Saturday, June 22, 2013

Every Day review

Book talk:  Who would you be if you didn't have a family, or a skin color, or a gender?  If you took away all the things that make you you, what would remain?  A has to deal with th question every day.  Every day A wakes up in a new body.  One day A may be a drop-dead gorgeous woman who is always surrounded by people.  The next day A may be an overweight boy who everyone teases and ignores.  The body A inhabits may be dating someone, but A will always be single.  A doesn't have any friends or family.  No one knows A's secret, and that's how things must remain.  Despite the strange circumstances, A has fallen into a routine for surviving and tries to go unnoticed and live each day as they arrive.  Until A meets a girl who changes everything.  But how could anyone love someone who is a different person every day?  A is willing to risk everything to find out.

Rocks my socks: The premise of the novel requires a heaping helping of suspension of disbelief, but it allows Levithan the opportunity to explore issues in a unique way that he takes full advantage of.  Because A has the same consciousness every time it allows for comparisons that would not normally be feasible.  Everyone has heard of the expression about walking a mile in someone else's shoes.  Well, A lives every day in someone else's body.  Naturally this allows for a lot of exploration of identity politics but it also lends itself to descriptions of what it is like to be clinically depressed from the perspective of someone who usually is not, or what it feels like to be addicted to a substance.  Levithan chose each body A occupied carefully and there's so many wonderful characters that I can't even begin to name them all.

Rocks in my socks:  There's a side plot involving a boy that A possesses thinking he was possessed by the devil that I found ill-conceived and distracting.  For a book with a broad message of tolerance and acceptance there wasn't much balance provided for the highly negative and stereotypical portrayal of religion in the novel.  I don't think the added tension of this character was really necessary to keep the plot going.  If people want a fast-paced novel they're not going to pick this up anyway.  While I was willing to accept the lack of explanation for why A is the way A is, I was not okay with the way the plot threads related to the demonic possession were left completely loose and how they raised questions that were never close to answered.  Still, I loved the rest of the book so much that it more than makes up for these mild annoyances.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for an unconventional romance or those who enjoy novels that explore contemporary issues.  If you're the type of person who overanalyzes everything and isn't willing to let go of your questions and go along for the ride, then this is not the book for you.  But if you can accept the premise and enjoy thought experiments, then this book will give you plenty to discuss and ponder.  The romance does get a bit heated at parts, so I'd save this for eighth grade and up.


David Levithan has his own site with a page for the book and both frequently asked questions and infrequently asked questions (including "Q: If a car is travelling faster than the speed of light, do the headlights still work? A: No. Which means the deer will not be subject to cliché if they stop before being hit."  I love this guy!)

You can see David Levithan talk about his book and read a passage in the following video:

Source: ebook from a public library

Every Day by David Levithan: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Book talk:  Have you ever been told that you couldn't do something because you were too short or too young or too shy?  Did you take no for an answer--or did you fight back?  Frankie is used to being underestimated.  Most people look at her and see a naive girl, her father's 'bunny rabbit.'  So when she wants to join the top-secret (and all-boys) Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, it's not surprising that they won't let her in.  But Frankie has more intelligence, gumption, and perseverance than they realize, and she's determined to use it to get herself into the Order whether they let her in or not.

Rocks my socks:  I read this as part of the YALSA hub reading challenge.  It's not a book that I would usually pick up, so I was surprised by how much I loved it!  Frankie is a strong character and as a small, innocent-looking girl I certainly took extra pleasure in watching her triumph over everyone who underestimated her.  I found the relationship dynamics in the novel particularly unexpected and interesting.  My favorite part was that Lockhart took the typical secret society storyline and turned it into something more by making the pranks protests. Both the pranks and the novel are progressive messages wrapped in a sweet candy coating, and I savored them.

Rocks in my socks:  none

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for a school story with a strong female lead.  Fans of secret society and private school stories will particularly enjoy this novel.  7th grade and up.


The author has a site with a page for the book, an FAQ, and tons of fun extras.

You can find a lot of fan-made trailers for the book.  I liked this one in particular:

Source: ebook from the public library

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jefferson's Sons Review

Book talk:At first, Beverley didn't know who his father was.  When he found out that he was the President of the United States of America, he wanted to tell everyone.  But he couldn't. He wasn't even allowed to talk about it to his closest friends.  Of course, some people suspected the truth, but no one talked about it out loud.  It wouldn't look good if people found out that the famous Thomas Jefferson had children with one of his slaves.  Beverley's father was also his owner, and if he ever wanted to escape to freedom he had to keep his family a secret.  

Rocks my socks:  I don't know how Bradley does it, but somehow she manages to take an incredibly complex and little-known aspect of American history and bring all of its nuances to light.  And she makes it all engaging and accessible for a middle grade crowd.  I love the way she switches narrators as the story progresses so that it can be told over a long period while retaining a young person's perspective.  Every character in the novel is layered and complex and resists easy categorization and stereotypes.  The historical research is impeccable and illuminating in areas ranging from the office of the presidency to race relations to economics.  I learned so much from this novel, yet I still left with more questions than I had to begin with, making me want to go out and learn more.  As far as I'm concerned, that is the mark of great literature.  

Rocks in my socks:  none

Every book its reader:  While the novel does deal with some violence and references to Sally going to Jefferson's bed every night there's nothing gratuitous.  It deals with a lot of complex issues, but if it's handled as a class read or given to mature readers I say it would be fine for fifth grade and up.  I read it as part of my faculty and staff book club and everyone loved it.  It's told from a child's perspective, but there's plenty for adults to consider and talk about as well.  I'd give it to anyone who wants to learn more about American history.


Kimberley Brubaker Bradley has a website with a list of the sources she used

There's an article in Nature about the DNA evidence that Jefferson had children with Sally Hemings 

NPR has a story on slaves in Monticello including the Hemingses

Monticello has its own website with great pictures of the estate and further information

The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed is a great non-fiction book on the subject. You can see a video interview with the author on YouTube.

Source: Copy received as part of faculty/staff book club

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: Buy it or check it out today!