In Real Life
By Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
Anda loves to play online games. When someone comes to speak to her class about an all girls gaming clan on Coursegold Online. She learns how to fight evil and be a leader in her game. Then she befriends a gold miner, a person who illegally collects gold and other valuable objects and sells it to players who don’t want to earn their rewards. She realizes that not everything is what it seems to be on the surface, and that each player is a person behind a computer. Can she manage to balance the real world and her gaming world?
I loved the illustrations in this book. They felt like a melding of Manga and more Americanized illustrations. I liked the story behind the illustrations as well. It can be easy to forget that content and personalities on the web have real people behind the front. I also enjoyed the bit of political content, and I believe that the internet is a very powerful tool for networking and spreading awareness. It did seem to be wrapped up quickly and neatly, which seemed a bit unlikely. But overall, I sped through this and ate it up.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
By Susan Kuklin
Several teens share their story of their gender identity. I liked this book because it gave different scenarios. There were the more well known male to female transition and the female to male transition, but also more fluid transgender situations. I think this is a great book for those teens feeling like this is or might be what they are going through. It can be a great support for those who are struggling through the process. I found this book incredibly interesting, learning about the thoughts and feelings of teens who are struggling in this. I loved that the book included stories that ranged in situations. You could tell that some still struggled incredibly, and some were much more comfortable in their transitions. I think it successfully demonstrates that this really can be a process mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have handed this book to several teens who may really relate, and they all seem to become instantly engrossed. I am so glad there is a resource like this available.
*As a side note, I recently had a teen ask me for only fiction books about transitioning. My teen stated that every nonfiction book on the topic had “giveaway words” on the cover, and wouldn’t allow her to inconspicuously explore the topic. As I went through the options, I realized that this was the case. And although I love the idea that some teens are out and proud, I recognize that some need a way to be able to explore their feelings in what they feel is safe.
In a world were there are white witches and black witches, Nathan is caught in between. His white witch mother fell in love with his black witch father, who has cause the death of many other white witches. Now he must live as an outsider, he feels like he is a white witch inside, but his outside makes it obvious that he is not. The Council of White Witches repeatedly makes laws that keeps half-codes and black witches apart from their own white witches. He is no longer allowed to travel freely or talk to other white witches. Nathan struggles with his identity, his family and friends, and his desires for the future.
This has been on my to read list forever, and I could just never get into the idea of this book. So this year I put it on my MUST READ LIST, and I am glad I did. While it probably wasn’t in my top books of all time, it was a fast and interesting read, and it definitely ended on a cliffhanger, so now I’ll have to read more. I didn’t love any single character as individuals, but as a group, I thought they made a cohesive team. The plot moved quickly and stayed interesting the whole way through. I though this was very much in the ilk of many of the paranormal romances that came out during the same time, but it refreshingly did not have an overwhelming romance in it! I thought the world building was lacking in most places, and I felt like I really wanted more in some scenes. I feel like I have no idea what the surroundings were. Although I think there could definitely be some improvements, I am giving this a higher rating because it was a fast and enjoyable read. I am hoping that Green progresses as a writer through this series.
A Little In Love
Susan E. Fletcher
Eponine comes from a family that does not have much. They make most of their money by stealing, her sister and her are sent out on a daily basis and chastised if they come back empty handed. No one is ever kind in her family, especially not to their kitchen slave Cozette. One day Cozette is swept away to a better life, and Eponine’s life take a turn for the worst. Her father kills a man and they must go on the run for 6 years. When they finally settle down in a tenement in Paris, Eponine learns of love, friendship, and kindness. She also learns about sacrifice, and what she is willing to do for those she cares about.
This is a retelling of Eponine’s story from Les Miserable. I haven’t read or seen Les Mis, but I was still able to understand the story. I can only imagine that it would have made even more sense if I had. I listened to this on audio book, and I loved the narrator, although her accent did not sound French, her pronunciation of the French words, names, and places were great. Her voice really embodied all of the different characters, and feelings. The story was slow and hard to get into at first. Nothing really happened for a good long time into the book. Luckily the world, character, and relationship building was wonderful. I loved the descriptions of the countryside of France and the streets of Paris. So while this wasn’t a heavily plot based book, by the end I really felt like I was immersed in the story. The raw emotion was incredibly portrayed, it was like I was feeling them as well. This was a joy to listen to if not riveting storyline, but I am not sure how well I would have enjoyed reading the actual book. For me, half of the fun was the narration.
All We Have Left
In 2001: Alia is a Muslim American high school student who faces the ordinary problems of most high school girls, learning how to get along and compromise with her parents. They don’t always see eye to eye, and she feels like her parents have trouble accepting what is important to her. She goes to visit her dad at his work to try and reason with him, but while near the top of the World Trace Center, the unthinkable happens.
Today: Jesse lives with her parents and the ghost of her brother who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Her parents relationship has been decimated, her father drinks and is consumed by anger. His anger begins to wear off on her, when in an impulsive moment she decided to graffiti the Muslim Peace Center.
These two stories are told in alternating perspectives. This format allows us to transcend time and clearly see the differences and the similarities in the two girls. The way it was written really adds to the gripping horror and suspense of the situation. The description of people’s stories, fears, and feelings were very real and very heartbreaking. As an adult that is old enough to clearly remember that day, this book deeply touched me. So much so, that I plan on using it for a book club at the library this fall. I think it is an important topic that teenagers should know about. It seems to me that a lot of modern policy and conflict stemmed from this event. I think there are so many important messages in this book including diversity, family, friendship, ambition, acceptance, love, and fear. This book made me so sad and so happy all at the same time.
The Assassin Game
Cate resides at at boarding school on a very isolated island. Each year, the students of the Guild play a game called Killer. Mush like the game Assassin, one person is picked to be the killer, and the others must try to stay alive, and try to guess who the killer is. Most years the game is lighthearted, and funny, which is why the school administration turns a blind eye. But this year is different, people are getting seriously hurt and even killed. Now the members of the game must try to figure out who the killer is before they get hurt.
I thought this book was pretty good. We have all played this game before, but it was interesting to think of it as such a big production. I recall walking around a room, shaking hands and giving a little tickle to the wrist if I was the murderer. I liked some of the examples of how people could get “murdered” that were light and fun, but it definitely took a dark edge quickly. The end was not exactly what I expected, but not quite surprising either. I wasn’t a huge fan of any of the characters. They were unrelateable, and not really very likable either. I thought there was a lack of world build, but it didn’t seem to big that big of a deal, since this book was mostly plot based. I was guessing until the end, but I didn’t seem to care 100%. Overall, pretty good, I just hoped for more from the cast.