Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 YALSA Hub Reading Challenge - Update #6

It was a good week for reading; however, I only managed to finish one book from the challenge list.

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

When Hurricane Katrina hits their home in Mississippi, Laurel's mother and grandmother refuse to evacuate with the rest of the family. Her dad takes Laurel and her baby brother to stay with relatives until he finds a job in the Midwest where they can start over. At first, Laurel does okay. She makes a good friend, joins the cheerleading team, and starts dating the captain of the basketball team. But when her boyfriend introduces her to meth, Laurel's life quickly spirals out of control.

Laurel's narration jumps from past to present, sober to high, and back again and is, at times, difficult to follow. Her moments with a street artist named Moses who lost his 
mother to meth are my favorite parts of her story. 

Also read this week, but not part of the challenge:

Saint Iggy by K.L. Going

Iggy Corso is basically a good kid who tries to do the right thing, but he is pretty naive, despite some tragic life experiences. He makes choices without understanding the consequences and this gets him into trouble--like the day he follows a cute girl into a class and argues with the teacher when she asks him to leave. He gets suspended. During his conversation with the principal who calls his actions incomprehensible, Iggy thinks, "I wonder why I am incomprehensible because everything I do makes perfect sense to me."

Iggy's inner dialogue hooked me right away. Though not much actually happens in the story besides Iggy wandering the streets looking for a way to make a difference in the world, I kept turning pages, hoping something good was finally going to happen for him. This is, ultimately, a tragic story, but Iggy is an engaging and often humorous character who deserves a happy ending.

I recommend the audio version of this book, especially for readers bothered by run-on sentences. 

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Tessa, who is dying of cancer, makes a list of the things she wants to do before she dies and writes it on her bedroom wall. Some things, like having sex and learning to drive, make perfect sense. Other items on her list, like doing drugs and breaking the law, made her a less sympathetic character and didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Experimenting with drugs in itself wasn't a huge surprise, but as a terminal cancer patient, she would have already had access to strong painkillers. Her relationship with her "best friend" was also a dysfunctional one and neither of the girls was especially sympathetic when they were together. Tessa's story is gritty and feels very real. The sex scenes are explicit and sometimes awkward or uncomfortable.

That said, I did come to care about Tessa by the end of the book. Once she begins to fall in love and to actually live her life, she discovers who she is and what she wants. She says, “I want to die in my own way. It's my illness, my death, my choice. This is what saying yes means.”

I would probably have liked this book better if I hadn't just read of string of books with sad endings and dead main characters. I'm definitely ready for something more upbeat!

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar

When Scott starts high school, every aspect of his life seems to be in a state of flux. His mom is having a baby, his friends are growing apart, and his old friend Julia turned into a hottie over the summer and doesn't seem to remember him at all. Scott's journey through his freshman year is chronicled in the survival manual he starts writing for his new sibling.

Because I'm an English teacher, I loved Scott's descriptions of his English class and will definitely steal a few examples from the story the next time I sit down to do a little curriculum planning.

Especially after the dark, serious books I've read lately, this one was a breath of fresh air!

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