Saturday, April 23, 2011

Initial Thoughts on Wee Free Men

A girl named Tiffany discovers she is a witch and must rescue her brother from an evil queen. Tiffany gets help from little blue men and learns to navigate between dreams and reality.

Pratchett creates a quirky voice for Tiffany with lots of witty puns and unusual similes/metaphors.
The Nac Mac Feegles are one-of-a-kind characters and rather endearing.

The Queen really wasn't all that threatening.
The world was not particularly engaging for a fantasy novel. Not very vivid. Not a place I want to travel to.
The stories about Granny Aching were boring.

Initial Thoughts on Impulse

Three teenagers are enrolled in a mental health facility after attempted suicide. Through poetry and shifting POV, we learn what pushed each teen to think their life was not worth living.

Very well-written and engaging.
Poetry is an excellent mode of telling this story.

I worry about the impact this book could have because one kid ultimately succeeds in killing himself. I worry a kid in a similar situation will think that there isn't a way out of that situation other than death.

My own personal opinion:
I have a really hard time reading these kinds of books that tackle such dark and violent subject matter. I only read this book because it was on my reading list for grad school. I know several 7th graders who read Ellen Hopkins and worry a little about them being able to handle the serious subject matter on their own. I don't think parents are aware of what is inside these books. A kid would really NEED to talk to a trusted adult about the content after reading such heavy stuff.

Possible objectionable subject matter:
Child rape and sexual abuse, self mutilation, suicide, drugs, murder, homosexuality, mental illness, prostitution, and other strong sexual content.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Initial Thoughts on Meatloaf

Clever and original concept. Kids will love looking though this scrapbook style collection of notes and objects to figure out the story. 

However, I think the format of the book causes the book to become dated VERY, VERY quickly. The IM chat screens looked ancient. The pop culture references via magazines and the interests of the girl also made the book feel dated. Example: The girl wants to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in a ballet production. Comes off as very cliche and traditional. What about soccer, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, or one of the many sports the modern girl participates in? 

I don't know how to do a book like this and keep it timeless. It would be a serious challenge. 

I'd also like to see this concept applied with cultural diversity in mind. Meatloaf and ballerinas and science fair projects... screams white suburbia. 

The graphic layout/style would really appeal to English Language Learners and lower socioeconomic kids.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Initial Thoughts on Nomansland

I was so optimistic about this book that I chose to read it first.  Reviews compared it to The Giver.  The cover reminded me of Katniss in Hunger Games.  But sadly this book did not live up to either for me.

What the book is about:
In a future world, some sort of nuclear disaster has caused worldwide destruction and poverty.  Most people are left mutated by the radiation and struggling to survive.  There is an island of all women who are untainted by radiation and guard their island against the outside world.  The girls live by a strict code of rules and have no memories of how the world used to be.  They fear men and the mutants.

Why I think my professor chose this book:
I'm trying to think like my professor and analyze why tis book would be a good representation of sci-fi YA (particularly sci-fi that looks at gender).  This book is designed to promote feminist discussion.  It's the major theme of the book: feminism.  That's one reason why I think he chose it.  Another possible reason (and one of the only things I found interesting) was how the future people in the book described objects from the past.  Example: A large flat screen TV mystified the girls as there was no electricity, and they did not know what it did.  So they described it as a gray glass window that does not show you the view outside.  These descriptions were interesting because the reader would be trying to guess what object was being described, and from a sci-fi writer's viewpoint you wonder how you would attempt to describe unknown objects from the past.

Why I did not particularly like the book:
The book was very dark and depressing.  Suicide, drugs, murder.  Not what I normally choose to read.  I like my dystopian lit books, but I still want to be rooting for my main character.  I still want the dystopian world to be intriguing.  I found the setting to be desolate and dull.  I felt no connection with Keller.  I did not find this to be a page turner at all.  There were some strange passages that described nipples and nudity.  And I really would never recommend this book to a teen I teach.  I would feel uncomfortable doing so because of the subject matter in the book (drugs, nudity, suicide, murder, anti-Christianity, rape).  I'd imagine many adults would feel similarly, and that will make this book a hard sell to school and libraries.  The only similarity to The Giver is that the book is about a strict dystopian society and written in unflowery, simple prose.  Perhaps Keller is a little like Katniss in that they both make tough decisions, are forced into roles they don't want, and show leadership qualities.  But I didn't care much about Keller.  I did care about Katniss.

What I wish this book had delved deeper into:
The relationships between the "pure" women who have been unaffected by radiation and the outside world.  More discovery about the mutant men who visit the island.  More about Ms. Windsor, her leadership, and the state of her people.  More about the disaster that created this world.