There was a lot of reading going on this month, 95% of it Required Winter Break Reading of Young Adult Classics.
Wait a second. Make that 100%.
What does this mean? That I should have been keeping a Death Count. Seriously, people are dying/going crazy/trying to kill themselves all over the place in historic YA!
1. Forever… by Judy Blume
I forgot how much I FREAKING LOVE this book. It’s 200 pages of amazingly raw first romance, gratuitous drama, and of course, sexy-sex. RALPH!!! Judy Blume is my hero.
2. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
I was assigned this book for my Reading class in 7th grade… and I remember very clearly not finishing it on time and failing a reading test because I didn’t know what happened with some fire at the end of the book. I felt a little better when, 13 years later, I still didn’t quite understand what happened with that fire. I mean, I get it now, but it took me a few read throughs. Other than that, I was disturbed by how annoyingly didactic this novel is. “If you just go to school and save your pennies, you can rise out of poverty and racism and oppression, kids!” “Be one of the GOOD black people (Logans), children, not the BAD black people (T.J.) 1977 Newbery Medal.
3. Unleaving by Jill Paton Walsh
Rich, pages-long descriptions of the ocean. Thick, pages-long conversations between professors and students about the meaning of life and morality. If that’s what you’re into. Titled after one of my favorite poems. 1976 Boston Globe- Horn Book winner.
4. I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier
Did I tell you that Robert Cormier’s daughter works at my school… and last semester, she worked withe ME for a few weeks? How bizarre, how bizarre. Much like this book! A psychological thriller with two competing timelines. I’m not sure I figured out what was going on by the end of the book.
5. The Language of Goldfish by Zibby ONeal
Really enjoyed this book. It’s a short, delicate story of a stressed out 13-year-old girl, a budding artist, who can’t figure out how to grow up and may or may not be going crazy. I wish I had time in my busy reading schedule to give this one another read-through.
6. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Read this one during my hellish day of air transportation. A certain classmate of mine *cough* Kristina *cough* hated it and called the main character silent, self-pitying, and self-loathing. I suspect this particular classmate is not an oldest child with gorgeous, spoiled younger sisters. 1981 Newbery Medal
7. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Love, love, loved this book. I wish that 95% of people writing mainstream, heterosexual YA romance/high school stories right now would read this and take extensive notes. It’s really pitch perfect.
8. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
A literal coming-of-age novel. Each chapter is an unfolding of Annie John’s life in Antigua, beginning with early childhood memories of idolizing her mother, through the social challenges of high school, and ending when she boards a boat for college off the island. Pretty readable, but I wasn’t in love.
9. House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
I read this using my patented, completely ineffective method of Wii Reading. Meaning – Read 10 pages, play one level of Donkey Kong Country Returns, Read 10 pages, play one more level. Consequently, I don’t remember much about this one.
10. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
This is a book about teenage soldiers in the Vietnam War. I expected it to be vaguely horrifying. It was. But I did not expect to actually enjoy the story. I did.
11. Remembering the Good Times by Richard Peck
Okay, there wasn’t anything WRONG with this book, plot-wise, content-wise, whatever. It was fine. However, all three main characters suffered from acute Dawson’s-Creek-itis, constantly waxing poetic about the Difficulty of Life, the Strength and Duration of their Friendships, the Horror of Growing Up. The three main characters are constantly running around talking about how close a friendship they have, how the three of them grew up together and have an unspoken bond of eternal trust. However, all three characters seem to have forgotten that A) They met A YEAR before the book’s main plot takes place and B) THEY ARE FOURTEEN. THEY ARE TOO YOUNG TO BE TALKING LIKE THEY ARE 50 YEARS OLD. /rant
12. Stotan! by Chris Crutcher
I forget that I like Chris Crutcher’s books so much… but there you have it. I do. Teen male camaraderie at its finest, and sports so well-rendered you’ll forget you hate sports.
13. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Yet another case of the I-Swear-I-Read-This-Book-But-I-Really-Can’t-Remember-Anything-About-It. I was dutifully impressed, however. So impressed, I would prefer not to write a paper on this book. Unfortunately, the syllabus begs to differ.
14. I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson
Ever read a book whose plot relies on some character revelation midway through the novel, and then you read it again and catch all the foreshadowing you missed in the first half of the book? Yeah, that happened here. Such a sad, sad book.
15. A Step From Heaven by An Na
Lyrical prose, vignette-style narration, depicting the suckiness of family life as a new immigrant. 2002 Printz Winner.
16. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reading this for the umpteenth time, still tickled by Anderson’s wit and Melinda’s survival tactics. Will be spending a significant chunk of the semester thinking and writing and presenting about this novel… 2000 Printz Honor.