Thursday, July 3, 2014

Forget Me Not, by Carolee Dean

This book was part of my latest order for the high school library, and I grabbed it, along with about a dozen other books to read this summer.  I must admit, this one was definitely not what I expected it to be!  That's not to say I didn't like the book --  I  just didn't get swept away by it until a little more than halfway through.  That's when the metaphorical light bulbs went off in my head as I "got it" and the action picked up. (OK sometimes I'm slow!)   The last hundred pages were a frantic, fast-paced race for me, with the pages turning rapidly in my quest to see where things would end up.

Forget Me Not is written in verse, and it focuses on two main characters: Ally and Elijah.  The book opens with Ally in a dark hallway in an abandoned wing of her high school.  She is hiding out because a scandalous photo of her has gone viral and her reputation has taken a major nose-dive. With the single click of a "send" button, she has gone from an up and coming freshman girl on the cusp of major popularity, to a whore--a girl that "wants to sleep with the entire football team."  Everything is so convoluted and upside-down that she can't imagine ever facing anyone again.  So she hides....or at least, that's what it seems like she'd doing...until things get very weird in that hallway, and she realizes that she's not hiding there--she's there for an entirely different reason

Elijah has also spent some time in that same dark hallway in the same abandoned wing of the high school, after trying to kill himself by overdosing on pills.  His mission has a singular focus:  Get Ally out of that hallway at any cost.

Ally finds herself with the biggest decision of her mortal--and immortal, life.  She has to decide whether she lives.  Or dies. And her time to make that decision is limited.

Fans of If I Stay, by Gayle Forman will undoubtedly be drawn to this one, as the main premise is similar.  (Think comatose patient forced to make a choice)

I have to be honest and say that I was far more impressed with the quality of writing than I was with the storyline. I especially enjoyed reading the author's notes at the end, describing the different poetry styles used in different parts of the book.  That being said, I would definitely recommend this book to many of my students--especially fans of (paranormal) novels in verse.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

I have had several people recommend this book to me, but the main reason I decided to read this is because one of my former students, Jackie, suggested it in a Facebook comment.  (Gosh, I love social media when it keeps me connected with kids that have moved away!)

Set in 1986, this one took me back to high school, with the characters bonding over mixed tapes of The Smiths and The Cure, among other iconic 80's bands.

Eleanor is a "big" girl with red hair.  At 16, she's the oldest of five kids being raised by their mother and an abusive, alcoholic stepfather named Richie.  She shares an overcrowded room with all four of her siblings, and they are incredibly poor and neglected.  They are quite literally, the "red-headed stepchildren."

Park is a comic book reading, punk music listening half Korean/American boy that Eleanor meets on morning school bus. Park has one foot in popularity and one foot in the land of the misfits.  He and Eleanor form a friendship over comic books and music shared on a Walkman.  That friendship blossoms into a first love that's intense and complicated.

I loved this book.  The characters are so fully and wonderfully developed that I felt like I knew them personally.  I don't want to give away too much of the story, but I know this will be an incredibly popular read during the upcoming school year.

Thanks, Jackie!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

COALTOWN JESUS, by Ron Koertge Blog Post by Mrs. Schauer

I just read this one, start to finish, right when I opened my newest shipment of books for the high school library.  Wow.  What a great read!  Ron Koertge's latest novel in verse plunks Jesus Christ right down into the bedroom of a fourteen year old boy's room in Coaltown, Illinois.  He is there to help Walker deal with the death of his older brother Noah--and he does exactly that.  I won't give away too much of the story, but I will say this:  I will be recommending this little treasure to everyone I know!

Koertege depicts a Jesus that is exactly what Walker needs at this juncture in his life.  Koertge's Jesus is witty and irreverent, while at the same time being deeply profound in that irreverence.  Within the first few lines of Jesus's dialogue I was immediately reminded of the Jesus depicted by Christopher Moore in  Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.  In fact, I would say Coaltown Jesus could almost be the "junior" version of Moore's book.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Jesus:  "I'm sorry, but I can't just giggle.  I'm God."
Walker:  "You look like Jesus."
Jesus:  "John 10:30: I and my Father are one.'"
Walker: "I don't think I understand that."
Jesus:  "You're not the only one."

Jesus:  "I'll be back. Relax.  Or as they say in the Bible, 'Fear not.'"

Jesus:  "I love being called the Great Spirit.  Some of the other names not so much.  The Anointed One, for instance.  Makes me feel greasy."

Walker:  "You're mad at kids for wanting a pony?"
Jesus:  "Little kids I don't mind.  Every kid want a pony.  It's grown-ups that get my robe in a knot.  Stop with the begging, okay?  Adore me for a change. Or give thanks.  I like gratitude.  Or ask for guidance.  But oh, no.  It's always the pony."

Jesus:  "All of a sudden I'm in this body.  I've got a heart and hands and feet.  I can see and feel.  That's why babies cry so much.  All of a sudden having a body is a lot to deal with."

Jesus:  "I knew what was coming down the pike so I'd practice.  Like making one hot dog feed six kids and running on water."
Walker:  "In the Bible, you just walked."
Jesus:  "Yeah, but I was so bad at it that I'd run so I wouldn't sink so fast.  Didn't help  Went right down like a stone.  Faith is like anything else:  you have to work at it, I wasn't that good at first."

Jesus:  "Ah, there it is. Signs of your holiness."
Walker:  "I just smiled.  You made a dumb joke and I smiled."
Jesus:  "And that isn't holy?"

Jesus: "Confusion is good."
Walker:  "Everything's good to you."
Jesus:   "And that's a bad thing?"