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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Some recent YA reads

Recently, I've read several YA books that were on lists of best books of 2013. Two of them really wowed (is that a word?) me!

Just One Day by Gayle Forman Notes: "Sparks fly when American good girl Allyson encounters laid-back Dutch actor Willem, so she follows him on a whirlwind trip to Paris, upending her life in just one day and prompting a year of self-discovery and the search for true love."--Provided by publisher.

Strengths: The storyline was interesting and I wanted to know what would happen in the end.  The main character showed growth as a young adult over the course of the novel.  That said,
Weaknesses: The main character in this novel was really annoying over the course of most of this novel.  I really felt little sympathy for her, and I find it difficult to read books where I cannot sympathize with the main character.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff Notes: Twelve-year-old Mila travels with her father to upstate New York to visit friends and family, who may lead them to clues to the whereabouts of her father's best friend, who has gone missing.

Strengths: engaging and creepy storyline. I really wanted to know what happened.
Weaknesses: The fact that Rosoff used NO quotation marks throughout the entire book, a book chock FULL of dialogue nearly drove me over the edge.  Interestingly, I'd recently been to a workshop with Matt de la Peña, and we'd just been talking about how different authors use and introduce and tag dialogue.  This method, definitely my LEAST favorite method of all time.  I consider myself a pretty strong reader, and even I found it confusing sometimes.  I think students who are not strong readers would definitely struggle with this book due to the style, while they would have been fine if quotation marks are used.  I have no idea why she chose this method.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider Notes: "Star athlete and prom king Ezra Faulkner's life is irreparably transformed by a tragic accident and the arrival of eccentric new girl Cassidy Thorpe"
Strengths: Some serious nerds are actually very strong characters in this new author's writing.  There are some super smart characters in this novel, and I am a big fan of smart kids.  I also like Ezra's introspection.  The mystery about what really happened to cause Ezra's accident is nicely doled out in snippets throughout the story as is Cassidy's secret.
Weaknesses: I thought this novel was a particularly strong debut.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan Notes: While preparing for the most dreaded assignment at the prestigious Irving School, the Tragedy Paper, Duncan gets wrapped up in the tragic tale of Tim Macbeth, a former student who had a clandestine relationship with the wrong girl, and his own ill-fated romance with Daisy.
Strengths: This was my favorite of these four novels. The mystery and suspense in this novel are masterful. I wanted to finish this novel as quickly as possible but also to savor it because it was so well done.  The two main characters are very well done, and I was really vested in what happened to each of them. As an English teacher, I love the idea of the culminating tragedy paper, and I appreciated the thoughtful discussion between adults and Duncan about the paper near the end of the story.  It was quite thoughtful.
Weaknesses: I actually didn't find Daisy, Duncan's love interest, to really be necessary to the plot, although I know readers who like romance will appreciate it.  This book is reviewed for grades 7 and up, but I don't think the storyline will have too much appeal for middle school students.

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