Archive for March, 2009

The White Darkness Review

 

 

The White Darkness cover art

The White Darkness cover art

Mccaughrean, Geraldine.  The White Darkness.  New York: HarperTempest.  2005.

384 pages

Q3 – P3 – J – S

Grade 7-12

Symone is a fourteen year old outcast with nearly no friends.  She’s painfully shy and feels trapped inside herself partly because she is hearing impaired and partly her peers are cruel and lack empathy.  When she comes to school and says her dad died Maxine tells Smy’s friend Nats “Don’t worry.  I expect she just imagined it.”  Thats the final straw for Symone.  She, “sealed myself inside.  Laced up the tent so to speak.  Filled the locks with water so that they would freeze.  Thats when Titus and I looked at each other and decided we could do without them, so long as we had each other.” Readers will benefit from reading the postscript first, as mentioned in the authors introduction.  Titled, “Scott of the Antarctic”, Mccaughrean tells the story of Captain Scott’s doomed expedition to the South Pole in 1910.  It sets a tone of ominous isolation for this tale of adventure driven by madness.  It also helps with an understanding of Sym’s obsession with the Antarctic and her inner love affair with Captain Titus Oates, whom she makes into an imaginary friend of sorts or an inner voice.  He guides her and gives her strength though out her trials is the Antarctic.  Other than Oates (a member of Scott’s expedition) Sym has no one aside from her mother and her eccentric creepo “uncle” Victor.  Sym trusts him and thinks he’s smart.  Perhaps she likes him only for the fact that her supports and encourages her interest in the Arctic and she finds this validating.  Whatever the reason Sym seems blind to the fact that her Uncle has in fact, kidnapped her and taken her on a suicide mission.  Together they travel to seek out Uncle Victor’s obsession and great hypothesis, Symmes Hole, on an Antarctic expedition with the Pengwings tour group.  There they meet the Norwegian film director, Manfred Bruch, and his son Sigurd, who expresses interest in Symone but the whole situation is weird and everyone’s intentions seem hidden.

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Life Sucks Review

Life Sucks cover art

Life Sucks cover art

 Abel, Jessica, Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece.  Life Sucks.  First Second Books.  2008.

192 Pages

3Q – 4P – S – G

Grades 9-12

There are two types of people in this world: Goths and people who make fun of Goths.  This book appeals to both groups.  A subculture of real vampires rules the southern california nights.  They murder, steal and help run a 24 hour convenience store during the night shift?!  Yep, even the immortal undead need to make some cash to keep up appearances.  And for the novels main protagonist, Dave, “working for the man” has a whole new meaning.  He is a “wage slave” working to keep the vampire who “made” him in the bucks.  When he falls in love with a goth, but lovely Latina human named Rosa, the story takes all the relationship twists of a teen romance, but being a vampire only complicates things for Dave and eventually Rosa.  Dave meets her night after night and vies for her affection with another vampire named Wes.  Wes, a self-obsessed “rich-boy” surfer type, is a vampire with a mean streak.  Wes’ infatuation with vampiric powers and outright cruelty lead to his eventual reprimand by his (and Dave’s) own master, Radu, but only after a violent encounter with Dave where all of Dave’s friends come to Dave’s aid; including a mysterious Harley Davidson riding loner vampire who has befriended Dave and pops up occasionally to offer Dave “life” lessons.

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Uzumaki Review

 

Uzumaki cover art

Uzumaki cover art

Uzumaki by: Junji Ito

208 Pages

4Q – 3P – S – G

Grades 9-12

 

Original: Japan, 1998 by Shogakukan, Inc.

English: America, 2001 by Viz Media LLC.

Uzumaki is a manga book for older teens chronicling a series of strange events that occur in a seaside Japanese town called Kurozu Cho.  The manga is narrated by a former resident and the main protagonist: Kirie Goshima.  She’s an average high school student until a series of terrible events consumes her life.  The manga’s first story follows the “gruesome” tale surrounding the deaths of Shuichi Saito’s parents.  Shuichi is Kirie’s boyfriend and confidant.  The theme of “spirals” begins to emerge as the spiral symbol consumes Shuici’s father and mother in two separate psychological break downs which lead to the commission of strange acts of self-mutilation and their deaths.  Shuichi’s father literally bends his body into spirals in a large basket and Shuici’s mother succumbs to the visions she has of her late husband haunting and telling her all the places on her body that have spirals.  Her demise arises when she realizes that the human ear has a small organ that is spiral shaped.  She jabs scissors into her ears and suffers debilitating injuries that slowly kill her.  
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Monster Review

Monster cover art

Monster cover art

Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. New York: Harper Teen. 1999.

281 Pages

Q4 – P4 – J – S

 Grades 7-12

 

Monster thrusts the reader into the high stakes action of the story in the first pages: Steve Harmon is black, in prison while he awaits his murder trail, and to cope with the surreal horrific scenes that have become his life he has decided to write down everything that happens in the form of a screen play. The result is a fast pace but introspective courtroom drama that reads like an episode of Law & Order. If convicted Steve could spend the rest of his life prison, a place of extreme violence, or even receive the death penalty. These stakes are particularly high as Steve is only sixteen.
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How They Met Review

how-they-met3

Levithan, David.  How They Met and Other Stories.  New York: Alfred Knopf, 2008. 

244 Pages

Q4 – P3 – S

Grades 9-12


David Levithan tells the reader in the introduction to this collection that they aren’t about to read a collection of love stories; they are stories, rather, about love, in all it’s forms.  Many of the stories here were written as Valentines day pieces he created in high school physics class and had given as  gifts to his friends. Love is indeed Levithan’s mastered theme.  His writing on the complicated subject from many points of view and many walks of life seems effortless, natural, and oh so relatable.  Levithan’s teen characters are self-conscious, but witty, insecure and awkward but with moments of articulate clarity and brevity in their situations.  In MIss Lucy Had a Steam Boat the narrator, Lucy, is dumped by a girl whom she was completely and totally infatuated with.  It never occurred to her that, “a person could know all the right things to say and deploy them to get what she wanted, without having to mean any of it.”  She comes to shun the idea that, 

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I Am Scout Review

 

I Am Scout cover art

I Am Scout cover art

 

 

Shields, Charles J.  I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee.  New York: Henry Holt and Company.  2008.  

212 Pages

Grades 7-10

Q3 – P3 – J – S

To Kill a Mocking Bird is likely to be the first piece of required high school literature that an American teenager really enjoys and engages with.  It’s accessible and relevant to them on many levels and across a broad spectrum of teen types; to me, it is a supremely perfect entity (Q5 – P5 – J – S.  Know what I mean?).  It’s also the only novel Harper Lee ever wrote which is a bummer.  Enter Charles Shields I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee, the informatively written supplemental reading to the original beloved text.  Shields is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, which he has adapted here for younger readers.  Still, readers of all ages will enjoy the parallels between Lee’s life and To Kill a Mocking Bird and many of the antidotal tales about Lee and her life are fascinating (One of the best bits is Shields retelling a satirical one act play Lee wrote for her conservative college newspaper called “Now Is the Time For All Good Men”).  Lee is indeed the Scout character many readers fall in love with when the read To Kill a Mocking Bird.  
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