Friday, September 24, 2010

Week in Review: Reading YA

As I mentioned last week, my students have been recommending books to me like crazy, and I'm mid-book at reading two more from their list, but this week I discovered three more YA books on my own. ACtually, two of them are from two series which I've been reading and one suggestion came from Annette Lyon who asked me if I'd ever heard of the author. I hadn't, but I read the book and enjoyed it so I went on the research trail only to discover she and I were both at last year's Storymaker's conference, and she had heard of me! Cool! So, that's where I'll start today.

The Healing Spell -- Kimberley Griffiths Little
In a story that reminded me of Wilson Rawl's The Summer of the Monkeys, Little totally captivated me as she introduced twelve-year-old Livie, a girl from the bayou who carries a heavy secret. Only Livie knows the truth about why her momma is a coma, and Livie believes she's the only one who can bring her momma a cure by visiting the traiteur for a healing spell that Livie can only pray will work. The strong use of character and voice are reminiscent of books by Kimberly Willis Holt (My Louisiana Sky) and Carol Lynch Williams (Glimpse). In a world where all too many YA books are edgy, The Healing Spell is a refreshing breath of life and hope in the all-too dismal world. One thing I didn't like was the cover art. The girl in the boat looked more like she was eighteen rather than Livie's preteen years, and honestly, she should have been standing up in the boat to remain true to the story. I'm not sure I can 'sell' the book to my class based on the cover alone, but I know the story is one that they will love.

Linger -- Maggie Stiefvater
In the second book of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, we continue the story of Sam and Grace. The high fever Sam was given in the last book has helped him remain human instead of turning into a wolf, but now Grace is suffering from unusual symptoms that may somehow relate to a wolf bite she had as a child. In the meantime, other new wolves are introduced to the series as well. Although I've enjoyed the two books so far, I am disappointed in the emphasis these books give to teenage sexual activity and the mature language that is used throughout. Does every editor in New York truly believe that all high-school-aged students do anymore is have sex? I know that's not so because I have read several books--two this week--that contain no sex, but it just seems there are way too many books that do, and it's hard for me to recommend those books or their authors to my junior high crowd who are hungry for books.

The Missing: Sabotaged -- MArgaret Peterson Haddix
When I started this series I had such high hopes. Found was an incredible book that hooked me from the start and carried me along until I couldn't wait to find out what happened. Unfortunately, book two, Sent, was incredibly boring. It just didn't seem to take me anywhere at all. Because I typically love books by Haddix, I decided to give this series one more try and read Sabotaged. Although it was better than book two, it still didn't have the thrill the first book promised for the series and it took me much longer to read than it honestly should have. The biggest problem was keeping the real people and their tracers clear. The word tracer alone became annoying and the population of the story doubled every time a new character was introduced. At time, Haddix seemed to try too hard to weave in the research she had done about Virginia Dare, John White, and the Roanoke colony. Once the climax of the story was reached and the resolution explained, the book continued to drag on and on. It's really too bad because usually books by this author are a big hit with my students. I hate to even recommend the first one though because I'm sure they will be as disappointed with the next two as I was.

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