Monday, August 15, 2011

Freaks and Revelations

Freaks and RevelationsJason is a 13 year old kid who ends up homeless after his mom finds out he's gay and refuses to allow him to live in her house. The story is based on a true story about two boys from different worlds who's lives collided in a very real and tragic way. The worst part is how real this story feels.

Parents can do really messed up stuff. Even though its been 6 months since I read this book, it's stuck in my head. That's when I know I have to tell other people about it. Being in a profession like teaching, the thing that is hardest about reading a book like this is that you have actually met people that could treat their kids like the mom in this book did. I have also met many a kid who could treat another human being with the disrespect that we see in this book. I have also met kids that embraced others in spite of their differences. This book has both of these types of people and it is their raw interactions with eachother that will stick with you long after the book is gone. This is another story that won't make you feel good, but it will make you think.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ender's Game rated E for Everyone.

Ender Wiggin is just 5 when he leaves home, but Ender is a kid like none other, or so they believe. Some see him as the only hope for humanity (yeah I know, I work with kids and I would seriously be depressed if a 5 year old was the hope for all humanity even if he is a freakin' genius). Ender (like most 5 year olds) doesn't want to play the game but to everyone else it's Ender's Game.

It's so hard to talk about books like this because everything I say is just going to ruin the story. This is a great book and pretty heartbreaking at times. The small things are important because this is a story about a kid forced to do adult things because adults are unfit or unable to do them for themselves. Every event brings depth to the character of Ender. I got upset a number of times as I watched this kid struggle to battle all that is good and evil about himself (hefty stuff for an elementary school kid)while having adults pile on the problems to see if he will break. Great story telling, but then again all the awards this book has won have already said this. This book was recommended (indirectly of course)by John Green. Being a huge John Green fan (Looking For Alaska, Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson Will Grayson), all it took for me was for him to say this was one of his favorite books and I put it on my to-read list. This book is another one for anyone's to-read list. Ender is a character you will find yourself rooting for and at times wondering why you still are. Ender's Game will challenge us to remember that after all, its never just a game.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Am the Messenger. No, really, I am.

19 year old Ed Kennedy cracks me up. He's not going anywhere and doesn't think much about it until the cards start showing up in the mail. He even manages to stop a bank robbery without even really meaning to. He does it while proving a point that his friends cab is a piece of crap car. The cards start out with addresses and problems to solve but each ride takes him further away from the Ed he has become.

This book was the perfect blend of funny, emotional, and thought provoking. I can't say that everyone will love it, but I have to put it in my top books because it made me laugh and think and those are two things I can't ever get enough of. How many of us are floating through life making little difference to ourselves let alone others. This is the kind of book that will cause you to ask yourself, what difference do I make. And when its all said and done, at least you'll be thinking about what it all means. Just remember, I'm just the messenger

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nothing leaves me feeling...messed up.

Wow. I haven't written a review in a while but this book deserves a response. I had no idea what to expect. When a 7th grade student stands up and walks out of class shouting about the meaninglessness of life, the shock of it all leaves the other students stunned. Each day after, he sits in a tree in front of his house shouting out to passers by about the futility of all they do. Things go crazy when the other students try to show him just how wrong he is.

This book left me as stunned as it leaves most readers. I like the book a lot. I don't like it because it made me laugh, or cry, or feel happy or anything remotely so. I liked it because it made me feel. It made me think and feel and twist my face and squint my eyes as I helplessly watched this whole thing play out. I wanted it to stop but it wouldn't and so neither could I. The best art won't leave you even after you leave it behind. This book needs to be on the read list for all YA readers. It is a book that is definitely not about nothing and will most likely leave you feeling something.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Outsiders, are not outsiders anymore.

Gangs and guys named Ponyboy. I know, sounds tough doesn’t it. Okay, names aside, this book is really about growing up in the hood. It seriously brought back some of the tension of growing up around gang stuff and the great social divide (at my school those were two separate issues but both present). The economic divisions and the tension that results are still there in just about every urban city in the nation. This book made me feel the anxiety of going to school and holding down the stress that results from a regular barrage of violence that you see in the halls and then doing everything you can to avoid being part of it. Ponyboy and his buddies are trying to live life, for the most part, without all the trouble that surrounds them. Unable to just change their surroundings, they stick it out in their neighborhood and deal with all that comes with that. In the end, violence gets what it wants and they live with what it brings.

The Outsiders, was written by a 16 year old S.E. Hinton. That blows me away. I read stuff written by some of the brightest public school kids in Oklahoma City and nothing is ever like this. The book stirred up all of those fight our flight feelings that I often went to school with throughout middle school and high school. As a middle school teacher in an urban school district, it dredges up deep issues that are at the root of many of the problems that affect our schools. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a student who always seemed to be in a fight. When I sat down with him he said, “Mr. C., the thing you don’t realize is that this doesn’t end here at school. If I don’t do this at school where there is someone to stop it, then it happens out there where there is no one to. I would rather do it here where I know it will end.” What do you say to that? This book is a look into the lives of the kids for whom it never ends and there is rarely anyone to stop it before it goes too far. This book is a classic by my standards, and a book that should make it on every to-read list.  Not everyone is going to love it but I think it has enough in there for most if you stick with it all the way through.