Categories
Book Club Pick

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Book Club Pick: March 2015

The Outsiders

Book Details:

Title: The Outsiders

Author: S.E. Hinton

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin

First Published: 1967

Pages: 180

Publisher Description:

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count of his brother, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends – true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. And when it comes to the Socs – a vicious gang of rich kids who enjoy beating up on “greasers” like him and his friends – he knows he can count on them for trouble. But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down . . .

 

Review:

This coming-of-age novel is written by a teenager for teenagers. Susan Eloise Hinton was 15 when she started writing The Outsiders and 17 when it was published in 1967. The Outsiders is often credited as beginning the realistic young adult novel.

The story is about of a group of boys, ‘greasers’, living on the east side of Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid 1960s.

The youngest member of the greasers gang is the novel’s narrator, fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis, who lives with his two older brothers Darry (20) and Sodapop (16).

Darry works hard to care and support his two brothers after their parents were killed in a car accident – not an easy task for one just out of his teens himself. Sodapop has dropped out of school to work at the gas station, so Ponyboy feels the pressure to be a success at school. He is sure that Darry resents him and lives with the fear that he will be taken away and put in a boy’s home.

Sodapop and Darry aren’t Ponyboy’s only family – fellow Greasers, Dally, Two-bit Matthews, Steve Randle, and his best friend Johnny Cade are like his brothers.

The Greasers are constantly at war with the rival rich west side kids, the ‘socs’ (socials). This feud turns fatal one night when a group of Socs corner and attack Ponyboy and Johnny in a park.

Francis Ford Coppola adapted the novel into a film of the same name, released in 1983 starring C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane. Hinton makes a cameo in the film as a nurse.

Cast of 'The Outsiders' (1983, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Cast of ‘The Outsiders’ (1983, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

The Outsiders is a frequently challenged book and has been banned in many schools and libraries due to its portrayal of gang violence and underage smoking and drinking. Although today it is often a studied text in many high schools, which is fantastic because while the lingo may have changed it’s still as relevant today as it was in 1967.

“Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold”

 

Links:

S. E. Hinton Official Website

S.E. Hinton on Twitter

Note: My copy is the Speak Platinum Edition which includes a new foreword by S.E. Hinton, interview with S.E. Hinton and a discussion guide for students.

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Beth & Bruno by William Taylor

Book Club Pick: February 2015

BethAndBruno

Book Details:

Title: Beth & Bruno

Author: William Taylor

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: New Zealand

Publisher: Ashton Scholastic

First Published: 1992

Pages: 157

Publisher Description:

Bruno is an adult student at Gray’s Valley High School. A former streetkid, he has returned to look after his aged, blind father on a rambling, untamed farm. Part Maori and tough – and with a reputation to match – it’s not hard for Bruno to keep his distance . . . which is just how he likes it.

Beth is city born and bred. She has come to spend her senior year at Gray’s Valley High, staying with her aunt. Self-assured and attractive, Beth could easily be a popular figure in the local teen scene – but it is apparent that something is troubling her.

They are as different as chalk and cheese – so why does fate seem to keep throwing them together?

 

Review:

Beth Paterson has transferred to Gray’s Valley High School from the city and is staying with her slightly eccentric aunt and high school art teacher Stella.

The novel opens with Beth at a typical high school pool party. She did not want to attend the party but Stella pressured her in the hope that she will make friends – little does Beth know Stella arranged Beth’s invite.

Not really wanting to be there Beth takes up a fellow classmate Vic’s offer for a ride home. Vic has his own motives for getting Beth alone and makes a pass at her. When she rejects his advances they struggle and he pulls the door handle off the car trapping her. A motorbike appears out of the darkness with dead wild big draped over the handle bars. A mysterious rider wearing a black balaclava has potentially saved her.

This mysterious rider is Bruno Petrie. Beth asks around about him and learns he is an adult student who returned from the city to look after his father Archie. Bruno has quite the reputation as a violent thug.

Despite frequently butting heads something keeps bringing Beth and Bruno together.

Beth has a secret past. I’m not going to spoil it but I suspect many readers may pick what it is.

The novel is written in third person. For the first few chapters until Beth and Bruno meet, Taylor alternates chapters between Beth and Bruno’s perspective.

It’s coming on 23 years since Taylor published this novel and its characters and themes are still relevant to teenagers today. If published today they only difference would probably be that the characters would all have mobile phones and be on social media.

There is a moderate amount of adult content including sexual assault, low level violence, minor coarse language and alcohol use by the teen characters.

Beth and Bruno would be suitable for junior secondary school (high school) students.

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Book Club Pick: January 2015

Graffiti Moon

Book Details:

Title: Graffiti Moon

Author: Cath Crowley

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

First Published: 2010

Pages: 264

Publisher Description:

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

 

Review:

The story follows a group of young friends over a 24 hour period in the fantastic art and culture infused city that is Melbourne.

Lucy has just finished Year 12 (final year of high school in Australia) and is about to take her HSE exams. Lucy’s parents are creative artistic types – her mother is writing a novel and her father, who is living in the shed, is a comedian/magician. Lucy also a creative soul spends her night in search of the mysterious anonymous graffiti artist known as Shadow. The last person she wants to be with is Ed. But Ed knows Shadow so she needs his help. The pair have an awkward history; back in Year 10 Ed and Lucy went one date, which ended with Lucy punching him in the nose.

Ed lives with his solo mum. The only paternal figure in Ed’s life was Bert, who employed Ed at his paint shop after Ed dropped out of school. Bert recently passed away following a heart attack and Ed lost his job. Like a lot of young men Ed is currently at the crossroads in his life, not knowing where to go next.

Ed and his best friend Leo are planning to rob the school in order to pay back a debt to the very scary Malcolm Dove. If they fail to do so poor Ed will have his nipple pierced with a compass. Malcolm demonstrates his compass piercing skills on Ed’s ear so he knows Malcolm is serious.

The novel is written in first person narrative alternating chapters between Lucy and Ed. There is also verse poetry interspersed throughout the novel, written by Leo, which provides a third distinct voice for the story.

Crowley often begins the chapter with repeating the last point of action from the previous chapter from the other character’s point of view. She has a great use of imagery and the dialogue, particularly Lucy’s narration is very witty.

The novel obviously deals with issues of youth crime such as vandalism and burglary. Crowley does not glorify or preach about these issues, instead she presents them as they are in a realistic manner. There are mentions of underage drinking and brief sexual references and strong coarse language.

Graffiti Moon would be suitable for junior secondary school (high school) students.

Links:

Cath Crowley Official Website

Cath Crowley on Twitter

Cath Crowley on Facebook

Cath Crowley on Tumblr

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Categories
Book Club Pick

Cloaked by Alex Flinn

Book Club Pick: December 2014

Cloaked

Book Details:

Title: Cloaked

Author: Alex Flinn

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: HarperTeen

First Published: 2011

Pages: 341

Publisher Description:

I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shore repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.

It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.

There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to be is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys.

Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either. But you’ll see. Because I knew it all true, the second I got CLOAKED.

Review:

Seventeen-year-old aspiring shoe designer Johnny Marco is approached at his family’s struggling shoe repair shop in a ritzy Miami South Beach hotel, by Victoriana, an Alorian Princess, who asks him to find her brother Philippe, who has been transformed into a frog by an evil witch.

In exchange for his heroic deed the Princess agrees to marry Johnny. This would save him and his mother from poverty and not surprisingly the idea of marrying a ‘hot princess’ appeals to the teenage boy.

To aid him on his quest Victoriana gives Johnny a magical cloak that allows him to transport himself anywhere he wishes and a magical earpiece that allows him to talk to animals. Johnny is later joined on his journey by his best friend Meg who has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve.

It is not an easy adventure for Johnny, as he searches for the Prince he battles scary biker dudes, giants and the evil witch.

The story mixes traditional fairytales in a modern setting. Unlike Flinn’s other novels, such as Beastly (2007, Beauty and the Beast), A Kiss in Time (2009, Sleeping Beauty), Towering (2012, Rapunzel), which are a retelling of one main fairytale, Cloaked is a mash up of numerous stories. In an author’s note at the end of the book, Flinn lists her inspirations to include The Frog Prince, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Six Swans, The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, The Salad, and The Fisherman and His Wife.

Being that it is mash up several fairytales was one of the reasons picking this book over one of Flinn’s others.

The novel is written in first person narrative and Flinn does a reasonably good job at capturing Johnny’s spirit and voice. Johnny is a nice guy, he wants to do best by his mum and help his friends, but at times he could be a little oblivious when it came to reading other people and often I was left wondering how he could be so clueless.

The book is an easy read with short chapters, and I did enjoy the shoe quotes that Johnny and Meg collected and quoted to each other. It is also a fairly clean read with no coarse language, sex and only mild violence.

Cloaked will appeal most to readers who have an interest in fairytales or fantasy adventure stories.

Links:

Alex Flinn Official Website

Alex Flinn on Twitter

Alex Flinn on Facebook

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Categories
Book Club Pick

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

Book Club Pick: November 2014

TheRecruit

Book Details:

Title: The Recruit

Author: Robert Muchamore

Series: CHERUB (Book one)

Country: Britain

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

First Published: 2004

Pages: 342

Publisher Description:

A terrorist doesn’t let strangers in her flat because they might be undercover police or intelligence agents, but her children bring their mates home and they run all over the place.

The terrorist doesn’t know that a kid had bugged every room in her house, made copies of all her computer files and stolen her address book. The Kid works for CHERUB.

CHERUB is not James Bond. There are no master criminals or high-tech gadgets. CHERUB kids live in the real world. They slip under adult radar and get information that sends criminals and terrorists to jail. For official purposes, these children do no exist.

Review:

The novel opens with eleven (soon to be twelve) year-old James Choke at school. Teacher’s pet Samantha Jennings relentlessly teases James about his obese, stolen goods dealing mother Gwen. James retaliates pushing Samantha against the wall. She cuts her face on a protruding nail. Panicked James flees the classroom knocking his teacher down in the process. James’ day only gets worse when Samantha’s older brother Greg corners him, shreds his clothes with a knife and delivers a mighty punch to his stomach.

Before James can tell his mother about what happened at school Gwen tragically passes away after drinking alcohol while on prescription medication. James and his nine-year-old tomboy half-sister Lauren are taken to Nebraska Home, a care home. The next morning Lauren is told she is going to live with father Ron – but he does not want James.

James is befriended by thirteen-year-old Kyle Blueman, whom he shares a room with at Nebraska Home. Despite warnings from Kyle, James falls in with the wrong crowd and after he offends teen gang ring leader Rob Vaughn, the boys set him up to get caught in a liquor store robbery.

The next morning following his arrest James wakes up naked at an unknown facility where he finds everyone is wearing different coloured t-shits and no one will give him a straight answer. James finally meets Dr. Terrance ‘Mac’ McAfferty, who explains that he is at the training campus for CHERUB, a top secret intelligence branch of MI5, where youth aged ten to seventeen undergo extensive training to become spies.

Mac puts James through three entrance tests. If he passes them – he can then choose if he wishes to train to become a secret agent. After passing the recruitment test James returns to Nebraska House where he learns that roommate Kyle and the home’s counsellor work for CHERUB and arranged for James to be recruited.

Three weeks after his arrival James is partnered with Kerry Chang and enters 100 day gruelling training programme under the sadistic Norman Large. Will he pass basic training, earn his grey t-shirt and become a CHERUB agent?

The narrative is written is first person and is easy to read with short chapters. There is plenty of action and adventure to keep readers turning the pages.

The book does feature some moderate language and violence. The central protagonist is a flawed character – he has anger issues, smokes, drinks alcohol, steals, vandalises property. But ultimately James’ redeemable feature is that he cares for his sister Lauren and he begins to develop a moral compass and come to terms with the idea that the good guys have do bad things and the bad guys aren’t necessarily all bad.

The novel tackles some tough topics that would be relevant to young adults such as bullying, peer pressure, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, the loss of a parent and grief.

I would recommend this book for audiences aged 11+. It is probably going to appeal most to younger teen boys.

Links:

Robert Muchamore Official Website

Robert Muchamore on Twitter

Robert Muchamore on Facebook

Robert Muchamore on YouTube

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.