12523Good looking.  Fine.  Cute. Hunky.  Sexy.  Hot.  The word sexy can best be defined as being sexually suggestive, stimulating, or appealing.  However equivocal the word, since it can be used to describe how one feels and how one is perceived, that is the main focal point of the Young Adult novel by Joyce Carol Oates.  The novel begins with an intriguing first line which sucked me in immediately.  “Soon as he turned sixteen, put on weight and began to get attention for his looks, things began to turn weird.” (Sexy, p. 1)  That first chapter then continues on with descriptions of how good-looking, shy and sexy Darren Flynn is. Of course these are the opinions of the way he is perceived, spoken by the narrator.  Narrated in the third person with peppered dialogue here and there, we get to the crux of sexy and other issues that are floating around in Darren’s head and the other character’s too.

Darren Flynn is tallish light-haired and built like a swimmer/diver – broad shoulders, slim waist.  We are introduced to the two most import parts of his world, which are his home and school life.  These are the two places that an adolescent has to fit.  It seems that fitting in at home can prove to be just as difficult as fitting in at school.  Once these worlds are constructed for us along with the important characters the story takes off into directions you won’t believe.  Oates took the word sexy and exploited it to the max and that’s what I admired about the writing and the plot.  Sexy is not a typical Young Adult novel.  It has typical physical characteristics of a Young Adult novel because the chapters are fairly short, the typography is large, and the pages have wide margins.  However, Sexy has a literary style of writing and isn’t just a plot with typical characters that you’ve seen before and the plot is not predictable.  Some of the main themes of Sexy are coming of age, budding sexuality, friendship and trust, loyalty and its importance, how rumours get spread and can poison the innocent.  It’s worth the read and the 4 stars I gave it on Goodreads.

 Joyce Carol Oates is known for having written over 40 novels, plays, short stories, poetry, novellas, and non-fiction work.   Sexy is her fourth Young Adult novel published in 2005.  Some school libraries have attempted to ban Sexy because of its mature themes and strong language, although I don’t think it’s any worse than what adolescents hear and see daily on television or the internet. It’s for that reason I’d love to hear what adolescents have to say about it.  Some of her other Young Adult novels are Big Mouth & Ugly Girl (2002), Small Avalanches and Other Stories (2003), After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away (2006), Two or Three Things I forgot to Tell You (2012) and Freaky Green Eyes, which was critically acclaimed while being designated as one of the best children’s books of 2003. If you’ve read Sexy please comment below and tell me what you thought of it, especially if you’re an adolescent.

One Crazy Summer

This summer I plunged into One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Its attractive cover will definitely 13639804entice Middle Grade readers, as well as Young Adult readers to discover a crazy summer in Oakland, California in 1968.  The novel begins with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, threes sisters on their way to Oakland in pursuit of their mother that left them behind.  Their meeting with Cecile, their mother, alias Nzila, will lead the girls to more than who their mother is but to a better understanding of the fight for Civil Rights.

One Crazy Summer explores everyday life in the sixties, while depicting another aspect of the Black Panthers’ movement.  It’s a touching and informative lesson in Black History.  The story means even more since it’s being told through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister who is eleven years old and responsible for everything.  She is terribly veracious in recounting the story and her personal feelings.  You will feel attached and supportive of her.  Vonetta is the middle sister and she loves to be seen, while Fern is the youngest and follows her two big sisters and looks to them for solace.

Rita Williams-Garcia won four major awards – the Scott O’Dell Awards for Historical Fiction, the Newberry Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist for One Crazy Summer along with many other literary distinctions.  The book is a lovely edition which contains Williams-Garcia’s acceptance speech for the Coretta Scott King award, a deleted chapter, and activities that could be used in schools to study this novel more in-depth.  Well worth the read and full of wonderful ideas for teachers that want to teach more African-American history. I rated One Crazy Summer 4 stars on Goodreads.  I’m very interested in discovering more of Rita Williams-Garcia’s work.  Some of her other titles include Blue Tights, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast talk on a Slow Track, Jumped, Like sisters on the Homefront, and No Laughter Here.  This book seems to be a tribute to the children who lived through the vociferous times of the sixties.  …” “I had enjoyed my childhood.”  In spite of the necessary upheaval going on in the country and the world,….in spite of being reminded that tomorrow was not promised, I enjoyed my childhood.  My siblings and I indulged in now-vanishing pastimes.  We played hard.  Read books. Colored with crayons.  Rode bikes.  Spoke as children spoke.  Dreamed our childish dreams.  If our parents did anything for us at all, they gave us a place to be children and kept the adult world in its place-as best as they could.  But curious eyes and ears always latch on to something.” (One Crazy Summer, p.3 of Extras – An excerpt from Rita Williams-Garcia’s Acceptance Speech for the Coretta Scott King Author Award for One Crazy Summer)

After her father was discharged from the army, Williams-Garcia and her family moved back to New York where there was a strong presence of the Black Panther Party.  The image that she saw of them in her neighborhood didn’t at all equate to the image that was being delineated in the media.  She admits openly to members of her family being former Black Panthers and Black Nationalists.  Subsequently, this beautifully written story about the Black Panther Party’s handiwork in the black community and three little black girls discovering their mother and their civic duty is one you shouldn’t miss, not to mention it’s perfect for young readers. Click the link below to hear Rita Williams-Garcia speaking sprightly about One Crazy Summer and go to for more information about her work and her future upcoming events.

Le Petit Prince

It’s been a very long while since I read Le Petit Prince and I can’t say that I loved it or understood it very well 41B-appdjkL._SX342_in high school.  It was a reading assignment in second year French.  I thought it was a little difficult and absolutely didn’t compare to reading Le Petit Nicolas the year before, which was very easy.  So here I am 31 years later giving it a try for its 70th anniversary.  Funny that there wasn’t much more hype than different covers being sold in bookshops, with banners marking the anniversary but not much more than that.  I’m assuming more was done in Paris.

Le Petit Prince begins with the narrator’s plane crashing in the Sahara desert. (That really did happen to Saint-Exupéry and is believed that it sparked the idea for Le Petit Prince.)  He has very little food and water and must rely on his limited knowledge to repair his plane.  While contemplating his dilemma, he’s approached by a little blond boy who asks him to draw a sheep.  We then learn that he comes from a planet called Asteroid 325, which is called Asteroid B 612 on Earth.  The little prince is conscientious about making sure his planet stays balanced and that it won’t get overrun by bad seeds or baobab trees.  Then one day a mysterious rose grows on the planet and he immediately falls in love with it, until he catches the rose in a lie.  He realizes he can’t trust the rose and that makes him feel lonely.  In spite of everything, the little prince decides to venture out and explore other places to try to cure his loneliness.

This isn’t really my kind of story.  Le Petit Prince is a succession of parables that make one story.  It kind of reminded me a slightly of The Alchemist for that and I hated The Alchemist.  Even though, there is something original and redeeming in Le Petit Prince.  The main character happens to be a little boy and most people believe the story is for children which I really don’t think is the case.  It is written in a way that children can relate to and the beautiful watercolors from Saint-Exupéry make it all so inviting, especially for little boys.  It is a multilayered story written in simple fashion.  Not to mention the parables are clear but not too preachy, thank goodness for that.  The principal themes are narrow-mindedness and its dangers along with how exploration can bring enlightenment.  These themes are touched on in some way through all the encounters the little prince makes with the different characters and the narrator.  The allegory is quite clear in the story for adults but not so much for children, but that’s ok because they will be more focused on the little prince’s travels, adventure, and all the characters he meets.  The recurring symbols are the stars, water, the trains, and the desert.  The cover picture was a perfect choice.

All in all Antoine de Saint-Exupéry created a story that spoke about the person he was and his beliefs.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have the privilege to realize or experience the worldwide popularity of Le Petit Prince, which was translated into over 250 languages.  It was published in 1943 when Saint-Exupéry set sail on an American ship from the United States headed to Europe to fight in World War II.  He wanted to fight in the war and save Europe from nazism.  He left with a quickly bound copy of Le Petit Prince made by his publishing company.  He then joined the Free French Air Force in North Africa but disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea in July 1944 on his last mission.  He was of maximum age for flying during the war and his health was declining.  Nevertheless, he wrote three very successful novels during his hiatus in the United States that all received literary recognition and awards:  Terre des Hommes in 1939 (Wind, Sand, and Stars), Pilote de Guerre in 1942 (Flight to Arras),and Le Petit Prince in 1943 (The Little Prince).

Title: Le Petit Prince

Genre:  Classic/French Literature/Young Adult/Fantasy/Philosophy

Published:  1943

Edition:  Gallimard

Pages:  95

Language:  French

My rating:  * * * 


Paper Covers Rock

As dubious as I am about reading Young Adult books, I’m always surprised when I manage to find one that’s9369717 really worth the read.  It seems as if 2013 has been a charm for choosing really good ones.  Paper Covers Rock is the story of Alex.  A sixteen year old boy lacking assurance and attending an ivy league style boarding school.  A tragic incident occurs at the school when one of the boys dives head first off a rock into a river on campus and dies.  Thomas’s death is recounted along with Alex’s guilt.  He’s writing everything in his trusty  journal which is addressed to the us, the reader.  His feelings of guilt are accompanied with all the other awkward emotions of adolescence i.e. has low self-esteem, very self-critical, headstrong, yet fearful and easily coerced into doing stupid things.

The structure of the book consists of journal entries written in first person and in between those are dialogues.  Alex begins by explaining to us that his father gave him the journal a few years earlier and told him to fill it with his thoughts and that’s exactly what he does.  The first chapter is called “Call me Is Male”, which is an allusion to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick – a clever play on words.  The first line in Moby Dick is “Call me Ishmael”.  It’s very interesting how Hubbard tries to make this parallel to Moby Dick.  As a matter of fact, the book is filled with literary references.  Writing represents the way Alex tries to conceal his guilt but also the way he tries to redeem himself.  His talent for writing is the only good thing that comes out of this tragedy.  In the beginning, he isn’t at all aware of his talent for writing.  He is given various writing assignments by his English teacher, Miss Dovecott, who is enchanted by Alex’s writing talent.  However, she immediately identifies Alex’s guilt which shines through his writing.  So she continues to give more original writing assignments to try and uncover his guilty secret.  The journal entries give a certain familiarity to the reader.  We are literally privy to all of Alex’s intimate thoughts and emotions.  We trust him, care about him, and empathise with him. We are lead to believe that all he recounts is reliable.  Hubbard did an excellent job with the voices of Alex and Glenn.  There was no doubt for me that they were boys.  She was also brilliant with orchestrating the story(using the writing to reconstruct the retelling of the sad day of Thomas’s death and the surrounding events) and adding a bit of suspense at the same time.  Paper Covers Rock isn’t a long book and can be read in a two-hour sitting.  As the story progressed, I found myself reading faster because I wanted to know how all this was going to end.  This book brought out that I was glad I wasn’t an adolescent  in high school anymore.  Loads of angst and grief and insecurities. Hubbard got all that spot on.  Even though, it was well worth the read and a welcome change to the typical Young Adult novels that are popular at the moment.  I’d suggest this one for adolescents and adults(young at heart) who like reading realistic stories, with  a mix of contemporary and a dash of literature about them.

Jenny Hubbard was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award for Paper Covers Rock in 2012. Paper Covers Rock was released in 2011.  This award goes to a debut innovative novels written for adolescents.  The award has only been in existence for five years.  The winner in 2012 was Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.  The 2013 winner was Seraphina by Rachel Hartmen, which is quite popular.  The finalists were Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, After the Snow by S.D. Crockett, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth.  If you’re interested in quality YA, these titles looked pretty interesting when I checked them out.  The YALSA – Young Adult Library Services Association, a branch of the American Library Association, administers the award every year at the end of January.  Hubbard was also an English teacher for ten years in a boys boarding school so I guess that experience inspired her to write this book.  She has a second novel, title undetermined, that will be released at the end of 2013. Check out the video below for more information on Paper Covers Rock and on Jenny Hubbard.

Title: Paper Covers Rock

Genre:  Young Adult/Realistic Fiction/Coming of Age/ Mystery

Published:  2011

Edition:  Random House

Pages:  181

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * * 1/2

My favorite quote:  ”The campus is more beautiful to adults than it is to us:  we see it as a fishbowl, and they see it as a nest, with the stone buildings tucked inside the rolling hills at the feet of the Blue Ridge Mountains, supposedly the oldest chain of mountains in the United States. To adults,old is cozy.  To us, old is something we can’t imagine we will ever be.” (Paper Covers Rock, pp. 20-21)


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

IMG_1618Well, well I’ve finally crawled from under my big, slimy rock and started to read the Harry Potter series.  I must say that I’m thrilled to have done it and I’m mighty sorry to not have done it sooner.  What can I say, Harry Potter is a cool dude!  I won’t bore you with a synopsis because about 99.9% of you already know what it’s about and the .1% left have probably seen at least one of the movies or live on another planet and have never heard of him.  So, let’s cut to the chase.  What did I think?  I thought the story was magical, enchanting, captivating, mysterious, and suspenseful.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a recipe for success!  I can now understand what all the hoopla was about.  The writing style is engaging, descriptive and something about it reminded me of The Hobbit.  I can’t explain it other than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone made me feel the same way I felt while I was reading The Hobbit, a certain childlike pleasure, rooting for the good guys.

The characters are all memorable, even down to the most detestable and insignificant, like those wretched family members living at number four Privet Drive.  They all play the important roles of helping to set the scenes of the story.  The developing friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione is endearing, but quite typical of the way friends are made at school at this age.  It was great to see that in spite of their weaknesses, their advantages are acknowledged and helped them save day.  Harry Potter is no longer alone.  He’s made great friends and the adventure continues on.

Another aspect of this book that I loved was the houses at Hogwarts.  I find that the British culture and tradition  of school made for a solid thread in this story.  It wasn’t just magic for magic, there was a lot more.  There were rules and regulations to abide by, Quidditch, mysterious classes, and upper grades helping first years.  The houses rise and fall together as a group.

The world building was done brilliantly.  Having Harry Potter move from the muggles world to the wizards world was an excellent way to compare and learn things along with him, even as insignificant as the candy kids eat to something as important as wizards not being allowed to own dragons because the muggles would be able to spot them.  The Forbidden Forest which surrounds a good part of Hogwarts, had some surprises of centaurs and unicorns and will likely be lurking with more strange, mythical beasts in the books to come.  Speaking of candy, I know I can’t be the only one who wouldn’t want to taste any of those Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, i.e. ear wax and vomit flavored.  Gross!  I could go for a chocolate frog though.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was dark and mysterious with its disappearing staircases and doors.  Having to whisper secret words to enter your house, while each door is guarded by a ghost, it all adds to this well-thought out setting.  What kid or young at heart adult wouldn’t love this story.  We owe it all to J.K. Rowling who has a wonderful gift for writing, but most of all she has the gift of remembering what it was like to be a child, with all the necessary details.  Essentially, that is what makes Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone so infectious.  After reading the last page, I can’t wait to start Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

J.K. Rowling sold 400 million copies of Harry Potter and when I hear that another book You-Know-Who has sold even more copies, frankly it makes me sick to my stomach.  Rowling was working as a bilingual secretary and researcher for Amnesty International when she got the ingenious idea to write the Harry Potter series.  After much life turmoil with divorce, the death of her mother and living with very little money, the Harry Potter series was finally published and the Harry Potter craze came and continues on.  All the publications later led to successful movie adaptations.  J.K. Rowling has recently written The Casual Vacancy a tragic comedy, her first adult novel, which has received very mixed reviews because of its quantity of despicable characters.  Frankly, I find that intriguing, but as a whole, the reviews have mostly been good.  Even though, there is talk of a project for it to be turned into a television series.  The Casual Vacancy even made it on Time’s top 10 best novels of 2012.   Rowling has also written Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch through the Ages,  and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which are all supplements to the Harry Potter series.  Check out the video below of Rowling reading one of my favourite scenes in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry goes to buy his wand.  There’s a little Q&A at the end too.  Happy reading…..

Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Genre:  Fantasy/Childrens/Young Adult

Published:  June 1997

Edition: Bloomsbury Harry Potter Collection Beautiful, sleek, black books in a nice box that looks similar.

Pages:  332

My rating:  * * * *  1/2

Favorite quote:  “Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person that loved us is gone, will give us some protection for ever.” ( Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, p. 321)



41WvR8-CBULThis year is starting with a big bang with and excellent five-star YA novel.  I finally chose one that is living up to my expectations and isn’t a long puffed up series.  The story is about Melinda Sordino.  She’s starting her first year of high school and no one is speaking to her, including her best friends.  An incident from summer has plunged her into silence and it seems she is doomed to speak no more.  Even though she is silent, she is screaming inside.  It’s just nobody hears her, not her parents or her friends.  Speak took me back to high school and made think of those days when you only seemed to befriend those that were just like oneself.  Clicks were the way students got from one year to another.  You had to fit in and fit in is what most students do or at least attempt to.  However, there are those who are total outcasts for one reason or another.  Melinda is not really an outcast.  She just feels like one and is perceived as one in her surroundings.  She feels as if she’s disappearing, crumbling like an abandoned home.

Speak takes us on Melinda’s journey to express her pain and not speaking is the way she survives, literally hanging off the edge of a cliff, and hoping to be caught by a suspended net below if she falls, which doesn’t seem to come.  In spite of her pain, she is very lucid about the people and the things happening around her.  Her descriptions are blunt but absolutely correct.  As a reader you’ll love her, want to protect her, and root for her right from the start to the end.

The writing in this novel is clever, witty, and cutting at times.  The sentence structure is short, direct, very humorous and sometimes makes you want to shed a tear.  The chapters are never longer than about 3 to 3,5 pages and the shortest ones are about half a page.  At no point will this book bore you.  Actually you could read it in one sitting because it’s not very long.

At the beginning of the book Laurie Halse Anderson writes a letter to her friends.  She says, “Speak is the book I wasn’t going to write.  Why would I want to revisit the agonies of adolescence?  Wasn’t that the point of surviving to adulthood—-so I could block out the traumas of being a teenager?…..So I tried.  I wrote the book.  I never thought anyone would publish it.  I never dreamed it would earn any awards.  I never imagined it would be taught in schools,…This has all been an unexpected, remarkable ride.” (Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak)  This is a really wonderful book and everybody should read it.  It will make you think.  It will make you see. It will make you cry, but most of all it will make you listen.

Laurie Halse Anderson is an American author known for writing about difficult topics like dysfunctional families, body image, rape, etc.  She tackles these topics originally and honestly.  She writes primarily for young adults and children.  Her first novel Speak was published in 1999 and led her to win the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults selection, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize,the Printz Honor Book Award, and a  National Book Award nomination among others.  Some of the other young adult novels she has written are Catalyst, Prom, Twisted and Chains.  Her first children’s novel, Ndito Runs, was published in 1996.  Turkey Pox, No Time for Mother’s Day, The Big Cheese of Third Street and many others have followed.  I’m definitely going to try to read some of her other YA novels because she really is a brilliant writer who knows how to capture the emotions of a situation.  Great read!!  Check out the video below where she reads a very moving poem related to this book.

Title: Speak

Published: 1999

Edition: Penguin Platinum (Beautiful edition with deckle edge paper!)

Pages:  198

My Rating: * * * * *

Favorite quote:  “Art without emotion is like chocolate cake without sugar.  It makes you gag.” (Speak, p. 122)

42. Velveteen

Velveteen is a snarky, intelligent, tenacious teenager who has been kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer called Bonesaw.  Velveteen winds up in purgatory where she isn’t in heaven and definitely is not in hell.  It’s one of the grayest places you could imagine and it’s parallel to the living world.  Velveteen plots on how to go about getting revenge on Bonesaw, even if secretly crossing from the dead world to the living world is risky for everyone.  She’ll do anything to make Bonesaw’s life a living hell.

Velveteen is being marketed as a young adult horror, fantasy novel.  It’s not scary and there isn’t much horror.  It doesn’t focus primarily on Velveteen taking revenge on her murderer as is pitched on the back of the book, which was a little disappointing for me.  In spite of that, you’ll fall in love immediately with Velveteen.  She’s great!  She’s kick-ass!  She’s the kind of friend you’d like to have.  The salvage team that she’s a member of is great to read about too.  The world of the dead is composed of some extremely creative descriptions and characters – good and bad.

What I disliked was that the action was sometimes difficult to follow.  I found myself rereading some parts because I felt there were things I was forgetting or just didn’t understand well.  The thing I adored was that it didn’t read like a typical YA novel.  I read it in three days.  I could have read it quicker, but NaNoWriMo started on the first of November.  The writing was exceptional!  The progression of events was engaging and the vocabulary was elevated!  I could hear the author’s voice the entire time – very humoristic.  Great teenage dialogue!  If you don’t know Daniel “Danny” Marks, he has a successful You Tube channel and contributes to another channel called YA Rebels Velveteen is Marks’ first YA horror fantasy novel and I hope it won’t be his last.  He’s had various jobs like being psychotherapists for children and adolescents, a cafeteria janitor, and a Halloween store manager(I could see him doing that).  I’m sure all these jobs have contributed to Dannny Marks’ captivating writing style and ingenious ideas.  I rated Velveteen three and a half stars on Goodreads, which is right between I liked it and I really liked it.  I docked a half of a star for the lack of Bonesaw.  Check out the video below which is Danny Marks being interviewed by Bunny Cates on You Tube.  Thanks for the interview Bunny and Danny!

I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

                                                                                                ——Blaise PASCAL

29./30. Divergent and Insurgent

Another story about a dystopian world.  This world is divided into five factions:  Amity-quality of being friendly, Candor-quality of being open and honest, Erudite-quality of having or showing great knowledge or learning, Abenegation-quality of self-denial, and Dauntless-quality of fearlessness, determination, and bravery.  When teenagers are 16 they must take an orientation test which determines the faction they have an aptitude for.  They must then decide in the Choosing ceremony if they will remain in the faction where they were raised or will they forsake their family and friends for another faction.  Factions are thicker than blood in this world.  As it says on the cover: “One choice can transform you.”

Beatrice Prior is the heroine of this fast paced story, Divergent.  She and her brother were raised in Abnegation.  The people in the Abnegation faction wear grey colored clothes and are meant to think of others before themselves.  Beatrice feels that this is really difficult and not natural for her.  She sees her brother Caleb as an ideal Abnegation member  because he appears to do everything perfectly and willingly.  Everything really begins with the Choosing Ceremony.  Will Beatrice and Caleb choose to stay in Abnegation or will they choose another faction?  You’ll just have to read and find out.

The Divergent trilogy is Veronica Roth’s first publication.  She is a twenty-two year old successful American writer.  She is a graduate from Northwestern University where she earned a diploma in creative writing.  Lucky for some, she wrote Divergent when she should have been doing her homework.   Both Divergent (2011) and Insurgent (2012) were bestsellers and I suspect the third part of this trilogy will be too.  It is due to be released at some point in 2013.  There should also be a film adaptation of Divergent coming out soon (estimation date is 2015), since the film rights were sold in April 2012.  Unfortunately, Veronica Roth isn’t participating in the screenplay writing.  Only her agent will be there to oversee that things don’t go too wrong.  Check out Veronica Roth’s website here

People will probably say that these books are too violent and even compare them to The Hunger Games trilogy but that’s not the case.  Yes it does have elements of violence, but that’s not the essential point of the novel.  I predict that the movie adaptation will make Divergent just as popular as The Hunger Games if not more.  Unfortunately, I have some problems with this trilogy.  Divergent was interesting, read well, and kept me reading.  Insurgent otherwise wasn’t the case.  I began Insurgent looking for answers that don’t seem to come up.  What is given as an explanation at the end of Insurgent is unacceptable and frankly boring.  Roth’s writing becomes very predictable because she always leaves the end of each chapter with new questions and action.  While reading Insurgent, I felt as if I was being manipulated to keep reading, basically baited from beginning to end.  I hate when that happens!  I get the feeling that Roth wrote Divergent as one book and her editors asked her to write a trilogy.  It’s like trying to stretch gravy when we don’t have enough to go around.  You add water.  I rate Divergent four stars and Insurgent two stars.  Of course I’ll read the third book when it comes out because I want to a. see how things turn out and b. see if Veronica Roth can redeem herself.  The idea of the story is good but I don’t think she went about it the right way.  I just watched Total Recall at the cinema two nights ago and there were things that made me think about this trilogy.

I can only suggest to read this trilogy at your own risk.  This seems to be the problem with YA novels is that they are often in trilogies or series.  Moreover, a lot of them tend to be dystopian now and contain similar characteristics in themes.  I’m really surprised they continue to be so popular.  I’ll be looking to read more YA but I’ll be steering away from the dystopian theme for the moment.  Happy reading….

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.”

                                                           ___ Benjamin Disraeli

27. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A wallflower is a shy, unpopular person who stands or sits apart from other people at a party.  Charlie is a wallflower.  He’s the most observant, sensitive, and highly intelligent character in this book.  He recounts all the trials and tribulations of family life and being an adolescent through letters which are written to Dear friend (that’s you).  The epistolary format of the book allows the reader to be privy to the most intricate feelings of Charlie and the people he’s the closest too.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower reads smoothly and quickly but the ambiance is melancholic and heavy at times to say the least.  It made me think about the unfavorable things about being an adolescent. You name it it’s all in this book – sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, death, literature…and much more.  It’s unbelievable what teenagers can get up to or is it?

I suggest reading this little, coming of age book before venturing out to see the film adaptation which will be out in September starring Logan Lorman and Emma Watson .  Apparently Stephen Chbosky is the screenwriter and director of the film so hopefully it will retain its emotional and sorrowful air.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower was first published in 1999 by MTV Books.  It became an immediate success among teenagers and sold 700,000 copies by 2007.  Unfortunately, it has been banned in several schools in the US because of the sexual content and drug use.  For that reason, I would suggest the appropriate reading age to be 16 and above, maybe 15 if they a very mature.  It was also listed as one of the ten most challenged books by the American Library Association (promotes libraries and library eduction internationally and is a non-profit organization) in 2006 and 2008.  I don’t think banning is the right way to go about books like this.  Kids will find it and read it.  These books are a great platform for forums, discussion, and debate in schools and at home.  Parents should read what their kids read and talk about these things openly, then there wouldn’t be any need to ban anything. I give this book 4 stars because it is well written and is very well constructed although it made me a little sad.  Now I’m starting to sound like Charlie with that last sentence.  Happy reading…

21. Anna and the French Kiss

I have just started to add reading YA novels to my repertoire because some of them are pretty interesting and secondly it enables me to suggest good books to the French kids I tutor in English.  I’m an English Foreign Language teacher in France and have come to the conclusion that students have difficulty writing  and reading in English.  I figured I’d try to find some books that would entice them into this difficult task of reading in English.  That’s when I fell upon and finally finished the famous Anna and the French Kiss which is being talked about everywhere.  I do feel I’m the last one to climb on this bandwagon, but frankly I’m glad I did.  It’s not yet here in France but I’ll give it another six months to a year to arrive.

It’s the story of Anna, who’s been taken to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, so that she can get “cultured”.  Anna is shy, anxious, and doesn’t speak a word of French because she’s been taking Spanish for the past three years at her high school in the States.  Never mind, she soon starts to make the difference between oui and si and adapting to her new school, new friends, and of course Paree Paris.  Amongst all the adaptation, there’s a cute TCK(third culture kid) guy called Etienne St. Clair (everybody calls him St. Clair)  who has not only grasped the attention of Anna but of every other girl in the school.  Etienne is a Franco-American raised in England, henceforth the charming English accent.  He’s the cute boy with the “beautiful” hair.  Like Anna says, “Every American girl is a sucker for a boy with an English accent.  The story is filled with lots of teenage angst, grief, love, and shenanigans.  Makes you want to be seventeen again.

Stephanie Perkins writes with amazing sensitivity.  The voice of Anna is refreshing, amusing, honest and realistic.  There are enough turns and twists to the story to keep you reading right through to the end.  You won’t have a chance to be bored.  It’s hard to put down and speaks to the bit of youth left in the hearts of adults.  I was skeptical when I saw the Eiffel Tower on the front cover and feared a sappy love story for teenagers but that wasn’t the case.  Perkins describes the Paris 5th arrondissement to perfection – independent cinemas, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, French bakeries, sugary voluptuous pastries, etc.  The food descriptions make your mouth water.  It’s all true.  The French love their food and they should because it’s exceptional.  So, Anna and the French Kiss is just under 400 pages but a must read for anyone that likes a good love story, with romantic Paris as the backdrop.

Stephanie Perkins writes on her website, “I write novels for teens (and for adults who aren’t afraid to admit that teen books are awesome).”  That’s Anna and the French Kiss in a nutshell!  Perkins released her second novel Lola and the Boy Next Door in September 2011 which is a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss.  It’s getting just as much attention too.  Perkins really knows how to maintain the magic in her stories, while totally avoiding cheesy and cliché concepts.  I give Anna and the French Kiss five stars.  It’ll make your day and that’s basically how long it will take you to read it.  Happy reading…..