Spring Break, oh how I love you! I caught up on my sleep this week and read a couple of books that I will happily recommend to my students. Double win.
Ryan Dean West is the only fourteen-year-old junior at boarding school. He already feels out of place, but when he's busted for trying to hack a cell phone, he gets stuck in Opportunity Hall, the dorm where all the delinquents live. His roommate is a bully and Ryan Dean fears for his life. Oh, and he thinks about sex. All. The. Time. Especially with his best friend, Annie, who only sees him as a kid, and definitely NOT as a love interest.
Thankfully, Ryan Dean, though younger than his peers, has a killer sense of humor, a talent for drawing comics, and a fearlessness that he embraces while playing rugby and while facing a multitude of challenges.
This is a great guy book (filled with sports action, raunchy humor, and short chapters) that will surely appeal to reluctant readers.
The twist near the end of the book could have been handled better and didn't seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. Nevertheless, the book will be a great addition to my classroom library.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor and Park both feel like they don't fit in, but as they gradually discover each other, they find that they fit together.
Eleanor is all wrong. Her red hair is too much, she's overweight, and her oversized, mismatched clothes don't do anything for her appearance. She's also the new girl at school and a target for bullies from her first day.
Park is part Korean and worries that his white dad thinks he's too Asian and too effeminate (unlike his brother, who looks more like their dad).
At first, they can't stand each other, but thanks to their daily bus ride to and from school, they gradually bond over comics and mix tapes. My favorite part of the story is the evolution of their relationship. It totally brought back memories of the breathlessness of first love and the way that the smallest things can carry huge meaning when you are young and experiencing love for the first time.
I wasn't as thrilled by their families--Eleanor's was dysfunctional on every level, while Park's was portrayed as almost perfect. I would have found this part of the book more believable if there was more of a balance. I also wanted to know more about Park's mother and how she felt about leaving Korea and her entire life there. Living in Omaha couldn't have been easy for her. And don't get me started on the ending--it was so abrupt that I scrolled back to make sure I hadn't accidentally skipped some pages.
Overall, an enjoyable read.