced bullying of any kind?

Since Regina realized the potential of not having those friends in her life, did she show that she was better than Anna and the rest of the group?

Challenging Issues:

This book has already faced various challenging issues from parents at high schools which have included it on their summer reading lists. Many of the issues include language, the scene in which Donnie attempts to rape Regina, and various scenes of teen drinking. I would explain to those questioning the book that these scenes are relevant to the story line. I would also explain the importance of these scenes to real teens, and how they can benefit those who have been bullied themselves.

References

Courtney Summers. (n.d.) Courtney Summers. Retrieved from http://courtneysummers.ca/about/

Classic Novel: Weetzie Bat

Weetziebat.jpg

Bibliographical Information:

Title- Weetzie Bat

Author- Francesca Lia Block

ISBN- 0060736259

Publisher- HarperTeen

Copyright- 1989

Genre(s): Young Adult

Interest Age: 15 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Weetzie, her friend Dirk, and their lives are set magically but they deal with real issues, along with their love Duck and My Secret Agent Lover Man.

Plot Summary:

Weetzie meets Dirk and the instantly become best friends. Dirk tells Weetzie that he is gay. The both decide that they need to find their perfect match, called a duck. They hang over at Dirk’s Grandma Fifi’s house, she raised Dirk. Fifi gives Weetzie a magical lamp. Weetzie wishes for both her and Dirk to find their Duck’s and for them to have a house. Her wishes begin to come true. Dirk meets Duck, Weetzie meets My Secret Agent Lover Man and Fifi dies and leaves the house to Dirk and Weetzie. Weetzie feels like she is happy, but believes that a child will make her happier. My Secret Agent Lover Man does not want a child, and Weetzie decides to have one with Dirk and Duck. They sleep together. My Secret Agent Lover Man leaves Weetzie and she gives birth to Cherokee. My Secret Agent Lover Man comes back, but a woman comes searching for him and says she is pregnant. Later on, a baby is left on their front door. Weetzie’s father is found dead from an overdose and Duck leaves Dirk. Dirk goes after Duck, and brings him back to the home they all share.

Critical Evaluation:

At first I didn’t know how much I would enjoy this book. But it grew on me, I still wouldn’t say that it was my favorite book but I can appreciate the story line. I liked the characters, but I feel as though they weren’t taking life very seriously, which can work for some people, but not me. I think teens will enjoy this novel though because the issues that were relevant in the time period in which it was written are still relevant.

Author Bio/ Information:

Francesca Lia Block was born in Los Angeles to a poet and a painter, their creativity an obvious influence on her writing. Another influence was her childhood love of Greek mythology and fairy tales.
She has lived in the city all her life, and still resides there with her daughter, Jasmine Angelina (about whom she wrote her book Guarding the Moon), her son Samuel Alexander, and her two dogs: a springer spaniel named Vincent Van Go Go Boots and a beagle mix named Thumper” (“Francesca Lia Block,” n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: Cultural Diversity, Differences

Booktalking Ideas:

What is the benefit to embracing differences?

Challenging Issues:

This book is a YA classic that has been challenged and/or banned. THis is because gay characters are featured, AIDS is mentioned, and babies are had not within marriage. I would explain to any adults that this is a reality that some teens face, and that it is beneficial because they will feel as though they are represented.

Novel: Warm Bodies

warmbodies

Bibliographical Information:

Title- Warm Bodies

Author- Isaac Marion

ISBN- 147671746X

Publisher- Atria/ Emily Bestler Books

Copyright- 2012

Genre(s): Post-apocalyptic fiction, paranormal romance, zombie

Interest Age: 14 and up

Reader’s Annotation: R is a zombie but yearns for more in life, when he meets Julie and learns to live again.

Plot Summary:

R is the main character in this novel, and starts the novel already wanting more out of life than to shamble around eating brains. One day, R eats the brains of a boy and sees his thoughts and feelings. This boy is in love with a girl named Julie, who just so happens to be there and shooting other zombies around. He decides to cover her in blood and take her back to the airport that he lives at. They hang out and begin to like one another. The skeleton zombies are called Boneys are not happy about R hanging out with a living person. R’s zombie friend M helps them escape to take Julie back to the stadium where she and others have been living. They travel together, but she leaves him in an abandoned house. He travels to the stadium to get back with Julie and finds out that the Boneys have chased all the changing zombies away. He reunites with Julie, and they go to a bar. He gets in a fight and walks off. He comes across a guard who see’s he is a zombie. R decides to eat him, but he does not eat him fully. The guard comes back as a zombie, and alerts the community. The Boneys have taken over, and Julie must get R out of the stadium. R and Julie kiss, and her dad sees this. He believes she is now a zombies and goes to kill her. But he is stabbed by another person, and falls off the stadium. He is turned into a skeleton zombie. The guards and changing undead defeat the Boneys. R is turned back into a living human.

Critical Evaluation:

This book has hilarious dialog, and I really enjoyed this lighthearted read. This is a great read for teens, and it allows them to venture into the zombie genre with a sense of humor. The author did a great job of keep the characters realistic, with an unrealistic fantasy story line.  R is funny, and the reader is able to connect with him and feel his pain at wanting to live again. The author also does a great job at connecting all the dots and finishing the story line thoroughly. I decided on this novel to include in my collection because it is an apocalyptic novel with humorous dialog and it keeps the reader engaged.

Author Bio/Information:

“Isaac Marion grew up in the mossy depths of the Pacific Northwest, where he worked as a heating installer, a security guard, and a visitation supervisor for foster children before publishing his debut novel in 2010.Warm Bodies became a New York Times bestseller and inspired a major film adaptation. It has been translated into twenty-five languages. Isaac lives in Seattle with his cat, Watson, writing fiction and music and taking pictures of everything” (About the Author, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Are changing zombies a symbol for something we see in our society today?

Challenging Issues:

Violence is apparent in this novel, but I do believe that parents and others will see that it is needed for a zombie novel. I will explain that these scenes of violence are typically seen in zombie or horror fiction, and that it is just an element of the story line. I believe that the story is lighthearted enough that parents will be ok with 14 and up reading this novel. The violence is not excessive.

References

About the Author. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://isaacmarion.com/about/

 

 

Novel: The Murder Complex

themurdercomplex

Bibliographical Information:

Title- The Murder Complex

Author- Lindsay Cummings

ISBN- 0062220004

Publisher- Green Willow Books

Copyright- 2014

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Dystopian

Interest Age: 13 and up

Reader’s Annotation: In a society controlled by The Murder Complex, Meadow must fight against the system and save her family.

Plot Summary:

Meadow has been trained to fight and survive by her father who rarely shows emotions. She lives on a houseboat with her father, brother, and younger sister. Her mother has been murdered. In this society, all diseases have been cured so the only way people can die is from murder. And boy, there is a lot of it! There is a need for murder as the population got out of control because of the cure. That’s where The Murder Complex comes in. These are trained assassins sent to kill people that are picked from a lottery as a form of population control. Meadow begins a new job and meets Zephyr James, who is not what he seems. He in fact is one of those trained assassins, although he does not know this fact either. Zephyr falls in love with Meadow and Zephyr is given the order to kill Meadow. Meadow and Zephyr race to find out how and why The Murder Complex is happening, and find out that Meadow’s mom created both the cure and The Murder Complex. Reader’s are left with a cliffhanger!

Critical Evaluation:

I enjoyed this book! It really keeps readers on the edge of their seats, and has a ton of twists and turns. Lindsay kept the story line consistent throughout the novel. Meadow was a typical YA protagonist, in the fact that she was fit enough to kill without hassle, and she seemed to have a full proof plan. What I really enjoyed about this book is the plot twists. I think it really brings out the best in the characters and allows the readers to be invested in the ending. The story did feel rushed at times, but it came together at the end. It does end with a cliffhanger so I look forward to reading the 2nd book in the series!

Author Bio/ Information:

“Lindsay Cummings is the #1 NYT Bestselling co-author of ZENITH. She writes Science Fiction and Fantasy novels for HarperCollins. She lives in the woods in North Texas, where she writes full time. She is represented by Peter Knapp at New Leaf Literary.

As someone who came to writing through years dealing with Chronic Fatigue, Lindsay is a big advocate for those who deal with health issues, both physical and mental. If you are struggling with either of these things, Lindsay encourages you to keep your chin up, and remember how important you are to this world—even when it may not seem so. If you or someone you know or love is struggling, please reach out” (Who is Lindsay?, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: N/A

Booktalking Issues:

Could this happen in our society?

Do you think the benefits of a cure outweigh the negative side effects in The Murder Complex?

Challenging Issues:

This book features a lot of violence and blood. It is critical to the story line because it explains the idea behind the dystopian society the author creates. It is heavily discouraged by the main characters, and teens will be able to see the literary necessity of the murders that happen within the book. I picked this book for the collection because it fits within the popular dystopian genre and is action packed!

References

Who is Lindsay? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lindsaycummingsbooks.com/