Review: The 57 Bus

“For now, both teenagers are just taking the bus home from school. Surely it’s not too late to stop things from going wrong. There must be some way to wake Sasha. Divert Richard. Get the driver to stop the bus. There must be something you can do.” p. 5

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The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater.
Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, New York, 2017.
YA nonfiction/true crime, 305 pages.
Lexile:  930L  .
AR Level:  6.5 (worth 8.0 points)  .

In November 2013, two teens were on the same bus for just eight minutes.  Agender senior Sasha fell asleep on the long ride home from fir small private school.  Sixteen-year-old Richard was joking with friends as he left his large public school.  Then Richard held a lighter to Sasha’s skirt, forever changing the course of both their lives.

The 57 Bus

This unique, well-written exploration of one particular incident evokes much more.  Richard’s struggling (but loving) young mother took in two nieces after her sister was murdered.  He grew up in a rough neighborhood, where 4 of his close friends and family members had been murdered before he was 16, and he was mugged at gunpoint only a week before the fire.  And Richard was African-American, possibly ADHD, and definitely traumatized.  He spent time in a group home because of fights before, but didn’t start them – he was a follower.

Sasha is white, middle class, an only child who had struggled with fitting in before – autistic and agender, with a major passion for public transport.  Fi is shy, so fir parents were surprised when fi started wearing skirts.  However, they took great joy in seeing the child a psychiatrist told them to lower their hopes for blossoming into a confident, thoughtful teen.

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Graphic Novel Review: Monster

If the play didn’t work for you, give this graphic novel a try.

Monster: A Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers, adapted by Guy A. Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile.
Amistad, HarperCollins, New York, 2015.
Graphic novel, 153 pages.
Lexile:  GN420L  ( What does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  not yet leveled

This is a graphic novel adaptation of Monster.  I’ll repeat my summary of the novel:

Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story.  At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison.  But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.”  Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder.  Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?

Monster graphic novel

You might recall my review of the novel Monster, which took me more than six months to read and review (thankfully it was checked out from a library I work at, so I could keep renewing it).  In contrast, this graphic novel took me a few hours to read and is being reviewed instantly – because I can certainly recommend it.

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New (to me) Books I’m Excited About

So, I posted a while ago about books that I was excited to read – namely two books I pre-ordered (something I rarely do).  Now that it’s the end of May, both books should be arriving at my door soon!

Lately I’ve been on a bit of a buying spree, so I’m not pre-ordering any more books, but there are a few books that I’m excited about.  Most are new or recent releases, but a few are new-to-me.  Two I already own (so you can look for reviews later this summer). Continue reading “New (to me) Books I’m Excited About”

Review: Monster

“Violence in here is always happening or just about to happen. I think these guys like it – they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.” p. 144

Monster by Walter Dean Myers.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999.
Teen fictional chapter book/screenplay, 281 pages.
Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Michael L. Prinz Award, National Book Award and more
Lexile: 670L.
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 5.0 points).

Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story.  At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison.  But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.”  Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder.  Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?

Monster

Honestly, for a book to get this many awards and never attract my attention is very unusual.  This book also has never been checked out of the school library I got it from.  But opening the book, I’m not surprised.  The format is challenging, the language certainly above the level indicated in many places, and the content seems aimed more at high school students in terms of the complexity of thought required to process the novel.

Continue reading “Review: Monster”