Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Fold by An Na

I bought this book a while ago at my bookstore, for some reason I put it on my shelf and forgot about it. About a month ago I saw the bright green cover and grabbed it to read on my break. The Fold is about a high school student named Joyce who is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to accept plasic surgery from her aunt to change the shape of her eyes. The idea of Korean women getting the fold put into their eyes, so that they might look more Caucasian is not something that was new to me. I can remember writing a paper in my freshman writing class at NYU about an MTV special I had seen on the topic hosted by Su Chin Pak (who is awesome!) I also recently watched the surprisingly awesome show, Jessica Simpson's Price of Beauty, where she went to Japan and met with a woman who was considering the surgery.
So while the surgery might not be national news, it is talked about in pop culture, especially on MTV. The book was great. Joyce was kind of aggravating sometimes, but the author more than made up for a lackluster main character with awesome supporting characters. My favorite was Joyce's sister Helen, who throughout the course of the book goes through a huge transformation of her own. The whole family is effected by both Joyce and Helen's dilemmas and that is what I loved most about this novel, it's description of family.
A lot of YA novels leave out important stuff that every day, real life teens experience. There is a great post on what's missing in YA at who is one of the best bloggers out there. There was also a recent NY Times article about parents in YA literature and how they mostly fit ridiculous sterotypes, there just arent any YA books with normal families. Now, I know that isn't true, and YA lit with well rounded families do exist, but they are far and few between. And while I wouldn't necessarily say that Joyce's family is completely normal, they are well rounded and realistic, and this is a breath of fresh air. I love reading about real families and the struggles they go through, and An Na does a great job of telling the story of this family.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In My Mailbox

So I said that I wasn't going to keep doing all of these posts because I feel bad and I don't want this to become all about the books I get at my awesome job. BUT I am super excited about one particular book that I got this week from Little,Brown and I wanted to share my excitement. YAY! So Roger, the LB rep, was kind enought to get me an arc of... Beautiful Darkness!!! I am so excited for this book, I loved Beautiful Creatures so much and when I heard there was a sequel coming out I got so excited. Everyone should read these books, yay! Thanks Roger!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

I LOVED this book as a child. I know it isn't new or anything, but I want to review it because it is just an incredible book that deals with an important piece of history that I personally, did not really know a lot about. The book deals with various hilarious incidents on the life of the main character Kenny, who is around eleven years old. Kenny has an older brother Byron who is a little bit of a bully and a younger sister Jo that he adores. Most of the book focuses on the crazy antics that Kenny gets up to and the relationship he has with the rest of the people in his family. Byron is pretty mean to Kenny and picks on him a lot, but he also stands up for him when it is necessary and gets in to some pretty crazy situations himself. Most of the books is funny and light, any middle schooler reading it would think it's funny and hilarious and it is. However, towards the end of the book, the whole family takes a trip down to Birmingham (like in the title!) While the trip starts in the same vein as the rest of the book, (crazy pranks and angry parents) it takes a much more serious turn when Kenny's sister Jo is at the 16 street Baptist Church on the day it gets bombed in a vicious hate crime. Here is some information about the bombing if you want to know more:

Suffice to say, the book takes a slightly more intense turn (although it ends on an upbeat note) and we the readers are introduced to an event in history that is often overlooked.

I think it is great that there are books out there that cover this lesser known historical events. It might surprise some people out there that a lot of schools today don't cover things that seem really important to us. When I was in New York recently I was shocked that people my own age had never heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, so it is great that this particular event is being represented in a way that is extremely accessible to children. Are there other events out there that need a bigger presence in YA literature?

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

I am not going to lie. Part of why I love this book so so so much is that it takes place in Boston, where I live and I enjoy reading a book and shouting out "I've been there!" multiple times per chapter. But I also love this book because it is probably one of the most well written, witty young adult books I have ever read in ANY category, not just books with LGBT characters. This book also has many other things that I enjoy, here is a list:

Musical Theater
Julie Andrews AND Mary Poppins
Deaf Culture
International Intrigue (ok, just a the daughter of an ambassador)
Dreams coming true
Unrealistic jaunts to NYC
Happy Endings

So much awesome stuff right? The book focuses mainly on three characters, T.C. Augie and Alejandra (the aforementioned daughter of an ambassador). T.C. is trying to get Alejandra to date him, Augie is coming to terms with his sexuality and Alejandra is trying to break free from her parents rigid expectations. It all culminates in an awesome musical theater production and other fun stuff that is too spoilery to talk about. There is also a really great subplot where T.C. befriends a deaf orphan who he (T.C.) thinks is a baseball savant. It might seem that the Boy rescues sad orphan from horrible future plot would be cheesy and overplayed, but it is totally heartwarming and touching.

This book is great for everyone to read, students, teachers, random adults, bloggers, everyone ever. Just go read it. Now.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where My Interests Lay

One of the reasons I have decided to make some changes to my blog is because of my specific interest in LGBT YA literature. I can't really remember what started my interest in this genre of books, but when I was in graduate school, getting a Master's degree in education, I focuses mainly on books with LGBT characters or by LGBT author's during my studies. As a former educator in the NYC public school system, I noticed that they read a very wide variety of books either as a whole class, or in small groups. Additionally, a large part of my college education focused specifically on bringing multicultural books into the English classroom. Obviously I feel that books by and about POC are extremely important for teens and middle grade students to read, I hope to focus on lots of those books in upcoming posts. But I have noticed, that even as schools trend towards reading more and more diverse titles, books by and about LGBT characters are still far and few between.

**LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. I realize that the acronym has grown to include QQIA [Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Allies] but for the purpose of this site, I think LGBT will suffice, let me know if I should change that.**

I think it is really important for the English classroom, and schools in general, to be more inclusive spaces. Many schools are already extremely supportive in creating safe spaces for their students and faculty, but I think many middle school and high school students, especially in areas that aren't major cities, are still sometimes fearful of being who they truly are. I would like for all students to feel safe and comfortable in school, school should not be a place where you are afraid. Hopefully this blog can show students and teachers good books to use in creating a more inclusive space for all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel Fattah

Alright, here goes with my first review after lots of exciting changes! Ok, not that many changes but I AM going to try reviewing more books by POC and LGBT authors, liked I just said, one post ago.

This book is great, I can't really think of many other books that deal with the issues Muslim teens face, or actually any at all besides this one and Fattah's other book "Ten Things I Hate About Me." I read this book while I was sitting in my furnitureless apartment in the middle of Borough Park, Brooklyn. I had all hardwood floors and I repeat, NO FURNITURE. I sat on the floor for four hours, waiting for my bed to be delivered (damn you sleepy's) and read this book the entire time. So basically this book saved my sanity and boredom, but not my aching spinal chord.

The main character in this book, Amal, makes the decision early on to start wearing a hijab (head scarf) full time. Her decision is met with a lot of negativity, from her friends, her schoolmates, and even her family, but she sticks to her guns and doesn't let them bring her down! Ok, it's not as easy as that and she goes through a lot of inner turmoil and angst (my favorite) as she comes to terms with her decision.

Backing up Amal are a super duper cast of supporting characters, her four entertaining best friends, some cute boys, some bitchy girls, and her hilarious family.

Like I previously mentioned, the issues that Muslim teens face are not extremely prevalent in YA literature. I wish there were more books in general that dealt with teens facing religious issues and questioning their beliefs or their parents beliefs, or not questioning it, but embracing it and loving it. I don't have any particular religious ideal to push, but I think that many teens are struggling with these topics in real life and just like other things YA (sex, family, friendship, etc) religion is an important part of growing and forming your identity (for some, not all). Let's have some more of these books people!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


So I haven't been keeping up with my blog as much as I'd like. I don't want to this to just become a dumping ground for me to post all the books I get for review and I have decided to make a change. Tonight at dinner my friends and I were talking about the political role blogs can play, and while it is definitely not necessary for a blog to be political or discuss controversial topics, it is a good place for these topics when they arise. One of the things I am most interested in the study of YA literature are the voices that have typically been silenced. There has been much discussion about the lack of books, and book reviews, of YA lit by or about POC (People of Color), as well as other groups of people who are oppressed or minoritized (which isn't a really word, but it means what it sounds like.) Specifically I am talking about books by and about LGBT people. Lots of blogs don't want to focus on books that fall specifically within this category which is totally valid, I mean not everyone has focus on a 'very important issue' but I have decided I want to.

So this is where the changes come in, I am going to try to review mainly books by or about POC and LGBT people (or both!) I already have some books that fall into that category, but now I will hopefully have a lot more! Of course, if I read something that I consider to be "the best book ever" and it doesn't fall into that category, I am still going to review it.

My hope is, as a teacher and a future librarian, one day we won't need to have specific places to go to discuss these types of books, that the literature students, teens and everyone reads is just naturally diverse. But until then, here goes!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

In My Mailbox (6)

I got some good stuff from Random House this week! I also bought a couple of very exciting books including


Runaway by Meg Cabot
The Exile of Gigi Lane by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
The Metal Children - Adam Rapp
Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults by Carrie Hintz and Elaine Ostry


Nancy and Plum by Betsy Macdonald
Notes From the Blender by Trish Cook and rendan Halpin
Rich and Mad by William Nicholson
A Crack in the Sky by Mark Peter Hughes
Museum of Thieves by Liam Tanner

Very exciting stuff!