Archive for the ‘Book Club Pick’ Category

Book Club Pick: October 2018

Tweak

Book Details:

Title: Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines

Author: Nic Sheff

Series: Stand alone memoir

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2007

Pages: 322

Publisher Description:

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge into the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope.

Review:

Tweak is a memoir of the author’s recollections of his journey with drug abuse, treatment, relapse, and recovery.

The memoir is written in a conversational style as if Sheff is speaking directly to the reader. This gives the writing a very raw feel. Each chapter is labelled with the day e.g. Day 1, like we are reading his diary. He also peppers the book with flashbacks to his childhood.

Sheff does not glamourise his drug addiction nor does he sugarcoat it. It is gritty and graphic in its detail and language. It is marketed and published as a young adult book. I would recommend it for older high school students.

Nic’s father David Sheff has also written a memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. 

It is these two memoirs that the upcoming film Beautiful Boy featuring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet is based on.

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Links:

Nic Sheff on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: September 2018

TwoBoysKissing

Book Details:

Title: Two Boys Kissing

Author: David Levithan

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

First Published: 2013

Pages: 196

Publisher Description:

The two boys kissing are Craig and Harry. They’re hoping to set the world record for the longest kiss. They’re not a couple, but they used to be.

Peter and Neil are a couple. Their kisses are different.

Avery and Ryan have only just met and are trying to figure out what happens next. Both of them worry that something will go wrong.

Cooper is alone. It’s getting to the point where he doesn’t really feel things anymore.

These boys, along with their friends and families, form a tapestry that will reveal love of all kinds: open and eager, tentative and cautious, pained and scared. New York Times bestselling author David Levithan has sewn together their lives into a redemptive whole that will captivate, illuminate, and move readers.

Review:

Two Boys Kissing follows four separate stories that focus on seven gay teenage boys that are all coming to terms with their sexuality. These four stories take place over a period of about 48 hours in a small American town.

The title comes from a World Record that Harry and Craig are trying to set – the longest kiss. They use to date but are now just friends. This part of the story is inspired by a real life event when college students Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello kissed for thirty-two hours, thirty minutes, and forty-seven seconds to break a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous kiss.

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Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello

There are two other stories that focus on couples. Peter and Neil are a couple and have been dating awhile. On the other hand blue haired Ryan and pink haired Avery have just met and are beginning to date. Avery is a transgender teen and personally would have liked to have seen more of Avery and Ryan’s story.

The last story follows Cooper, who is closeted, alone and lives in a world where he pretends to be other people online. His story is probably the darker of the four.

The novel is narrated by Greek chorus of gay men who lost their lives during the AIDs epidemic and recall a time where society was less accepting of homosexuality. That is not to say that Levithan’s world is entirely accepting – there are protests against Harry and Craig’s kissing record, and other characters experience instances of homophobia or people not being accepting.

Click here to read my review David Levithan’s novel Boy Meets Boy.

 

Links:

David Levithan Official Website

David Levithan on Facebook

David Levithan on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: August 2018

Flipped

Book Details:

Title: Flipped

Author: Wendelin Van Draanen

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

First Published: 2001

Pages: 212

Publisher Description:

The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran.

And from the second grade to the seventh, that’s how it was. She says: “My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss.” He says: “It’s been six years of strategic avoidance and social discomfort.”

But in the eighth grade, their views of the world – and each other – turned upside. He says: “I’d spent so many years avoiding Juli Baker that I’d never really looked at her, but now I couldn’t stop.” And she says: “I felt a cold, hard knot tighten in my heart. I was through with Bryce Loski.

Is there hope for happiness in junior high? Have you flipped?

Review:

Bryce Loski and Juli Baker have known each other since he moved in across the road the summer before second grade. When Juli first sees him she knows that he will be her first kiss. Bryce has been trying to avoid her ever since.

This continues until in the eighth grade when the characters views of each other begin to change. Bryce begins to look at Julie in a different way and realises she is not what he thought. Unfortunately Julie’s view is also changing – she is beginning to realise that this Bryce is not the boy she thought he was.

The narrative is told with Bryce and Julie alternating chapters each giving their perspective – a he-said-she-said narrative. This can be risky for an author to do because it can slow down the pace of the novel with characters retelling the same points of plot. Van Draanen does a good job at offering two different perspectives in an entertaining and often amusing way. Also at just over 200 pages it is a relatively quick and easy read.

Flipped is going to most likely appeal to younger teens. Although an older nostalgic reader might recognise something in the characters and think was I like that at that age?

A film adaptation directed Rob Reiner and starring Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll was released in 2010.

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Links:

Wendelin Van Draanen Official Website

Wendelin Van Draanen on Twitter

Wendelin Van Draanen on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: July 2018

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover

Book Details:

Title: Harry Book and the Philosopher’s Stone

Author: J.K. Rowling

Series: Book 1 – Harry Potter series

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

First Published: 1997

Pages: 223

Publisher Description:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!

Review:

Last month, June 26th, was the 21st anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the first book in the seven book series.

I don’t remember the first time reading the Philosopher’s Stone. I remember reading Chamber of Secrets (book 2) in one day while on a school French trip to Nouméa, New Caledonia. I haven’t picked up the Philosopher’s Stone since I first read it, so it was interesting to go back and read it again.

As an adult I enjoyed all the foreshadowing and tiny details that come to fruition in some way later in the series.

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Harry Potter books on a bookshelf in my parent’s house

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Slightly worn copy from my childhood

Harry Potter is a orphaned boy who lives with the Dursleys, his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley.  He is not treated well by the Dursleys. He lives in a cupboard under the stairs despite there being a second bedroom upstairs, wears Dudley’s old clothes and is bullied mercilessly by Dudley.

On his eleventh birthday Harry learns that the Dursleys have been hiding the truth about his past. He is of wizard heritage. His parents, who were wizards, did not die in a car crash like he was told but were killed by an evil and powerful wizard, Lord Voldemort.

Harry survived Voldemort’s murderous attack and was left with a lightening bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Following the attack Voldemort’s powers were weakened and he went into hiding making Harry, ‘the boy who lived’, a celebrity in the wizarding world.

At age eleven Harry is accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

It is at Hogwarts that students learn Potions, Charms, Transfiguration, History of Magic, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Herbology and broomstick flying lessons. Harry is a natural on a broomstick and is invited to join his house’s Quidditch team.

There is a mysterious object that is being hidden on the third floor at Hogwarts that students’ are forbidden from entering. Harry believes that someone is trying to steal this object and it involves Lord Voldemort. So with the help of his new friends, fellow first years, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, he sets out the solve the mystery of the philosopher’s stone.

Links:

J.K. Rowling Official Website

J.K. Rowling on Facebook

J.K. Rowling on Twitter

Pottermore

 

Source: I own a copy of this book.

Book Club Pick: June 2018

if-i-stay-1

Book Details:

Title: If I Stay

Author: Gayle Forman

Series: Sequel – Where She Went (2011)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Book

First Published: 2009

Pages: 210

Publisher Description:

Life can change in an instant.

A cold February morning
A snowy road…
And suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone.

Except one.

As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.

Review:

17-year-old Oregon teenager Mia Hall is a gifted cellist, who has ambitions to move to New York City and study at the Juilliard School of Music.

One snowy day while on the road to visit family friends a truck hits the car she and her family are travelling in. Mia’s parents die at the scene, while Mia and her younger brother Teddy are transported to hospital in a critical condition.

Mia has an out-of-body experience, somewhere between life and death, where she watches over her body as the doctor’s perform surgery to save her life.

The chapters alternate between Mia telling the reader what is happening in the hospital and flashbacks to memories of her family life, her friendship with best friend Kim, and her budding romance with guitarist Adam.

Music plays are large part of the novel. The edition I was reading included a Behind the Music section at the end of the book, in which Forman discusses some of the songs referenced in the novel.

At just over 200 pages it is a relatively quick read. Although I felt that narrative is quite predictable it is still a rewarding and heartfelt journey for the reader.

In 2011 Where She Went, a sequel was released. It takes place several years after the conclusion to If I Stay, and is told from Adam’s perspective.

In 2014 a feature film directed by R.J. Cutler and starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia was released.

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Links:

Gayle Forman Official Website

Gayle Forman on Twitter

Gayle Forman on Facebook

Gayle Forman on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: May 2018

AskThePassengers

Book Details:

Title: Ask the Passengers

Author: A.S. King

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

First Published: 2012

Pages: 293

Publisher Description:

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her that they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching the airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions…like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.
As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even realize she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives – and her own – for the better.
In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything – and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Review:

After Astrid Jones’s grandmother passes away she is buried in the small Pennsylvania town of Unity Valley, where she grew up. Following her grandmother’s funeral Astrid’s parents purchase her grandmother’s family home.

So at 10-years-old Astrid and her nine year-old sister Ellis and their parents pack up and leave New York City for Unity Valley.

When the novel opens Astrid is a seventeen-year-old high school senior. She does not have the best relationship with her parents. Her family is rather dysfunctional. Her father is getting stoned in the garage and her mother is taking her underage sister out for mother-daughter nights that involve drinking. Astrid’s mother is also very critical and judgemental when it comes to Astrid.

The town of Unity Valley is presented as being a small-minded and conservative town that is fueled by rumour and gossip.

Astrid’s best friends are Kristina and Justin, who are the high school’s power couple; most likely to be crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Except their relationship is a cover. Kristina is secretly dating Donna and Justin is dating Chad.

Astrid is also in a secret relationship. She is dating Dee, a co-worker at her part-time catering job. Despite knowing that her two friends are gay she is not ready to share her secret. She is also not comfortable with the label of gay. Astrid likes Dee but is reluctant to define herself as gay – yes she likes a girl but she cannot rule out dating a guy.

As Astrid feels she does not have the support of her family and friends she spends much of her spare time lying on the picnic table in her backyard. She looks up into the sky sending her love and thoughts to passengers flying aboard airplanes above.

The novel cleverly juxtaposes Astrid’s first-person narrative with short scenes about love and relationships from a passenger aboard the plane. These short scenes are stand-alone and in each scene we are introduced to a new character.

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King also weaves philosophy throughout the narrative, such as the teachings of Plato, Socrates, and Zeno. Astrid even renames Socrates Frank and communicates with him (sort of an imaginary philosophical friend).

Ask the Passengers is a coming-of-age, coming-out story about love and discovering one’s self.

Links:

A.S. King Official Website

A.S. King on Twitter

A.S. King on Facebook

A.S. King on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: April 2018

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Book Details:

Title: Breathing Underwater

Author: Alex Flinn

Series: Sequel – Diva (2006)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: HarperCollins

First Published: 2001

Pages: 263

Publisher Description:

To his friends, popular and handsome sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas has led a charmed life. But the guys in Nick’s anger management class know differently. So does his ex-girlfriend Caitlin. Now it looks like the only person who doesn’t realize just how from perfect Nick’s life has become is Nick himself.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Miami high school honour student Nick Andreas is in court following an assault on his former girlfriend Caitlin McCourt.

The judge grants a request for restraining order and orders Nick to attend six months counselling, classes on family violence and dealing with anger. She also orders Nick to keep a journal writing five hundred words each week detailing what happened between him and Caitlin from the first time he saw her until his day in court.

The novel follows Nick in present day as he attends a family violence class, returns to school where he ostracised by fellow students, and his home life with his father. It is also interspersed with Nick’s journal entries about his past relationship with Caitlin.

It is interesting that the novel is written as a first person narrative from the perpetrator’s point-of-view rather than the victim.

Nick’s own father is abusive both physically and psychologically. In this the novel is addressing the idea about the idea of circle of domestic violence. Nick is a victim of his father’s abuse, and while at times Flinn offers a sympathetic portrayal of Nick it is clear that he is responsible for his own actions.

It also explores of how difficult it can be to leave an abusive and controlling relationship. Although Caitlin does eventually remove herself from the situation and seek help.

A tragic event leads Nick to understand and accept his behaviour and make attempts to seriously seek help to change.

There are a few moments that don’t ring quite true. For example, the interaction between Judge Lehman and Nick is cliche.

This was Flinn’s debut novel. She has gone onto write many other realistic fiction novels, but she is probably better known for her modern fairytale retellings, including Beastly (2007, ‘Beauty and the Beast’), A Kiss in Time (2009, ‘Sleeping Beauty’), and Towering (2012, ‘Rapunzel’).

Click here to read my review on Cloaked, a mash up / modern retelling of The Frog Prince, The Elves and the ShoemakerThe Six SwansThe Golden BirdThe Valiant TailorThe Salad, and The Fisherman and His Wife.

In 2006 Flinn released a sequel Diva, which followed Caitlin as she puts her relationship with Nick behind her.

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Links:

Alex Flinn Official Website

Alex Flinn on Twitter

Alex Flinn on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.