El Deafo

20701984El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo is maybe the first graphic novel I’ve ever read from beginning to end.  That seems weird to say because I know a lot of students who read them, but I’ve never been drawn to them.

I read El Deafo because I had the chance to meet Cece Bell at a recent conference and after hearing her speak, I was interested to read the story.

BREAKING NEWS:  First of all, I didn’t realize that Cece Bell was married to Tom Angleberger of Origami Yoda fame.  I don’t know why that was so exciting to me, but it was!

El Deafo  is a somewhat autobiographical story of Cece, growing up deaf.  I found it interesting that Cece said she struggled with writing this book because she didn’t want to be known as the “deaf” author.

It is a sweet story of a girl coming to terms with what life has dealt her.  She doesn’t always handle it in the easiest manner, but who does?

I can’t say that graphic novels are my favorite or that I would pick one up without a specific reason for reading it, but I am glad that I read it.

BREAKING NEWS:  I also found it interesting that Cece said that the graphic novel authors don’t have any say on the colors in their books.  That’s as fascinating as authors not having say in the covers of their books.


The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas35527721

So I have re-evaluated my “to-read” list.  In the past, I have tried to read the books in the order that I added them to list but my list is so long that always meant I was reading books everyone was talking about, long after everyone was done talking about them.  I’ve decided to not be a prisoner to my “to-read” list.  There’s no chance I’ll ever catch up in this lifetime!

So from now on, I’m going to read what I feel like reading, no matter where it lands on my list.  That is what brought me to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  Every time I turn around someone else is saying what a great read it is!

Starr lives two lives.  She lives her life at home, in her neighborhood, the “ghetto”, and she attends school at a predominantly white private school.  When she is at school, her voice changes, she is aware of her reactions and doesn’t want to come off as the “black girl with attitude”.  No matter what she does at school, it is considered cool because people at school expect her to know what “cool” is.  In her neighborhood, she is just Mav’s daugher who works at the store.  She doesn’t know how to pull her two worlds together.

The book opens with Starr going to a party that ends suddenly with gunshots.  As Starr leave the party, she runs into her childhood friend, Khalil.  He offers to give her a ride home.  On the ride home, Khalil is pulled over because of a taillight out and everything goes wrong.  Starr has always been told how to act in front of the police and she hopes Khalil got that talk too.  Horrifically, Khalil is shot by the police officer right in front of Starr, even though Khalil wasn’t doing anything wrong.

This is the story of how Starr survives after this horrific incident.  She already had her childhood best friend die in her arms after a drive-by shooting so Starr is no stranger to tragedy but it is all so wrong.

Khalil’s death becomes a national headline and Starr struggles to keep her life at school and home together throughout everything going on.  She battles through her emotions of the possibility of the cop who shot her friend not even being punished.

This book…I couldn’t put it down.  Even though Starr’s life and my life could not be any more different, I just wanted to reach through the book and hug her.  This book is why it’s important to get all types of books into all types of kids hands.  Starr made me think about the Black Lives Matters movement in a different perspective than I could have on my own.  She made me see all sides to stories that I only see in headlines.  She brought Starr and her entire lovable family right into my little white, rural home.

Angie Thomas does such a great job of bringing all the characters in this story to life.  They are all so complex, no matter how big a role they played in the book.

I loved the line, “You can say racist things and not be a racist.”  I’m not a racist but I’m sure I have said very inconsiderate things without even realizing it.  After reading this book, I am much more aware of the world around me and my part of being a responsible, compassionate person.

I am a better person for having read this story.

AND it’s being made into a movie.  I can’t wait to go see it!

Never Never

never neverNever Never by Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher

In alternating chapters, Silas and Charlie tell us about how they both instantly have lost their memory in the middle of a normal school day.  I mean I guess it was a normal day, they don’t really remember.

This is a quick read where Silas and Charlie try to figure out who they are and what their relationship is all about without letting the people around them know there is anything wrong.

I’ve read several of Colleen Hoover’s other books and so I decided to give this one a try.  Here’s one of my book pet peeves…it drives me crazy when young characters get themselves in sticky situations and they go out of their way to not tell the authority figures in their life.  Are there really kids walking around every day with huge secrets that they just aren’t telling the grown ups?  I’m sure some but I’ve read several stories that seem to take this to the extreme.  If you don’t know who you are, why would you know not to tell someone and wouldn’t the people closest to you notice something was extremely wrong?

This was a quick read that I had to get to the end of.  Unfortunately, the ending leaves you hanging for the next book.  I was very relieved to see that it was available in Overdrive so I could pick up right where I left off.  If I had read this books as a new release and had to wait several months for a sequel, I probably would have lost interest.

There are some language issues and one scene where they listen to a video on their phone of Silas sneaking into Charlie’s bedroom to wish her a happy birthday.  There is nothing graphic but you definitely get the idea of what is going on.  I have a hard time just putting this in the adult category or the young adult category.  I think it could go in both.


Brown Girl Dreaming

brown girl dreaming.jpgBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Look at all those shiny medals on the cover!

Jacqueline Woodson tells a beautiful story of her childhood, stuck between two worlds in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

There was a big difference between South Carolina and Ohio and an unstable home life didn’t help.  This novel in verse shares about Woodson’s journey to become a writer while living with turmoil all around her.

I listened to this audiobook.  I might have been able to follow along a little better if I had been reading it and seeing how the words fit together but I still enjoyed this story immensely.

Map Trap

map trapThe Map Trap by Andrew Clements

Alton Barnes has always loved maps.  It must have been his destiny since he was named on the way to the hospital by looking at a list of towns in Illinois.

In his spare time, Alton makes his own maps.  It’s amazing the type of data you can get on a map, everything from what your teacher things/talks about, how many times the principal says “um” while on the announcements, and which cafeteria meals make the most students head to the bathroom.

You can imagine Alton was about to have a nervous breakdown after he decides to show a classmate one of his secret maps and shortly after that, his maps go missing!  If some of those maps get in the wrong hands, Alton could be in a heap of trouble.  Then the ransom notes start appearing.  Alton is now at the mercy of the kidnapper to get his maps back.

I listened to this audiobook with my children on a roadtrip.  It took around two hours to listen to it and we all enjoyed it.  Andrew Clements always does a great job of writing an interesting story that everyone can enjoy.

Under a Painted Sky

under a painted skyUnder a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

I love historical fiction!  I have a hard time selling it to my students but this one will be an easy sell.

In 1849, Samantha lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her father.  They keep to themselves running their local business but they see the way people look at them…because they are Chinese.

An unthinkable string of tragedies leaves Samantha on her own and on the run.  Her only chance is to head west and start a new life.

Samantha teams up with a runaway slave, Annamae, and they realize their best chance of survival is to pretend to be boys and find their way on the wagon train.  Sammy and Andy find themselves in the midst of quite the adventure as they stay out of eyesight from the law while figuring out who they can trust.  Plus just being on a journey out west in 1849 is an adventure all on its own.

I was rooting for Sammy and Andy to make it out west without getting captured.  There were many close calls and, at times, I found myself getting confused keeping everyone they met straight in my own head.  With that being said, I stayed up past my bedtime to finish this one.  It’s a keeper!

The Start of Me and You

     Tstart of me and youhe Star of Me and You by Emery Lord

A year ago, Paige’s boyfriend died in a tragic swimming accident.  Paige is trying to move on with her life but it’s hard when everyone gives you sympathetic looks all day and the thought of swimming makes her have an anxiety attack.

Paige finds comfort in discussing the trials of her life with her grandmother who is battling Alzheimer’s.  While sorting through her feelings she decides to make a list of things she needs to do in order to move on.  Date a boy she’s had a crush on for awhile, join a club and swim.

She decides to join the quiz bowl team which connects her with her crush’s cousin, Max.  Paige and Max form a friendship that opens doors for Paige to try new things and be more social, all steps to moving on with her life.

This is the story of Paige learning how to move past a tragedy that she doesn’t want to define the rest of her life.

I enjoyed Paige’s story.  I related to the relationship she had with her grandmother and how big of an impact her grandmother’s health had on her own life.  Lord did a good job of making Paige a 3-dimensional character while still keeping her a teenager that other teens can relate to.  Overall, this was a good story that I enjoyed and will recommend to students.

Where You’ll Find Me

where-youll-find-meWhere You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend

Anna has a lot going on in her life.  Her best friend dumped her for the cool crowd.  Her mom is in the hospital after attempting to commit suicide.  Anna is living with her dad, stepmother and new baby sister for the first.  It’s just a lot to take in.

As Anna is finding her identity among the strange people she has to eat lunch with and her new living situation, she is barely hanging on.

This is the story of Anna figuring out how she fits into the big picture of her world.  We see her struggle with old friendships and new ones.  We see her worry about her mother and wonder if maybe her stepmother is cooler than she thought.

There wasn’t anything I disliked about this book but I didn’t find it to be anything special.  There are a few profanities mixed in without much purpose and a scene where Anna overhears her father and his wife in “the bedroom”.  I felt like both of these instances were kind of thrown in to make it feel more edgy but it missed the mark a little bit.

It’s a weird book review in the fact that I didn’t dislike the book, but it gave no reason to stand out as a favorite.

The Boy in the Black Suit

boy-in-black-suitThe Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Matt’s mom has just passed away from breast cancer.  He knows he needs to help his dad out so he decides to get a job.  While he’s filling out an application at the local chicken fast food joint, he runs into Mr. Ray who runs the local funeral home.  Mr. Ray offers Matt a job that sounds better than slinging greasy chicken.

Matt finds that he likes his job at the funeral home and he really likes slipping into the back during the funerals to watch others grieve.  His grief is so fresh that he takes comfort in watching others who feel the same.

Matt’s dad doesn’t handle his mother’s death well and turns to drinking, something he had trouble with when he first met Matt’s mom.  He ends up getting into a horrible accident that puts him in the hospital.

Just when Matt thinks he can’t take any more bad news, he meets Love, a girl who lost her mother as a child and has just lost her grandmother too.  Love and Matt start a friendship that could hint at a romance as they learn about each other.

I fell in love with Matt.  I loved this character who grew up near the ‘hood but had a great family support system up until his mother’s death.  I loved how he would remember all the good times he had with his mother.  It was good to see how he dealt with his grief and how even though it doesn’t get easier, you do learn to live with it a little more each day.  Matt is a very deep character who has many sides to him that make me love him more throughout the book.  He isn’t your stereotypical African American teen going through life in a bad neighborhood.  Even his best friend has a mother who is trying her best and has raised her son to care about her and treat her with respect.  This is a great addition to any YA collection.  It’s a great story that happens to have diversity which makes it even better in my opinion.


need.jpgNeed by Joelle Charbonneau

There’s a new social networking site in Nottawa, Wisconsin.  Everyone is joining it.  It’s a little different than your normal site where everyone posts all of their drama and you know everyone’s business.

This social media site, NEED, asks you what you really need and then will give it to you, for a price.  At first it was easy.  All you had to do was invite a few friends through email and your request was granted.  After awhile, you must perform tasks that become a little more dangerous as time goes on.

Kaylee has no trouble deciding what she needs.  While her classmates are asking for computers, an extra week off of school or a better grade, Kaylee has one need.  She needs to find a match to donate a kidney to her brother.  He is running out of time and everytime he gets sick, time goes a little faster.

As Kaylee is worrying about her brother’s health, her classmates are getting themselves in deep trouble.  One boy drops off a box of cookies at someone’s front door not realizing that the recipient had a deathly allergy of nuts.  And the tasks keep getting more and more dangerous.

I thought the premise of this book was interesting and students would definitely be intrigued. I had trouble keeping the characters straight.  There were several narrators in the story and while the main narrators were easy to recognize, some of the lesser characters who had similar storylines were hard to tell apart.  I also thought the dangerous tasks of NEED seemed to gather speed rather quickly.  It was a little hard to believe that students who go so far, so fast even when others start being harmed and killed by requests.  I thought there were some unanswered questions at the end.  It was almost as if while trying to throw the reader off track of the real perpetrator, there were loose ends all over the place.

Even with all of the issues I had with this book, I still thought it was a unique storyline and something that students will enjoy.