Monday, December 11, 2017

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio - student book review by Isabella


None of the above is about Kristin Lattimer, a typical high-school girl, whose life is picture perfect: she is a champion hurdler with a full ride, she has a fantastic boyfriend, and has just been crowned homecoming queen. However, suddenly her life is turned upside down, when after experiencing excruciating pain during her first time, a visit to the doctor reveals that Kristin is intersex. Outwardly, she looks like a girl, but she has male chromosomes. Now, she not only has to process this brand-new revelation, but she has do deal with the scrutiny of her community, when her secret is leaked to her school. As she struggles to cope with her new life, she realizes that the question of identity is much more complicated than it appears.
I found this novel fascinating and enlightening. Kristin is an incredibly complex and vibrant character and it was a true pleasure to be able to understand her emotional journey to come to terms with her new identity. I have never personally encountered someone with AIS (androgen-insensitivity disorder), and thus I learned a lot about the implications of this condition. Furthermore, I found Kristin’s emotional response very realistic and appreciated that the author did not try to minimize her feelings, but rather explored this event’s impact in depth.
Furthermore, I think this novel is an important step in spreading awareness about the complexity of identity, particularly gender identity. If others are able to understand someone like Kristin’s feelings and experiences, they may be able to overcome their prejudices and embrace them as an individual, rather than stereotype. Also, showing the impact other people’s negative responses to her identity had on Kristin, may make readers more aware of the impact of their own actions. Overall, what I liked the most about the novel was the emphasis on not reducing Kristin to purely her gender identity, but rather treating her as a person first and foremost.
I would recommend this novel to any student, who has an open mind and is willing to learn about the experiences of others. This novel could be used in a literature, psychology, health, biology, or gender/queer studies class. One thing to note, is that there are mature topics addressed (e.g. sex, sexual health).

Little Peach by Peggy Kern student book review by Isabella


Author (Last name first): Kern, Peggy
Title of the Book: Little Peach 
 Publisher: Balzer and Bray 
 Date of Publication: 2015 
 ISBN#: 978-0062266958 
 Price: $17.99
 Grade Level: YA 
 Number of pages: 208 
Rating: 5Q, 4P Highly Recommended

Little Peach takes a brutally honest approach to the realities of child trafficking and prostitution. Fourteen-year-old Michelle has never had an easy life, nevertheless, she could always count on her grandfather to keep the wolves away. However, when he dies and her jealous mother kicks her out of the house, Michelle has nowhere to go. With one last shred of hope, she tries to find an old classmate in New York, but soon realizes the futility of her endeavor.
She is alone, aimless, and afraid. Suddenly, a charming, nicely dressed man approaches her and welcomes her into his world. At first, Michelle naively believes that she has found her happily ever after. Yet, soon she discovers the truth that she is to be a child prostitute. Stuck in this impossible situation, Michelle will have to make choices that no child should have to make.
Little Peach is a difficult book to read. It is not an uplifting story, but rather one aimed to educate the reader about the way children wind up in prostitution. I found the writing to be very nuanced, as the style reflected Michelle’s maturity and mental state: as a young child her thoughts were simplistic, but when her environment forces her to grow up quickly, the reader can see this change evident in the style of writing.
One moment in this novel that struck me particularly was when the girls find a missing child poster and realize that no one is looking for them. I found this eye-opening because I had never thought about the children who are not on missing posters, but who simply disappear. Furthermore, I found it shocking how these girls had nowhere to go, when they were abandoned or abused by their families. They feared being put in a group home or foster family more than going to New York City by themselves, which can be seen as rather indicative of the poor state of child protective service in poorer regions.
Finally, I think that this novel’s lack of a happy ending was a good decision because it shows that in these situations there are never picture perfect movie endings. Nevertheless, it suggested that it is possible for some to escape the dark world of prostitution, but that they cannot do this alone and thus we as a society must work together to save these girls.

This novel would be a good choice for an upperclassman English class, government/politics, or cultural studies class. Please note that this novel has many mature themes (e.g. sex, rape, drugs, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, prostitution, and violence).

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George by Alex Gino book review

George is a 4th grade boy, who decides he wants to try out for the role of Charlotte, from Charlotte’s Web, during the class/school play.  He and his best friend, Kelly, practice the part of Charlotte.  He is not really interested in typical “boy” topics and hobbies.  His best friend is a girl and they talk about stereotypical girl things. George tries to keep his secret from his mom and brother in that he feels like a girl on the inside. George has a hidden stash of magazines that are teen girl magazines, but he is ashamed of them and hides them from his family.  After all the rehearsing of Charlotte’s part, George gets shut down pretty quickly by the teachers who tell him it is a “girls” part and don’t let him try out.  He goes home very sad, but can’t really tell his mom what happened.


There is nothing inappropriate in this story as far as anything sexual or more in depth transgender details.  This is a upper elementary story about someone who does not feel comfortable in his body.  I feel that it is written for young children.  It may help a child who feels different or it may generate empathy and understanding in readers who have a friend like George.  I really think it’s a groundbreaking book to give a voice to those who have not traditionally had a voice in children’s books.  The narrator uses female pronouns for George, while teachers, classmates and family use male pronouns. This book is providing a diverse character for some readers to identify with, who many not have many fictional characters to identify with. This book is not being challenged for any words contained within the pages, but for its ideas.  I’m sure the ones most vocal against this book have not actually read it.

I picked this book up because it was appearing on the ALA most frequently banned/challenged lists for 2017.  It is definitely a elementary/middle grade reader, which I usually don’t purchase for my high school library.  However, I did think it would be a good addition to our GLBTQ collection just in case there was a student who saw the banned book list and was interested in reading it.  Although, I can see where conservative groups would try to remove it from school libraries. I also picked up this book because I heard Alex Gino speak at nErDcampMI about the book and I am always interested in the books when authors talk about them.  There is definitely a personal connection. The cover design is simple, but very cute and when you open the cover, there are multi-colored hand drawn pictures depicting items most young children enjoy.  Overall, it’s a well written, groundbreaking book.  I would recommend it for school and public libraries.

Author's Website: http://www.alexgino.com/george/

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Using Collections by Destiny in an IB School

I have been playing around with Destiny Collections over the past few weeks, and I am super excited about the way it is allowing me to share my IB library resources with my staff and students. I think the physical collection is being featured more prominently because it’s integrated with online sources as well. I was a big user of Resource Lists in the previous version, but exporting a text list is not as visually appealing as a whole collection that can be shared with one link. The Collection has pictures of the book covers, screenshots of free web resources and YouTube videos that are playable through the Collection. Simply put, I think that students can see at a quick glance that they have access to great library resources.

Click here to continue reading article:

https://www.follettcommunity.com/collections-klaudiajanek-nov17


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron - student book review by Alyssa


The premise behind The Forgetting is something that, to me, is insanely fascinating. It follows the idea of a society where, every twelve years, every citizen loses all of their memory. The citizens must write their true life story down in books, which they carry with them at all times, so they can read them and know who they are after the “forgetting”. The book does a fantastic job of exploring the possibilities for corruption in the society, such as what happens when a person’s book is lost, or if a person never forgets, both of which happen to the main protagonist, Nadia.
The Forgetting originally appeared to me as similar to a novel in the dystopian fiction genre, as it features a small, idyllic city with a different society from ours and with a seemingly corrupted government. I went into the book expecting the general dystopian YA plot - a love interest, overthrowing the people in power, etc, all of which were indeed present; however, I was caught completely off guard and found myself very pleased with the science-fiction rout the book ended up taking. It managed to explain a lot about some seemingly fantastic and unrealistic aspects of the setting, even giving an intriguing scientific explanation for the Forgetting itself.

In general, the book covers themes such as corruption, truth, love, memory, and family. It should also be noted that the book is definitely YA and up, due to the descriptive imagery in the romantic scenes and descriptions of the anarchy and death that occur in the days before the Forgetting. The Forgetting would be a good book for free reading or book clubs, due to both the general aspect of enjoyment and character development, as well as the deep themes which would be fascinating to discuss. Although I found the beginning to be a slight bit slow, once the science fiction aspect dropped in around halfway I was completely captivated and could not put it down!

Author's website:
http://www.sharoncameronbooks.com/index2.html

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider student book review by Nicole

Rating: 4Q4P
Highly Recommended
Once diagnosed with the drug-resistant form of Tuberculosis (TB), Lane moves to the Latham house in order to promote health and wellness until a cure is discovered. The once star student on his way to Stanford has his eyes focused only on keeping up with his education rather than his health; this only has a negative effect on his overall well being and is forced to remove himself from all that he lived for before TB.
Finally discovering his way throughout Latham house, Lane meets a past summer camp acquaintance, Sadie. After a rough start marred by camp memories, the two discover that they are the best of friends, perfect for eachother in the mess of Latham. From sneaking into the nearby town to late night parties the two fall in love- Latham becomes their sick version of paradise.
Once life starts to fall into place, everything starts to go wrong, from tragedies regarding their close friends to the discovery of a cure, life starts to change. Although the news of the cure is amazing, Sadie and Lane are devastated to be separated. Through a culmination of events brought by these changes, Sadie is injured to the point close to death three weeks away from the delivery of the cure. Trying an experimental version of the cure, Sadie ultimately meets her demise through the drug rather than TB or the injuries themselves.
Still affected both by his time at Latham and relationship with Sadie, Lane leaves the sanatorium recognising that life needs to be lived to the fullest in the present rather than just focusing on the future.
This book Extraordinary Means by Robyyn Schneider was a great read and I would love to read it again. Similar to the themes of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, this novel follows two sick young adults through their time recovering and growing up.
I enjoyed the fiction intertwined with the truth of the real disease. No, there is no TB that is completely drug resistant but the idea of an epidemic such as that is extremely interesting. Also, basing the plot around the patients and their experiences at a sanatorium is another modern way to look at the experiences of those during the major epidemics of TB in the 19th century. Schneider did not just focus on the impacts to the patients, but the extended impacts on the society surrounding and the caretakers within. This created a feeling that this epidemic could truly occur and measures should be taken to account for everyone’s health and safety. Furthermore, I feel that it is extremely beneficial that the author studied medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This provided an added sense of reality intertwined with the clear fiction of the disease.
Despite the amazing plot there are a few mature scenes that a reader should be aware about before reading this novel. To start, drinking and excessive drug usage is highly prevalent throughout the culture of the kids at the Latham House. Furthermore, the relationships formed throughout the sanatorium tend to end in hooking up in the forest. Regarding relationships, the mini love triangle between Sadie, Lane, and Nick was not executed as best as it could have been. It was between existing and not; I feel that Schneider should have chosen between the two rather than having it fluctuate.  

As a clearly well researched and written novel, any teenage student would love to read this book. For a teacher, literary analysis is plentiful; whether it be determining plot points such as debating where the climax rests, the character development of Lane regarding his personal values such as education vs. school life, or the influence of technology or nature on daily life, anyone could find anything to track throughout this novel. This book easily fits within a high school library. If a librarian would like to feature it on a themed shelf, I would recommend placing it with books such as The Fault in Our Stars or Wonder.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Darkstalker by Tui T. Sutherland - student book review by Arav


Overall, I do think this book is criminally good. The plot of the book is revolves around the villain dragon DarkStar, and the events which lead to his slumber almost two thousand years before the main series of Wings of Fire. The setting revolves around intelligent personified dragons, divided into many tribes based off of race with each having magic special to them. For example, the “Nightwing” race have members which can read minds, predict the future, or both. Now, the setting might put new readers to this series off, but I would suggest sticking around, as Sutherland shows off an incredible case study in how all villains might not be strictly evil, but simply misguided beings whose power let them embrace their character faults.

The story itself is shown through three lenses, each rotating for a role to narrate the story whenever Sutherland sees fit: DarkStalker, Fathom, and ClearSight. DarkStalker, as the titular protagonist, gives the reader a clear view as to how his thoughts turn from seeking justice and what is right to using his power of magic for evil. ClearSight, gifted with the vast ability of future-sight, gives us both an interesting glimpse as to how confusing such a power can be, while also acting as the checks and balances to DarkStalkers antics, so that when certain key elements of the plot are revealed, we understand how hard it can be to fully see a being’s transition to madness without going into the mind of that individual itself. Lastly Fathom, the eldest of the trio, has a rather uplifting story, one which, for the sake of preventing too many spoilers, I will not discuss.

 All three have a rich interplay which makes the transitions neither seem jarring nor forced - in fact, I did not even notice that the chapter headings indicated which dragon was speaking at the time, as I could simply tell from the characters’ internal monologues and conflicts. However, this book is not for the faint of heart, as it does include descriptive violence among dragons, including a disembowelment. These scenes, however, are crucial to the plot, weaving together big character moments with big plot points. In terms of giving this book to students, I would love to analyse all the themes that this book tries to portray. Overall, it provides a pretty satisfying analysis of what the words “good” and “bad” really mean to our ears, especially as people can tend to both given their mood and whatnot. Each character underscores different ideas regarding good and evil from Arctic, DarkStalker’s Father, underscoring the need to think through your decisions, to Whiteout, DarkStalker’s sister, underscoring the need to keep your individuality to maintain sanity. The magical powers of each dragonkind are also well-thought, with the various thoughts concerning ClearSight’s future-prediction abilities akin to time travel, such as causal loops and multiverse theory. There is also a lot about power structures and the way power is distributed in societies that is good to reflect on, from how hereditary power can cause even the most level headed to go mad with power to how easily can people let the past define the possibilities of the future. Lastly, the style of the book is simply marvelous. While I had no knowledge of the book’s setting or who the characters might be, the book both managed to convey necessary plot details in a way that respected the intelligence of the reader, from giving subtle hints about a certain dragon’s imprisonment early onwards, while still making the actual plot fun to read.

I had a blast between the character interaction scenes, where characters went back and forth about certain thematic issues. Each was chock-full of both witty remarks and sarcasm that I honestly felt like I could hear the stuff in my head. Altogether, then, the book was incredibly vivid. It has the ability to spark a lot of conversation on it, though the setting might turn some off. My only real complaint is that I want more of this story to read, so my next task will be to read the rest of the series to see what it has in store for me!




Jingle by Gordon Korman- a student book review by Arav


Out of the many, many Christmas tales that authors write nowadays, Jingle, by Gordan Korman is well written and articulate. Following with his usual formula for the Swindle series: a mystery, a plan or two, and a well-written climax that pulls most, if not all, concurrent plot threads, Korman manages to not only tell a good mystery, but add a nice Christmas twist the other books in the series needed. The plot is, in this manner, rather typical: an antique of over ten million dollars of value is stolen and Griffin and Co, due to their previous history of stealing, are suspected by the cops. In order to shift the blame off themselves, they implement one plan after another, with the story adding layers of difficulty as a result. Unlike other reviews, I do not really mind the fact that Korman did not include some of the new characters he introduced in the installment prior to this one - in fact, I think the book benefitted from the removal. As the subtitle states, the book is not a mainline Swindle tale but a so-called “Swindle Mystery”, focusing on another one of the group’s escapades as they try to uphold their sense of justice without getting yelled at by their parents or arrested by the police. It is meant to be a joyride with the beloved core characters of the series, and I think Jingle is, in that respect, a good book in the series.
        However, besides the well-written plot, Korman does stumble a bit in Jingle, though it is rather minimal in my opinion. Cigars, for instance, are referenced in the book a bit, especially with respect to Mr.Crenshaw, a biker-type character who debuts in this title. Additionally, the gang do end up going to a bar to “rescue” Luthor, their dog. Besides these references, which might make it unsuitable for a younger audience, the writing tends to make one character, Darren Vader, a little too caricatured. Unlike in the other installments, where Mr.Vader gets some character development, here he is nothing but one word: cruel. For example, he repeatedly kicks Ben Slovak during an elf rehearsal ( Did I mention that the group ended up landing jobs as Elves for a Christmas Spectacular? ), which just seems excessive after he spreads lies about the group to two other new characters - Tiffany and Russel. Besides these, admittedly minor, complaints, I have nothing else to say. Despite reading many, many mystery books in my time, I still get caught up by the way Korman manages to tie every plot thread together, from the dueling holidays at Ben Slovak’s house to Logan’s desire to land an acting job at a theatre troupe. In short, despite a few flubs, Korman manages to write up a book which can grip anyone, making it a really fun read.
     In terms of its usage among students, this book might be fun just as a simple Christmas tale. In an academic setting, it would be pretty fun to compare this tale with more traditional Christmas tales, especially with the interplay between the mystery aspects of the plot and the Christmas setting. The vocabulary, typical of a Korman novel, is descriptive but catered to a younger audience, allowing younger readers a chance to have fun reading a longer book without a great struggle. Additionally, the theme, following the classic Christmas message of selflessness, is well executed, as the group ends up helping one of their initial “suspects” with a dire financial situation and show their Christmas spirit.
    Altogether, the book is well-written and really engages the reader from beginning to end. While it might not be suitable for some audiences who are not familiar with the characters and/or are comfortable with the references to cigars in the book, it still is a very satisfying mystery that somehow manages to develop multiple subplots synchronously.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley - student book review by Isabella



Factory Girl chronicles the story of Roshen, a sixteen-year- old Uyghur girl from northern China. Roshen dreams of becoming a teacher and continuing to pass on her culture to the next generation, like those before her. However, all of this is interrupted when she is chosen to be sent to a Chinese factory in the south of China. The Chinese government does not approve of the Uyghur culture and wishes to force assimilation, particularly by sending their children to work in factories where they face deplorable conditions. Yet, Roshen is determined to not lose her identity and forms a close camaraderie with the other girls sent to the factory. However, whether they will be able to return to their homeland and families is something only time will tell. 

This novel was well-written and a pleasure to read. I found the character growth intriguing, particularly Roshen’s: she goes from being focused primarily on her own well-being to becoming a strong leader figure for the other Uyghurs. I found this to be a rather inspiring message because it implied that it is possible to find strength even in seemingly hopeless situations. Furthermore, I very much enjoyed learning about Uyghur culture because I had never been exposed to this culture before reading Factory Girls. Thus, I was shocked to learn of their plight and hope that this book may serve to educate others about the plight of Uyghurs, like it did for me. However, a weaker aspect of this novel was Roshen’s self-righteousness that at times translated into an unjustified prejudiced view towards girls, who did not observe the same exact cultural traditions as her. For example, she mistrusts the girls from the city immediately and does not try to get to know them before passing judgement. Furthermore, although probably accurate of the culture the author intended to represent, I was immensely frustrated by the patriarchal society that resulted in Roshen consistently feeling inferior to the male figures in her life. 

Overall, this book would be a good introduction to the culture of the Ugyhurs, a vulnerable minority group in China. Making students aware of the existence this group is incredibly important to assuring that their autonomy is protected. This book could be used in either a literature, history, or cultural studies class, as a case study of a minority culture.

Author Photos that inspired her story - http://www.josannelavalley.com/photo_essay.html
Authors Website: http://www.josannelavalley.com/index.html
Thoughts about the author from her friend.  Josanne La Valley passed away shortly after her book was published. http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com/2017/03/josanne-la-valley.html

Factory Girl book trailer 



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Transcendent by Lesley Livingston student book review by Nicole

Resuming immediately after the cliffhanger of the second novel of this trilogy, Transcendent is action-packed from the start. Haunted by the prophecy surrounding Ragnarok, both intentional and unintentional choices make the destruction of everything more of a reality. Despite the grim future, the daring protagonist Mason Starling is determined to prevent her world from going to its end. She pushes through adversity alongside her transformed romantic interest, the Fennrys Wolf, in order to thwart what the fates and her father has deemed inevitable. Throughout this book there is constant danger and the plot’s twists and turns are plentiful. All in all, the plot rose to a wonderfully crafted climax for the final novel in this series which lead to an unexpected but well-thought out resolution. 

In general, I agree with the majority of the reviews throughout other sources such as GoodReads. The action picked up right at the beginning and never stopped. There is a huge connection to Norse mythology and that truly added to the amount of action that Livingston wrote. Saying that, I believe that my interest in mythology helped my reading of this book. I would recommend this series to a lover of Rick Riordan’s novels or other YA fantasy/mystery books. The mythology used was good but I believe that the integration of multiple mythologies such as Greek could have been done better. I believe it could have been improved if a singular mythology was used in order to be true to that culture. With the heavy reliance upon mythology, the characters follow in suit violence-wise. In addition, there is mild language but nothing that the general YA population hasn’t read in other novels. 

Other than that it is a generally clean novel. Within the classroom or the library this novel would fit right alongside the Percy Jackson or Mortal Instruments series. A mythology themed month containing these novels would be a great addition to the bookshelf. One last important thing to note, it is vital to read this novel as the last book of the trilogy. Without the prior knowledge of the rest of the books, Transcendent is confusing and almost unreadable. 


Lies I Live By (Lauren Sabel) student book review by Alyssa

Callie’s life is a little bit strange; on the outside, she might just seem like any normal teenager, with a loving boyfriend, super nerdy mom, and just getting ready to go to college. But unbeknownst to those closest to her, she is actually a secret government psychic, saving lives by seeing future disasters and helping the government prevent them. It is something her family can never know, lest they get put in danger; but what happens if her mom gets involved in some secret agency no one seems to know about, Callie’s boyfriend is seen injured in a vision, and she finds herself falling for another guy against her will?

Lies I Live By starts out a little bland, but once the action begins, the captivating mystery involved will keep the reader wanting more. My first impression of the book was that it was going to be another one of those cheesy romances; girl has perfect boyfriend, hot guy comes into her life, and suddenly she is cheating on him. I was a bit turned off by this assumption, but as soon as the action came in around halfway through the book, I couldn’t put it down. The different aspects of Callie’s visions kept me guessing the entire way through, and although the whole “end of the world” aspect came off as kind of cliche, I found myself pleasantly caught off guard by the plot twist at the end of the book - and hoping for a sequel.

The book does contain mild violence and some death, so there is that to be aware of, but it also teaches good lessons of loyalty and doing what is right for others, rather than for yourself. It is the perfect book to pick up on a boring, rainy day and enjoy a captivating read. Would be recommended for readers of a higher age group, just because of the more sophisticated themes, but it is specifically good for those in a late high school level in order to relate to the characters, who are around that age. Overall,the book is certainly enjoyable.  Definitely recommended for teens!

Monday, October 16, 2017

My Lady Jane student book review by Alyssa


Have you ever wanted to read a book that was a mixture of British history, Monty Python, The Princess Bride, Shakespeare, and a touch of fantasy? Then My Lady Jane is definitely the book for you. As strange as that combination sounds, My Lady Jane pulls it off seamlessly - focusing on a twisted, fantastical, and almost completely-changed version of the story of Lady Jane Grey’s nine-day long rule of England with sarcastic humor to match that of Monty Python and the Princess Bride, and with Shakespeare references slipped almost un-noticeably into the text.

Edward VI knows he is dying; but he also knows that neither of his sisters are fit to be queen. That’s why, on his deathbed, he names the first son of his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his heir, and marries his cousin off to a horse. (Well, not literally a horse; Lord Gifford Dudley, in actuality, who is a horse by day and human by night, not that Jane needs to know - she would likely be too buried in a book to notice anyway). These three protagonists will be thrown knee-deep in a huge conspiracy when Edward’s sister, Bloody Mary, takes the crown, and will risk all of their lives in this daring adventure to get it back.

The perfectly timed humor makes the whole book totally worth it. I found myself laughing my head off at least twice a chapter at the numerous references and jokes I caught, and could not put the book down. It would help for people reading the book to have experience with Monty Python, The Princess Bride, and some Shakespeare in order to catch the numerous references, but the humor can still be appreciated without that foreknowledge. Aside from the humor, the book does contain some more serious themes such as love and prejudice, as well as what it means to be a good leader and help those who have need of it. There is a little bit of blood and death, but not enough to be a concern for the high school level. All in all, My Lady Jane has quickly become one of the most entertaining books I have ever read, and I would highly recommended to anyone who loves sarcastic humor.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith book review by Nicole

Annabeth is entering her senior year of high school with her best friend Noe and is looking forward to the entire experience of what is to come. With her head stuck in the future, all she can think about is going to college with Noe, her Paris plans, and following her best friend to the ends of the earth. To her dismay, nothing goes right; she gets pregnant, her mother tells her that her father raped her, Noe is recruited for a gymnastics team at a completely different college, and their friendship starts to fall apart. This is the story of broken relationships and change; from the point of view from a girl who’s life is falling apart, Smith tells the story of recovery.


This story feels like an emotional diary from a broken girl who desperately needs help. From how Smith set up the novel, the reader gets a full novel with the experiences and reactions both emotional and physical from Annabeth. This intricate yet simplistic set-up of the novel from both the character backstories to how the chapters set up adds to the overall mood of sadness to recovery of this book. I was able to feel connected to the characters despite how different their lives were from mine. Smith beautifully portrayed what it meant to fall apart and start building your life back up again. The path of both Annabeth and Noe follows one of sex and pregnancy that leads to abortion, rape, eating disorders, underage drinking, and bullying so be aware with younger audiences.

Educationally this book can be used to analyze the culture of high school and its impact on teens. As previously mentioned, relations, both mending and breaking, is a reoccurring theme that strives to tell that one’s true family is the closest when you need it and toxic relationships that cause personal harm should always be weeded out, no matter the past relation. Furthermore, this book is perfect for a bookshelf theme in May which is Mental Health Month. It would be such a great experience if students could have a mental health seminar which would provide both resources of how to overcome disorders and novels like this which describe the experiences of a sufferer.

Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos book review by Nicole


Author (Last name first): Dimopoulos, Elaine
 Title of the Book: Material Girls
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
 Date of Publication: 2015
 ISBN# 987-0-544-38850-5
Price: $17.99 Hardcover
 Grade Level: YA
 Number of pages: 319
Nicole's Rating (based on VOYA): 5Q4P
Highly Recommended

 In a world where fashion and looks are the only things that seem to matter, Marla is a superior court judge within the famous fashion company, Torro-LeBlanc. Believing she had achieved her wildest dreams, she never expected to be demoted back to the lowest level of the company, a drafter of designs, once she voted against the rest of the court on a fashion item. Humiliated for going with her gut decisions on what “trends” will occur, Marla finds is difficult to initially get back with the designer crowd. At the same time, Ivy Wilde, a pop star icon, is stuck within her “wilde” image of a pop star who couldn't care less about what is considered scandalous. Joined together by the common need for a change, Marla and Ivy rebel against the trendy “Big Five” fashion brands and wilde’s agency. Marla creates a new image for wilde, a wilder, animalistic, earthy new look for the once untameable star. Their goal is to inform people against the crazy trends that create so much waste as each piece of clothing can only be worn once. To reduce the impact of the economy of the environment, they promote wearing clothes multiple times and to even upcycle their clothing once finished. One step after another the once small image rebellion turns into a full scale strike and uprising against the trends. Fighting against public opinion, bosses and managers, and friends the strike is short lived and the message against the unsustainable trends all but dies with it.

This book was a very interesting read for me. I could not put it down yet I hated the ending. Dimopoulos married fashion, dystopian society, politics, and an eco-friendly message while keeping it as realistic as it can get for this dystopian society. Although not as Project Runway as the back cover implies, this new fashion world intrigued me as I was able to peer into the process of creating a garment and was able to understand how each aspect of that process influenced the official design. Regarding the Project Runway aspect, it truly was more of a Project Runway Jr. Fashion Challenge, and a failed one at that. Many of the described designs were insane but given the society, it makes fun of the insanity of the importance placed upon looks. The success of the characters in this book would have been of a lower level designer who did not get eliminated for the challenge yet they were the second to last. That is truly what infuriated me. The ending resulted in a complete reset to the beginning of the book. Ivy turned back into a agency-obeying scandalous pop star who could have had marvelous character development.

The climax of this novel had her completely against her old self and with actual morals. Regarding Marla, her character development was more realistic. She was able to open up her own upcycled clothing shop with some of the other drafters who were released from their jobs after the strikes. All-in-all, although the ending made me upset, I understand why Dimopoulos had it end that way. A main theme was that it takes more work to change something existing than to create something new. Although the strikes failed, the failed strikers were still able to create their own start-up, slowly getting their message to the world rather than forcing immediate change.

In hindsight my emotions towards their success was purposeful. I believe that this helped get the message of reducing clothing waste across more than it would have if it was a successful rebellion. Also, by having Ivy revert to her old self Dimopoulos was able to show to the readers how self centered many pop-culture icons are. This book was a small protest against the attitudes of current society who is self-centered and all about how one looks to others.

 This book has a decent amount of drug use. Called the “Placidophilus pill” or a “P Pill” for short, it causes the user to relax and create a happiness high. Although the drug is illegal, its widespread use represents how this society is not satisfied with how everything is going. The need for this pill demonstrates that the immense pressures of society are too large for everyone to handle and a change was needed. In addition, the entire book is practically child labour. Children get “Tapped” at the end of seventh grade to be asked into a certain field of work. Their entire lives depend on that moment and if not tapped, people get hated jobs such as doctors or teachers. The fact that much of the children want to go into the entertainment industry is another reflection of today’s society yet does not make sense. I wondered how does this society thrive if the majority of the workforce are children and there are not many people to take the necessary place of civil workers?

 With an interesting take on society and how people create waste this book would be perfect for a book club or interdisciplinary studies of economics and society. To fully enjoy this book an already present interest in fashion would be beneficial as the surface plot completely revolves around them.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

EtherWorld by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam - student book review by Nicole



Immediately following the ending of the previous novel of the Elusion series, Elusion, Gabel and Klam start the novel with Regan and her newly discovered father in the Ether World. Struggling to fight and return to the real world, Regan and Josh are desperate to destroy the virtual reality escape of Elusion to protect the real world from the unknown dangers hidden in the code.
Once forced out of the app by Patrick, the new head of her father’s company Orexis, Regan goes through the struggles of trying to find the bodies of her friends still stuck within Elusion while dealing with political and familial issues. Continuing with the mysteries, Regan relies on her friends for help to heal the trapped people and finally find the body of her father to prove that he is not dead. On the edge of your seat until the end of this novel, Ether World is full of adventure and romance until the very end.
It should be noted that it is necessary to read the first novel as many of the concepts explored are futuristic. Combined with a complicated plotline in relation to character’s interactions, the reader may become confused or not be able to follow what is going on. Furthermore, there are many scenes of violence or illegal activities that may not be suitable for a younger audience. Despite these small warnings, they add to the plotline and make sense in accordance to the characters situation.
Overall, I believe that this novel was a wonderfully executed sequel to Elusion. I love the concept of this novel: a polluted future with people desperate for nature but end up leaning upon technology for a replacement. It questions actions taken today that will ruin the environment and comments upon how lucky we are to have such a beautiful world. Moreover, technology’s usage and its “addictive” tendencies is portrayed similarly in that its overuse will destroy one’s life.
Considering school usage, a technology themed book shelf or themed month is one of the easiest ways to incorporate this book into your library. For literary analysis, motivations of characters such as profit, family, and love are three of the most prevalent motivations driving the main characters. Lastly, technology and its implications can be analyzes along with its effects upon society.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Magonia student book review by Nicole


Aza Ray has been different her entire life; the subject of a mysterious disease, she is left on earth struggling to take a breath of fresh air and live like a normal teen. When she sees ships in the sky, she is left to believe that it was just a hallucination due to her heavy medication. That idea is proven wrong. Aza is swept into the world of Magonia, a world where she is dead to earth but can live and breath normally for the first time in her life. Torn between her past family and friend Jason, Aza desperately clings to survival in her new life, trying to hold true to what she knows. Aza is challenged through the discovery of talents and powers she has unlocked through her canwr and her true mother’s pushes for lessons with Dai. Furthermore, through discoveries of Magonia’s new culture Aza finds the true reasons for issues between the Magonians’ and the “drowners”, or people living on earth; Earth has forced the Magonians to steal their food by taking their precious Magonian epiphytes and hiding them in the seed vault.

Through trial and error both between Aza in Magonia and Jason on earth, they reunite to protect the fragile balance of peace between Earth and Magonia. Magonia is a wonderful premier book to the new series by Headley. Only lapsed by a few swear words not suitable for younger audiences, this book is suitable for the young adult fantasy genre. In my opinion, the dual perspective of both Aza and Jacob was executed in a professional manner, always leaving the reader on the edge of their seats. Each character had their own personality that shined, allowing for a variety of perspectives to the multitudes of events on the novel.

 Relationship wise, the connection between Aza and Jacob was not over done but at times their thoughts of each other balanced on the thin line of cheesy and profound. Headley’s writing style is so unique and amazing to both read and analyze. She not only creates a feeling like the reader is within the head of her characters through casual diction but the structure of the physical words reflects the true emotions of these events. In that case of structure, the words at times are bolded, replaced by symbols to represent a greater meaning of loss of words, dragged throughout the page utilizing new paragraphs and white space, and many more creative styles rarely seen in many books. The structure’s creativity is truly what sets this book apart from most YA fiction novels. A literary analysis of the structure is a great place to start but additionally the analysis can focus upon the motif of being able to breathe and an overarching question of what creates true family and friends.

 A key aspect of this novel, review wise, to be noted is that this is an Epic Reads member book. To gain more information there are videos on their YouTube channel with a synopsis and a DIY that may be watched. I agree with the selection of this book becoming apart of the Epic Reads community as it suits the main goals and overall theme of the books Epic Reads normally promotes and advertises for (the popular YA audience).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde book review

This is the 3rd book in the Chronicles of Kazam series.  I recommend reading the books in order as these are not really stand alone books.  We’re back with Jennifer Strange, a 16 year old orphan who is the manager of Kazam Mystical Arts and Court Mystician for the Kingdom of Snodd.  Jennifer is in high demand - from the Queen to Once Mangificent Boo to the Mighty Shandar.  She is about to go on an adventure (because Quests need to be approved).  In this story we meet Addie and lose a few characters along the way.  Jennifer has been sent to find the Eye of Zoltar in the Cambrian Empire.  She doesn’t have much to go on, but she does think it will save the dragons.  The land they travel to is very dangerous.  People go there as “jeopardy tourists” and sometimes they do not make it back.  There are many perils along the way and they are not all solved because the story ends with a major cliffhanger...with a promise from the author that there is more to come.


I have been enjoying this series and I highly recommend it to fans of Harry Potter.  The setting is sort of an alternate reality of Great Britain and magic is not kept secret.  If readers like magical fantasy, dragons and epic journeys, this book is for them.  I think it would be a good purchase for a middle school or high school library.  This particular book is a little bit darker than the first two.  There is violence during the scenes with the Hollow Men, but nothing out of the ordinary for a fantasy novel.  Some of the dialogue is quite entertaining when the characters are being light-hearted.  There are many quirky personalities and Jennifer embraces them all.  Readers will learn quite a bit about economics from the princess.  Some readers may decide that economics is cool ;)  Overall, this is a great series and I am always recommending the books.  

Also, this:

It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate Strohm book review

I choose the book because I enjoyed the other books Stephanie Kate Strohm wrote.  I think this was her first released hardcover as the other books were released only in paperback.  Avery Dennis has been dumped just days before her senior prom.  Avery has never been without a boyfriend and decides this is the perfect time to find herself.  She also wants to figure out why none of her many relationships have lasted.  Avery is considered one of the popular girls.  She is cute, athletic and smart.  She takes her studies seriously and it’s one of the things the other popular girls make fun of her for.  She’s had the same science lab partner for years and they are at the top of their class.  Avery has an oral history project due before graduation, so she decides to explore why her past relationships have failed.  Her teacher tells her this is not the intent of the oral history project, but Avery sets out to prove her wrong.  This is a romantic comedy and has a happy ending.

This book may actually seem pretty fluffy on the outside, but any historian will see the components of writing up an oral history and setting out to interview your primary sources.  The author also sets up sort of a historiography.  The topic of finding out why your relationships don’t work out is fun and funny, but I really think the underlying methodology would help some readers see that history can be fun.  Readers will also enjoy the romance and the jokes throughout the story.  The story may be difficult for some readers to follow as it is written in an interview format, with varying perspectives.  But it will be no problem for stronger readers. There is also some diversity among the characters.  One review labeled it as stereotypical, but I don’t agree with that.  I think it reflects the diversity in many high schools today.

I enjoyed this book.  It is a fun, quick read in terms of the content.  But it could be used by a history teacher to illustrate that oral histories can be fun and not all topics have to be super serious.  The example in the book may not be ideal for a school project, but a reader could transfer their new found knowledge to a more history content oriented topic.  I would recommend it as a purchase for a high school library.  I would do a readers’ advisory recommendation to a not super serious history buff or a student looking for a romantic comedy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Running Girl by Simon Mason review by Isabella


Running Girl is a high stakes mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Garvie Smith is a math genius that thrives in laziness. He is an utter contradiction: the student with the highest IQ at school, but also the one with the worst grades. However, when his ex-girlfriend is found murdered in a local pond, his laziness is brought to a screeching halt. He embarks on a quest to find out the truth and bring her murderer to justice. However, this is much easier said than done, because even the police are grasping at straws.


Overall, I really enjoyed this book because it provided a unique take on the typical murder mystery infused with a diverse cast of characters. The plot includes several twists, which made it very difficult to predict the outcome until the very end. I think that this is one of the novel’s greatest strengths because young adult mysteries often struggle to maintain an intriguing plot line. Furthermore, this novel includes a wide variety of characters, which add a new flavor to the mystery genre. I particularly enjoyed how the author introduced Sikhism to the reader in a way that inspires curiosity and a desire to learn more about Inspector Singh’s culture. Today, this is particularly important in literature due to the increasing hostile and uninformed prejudices people hold against those they struggle to understand. Finally, I enjoyed the imperfection of the main character and that the mystery was not easily resolved, but rather due to the persistence of Garvie. His use of mathematics to propel the plot line further, might even inspire some mathphobes to look at math in a slightly more positive light.

I would recommend this book definitely to high school students who enjoy mysteries/thrillers, as well as those who have a desire to try something new. I enjoyed the book overall very much and think that it would be a wonderful addition to any school or classroom library. One thing to consider is that this book does deal with murder, illicit drug use, under-age drinking, and child pornography (alluded, not explicit).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day of Silence Book List for our school library

 @your library

These books are ready for you to check out during our annual #DayofSilence sponsored by IA GSWA.  We have to have our Day of Silence earlier than usual because the national day falls during our break.  Here are some suggestions for books that are ready to checkout.

Non-Fiction Titles

The antigay agenda : orthodox vision and the Christian right
261.8 HER Herman, Didi.

The new gay teenager
305.23 SAV Savin-Williams, Ritch C.

A place at the table : the gay individual in American society
305.38 BAW Bawer, Bruce, 1956-

Cherry Grove, Fire Island : sixty years in America's first gay and lesbian town
305.9 NEW Newton, Esther.

Statistical timeline and overview of gay life
306.76 CHA Chastain, Zachary.

GLBTQ : the survival guide for queer & questioning teens : gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning
306.76 HUE Huegel, Kelly, 1974-

The letter Q : queer writers' notes to their younger selves
306.76 LET edited by Sarah Moon ; with contributing editor James Lecesne.

Homophobia : from social stigma to hate crimes
306.76 PAL Palmer, Bill, 1957-

A new generation of homosexuality : modern trends in gay and lesbian communities
306.76 PAL Palmer, Bill, 1957-

What causes sexual orientation? : genetics, biology, psychology
 306.76 PAL Palmer, Bill, 1957-

Being gay, staying healthy
 306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Coming out : telling family and friends
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Feeling wrong in your own body : understanding what it means to be transgender
 306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay and lesbian role models
 306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay issues and politics : marriage, the military, & work place discrimination
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay people of color : facing prejudices, forging identities
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Homosexuality around the world : safe havens, cultural challenges
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Smashing the stereotypes : what does it mean to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gays and mental health : fighting depression, saying no to suicide
616.89 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay characters in theater, movies, and television: new roles, new attitudes
791.43 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Fiction Titles

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens agenda
FIC ALBERTALLI Albertalli, Becky,

Am I blue? : coming out from the silence
FIC BAU edited by Marion Dane Bauer.

Entangled
FIC CAPETTA Capetta, Amy Rose,

Unmade
 FIC CAPETTA Capetta, Amy Rose,

The miseducation of Cameron Post
 FIC DANFORTH Danforth, Emily M.

If you could be mine
FIC FARIZAN Farizan, Sara.

The sweet revenge of Celia Door
 FIC FINNEYFROCK Finneyfrock, Karen.

Say the word
FIC GAR Garsee, Jeannine.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
 FIC GREEN Green, John, 1977-

Geography Club
FIC HAR Hartinger, Brent.

Nothing pink
FIC HAR Hardy, Mark, 1965-

Totally Joe
 FIC HOW Howe, James, 1946-

We are the ants
 FIC HUTCHISON Hutchison, Shaun David,

Promise me something
FIC KOCEK Kocek, Sara,

Boy girl boy
 FIC KOE Koertge, Ronald.

The Arizona kid
 FIC KOERTGE Koertge, Ronald.

Openly straight
FIC KONIGSBERG Konigsberg, Bill.

Absolute brightness
FIC LEC Lecesne, James.

Boy meets boy
FIC LEV Levithan, David.

Two boys kissing
FIC LEVITHAN Levithan, David.

Gravity
FIC LIE Lieberman, Leanne.

Enduring love : a novel
FIC MCE McEwan, Ian.

Forbidden colors.
 FIC MIS Mishima, Yukio, 1925-1970.

Gone, gone, gone
FIC MOSKOWITZ Moskowitz, Hannah.

If I was your girl
FIC RUSSO Russo, Meredith,

Empress of the world
 FIC RYA Ryan, Sara.

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe
FIC SAENZ Sáenz, Benjamin Alire.

Fans of the impossible life
FIC SCELSA Scelsa, Kate,

As I descended
FIC TALLEY Talley, Robin,

Afterworlds
FIC WESTERFELD Westerfeld, Scott,

Highly illogical behavior
FIC WHALEY Whaley, John Corey,

Parrotfish
 FIC WIT Wittlinger, Ellen.

Love & lies : Marisol's story
 FIC WITTLINGER Wittlinger, Ellen.