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*Portal Pages: SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Book Reviews for Young Adults

Other Genres


Golding, W. (1954). Lord of the flies. New York: Perigree

Awards: 1954 Nobel Prize Winner, Modern Library 100 Best Novels, 2003 BBC's The Big Read Poll, 2005 Time Magazine 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.


Review

In the advent of World War a plane crashes into an uninhabited island, its passengers a group of young boys slated for evacuation. The fright of the crash landing quickly passes, leaving the boys to embark on a real life game of explorers and adventurers. However, the games soon turn deadly, as the group splits into contentious factions and the boys devolve into brutality.

Hailed in turns as brilliant or barbaric, classic or cloying, The Lord of the Flies provides an intense look at many socio-political aspects of human nature and society, both past and future. The language is descriptive and well-paced, with beautiful imagery and excellent character development. While it may not be suitable for younger readers, it is an excellent addition to the library of both adults and mature teens

Due to the graphic nature of the work, as well as some of the more interior themes, I would recommend this work for individuals ages 14 and up.


 


Curtis, C. P. (1995). The watsons go to birmingham--1963. New York: Delacorte Press.

Awards: 1996 Newbery Medal Winner, 1996 Golden Kite Award for Fiction


Review

In a small town in Michigan, two loving parents struggle to instill in their three children, Byron, Kenny and Joetta, a sense of social responsibility and cultural understanding. Byron in particular shows signs of delinquency, but Kenny is not immune to the influences of peer pressure and rule breaking in this coming of age tale. In search of a grounding experience for the boys, the Watson’s take a trip, as so many families do,to visit with and learn from their elders: Grandma Sands of Birmingham Alabama.

The year is 1963, and drawing from events of that same time, there is a KKK attack on the local church which devastates not only the community, but the impressionable Watson children who witness the bombing. A story of family, growing pains and real life hardships, The Watsons go to Birmingham is a skillfully told story that warrants its numerous awards, including it’s 1996 Newbery Medal.

The age ranges for this title are listed on various resources between 8 and 14 years old. I think that the subject matter and somewhat outdated slang makes this book more appropriate for the older age set. I would recommend it to ages 11-14.


 


Kamkwamba, W. (2010). The boy who harnessed the wind : Creating currents of electricity and hope. New York: Harper Perennial.

Awards: Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books of 2015, Amazon.com Best Books of the Year 2015, 100 Notable Titles for Reading and Sharing 2015, 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2016 CCBC Choices–Biography and Autobiography, ILA Teachers’ Choices 2016 Reading List


ReviewThe biography of engineer and inventor William Kamkwamba, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an inspirational story that demonstrates how self-teaching can impact the world in big ways. Exploring the link between magic and science, religion and belief, family and hope, this story details the journey of young William as he strives to, and eventually succeeds in, building a windmill powered generator. Lighting his family home would be the first step to enlightening a community and the world beyond to the needs of his people. An interesting and inspirational read for and child who feels they are too small to make an impact on the world, or any young inventor who feels they are too strange to be accepted.

This book is easily understandable in both language and structure. There is some very mild profanity and strong Christian references. This book is appropriate for readers ages 9 and up.


 


Green, J. (2012). The fault in our stars. New York: Dutton Books.

Awards: TIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012, #1 New York Times bestseller, #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller, #1 Indie bestseller, #1 USA Today Bestseller, #1 International Bestseller, TODAY Book Club Pick, Editors Choice, New York Times Book Review, Starred reviews from Booklist, SLJ, Publisher’s Weekly, Horn Book, and Kirkus, CBC Awards, Teen Book of the Year 2013, Book of the Year, Nickelodeon MPN Awards, Brazil, Winner, Dioraphte Jongerenliteratuur Prijs, 2013.


ReviewMost 17 year olds are filled with dreams of their futures lives, but for Hazel Grace, the future looks dark and she dreams only of escaping her life as a cancer patient.Seeing her daughter slip into depression and seclusion, Hazel’s mother insists that she begin attending a cancel support group. Though she doesn’t see the point, Hazel joins the group in part to make her mother happy, but mostly to keep her off of Hazels back. Despite her reticence, the support group works, introducing Hazel to Augustus and Isaac, fellow cancer patients who understand her struggles. The three bond over a favorite book, Imperial Affection, and their curiosity over its abrupt ending and mysterious author, Peter Van Houten.

Using his Wish Factory (Make a Wish Foundation) request, Augustus is able to bring Hazel to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten. Upon arriving, however, it is discovered that the meeting was orchestrated by the author’s assistant in the hopes of bringing him out of a deep alcohol fueled depression. Drunk and fuming, Van Houten insults the teenagers, driving them away with fatalistic observations and cruel words. Despite this setback, Hazel and Augustus make the most of their trip, sightseeing and ultimately falling in love.

Back home, the two lovers resolve to face the world side by side, but their plans take a setback when Augustus’s cancer returns, this time, with deadly effect. Hazel Grace and Isaac are left to navigate the loss of their friend and the unexpected arrival of Van Houten who, despite his venom, is able to give Hazel Grace some closure and understanding in this tragic story of life, death and young love.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It is well written, but sometimes comes across as trite in its treatment of the character’s emotional and existential journeys. This book deals with heavy themes and does not hold back on strong language. It is recommended for older teens.


 


Garden, N. (2007). Annie on my mind. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Awards: ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal 100 most influential books of the 20th century,  1982 Booklist Reviewer's Choice, the 1982 ALA best books, ALA Best of the Best lists 1970–1983, Young Adult Library Services a division of the American Library Association, gave Nancy Garden its Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement for Annie on My Mind in 2003


ReviewAnnie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden, is the story of two high school girls from New York City. Liza is from a wealthy family and attends the Foster Academy, while Annie goes to public school and lives in a working class multigenerational home. Despite their different backgrounds, the two girls hit it off after a chance meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and become fast friends. The story takes place largely in flashbacks as Liza, now in college, attempts to write a letter to Annie. Though the two are now estranged, Liza’s recollections tell a romantic story of the two young women as they discover their love for one another and their identities within this new relationship. Though both girls face struggles and emotional turmoil in their teenaged years, this story does not paint the couple as tragic. Their relationship is one of love and mutual respect and readers hoping to find a happy ending for the young lovers will not be disappointed.


 


Sewell, E. (2013). Way too much drama. New York: Harlequin Kimani Tru.

Awards: 2014 Street Literature Book Award Medal (Slbam) -- Young Adult Literature Honorable Mention


Review

The common literary archetype of feuding sisters is given a new spin as cousins Maya and Viviana find themselves sharing a home and a hatred for one another. This is not your typical feud over a dress borrowed without permission or a diary read without consent, the drama in this story is real, gritty, and violent.

After Maya turns in her uncle for murder and he is subsequently killed in prison, Viviana seeks revenge for her lost father by sleeping with Misalo, Maya’s boyfriend. The depth of the girls’ hurt and pain comes out in bullying, fistfights, theft, and simmering hatred as the real life themes of drugs, crime and sex are explored in this emotionally fraught story of two girls fighting to survive in their home and on the streets. Family is central to the narrative, exploring shame and the complexities of creating a home among people who are at once blood and blood enemies.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The language draws on slang and the emotional peaks often found among teenaged girls. While the friendships in this story do show some moments of maturity and clarity, the book largely paints a picture of adolescence where the meanest of impulses are acted upon casually. The themes and language in Way Too Much Drama make it an off limits title for younger readers, though mature high school students will benefit from this honest look at life in and on the urban streets.


 


Rennison, L. (2009). Angus, thongs and full-frontal snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. New York: Harper Teen.

Awards: Virginia Young Readers Award, Not Just for Children Anymore! (Children's Book Council), New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, Michael L. Printz Honor Book, IRA/CBC Young Adults' Choice, Garden State Teen Book Award (New Jersey), Book Sense Pick, ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, ALA Booklist Editors' Choice, ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults


Review

Did little Libby pee in my room? I feel sure that she has peed in my room! Where has that possessed cat gotten to now? And oh goodness – I’ve shaved off my eyebrows!

The hilarious frippery of teenaged Georgia Nicolson is chalked full of heartbreak and triumph as she tries to stalk, connive and snogg her way into the heart of an older man – a sex god, in Georgia’s words.

In this installment of Georgia’s awkward formative years she explores her sexuality and propensity for jealousy as she pines for Robbie, her mature and, unfortunately, taken crush. Reading this story you can’t help but take it in turns to laugh out lough and run away mid-paragraph from the visceral embarrassment brought on by the antics of this vain, neurotic, loveable, hopeless romantic.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars for humor and boldness. It landed at number 35 on Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 for sexual situations, and does a good job of fearlessly tackling the curiosity, confusion and vanity that comes with a young girl’s first forays into the world of romance. Though it is far from high literature, the hilarious and often cringe worthy coming of age exploits of Georgia Nicolson is sure to strike a chord with any future fan of Bridget Jones and her similarly lightheartedly tragic diaries.


 


Alexie, S., & Forney, E. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown.

Awards: Winner of the 2007 National Book Award, Winner of the 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction.


Review

For Arnold Spirit Junior, being born was perhaps the most daring and dangerous thing he has ever done. Surviving a rare brain complication, Junior grows up on the impoverished Spokane Indian reservation. Struggling with a lisp and childhood seizures, Junior is bullied by his peers and raised by alcoholic parents and an unsociable sister, struggling to find his place in a violent and broken community.

Though he knows he doesn’t fit in on the “Res” Junior’s birth proved that he is a survivor and no amount of bullying or misfortune can keep him down. After an unfortunate incident with a textbook and a teacher’s nose, Junior transfers to a high school in the not so near-by wealthy white town of Reardon. Here he thrives, despite having to walk and hitchhike to school, and operating on a lesser budget and academic standing then those of his peers. He joins the basketball team, gets a girlfriend, and, though his fellow “Res” teens double down on the bullying, things begin to look up for Junior.

Just when things seem to be going ok, tragedy strikes as loved one after loved one dies, nearly derailing Junior and his new academic path. The language of this story is beautiful and raw. There are scenes of such intense emotional suffering that it can be difficult to read, but the honesty of the work and the indomitable spirit of Junior helps to keep the reader moving on to the next chapter. I give this story 5 out of 5 stars for being beautiful, brutal, and honest, though I may caution younger readers who have not had much experience with alcoholism or death. The themes in this story are heavy and often difficult to digest.