Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

ImageSummary from Goodreads:

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard–falling from it is even harder.  Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around.  Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge.  If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day.  She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully.  Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first.

Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up To Be.

I wanted to get this book in my classroom library as soon as I saw the book trailer for it.  It seems that in high school, there is always some sort of “drama” going on between students who do not get along.  This seemed to be particularly true of my students last year, so I thought some of my female students could relate to this novel.

What I really liked about this book was how it immediately drew me in.  The conflict starts within the first few pages, and I wanted to keep reading to find out how Regina was going to handle each situation she faced with the Fearsome Foursome.  And oh does the conflict escalate!  Sometimes, it was a little difficult to read, just because the events are  that disturbing.

I suppose one issue I had while reading was wondering how true to life this book could be.  Are girls really this mean to each other?  Do events like this really happen?  When I was in school (eleven years ago) I never witnessed anything this extreme.  And today, as a high school teacher, I am unaware of anything this severe.  However, maybe I am as clueless as Regina’s teachers.  I would like to think not, but it also makes me want to be more observant and more sensitive to what teens are going through.

When it comes to recommending this book, it would definitely be to teenage girls who may be going through such an ordeal.  I think this book would encourage students to seek help.  There were so many times when I wanted Regina to tell someone what was happening, so perhaps it would entice readers to do the same.  Courtney Summers tackled this subject matter openly, and I think young adult readers will really appreciate this.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenSummary from Goodreads:

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography,Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I have been so excited to read this book after reading great reviews and watching the phenomenal book trailer!  As a lover of old photography, the fact that this book contains a collection of intriguing and slightly spooky black and white snapshots only made me want to read it more.  One of my amazing students bought this book for me for Christmas, so I breezed through this wonderful novel while relaxing over vacation.  I must say this is one of the first novels in recent memory that I couldn’t put down and often found myself thinking about when I wasn’t reading it.

Right away this novel gets you immersed in the story.  I absolutely loved the mystery behind Jacob’s grandfather’s stories.  And when Jacob travels to the island, Riggs’s imagery made me want to get on a boat and sail there myself.  (The description reminded me of one of my favorite mystery novels, Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs, for those of you familiar with this book.)

The plot kept me guessing throughout, and there were enough twists to keep my interest.  The unique cast of characters are so different from any others I have read, and I absolutely loved getting to know them along the way.  

I was slightly disappointed in the ending, simply because it is left open-ended, obviously allowing for a future sequel. Personally, I am not a fan of sequels/series, but I think this may be a story in which I make an exception.  I cannot wait to find out what Jacob and the others are up to.  All said, this book to which I was so looking forward, did not disappoint and is a very satisfying read!

 

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going BovineSummary from Goodreads:  

Can Cameron find what he’s looking for?

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

I became a fan of Libba Bray after reading her book Beauty Queens last summer.  After learning of Going Bovine from a book trailer, and seeing it was a Printz Award-winner, I was very excited when I finally purchased it.  Right from the start, I thought Cameron was a very witty character whose narration sounded like a lot of my high school students!  Bray captured the cynical male teen voice very well.  Combine this with her dense, descriptive writing, and it is one of those books that you watch in your mind like a movie.

So much happens within the pages in this book, that at times I found myself struggling to keep up.  Cameron and his sidekicks go on a wild adventure that reminded me of Kerouac’s On the Road.  Unfortunately for me, while I was reading this novel, I was very busy in my personal/professional life, and was not reading consistently.  Therefore, when I did get a chance to get back into Going Bovine, I was often struggling to remember what had been going on.  

Fortunately, I read the last 1/4 of the book in a very short amount of time, and was able to get into the flow.  I found the ending very satisfying, and despite the seemingly randomness of the plot, was happy that these jumbled events came together for a purpose.  I like that this book is very different from a lot of the YA literature available today, and I respect that Bray writes in a realistic tone that teens will find humorous, honest, and meaningful.

Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Summary from Goodreads:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near – misses end with the French kiss Anna – and readers – have long awaited?

I have been wanting to read this book for a long time, and finally bought it for my classroom library this fall.  As will happen with a good book, it was nabbed up by a student right away, and didn’t get returned until a couple weeks ago.  Therefore, I finally got a chance to read it!  I will admit, I was worried I might not like this book as much as I wanted to, just because I typically do not read romantic stories.  But I must say any worries I had melted away within the first three pages.

Right away, I got to know Anna’s personality.  She is witty, down-to-earth, and completely adorable.  I loved hearing her thoughts through the first-person narration.  Her experiences with friends and romance took me back to the feeling of being a teenager–those magical moments of “firsts” and those difficult moments that seem to consume you.

I really enjoyed getting to know Anna and her newly-found group of friends.  These characters are very realistic and you feel like you get to know them within the pages.  I also enjoyed reading the descriptions of Paris–the monuments, food, people, theaters.  Though I have never been to Paris, I was able to visualize the beautiful setting so clearly.

This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy realistic fiction that is witty and charming.  Readers will not be disappointed with Mrs. Perkins’s wonderful novel!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Summary from GoodReads One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

I am a huge fan of John Green’s work, and I read most of his books before reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  Because this book is co-written by David Levithan (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist), I was very anxious to read this novel.  The story goes back and forth between the perspectives of the two Will Grayson’s–one written by Green, the other by Levithan.  Green’s Grayson is one of those lovable characters similar to his other protagonists.  He has a group of friends with unique personalities, and you can’t help but love these teens as they work their way through high school, relationships, and their own production of a musical.  Levithan’s Grayson is a little darker, a little more secretive.  It took me a little longer to warm up to this character, but once I did, he became one of those characters you just have to root for.

After reading the book’s summary, I knew the two Will Grayson’s eventually met, but I felt like this took a little longer than I wanted.  Maybe I was just anxious for them to meet, but I would have liked Will and Will to make their connection sooner.  Surprisingly, their mutual friend Tiny becomes a main focus of the story, and he is one of those memorable characters who touches your heart.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy realistic fiction, mixed with heart-felt friendships, humor, and a feel-good coming-of-age story.  One of my students is reading it now, and as new conflicts develop in the plot, he can’t wait to talk to me about it.  This is one read that is should be on your “Books to Consider” list!

Finding Jack by Gareth Crocker

Fletcher lost his wife and young daughter in a tragic plane crash.  No longer finding purpose to life, he enlists in the Vietnam War not caring if he makes it home or not.  While on a mission in the jungle, Fletcher and his platoon discover an injured yellow lab.  After disobeying orders, Fletcher and the other soldiers take the dog as their own and use its skills to protect them on missions.  When the war is finally over, the US government orders all service dogs to be left behind in Vietnam, calling them “surplus military equipment,”  but Fletcher refuses to leave his best friend behind.

I suppose this book is not technically a  “YA” novel.  However, as a teacher I know how many of my students are animal lovers, and I think many of them would love to read this novel!  This book was recommended to me by my local public librarian, whose opinion I totally trust.  But I have to admit that books about dogs make me a little nervous, because they usually end with me sobbing into a box of tissues.

Finding Jack just sounded too good to pass up, and I am glad I took the chance to read it.  As a dog owner and lover, I could relate to Fletcher’s bond with Jack, and was moved by the other soldiers’ efforts to help get Jack up on his feet.  I will admit, it took me a little longer than I would have liked for me to get into the story line, but once I did, it was a real page turner.  I also would have liked to have known the characters a little better, maybe through more conversations with Fletcher and the other men.

Overall, I would recommend this to people who enjoy books about pets and their owners, as well as people who enjoy stories about war.  I typically am not drawn to war novels, but this one had enough human emotion in it to make me relate to it.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 

Sam is a popular high school senior, who seems to have everything going for her–popularity, friends, a boyfriend–even a bouquet of roses signifying her status in the halls of Thomas Jefferson High.  But when Sam is involved in a fatal car crash, she finds her self  suddenly waking up to her alarm thinking it was all a nightmare.  Eventually she comes to realize however, that she is re-living the last day of her life over again… and again…and again.  Seven times, in fact.  As the days go by Sam sees the people in her life in new ways, and also starts to see herself in a new light.

The premise of this novel instantly intrigued me, and I found myself drawn quickly into the plot.  I was surprised at how much I disliked the main character and her “mean girl” friends, but this was also what kept me wanting to read more.  I so wanted to see the character change, redeem herself, and become a better person who is able to change things around.  (A Christmas Carol has always been one of my favorite stories for this same reason.)  As each day of Sam’s life repeats itself, it was interesting to see how events could change, and how those events impacted one another.  However, once I got to about the fifth day of the story, I felt like it needed to come to an end sooner.  Despite its length and repetition, Before I Fall was still a great read that I would recommend.  It leaves the reader thinking about the fragility of his or her own life, the importance of treating people with kindness, and appreciating the little things in life.

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