It feels like forever ago that I last updated. Part of the reason was we had a week off from class because of BookExpo (jealous I couldn’t go). So I also took a break and read some non-class required reading, AKA 2 romance novels and the new Skulduggery Pleasant. And yes, I took off the jacket and the feelings of annoyance and aggravation disappeared. But it is once more Wednesday and here are this week’s LIS 722 picks.
Bluford High: The Bully by Paul Langan
Bluford High is a series of books based around an urban California high school. For class we had to pick one, there’s around 13 so I grabbed The Bully. The theme for this week’s books seemed to be boy outcasts so I thought The Bully would fit better then some of the others about love and relationships. Also I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that deals this directly with bullying. So it kills a few birds with one stone which always help when recommending something. Darrell moves to California with his single mother and starts at Bluford High. He is a small, shy boy who gets targeted by Tyray, the school bully. By making new friends, reading Hatchet and joining wrestling, Darrell learns how to change his situation. Nothing too graphic and some very positive messages about confidence and standing up for oneself. The story and the characters are simple, meaning there are no deep surprises. Everyone does what you would expect them too and everything ends up the way you thought it would. But this book and others in the series rate high on the relatablity and interest scale. A friend that teaches at an urban school can’t keep these books in her library. I give it a Cool, even for it’s literary shortcomings. It’s no Langston Hughes, but it gets the job done.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Another classic. What can I say, this is my 4th time reading it. West Side story, just without the Romeo/Juliet storyline. Including knife fights. I still think this book is relevant now as when it was originally published which is why it’s still around. Young men are still living and dying “violent and young and desperate.” It is beginning to show its age though with some of the references (even though Paul Newman is still hot). So much that you couldn’t hand this to any kid and say, “you’ll love it.” This would probably require some front-loading to help a reader get into it. Plus some schools use this in instruction, which tends to take some of the pleasure out of it. I’ll say it again, you can’t rate a classic.
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
I read I Am the Cheese also by Cromier first. Maybe I wouldn’t have judged this one so harshly if I hadn’t because when I first read it I was a little disappointed. Not because the book is bad, totally the opposite. Mostly I was disappointed because it wasn’t as good as I Am the Cheese. Cheese blew my mind, Chocolate War just made me sad. Jerry is tagged by a secret society at his all boy Catholic high school to not participate in the school’s chocolate sale. When the society turns around and tells him to start selling Jerry continues to refuse and defy the society. What depth was missing in The Bully is more than made up in this books, alienation, societal good v. person will, mob mentality, abuse of authority, resistance is futile (that last one is from X-Files, sorry, couldn’t stop myself). There’s a lot of ground that Cormier covers so reader beware, this will not be an easy ride. The book though is showing it’s age but again, the story is strong so it still could work. Gets a Cool, even though it is a borderline classic.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
See earlier review. But just to recap, love this book! Awesome!
And I saved it for last because it’s my favorite in the bunch…
Looking for Alaska by John Green
I just read this book last year so I wasn’t going to re-read the whole thing, skim through and reacquaint myself but that was all. And the damn thing wouldn’t let me. This one of those books you fall into. It wraps you up and doesn’t let go until it’s done with you or you have to off the el. Great characters, man I love Green’s characters. Miles Halter, soon to be Pudge leaves Florida to go find “the Great Perhaps” at a boarding school in Alabama. There he meets the Colonel, his roommate and Alaska, the gorgeous girl down the hall and select other friends. The first half is about Pudge’s growth in a place that he finally fits in. The second half is the rest of journey he takes to find who he really is. So moving, so beautiful, so terrible and so great. I want to write like Green; setting, characters, mood, exceptionally brilliant insights that shame Hallmark and sap everywhere. “That which came together will fall apart imperceptibly slowly and I will forget.” Man, makes me cry and I don’t cry. I cried at Titanic and Extreme Home Makeover that that’s it. But unlike Chocolate Wars where I’m left just feeling sad, after Looking for Alaska I feel healed as well. And that is powerful. Just Awesome.
Next week Poetry and Required Nonrequired reading.