Young Adult

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

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giver2The Giver
Written by Lois Lowry
Published January 1, 1993
Genre/Topics:Dystopia, Science Fiction
Ages: 13+, 240 pages
Awards: Newbery Medal & others

Jonas lives in a perfect community. Everyone’s spouse, occupation, and children are carefully chosen for each individual. People in the Community do not know pain, war, or even love. They live in a world of Sameness where nobody gives others attention, positive or negative. In the Community, individuals feel safe and this world is all they know.

When Jonas turns twelve he attends the ceremony to determine his role in the Community. He’s signaled out and chosen to be The Receiver who gains all memories, pain and pleasure, from The Giver. He now receives special training as The Giver shares all memories only to Jonas. Jonas now learns the truth about what occurred in the Community’s past.

I read The Giver way back in middle school and disliked the book. Recently, someone was shocked and wanted me to read it again. I read The Giver again and loved it. I don’t think I fully understood the book’s story and message. I suggest The Giver for older ages to have a good discussion. I think The Giver is much more than a standard dystopia that’s so common today. The Giver is the first book in the The Giver Quartet Series. Later this year, The Giver will be released as a motion picture. I’m not sure the movie can match the book, but isn’t that always the case? I recommend The Giver.



Book Review: Tangerine by Edward Bloor

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Written by Edward Bloor 
Published by Sandpiper in 1997
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Sports, School 
Young Adult
320 pages 


Twelve-year-old Paul and his family recently moved to Tangerine, Florida. Paul is legally blind, but can still see with his glasses. In fact, Paul feels that he can see and sense things that others around him cannot see. However, nobody seems to listen to him. Strange events occur in Tangerine, Florida, such as constant lightning and fires. His mom’s mainly concerned with the odd town situations. His father only focuses on his high school brother’s goal of becoming the next great football player. Paul finally finds his ‘groove’ when he joins the middle school soccer team, although even then it takes time for him to really fit in. Tangerine is entirely written from Paul’s perspective in journal entry format. 

I enjoyed Tangerine, but I felt it was rushed at the end and there were loose ties. My book edition included questions in the back. I think Tangerine would be useful for great discussion in the classroom. It’s listed on Amazon as ages 10+ and others state Tangerine as a Young Adult book. I think the book’s length and sensitive topics at times may lead to a Young Adult, but Tangerine could be read by middle school age readers.

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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Written by R.J. Palacio
Published by Knopf on February 14, 2012 
Genre/Topics: Realistic Fiction, Peer Relations
315 pages 
Ages: 10+

Three Word Review: Heartwarming, Compassion, Thought-Provoking

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that held him back from attending school due to numerous surgeries. However, now Auggie is a ten-year-old boy who is about to attend school for the first time. He desires to be ordinary and not be constantly stared at or judged by his face. Auggie knows exactly why people turn their head or gasp when they see him for the first time. His favorite day is Halloween when he can wear a different ‘mask’ and blend in. School is filled with the typical middle school drama, but Auggie has even more difficulty as classmates tease, bully, and ignore him. Auggie makes friends with a few who see the true Auggie.  Wonder changes perspectives between different individuals who come into Auggie’s life, but it is mainly from his viewpoint. Hopefully, Wonder will make you look past outward appearances to see the real individual. I stated that this book is for ages 10+, but everyone can enjoy the book and take its message. In fact, it’s my city library’s Tacoma Reads Together book for 2013 for all ages. I plan to attend an  author book talk hosted by the library.

Book Review: Stargirl

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Written by Jerry Spinelli 
Published May 14, 2002 by Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Topics: School Situations, Young Love, Individuality
Young Adult, 208 pages 

Stargirl is unlike any girl at Mica High School, because she doesn’t try to be like “them”. Instead, Stargirl is only content to be herself. As soon as she arrives at Mica her name is whispered in the hallways and she gets curious stares from classmates, because she’s nothing like “them”. Stargirl wears long skirts, plays a ukulele, sings Happy Birthday to everyone, and even brings her pet rat named Cinnamon to school. Stargirl is also sincere and deeply cares for others without seeking acknowledgment.  Students begin to wonder if she notices the stares and if she’ll ever become more like them.

Opinions about Stargirl gradually change at Mica High as she’s admired. People desire to see her unique spirit at sporting games. However, events occur and just as fast as people grow to appreciate her it’s suddenly taken away again.

The book is told from Leo Borlock’s perspective who is torn between amazement that Stargirl doesn’t conform to others and desires that she act more like “them”. A love between Leo and Stargirl slowly develops, but Leo is often unsure if he can handle the stares as well. However, Stargirl doesn’t do “normal” well.

I thought Stargirl was an enjoyable book that makes you think about what’s truly important. Is it more important to dare to be different or be among many? Jerry Spinelli is a Newbery Medal Winner for Maniac Magee. There is a sequel, Love, Stargirl, that is from her perspective a year later. Stargirl won numerous awards including ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2001.


Young Adult is for All Readers

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I found this newspaper article from about young adult books. I love the library and I’ll admit that I don’t scan the YA section as much as I should. I don’t like to put books into age groups, since many can be enjoyed by different ages. For example, Harry Potter mania has been read by both genders to grandparents to young children. Young adult books offer a wide range of topics, such as peer pressure, drugs, coming-of-age, relationship struggles, bullying, school conflicts, biographies, society issues, adventure, and so  many wonderful new life experiences. There has been debate that YA books may be graphic, bold, and too mature for readers. Well, life isn’t perfect and many individuals deal with these issues on a daily basis. Reading helps us understand how we fit into society. Books help us understand ourselves. Reading YA books as a parent or teacher can also help you understand those teens around you. So, next time you’re unsure about which book to read next stroll over to the Young Adult section. You may be pleasantly surprised about what you found. I promise to take a closer look too.

Selected Young Adult Books:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne-Collins
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Looking for Alaska by John Green 
The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg   
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier 
The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner
Forever by Judy Blume 
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

What Young Adult books do you suggest?

American Library Association’s 2011 Best Young Adult Book List  

Amazon’s Essential Young Adult Books


Book Review: Mockingbird

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Written by Kathryn Erskine
Published: 2010 by Philomel
 224 pages
Ages: 10 & up
Topics: Asperger’s syndrome, school shooting, death, social situations

Caitlin is a fifth grader who prefers her world in black and white where the colors don’t blend, so it’s not confusing in a world already difficult to understand. Caitlin has Asperger’s syndrome, which is similar to autism. She has difficulty with social skills and doesn’t make friends easily, for her the perfect school group is working alone. She doesn’t make eye contact and has trouble identifying facial expressions. When she becomes anxious in a social situation she often sucks on her shirt or fidgets with her hands. She meets with the school counselor who teaches her social skills and the importance to make friends to get ready for middle school next year. Caitlin also visits the school counselor to manage her brother Devon’s recent death. The brother died in a school shooting that occurred in a small community. Caitlin doesn’t understand exactly why her brother died and searches in her dictionary to learn about the heart. Finally, Caitlin discovers after reading the word closure that it is exactly what her and her father need to manage Devon’s death.

The book’s title Mockingbird refers to how her brother loved the film To Kill a Mockingbird and he often called Caitlin Scout. Caitlin often states that her own dad is similar to Atticus. I had difficulty putting an age frame on Mockingbird, since the topic is complex and sensitive. The book only refers to the shooting from Caitlin’s perspective as The Day Our Life Fell Apart and doesn’t get graphic or discuss any details. The book focuses more upon Caitlin’s daily struggles to adjust into a colorful world, but still being herself. Mockingbird won a YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Best Fiction Award in 2011. It also won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2010.

Caitlin, Dad says. The whole town is upset by what happened. They want to help.
     They want to be with you. Talk to you. Take you places.
     I don’t want to be with them or talk to them or go places with them.
     He sighs. They want to help you deal with life, Caitlin…without Devon. 


     I don’t know what this means but the people come to our house. I wish I could hide in Devon’s room but I’m not allowed in there now. Not since The Day Our Life Fell Apart…


– Kathryn Erskine (Mockingbird, pages 10-11)

Book Review: The Hunger Games

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The Hunger Games

Written by Suzanne Collins 
Published: 2008 by Scholastic 
Young Adult,  Science Fiction, 374 pages

I always love book recommendations and The Hunger Games was mentioned more than once. I now understand why individuals love the series. Imagine a world that is no longer North America that is instead Panem, which is divided into twelve districts. The Capitol controls the districts by forcing one boy and one girl aged twelve to eighteen into the annual Hunger Games where they conquer until death. The entire match is televised until only one child is left. Yes, this book is not for those with a weak heart. It’s almost as though the nation is watching the Olympics, except the stakes are more extreme. Throughout The Hunger Games, individuals battle against each other with various difficulties, such as the climate and limited resources. Some districts are more favored to win as they have better resources and coached their youth at a young age. The winning district earns rewards. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen finds herself in the Hunger Games after she takes her sister’s place. Katniss has personal experience in survival, but is it enough to last until the end? The Hunger Games is more than just fighting until death as the youth face humanity and life challenges.

Book & Film Review: Flipped

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by Wendlin Van Draanen

Ages 10 & up, 224 pages

Flipped is an adorable book about young love and coming-of-age. The first time Juli Baker looked into Bryce Loski’s eyes she flipped for him and desires her first kiss. They meet in second grade when Bryce moves across the street. Bryce wishes he could have space from Juli even though they hardly talk. The book flips perspectives between Bryce and Juli, so the reader learns their struggles as they deal with life and feelings. Bryce’s grandfather lives with his family and he questions Bryce why he isn’t Juli’s friend. Bryce hasn’t realized that Juli is the ‘girl next door’ with spunk and tries everything to get rid of her. Gossip, misunderstandings, and situations occur and their feelings for each other flip: Bryce soon can’t stop thinking about Juli and Juli doesn’t want to speak to Bryce ever again. Will they ever flip for each other at the same time? Flipped is a very humorous and sweet book with adolescent love struggles.


Directed by Rob Reiner

PG, 90 minutes – 2010

I saw the movie before I read the book. I didn’t even realize it was based upon a book until the credits. Bryce Loski is played by Callan McAuliffe and Juli Baker is played by Madeline Carroll. The film is set during the late 1950s and early 60s, unlike the book that didn’t really provide an exact time frame. I thought the movie was very close to the book and the reader won’t be disappointed. It’s a family friendly movie with no violence, perhaps three swear words used the entire film, no real ‘sensitive’ topics (besides their feelings for each other), and provides wonderful awkward moments during junior high that I’m sure many viewers can relate to. I highly suggest this delightful movie!

Censored Writers Share Stories

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Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers

Edited by Judy Blume

Young Adult, 198 pages

This book is a collection of short stories by authors whose work was either challenged or banned. After each story the author provides their censorship beliefs and personal experiences.  The stories are diverse from losing virginity, being mugged, education struggles, family responsibilities, and more. Each character finds himself or herself in a place they weren’t meant to be. The book provides resources to contact if a book becomes threatened and censored. Also, there is a note from the director of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). The book’s sales benefit the NCAC. I think this is a great book for a sneak about censorship at a personal level from authors themselves.

In the age of censorship I mourn the loss of books that will never be written, I mourn the voices that will be silenced – writers’ voices, teachers’ voices, students’ voices – and all because of fear. How many have resorted to self-censorship? How many are saying to themselves, “Nope…can’t write about that. Can’t teach that book. Can’t have that book in our collection. Can’t let my student write that editorial in the school paper.”

– Judy Blume

Authors featured:

Judy Blume
Norma Fox Mazer 
Julius Lester
Rachel Vail
Katherine Paterson
Jacqueline Woodson
Harry Mazer
Walter Dean Myers
Susan Beth Pfeffer
David Klass
Paul Zindel
Chris Lynch
Norma Klein

Book Review: The Sledding Hill

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The Sledding Hill

by Chris Crutcher

Young Adult, 230 pages

I found The Sledding Hill after searching for books that discuss censorship. I’m interested both in challenged or banned books as well as those that mention censorship. The book is about Eddie Proffit who lost his dad and best friend, Billy Bartholomew, within months. However, most of the story is told through the eyes of Billy who watches his friend during his difficult times. It reminded me a little of Lovely Bones.  Eddie is so shaken up by these deaths that he becomes mute and talks to no one. An English teacher introduces the book Warren Peece (fake book) and there is controversy about the issues in the book. Some controversy topics in Warren Peece are a gay character, swearing, an abortion, and blasphemy. There are no actual quotes from Warren Peece. I think it would be interesting if the author created a book within a book. However, there’s a very interesting twist that happens with the author that I don’t want to spoil. Eddie and other students struggle to get their book back against the school board, church, and a youth religious group. I think this is a wonderful book for many teen issues and a great stepping stone to discuss censorship. The Sledding Hill itself may be considered threatening, which makes it a great reason to read it.

     “Folks, I’ve seen this before. They’ll tell you it’s about family values and Christian values and morality and our need to get control over our educational system. But it’s you. That’s it. Just you. If you’re going to stop this, you’re going to have to stop it yourselves. Decide whether you think your mind is strong enough to hear tough stories, told in their native tongue – and let the censors know.

– Chris Crutcher (The Sledding Hill, page 100-101)

A similar book is a review I wrote for The Day They Came to Arrest the Book. I wanted to re-post it, but decided not. Teens are fighting to get The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn back after it was banned in the classroom and library. It goes through the court and school board events. I decided to post a quotation from the book:

“No group should have veto power over what books we can read,” Barney volunteered.

“Exactly.” The librarian nodded her head. “Think, Kate. If Huckleberry Finn is going to be thrown out of school because it offends some black parents, what’s to stop other groups of parents from getting up their lists of books they want out of here? Catholics, Jews, feminists, anti-feminists, conservatives, liberals, Greeks, Turks, Armenians. Where does it end, Kate?”

– Nat Hentoff (The Day They Came to Arrest the Book)

The Day They Came to Arrest the Book

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The Day They Came to Arrest the Book by Nat Hentoff

Young Adult, 176 pages


I’m completely against any form of censorship and this book by Nat Hentoff helps individuals, especially teens understand the importance of what exactly censorship is and its consequences. The subject of the book is simple: the school board wants to ban The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn from the curriculum and school library after a parent complains, however not everyone agrees. The Day They Came to Arrest the Book reflects different opinions with teachers, parents, school board, community, and students. This book could be used in the classroom simultaneously while reading The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn to form their own viewpoint about why the book is so often banned and whether they agree. The writing itself is not spectacular, but it’s the message that sparks a classroom discussion about censorship. The topic may be complex and sensitive at times, so I suggest this book to middle school age and older.

opening page:

“No group should have veto power over what books we can read,” Barney volunteered.

“Exactly.” The librarian nodded her head. “Think, Kate. If Huckleberry Finn is going to be thrown out of school because it offends some black parents, what’s to stop other groups of parents from getting up their lists of books they want out of here? Catholics, Jews, feminists, anti-feminists, conservatives, liberals, Greeks, Turks, Armenians. Where does it end, Kate””

Banned book week occurs  September 24−October 1, 2011, so I’ll highlight different banned books. You’d be surprised which books have been banned or challenged in the past. How many of these classics have you read that were banned or challenged?

You can also examine my banned/challenged bookshelf on Goodreads which is on my blogroll.