The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)
Honestly, I have been quasi-aware of this text for several years now, but it is only now that I have finallly entered the dystopian world of the Capitol and its Districts. And, wow, am I thrilled that I did! Normally my YALit choices deal with older protagonists in a realistic setting. Reading Hunger Games has brought me back to some of the literature I loved as a child (A Wrinkle in Time, the Xanth series, even the Black Caldron). The connections that could be made between Katniss and Peeta 's world and the ongoing current world events would be a valuable lesson to be used in classes or in discussion. Think of the questions that could be made by comparing this text and the fate of the child soldiers in the Sudan or the idea of a wealthy central government with poverty sticken outlying regions... China? The motif of a centralized all-powerful government in a dystopian society can be paralleled in many classical texts too: Brave New World, 1984, and The Handmaid's Tale. In addition to these underlying themes, I really enjoyed Katniss's story: her bravery, her wit, her strength. I LOVE that the main character in this novel is female. It is so important that girls see problem-solving protagonists who use the strength of their minds and bodies to overcome their conflicts. I would like to see more of this in YALit.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009)
So I must admit I have developed a bit of a crush in Mr. Gaiman. Purely in a literary and bibliophilic way of course! :) I have been a fan of Gaiman's work for awhile now: The Anansi Boys, Coraline, American Gods. I read The Graveyard Book as part of a graduate class assignment and was particularly happy with this novel. Set in a British cemetary, Bod is a boy who has escaped death and found sanctuary among the denizens of a local cemetary turned park. Adopted by the ghosts of the graveyard, Nobody Owens is loved, educated and murtured by his new "family." Mentored by a mysterious non-dead man, Bod learns that he is living the ultimate paradox; to live, he must stay with the dead but to be with the living he risks death. This coming of age tale touches upon many archrtypal characters and themes. Simply, I loved this book! Written at an 8th grade level, I would still justify its use with older students while exploring various literary devices and themes. Two thumbs way up! Look for the Book Trailer for this novel under my Academic Focus page. You may also like to peruse his webites: www.neilgaiman.com and www.mousecircus.com
King Dork by Frank Portman (2006)
King Dork by Frank Portman (2006) was a quick and exciting read. Tom Henderson (aka Chi-Mo) is a quick-witted (albeit "dorky") protagonist who is trying to discover the details of his father's death. With ample references to teen life and high school social strata, King Dork is a biting look at the adolescent pecking order with ascerbic social commentary. Tom's satire is perhaps most evident in his "glossary" of his quirky definitions for SAT words and his garage band chronology. I found myself snickering out loud as I read Tom''s definitions for "gifted and talented" and "Jimmy Buffet." Hysterical! This novel would be an excellent way to introduce the classic Catcher in the Rye (notice the book cover) which serves as an underlying theme throughout the text. Tom hates this classic novel, but discovers as King Dork progresses how similar he is to Holden Caufield. This is worth a look by teachers too!
My only problems with this book were the very things that I loved: Tom is a secret Rock God and makes multiple references to punk rock, classic rock, and garage rock. For me this was fantastic, but I worry that only a specific music loving teen would get Tom's underlying intent in these references. In addition to this, there were several references to a sexual act that weren't graphic in the least but I wouldn't be sure how a more conservative reader might respond. However, my final thoughts are that I would definitly reccommend this novel for it's quick dialogue, its social message, its connection to classic literature, and its fast moving plot.
Reader For Life
I come from a long line of avid readers, so you could say that reading is in my blood. My favorite genres are historical fiction and realistic fiction. However, I do love any well-written book. Lately I have been exploring science and fantasy fiction too. I had forgotten how much I love those areas as well.