Sunday, October 23, 2011
Trueman, Terry. Inside Out. New York: Harpertempest, 2003.
Zachary Wahhsted is the main character in this novel. Zach suffers from schizophrenia. He suffers from hearing voices that make fun of him. He has fewer problems when he takes his medicine on time. The story begins when Zach is at a local coffee shop waiting for his mother to bring him his meds. He wants to order a maple bar when he is in the middle of a hold up. The police arrive before the burglars can escape. The burglars are juveniles themselves. They agree to let everyone in the coffee shop go, but Zach stays behind as a hostage while they are making a deal with the police using Zach's doctor. It has been too many hours without meds and Zach struggles with the voices in his head as he begins to hallucinate.
Terry Trueman does an excellent job of telling the story through first person with Zach. The author weaves the dark world of schizophrenia with Zach's words. The reader must read all of the words on the page. At times, I as the reader began to laugh at the way Zach honestly answers the burglars. He can not infer or read between the lines. During the entire hostage situation Zach is fixated on getting a maple bar. That is his true concern. Even when the hostage situation is over Zach still wants the maple bar. Terry does a great job of showing the reader what it is like in the mind of a schizophrenic young adult. At times what Zach is saying does not make any sense to the reader. "Long gone long gone long gone longgonelonggonelonggone" "Hey, Wasteoid, time to die" (p.92). Zach is a very powerful character. The theme of the novel is schizophrenia and the reader is left wanting to know more about this disease that attacked Zach as a young adult. Trueman adds notes from Zach's doctor visits to teach more about schizophrenia. The plot untangles as the reader discovers the burglars have no real weapons or ammunition. They are just trying to get money to buy medicine for their mom who has cancer. This part of the book would yield to a great discussion. It is surprising that an odd friendship develops between the robbers and Zach. The reader feels sorry for all of them. The hostage situation ends peacefully and then the reader finds out that Zach committed suicide three months later. What a powerful surprise ending! This novel leaves the reader with a lot to think about and a lot to discuss.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
A strength of this book is the surprising climax. Zach's words are also a strength to understand the mind of a schizophrenic. I did not see any weaknesses. I was riveted until the end of the book.
School Library Journal states "Trueman uses Zach's narration to challenge readers to feel the confusion and dark struggle of schizophrenia. The effect is disturbing, if somewhat didactic."
Booklist states "excerpts from Zach's psychiatric records interweave with his first-person account of the dramatic robbery, offering readers the medical facts as well as Zach's personal story, especially the terror and confusion he feels when he can't distinguish between the real and the imagined."
Christchurch Public Library states "Short, sharp and shocking. It's simply brilliant."
Myshelf.com states “Inside Out” is a psychological thriller that will keep you reading to the surprising end. Few teen books out there deliver half as much intelligent writing as this compact novel."
Publishers Weekly states "Despite the suspenseful story line, this is ultimately a book about understanding and empathy; the climax is surprising, logical and moving. Fans of Cormier will likely enjoy this psychological and gripping tale." August 2003
School Library Journal states "Trueman uses Zach's narration to challenge readers to feel the confusion and dark struggle of schizophrenia. The effect is disturbing..." 2003
Kirkus states "... events unfold with an edge of danger that provides riveting suspense ... a plot line that grabs and doesn't let go." July 15, 2003.
Cooney, Caroline B. The Terrorist. New York: Scholastic Press, 1997.
Laura and Billy move with their parents to England for their father's job. Their father travels to factories to close them down and many people lose their jobs. On the way to school someone hands Billy a package. When he realizes what it is Billy holds on to it to protect a mother and child near him from being injured. Billy is killed instantly. Laura and her parents try to come to terms with Billy's death. Laura wants to know if it was a random act of terrorism and her brother died for no reason or if Billy was targeted by someone. Laura looks at all of her friends as if any one of them could be her brother's killer. A friend from school now asks Laura for Billy's passport to escape an arranged marriage. Laura ironically is helping the villain she is trying to find.
This mystery is told in first person by Laura. Laura and her brother Billy have been forced to move to England for their father's job. Billy was an interesting character and loved life. Laura thought he "was the most interesting person on earth, but he was not on earth now" (p.30). He was darker in complexion than anyone else in his family. This small detail provided at the beginning of the story would be one reason he was targeted. The setting of this novel is perfect. It is believable because residents of England face terrorism daily. Americans are not used to terrorism in their country, but England has had many terrorist attacks. They teach the students rules about terrorism in school. "Terrorism, whether there is one victim or a hundred, earns its name. People are terrified" (p.49). Cooney does a great job of making Laura believable with what she says and her thoughts. I think there are a couple of themes in this book. The first theme is terrorism and what it is like to live with terrorism daily. The second theme is how to deal with the death of a loved one. Laura wants revenge and screams out in her thoughts often. She wants her brothers death to have some kind of meaning. Her mother and father do not know how to put the pieces of their lives back together again. They are living in a daze. The plot becomes terrifying when you realize that the real villain is a friend of Laura's and she is helping her leave the country with Billy's passport. It is a thriller of a read.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
I think one of the strengths of this book is the plot and how it builds with excitement. I think a weakness may be the stereotyping of a Muslim being the terrorist. This fit the stereotype of a Muslim.
Publishers Weekly states this novel is "thought-provoking as well as a just plain good read". Nov. 1999.
Booklist states "tension builds expertly in Cooney's latest thriller, which is sure to hook fans early on with its breezy dialogue, believable characters, and--since it's set in an international school in London--interesting global perspective."
Kirkus Review states "while most of the characters are as real as their grief--making human choices, and suffering the consequences--others simply fade out of the story, and the culprit is based more on a stereotype than on logic."
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Hobbs, Will. Downriver. New York: Atheneum, 1991.
This story is told in first person by Jessie. Jessie's dad has put her in a wilderness therapy program because he believes she is hanging out with the wrong kind of friends. Jessie is angry with her dad. Angry that he has a girlfriend named Madeline after her mom has died. Jessie, Troy, Adam, Star, Freddy, Pug and Rita become friends in this therapy program. They call themselves the Hoods in the Woods. Al is their counselor. Jessie and her friends ditch Al to go on an adventure on their own down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. They have many adventures and brushes with death. The five friends escape from Troy and Pug when they believe that the two tried to kill Freddy by placing a poisonous scorpion in his sleeping bag. The five friends are rescued. Pug is caught, but Troy evades the police until he is finally caught in Malibu. In the end Star moves in with Jessie, her dad and Madeline. They live together as a family.
This adventure story is told in first person by Jessie. She is in a wilderness therapy program with other children who are having problems with their families. The story is about friendship and leadership. These young children form a bond with each other and ditch their guide to raft down the Colorado river on their own without an adult. Adults do not understand them at all. There is a struggle to become a leader of this group, but they discover they have to work together to survive. The theme appears to be surviving teenage years. Learning to make decisions and the consequences that come with those decisions. When you are young you tend to see everything in extremes. All of these teenage characters suffer from this. At the beginning of the book all of the kids lives are headed downhill or "downriver". The characters all appear so real and believable. Each one is dealing with their own unique problems. School Library Journal states "that it is filled with nail biting suspense." This is definitely experienced when the reader worries that Freddy will die from the scorpion. The setting builds to the excitement of this novel. Even if you have never white water rafted you are able to experience what it would be like to face massive rapids. You discover that nature is a challenge if you are alone, but it is bearable with friends. They learn their problems are not so negative and much more bearable since they have made lasting friendships.This story would have universal appeal.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
This story was action packed. There were challenges the entire way throughout the book. I did not see any weaknesses. The unique characters were the strength. The characters were believable and interesting. It is a strong story about friendship and survival.
- An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
- ALA YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
A student Brad Vonbargen states "he enjoyed this book because of the detail to all the wondrous things you can see in the Grand Canyon." May 6, 2005
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Downham, Jenny. Before I Die. New York: David Fickling Books, 2007.
This story begins when the reader finds out Tessa, age 16, the main character who is telling the story is dying from leukemia. She lives with her father and brother and sees her mother once in a while. The cancer has spread throughout her body and she is finished being poked and taking treatments that make her sicker. She compiles a list of ten things she wants to do and experience before she dies. Number one on the list is sex. Others include trying drugs, breaking the law, traveling, getting her parents back together, not saying no for a day, becoming famous, and falling in love. She has a best friend Zoey who helps her accomplish some of the items on her list. She must battle her weakening body to complete the items on her list. Tessa's father is struggling with her dying and keeps trying to find a cure for her. Tessa stays in bed for days and then disappears without telling her father where she is going because she knows he will never ground her. She dies with everyone she loves around her. Her dad, mother, brother Cal and boyfriend Adam.
This novel definitely conveys the theme that we need to live life to the fullest every day. It left me wondering how I could enjoy life more. Jenny Downham shows respect to everyone battling cancer no matter what age. The plot is believable and difficult to read towards the end. The character Tessa definitely shares with the reader her thoughts and the pain she is feeling throughout the book. She is so believable. The character of the father is incredible too. Her mother is estranged and her father spends every minute of his life taking care and trying to protect Tessa. The only part that was not believable to me is when he allows Adam to spend the last 2 months spending the night with her in her bedroom. I cannot picture a father giving approval to this. The reader realizes the severity of her illness when Tessa does not attend school and the description of the hospitals and physicians. Jenny Downham writes in a smooth style that carries you to the end. She then writes a few choppy sentences at a time on a page near the end of the book. The short sentences give the reader the feel of Tessa's short shallow breaths up until she breathes her last.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
The strength of this book is definitely the character Tessa. She is a strong-willed girl that has had to endure a painful cancer and treatments. She courageously faces death peacefully and she is in charge. She has accomplished her list of what she wants to do before she dies.
John Burnham Schwartz- "This may sound too depressing for words, but it is only one indication of the inspired originality of Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, that the reader can finish its last pages feeling thrillingly alive ... I don't care how old you are. This book will not leave you."NYTBR, October 14, 2007
"Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent." Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007
"The eloquent dying teen can seem a staple of the YA novel, but this British debut completely breaks the mold. Downham holds nothing back in her wrenching and exceptionally vibrant story." Publisher's Weekly, August 6, 2007
"Bound For Glory: This fall, five young authors deliver breakout books packed with razor-sharp writing." Entertainment Weekly, September 21, 2007
"In luminous prose that rings completely true, Downham earns every tear she wrings from her readers. I trust there will be many of them—many readers, and of course, many tears. Entertainment Weekly, September 28, 2007
Livvy Dodd- This book has to be the best book I have ever read. It completely broke my heart, and made me cry ALOT but it really opened up my eyes to how illness and death can happen at anytime and how fragile and precious life really is. July 23, 2011