Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“The Sittin’ Up” by Shelia P. Moses May 31, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Historical Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:22 am
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Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

240 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Mr. Bro. Wiley, the last man living in Low Meadows who was born into slavery, takes his last breath. Twelve-year-old Bean, who loves him just like everyone else in Low Meadows, looks on with his heart breaking. Then, it is time for the community to grieve and to prepare for the sittin’ up, the night they will spend together with Mr. Bro. Wiley’s body before the funeral.

Review

Set in 1940, this quiet book explores a crucial pivot point in a community’s history. Mr. Bro. Wiley is a deeply beloved elder who was born a slave to the Wiley family. Freed by the Civil War, he has provided wisdom and leadership to the black community that transitioned from slaves on the Wiley plantation to sharecroppers for the Wiley family. When Mr. Bro. Wiley dies, 12-year-old Bean tells the story of a community that grieves, mixing in keen observation about the shifting dynamic between the black and white communities. He sees how the world is changing as two black families have settled into Rich Square in town and as Bean and his best friend, Pole, plan a future far away from sharecropping as a lawyer and a doctor. As the days march toward Mr. Bro. Wiley’s final homecoming, for the ritual of sittin’ up with the body at home on the final night before the funeral, a weather system is also moving in which will force the residents of Low Meadows and Rich Square together in a whole new way.

While there is not much action in The Sittin’ Up, Bean is quite a storyteller. His perspective on life and the changing racial dynamics in his community are riveting. It is a gentle¬†middle grade introduction to what changed – and what didn’t – in the South in the post-Civil War era.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Many middle school classrooms during school visits
  • Middle grade teachers looking for diverse books to share with students
  • Younger teens interested in realistic or historical fiction
 

“Fake ID” by Lamar Giles February 10, 2014

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Mystery,Realistic,Thriller,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 2:45 pm
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Fake ID cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

320 pages; published January 2014

The Basics

Nick Pearson is thrown into a tailspin when Eli Cruz, his only friend in his new town of Stepton, Virginia, is killed just as he is about to break the story of a huge community scandal. Nick’s search for truth is complicated by his need to keep more than a few secrets of his own.

Booktalk

Nick Pearson isn’t feeling at all like himself – with good reason. In the four year since his family joined the Witness Protection program, he’s had five identities, five made-up backstories, and five new homes. Now, he’s arrived in Stepton, Virginia and the wheels are really coming off. Nick’s formerly mob-connected father is acting more suspicious than ever. His mother is cracking under the pressure. And his new friend, Eli Cruz, is convinced that something about Stepton is rotten to the core.¬†When Eli turns up dead, Nick has to face facts. Eli was right. And since it looks like the mayor and the police are in on whatever diabolical scheme has been cooked up, it will be up to Nick and Eli’s stunningly beautiful sister to sort fact from fiction.

Random Thoughts

  • How many people are there – really – in the Witness Protection program? Like attending boarding schools, I suspect this is one of those things that happens more in literature than in real life. Then again, how would I know?
  • To be honest, this won’t rate as the book of highest literary quality published in 2014, but it was fast-paced, well-written, and definitely entertaining.

I’ll Recommend This To …

  • Boys who have a hard time finding something to read
  • Mystery fans
  • Readers interested in a new voice in young adult fiction

 

 

“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell November 21, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:00 am
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Eleanor & Park cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

328 pages; published February 2013

The Basics

Eleanor is a curvy red-headed girl with strange clothes and no place on the bus because she’s the new girl after weeks of school and the pecking order has already been established. Park is the mixed-race Korean American boy at the fringe of the social order who gives her a place to sit in a begrudging burst of profanity. From that awkward foundation, a breathtakingly beautiful, complex, frustrating, epic romance grows.

Review

I loved Park. I wish he could have been my boyfriend.
I loved Eleanor. I’m pretty sure I knew her in high school and I loved her then too.
I loved that the jerks at the back of the bus had layers to them and were more than just evil, although not much more.
I loved how slowly Eleanor and Park fell in love.
I loved it whenever they held hands.
I loved that they thought no one else would see.
I love, loved Park’s parents – that they were so loving and so flawed and so complex that for once, parents in a YA novel felt like genuine people.
I loved that Eleanor tried so hard to still be in spite of her horrid, horrid stepfather and awful father and broken mother.
I loved Mr. Stessman, the English teacher, because he was a hopeless, sweet dork who truly loved literature and admired Eleanor.
I loved Mrs. Dunn, the guidance counselor, because she tried.
I loved Denice and Bebe because they stuck up for and with Eleanor and because they were just fun characters.
I loved the attention to detail.
I loved the way it was written.
I loved the love story.
I loved the ending, however painful it was.
I loved that I got to read this story.

I Will Recommend This To …

  • Fans of John Green and David Levithan
  • Readers who like to be emotionally shattered and sobbing
  • Mature youth and adults looking for a mature love story
  • People who aren’t afraid of a little (or – OK – a lot of) profanity

Random Thoughts

  • I listened to Eleanor & Park on audiobook, which I highly recommend. The readers – Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra – are fantastic.
  • I resisted reading Eleanor & Park for a long time because I thought it would make me sad. I was right. It was devastating. I’m so glad I finally read it.
 

“Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice” by Phillip Hoose March 1, 2013

Claudette Colvin cover

Images courtesy of GoodRead.com

The Facts

133 pages; published January 2009

The Basics

Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin, a teenager in Montgomery, Alabama angry about the systematic mistreatment of blacks. One day, she just plain refused to give her up seat on a bus to a white passenger. She was arrested and hauled bodily off the bus, all the while screaming, “It’s my constitutional right!” Her actions sparked the flame that eventually led to Rosa Parks’ more famous bus stand-off and to the Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott that rocketed Martin Luther King Jr. to a national civil rights platform.

Booktalk

Have you ever been so sure you’re right that you would be willing to be hurt – maybe even die – for an idea? Claudette Colvin was only 15 years old when she took a stand. You see, in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, if you were black and riding a bus, there was an expectation. That expectation was that you would never sit in any of the first 10 seats on the bus and that – if those 10 seats were already full of white people and another white person got on – well, you and all the other black people sitting in the row they wanted would have to give up your seats. That was how they did things under Jim Crow in the South, when they tried to keep black people separated from white people and give black people less at every turn.

So, there was Claudette Colvin – 15 years old – sure it was wrong. So, one day, a white lady got on her bus and Claudette didn’t give up her seat. It was a big deal. She was hauled off the bus, arrested, mistreated, called names, threatened – even some of the people in her own community were against her.

A while later, Rosa Parks did the same thing and got herself in trouble in order to spark the Bus Boycott that led to the Civil Rights Movement and changed a lot of things in the South. But there was Claudette Colvin again. In order to end that bus boycott, a lawyer filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of people who had been arrested on Montgomery buses. Although she knew people might want to hurt – or even kill – her for it, Claudette Colvin put herself on the line again for what was right and agreed to testify.

Would you have the courage to do what she did?

Random Thoughts

Phillip Hoose does an excellent job of exploring Claudette Colvin’s story and placing in context for readers who may have little experience with bald racism and segregationist policies. Colvin is not a saintly or perfect subject. She had some rough times and awkward elements that had nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement, but he doesn’t pull punches and handles the material very well.

In Her Words …

“Back then, as a teenager, I kept thinking, Why don’t the adult around here just say something? Say it so they know we don’t accept segregation? I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ And I did.”

Awards and Honors (from http://www.GoodReads.com)

  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2009)
  • Newbery Honor (2010)
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2009)
  • Cybils Award Nominee for Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-Fiction (2009)
  • Sibert Honor (2010)
  • An ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers (2010)
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2011)
  • YALSA Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults Nominee (2010)