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.

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Review: Absolutely True Diary Part-Time Indian

“Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger. // I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.” page 118

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Novel by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2007, my edition 2009.
YA realistic fiction, 230 pages not including extras.
Winner of many awards including a National Book Award.
Lexile:  600L  .
AR Level:  4.0 (worth 6.0 points)  .
NOTE: Due to content, this is not generally recommended for middle school students.

Junior is a Spokane Indian with a life from a Greek tragedy – medical woes, funerals, poverty, and picked on, he still tries to find the humor in life and look for the hope in his future in this semi-autobiographical novel.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian resized

Despite all the accolades, and my recent positive experiences of Alexie’s work, I did not expect to love this book the way I did.  Alexie seems mostly known for his literary fiction.  Diary is a YA book still interesting to the general adult fiction reader.  Unlike The Sun is Also a Star, which I might recommend to certain adults, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is a teen coming-of-age story that I would recommend to almost any adult reader.  Arnold Spirit, Junior, is a Spokane Indian with hydrocephalus, a stutter, and a few other challenges, like dire poverty and 30-year-old textbooks.

Despite a life where the cards seem stacked against him, Junior perseveres, chasing his hope through tragic deaths and ridiculous logistics (how do you get to school 22 miles away when you’re incredibly poor and there’s no bus?  Answer: sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you walk.)

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Review: I Got This

“I’m also incredibly proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but at first I wasn’t sure why everyone was talking about it. Then I realized that as I was growing up, there hadn’t been any Latina role models in gymnastics!” page 149

I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Lauren Hernandez.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins New York, 2017.
YA biography, 231 pages.
Lexile:  1020L.
AR Level:  6.8 (worth 5.0 points) .

Laurie Hernandez was a bit of a dark horse.  Just turned 16 and only recently eligible for the US Olympic team, she not only was part of the winning 2016 gymnastics team, she also won the silver medal in balance beam.  Fresh off her Olympic win, she went on to win Dancing with the Stars, a nationally televised ballroom dancing competition.

I Got This Laurie Hernandez

This book is definitely a teen read.  Apparently Hernandez’s nickname in the press is the Human Emoji, and she embraces that as each of the 20 chapters has a different emoji associated with it (a few do repeat).   However, she also manages to pack in information about gymnastics and some startlingly good life advice, coming from a 16-year old.

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Review: On the Edge of Gone

“My good hand flaps against my thigh as we walk. I keep my eyes averted all the way, like if I don’t see other people, they might not see me.” p 57

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2016.
YA apocalyptic science fiction, 456 pages.
Lexile:  HL640L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: Not yet leveled.

Teen Denise just wanted to work in the cat shelter and make it through her daily life.  But then they found out about the comet.  Since then, she’s been trying to figure out how to survive the apocalypse – and bring her family with her.  But it isn’t easy.  Her sister is missing, her addict mom is running so late they can’t get to the shelter, and her autism makes all these changes even more confusing and distressing.

On the Edge of Gone resized

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Review: Getting a Life with Asperger’s

“it may be a good idea to practice the art of disclosure which has allowed me to reduce fear in my community. ” page 61

Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood by Jesse A. Saperstein.
Perigee, Penguin Random House, New York, 2014.
YA/new adult self-help, 220 pages including resources.
Not leveled.

This is a self-help/life advice book specifically aimed at helping the autistic teen or young adult lead a productive and satisfying life.  The author uses examples from his own life and that of others he knows as well as general practical advice.

Getting a Life with Aspergers resized

This was a dollar store find from a while ago.  I have a general interest in autism, so I bought this although I’m quite far from the target audience.  While this is not a book I will keep, it could have a great deal of value to the intended audience.

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Review: Shine, Coconut Moon

“I’ve watched Apu at least a dozen times before with Mike and never had this feeling. I never thought it was uproariously funny like some of the kids at school or Mike did, but it never really bothered me either. Or did it, and I just ignored it?” page 127

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger.
Margaret K. McElderry Imprint, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 2009 (my edition 2010).
YA historical fiction, 247 pages.
Lexile:  HL740L  (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 9.0 points)
NOTE: not suggested for elementary school students despite the reading level.

Samar, or Sam has never known much about her Punjabi heritage and never needed to.  After her father left, her mom cut all contact with her traditional Indian family.  So when her turbaned uncle shows up at the door after 9/11, Sam has no idea who he even is.

Shine, Coconut Moon resized

This is a coming-of-age young adult debut novel by an #ownvoice author.  I purchased this book as soon as I read Shenwei’s review.  I work with a number of Sikh and Indian students, and my original thought was to get this for one of my students.

However, after reading, I don’t think it would be suitable for that particular student.  She’s still in middle school, very sheltered, and quite devout.  I don’t think that the violence would be more than she can handle, but I think the underage drinking would bother her and keep her from getting to the parts more relevant to her life.  Perhaps when she is a little older.

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Review: The Memory of Light

“There’s something fragile about all of them, like they’re holding on to what the world expects of them by some brittle branch that could break at any moment.” p. 24

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork.
Arthur A. Levine Books Imprint, Scholastic, New York, 2016.
YA realistic fiction, 326 pages.
Lexile:  HL680L  (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.4 (worth 12.0 points)
NOTE: This book is not for 4th graders.

We meet Vicki in the most intimate and vulnerable time in her life – after she’s just attempted suicide and is now hospitalized for severe depression.

The Memory of Light

I got this book through a branch loan (CSviaS) after Naz recommended it to me when we were discussing the sad lack of books about disability with intersectionality.  It took a while to come through with holidays interrupting ILL services and me being on vacation, so during that time, I thought of one book in my collection and accidentally encountered another at the store.  I’ve also been hitting up Google with the idea of reviewing a number of books about disability by people of color and generating a list for kids, parents, and teachers.  Just like early readers, this is one of those little niches of the book world that we need to diversify.

This book is beautiful.  That probably seems like a strange thing to say about a book about depression, but the writing is just lovely.  It reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird, not in any way the content, but the writing style.  I was quickly immersed in Vicki’s world and wanted her to heal and live.

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