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Bibliographic Info:

Title: Two Boys Kissing

Author: David Levithan

ISBN:  9780307931900

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright date: 2013

Plot Summary

Two Boys Kissing revolves are three sets of boys and two of their friends, the first Harry and Craig used to be a couple but are attempting to set the Guinness World Record for consecutive hours kissed and they must surpass 32 hours.  Peter and Neil are two young boys trying to figure out where their relationship goes next after a year of dating.  Ryan and Avery are still trying to figure out the beginnings of their relationship while trying to understand their gender identities.  Tariq is still healing mentally from a beating by a group of boys yelling gay slurs in his ears as they kicked him.  Cooper is trying to navigate the relationships with his family after they learned that he was gay.

These stories are woven together with the narration of a generation of gay men lost to AIDs, giving their experiences and encouragement to the boys paving the way after them.

Critical Evaluation

What a wonderfully written book.  Though the stories of the individuals aren’t anything new, the way in which Levithan delivers the stories is something I hadn’t seen before.  The Greek chorus of those lost to AID’s is a touching reminder that they had similar experiences, yet not quite the same.

Levithan is in the minds of the characters and really seems to understand their struggles, and I found it to be a deeply moving read.

Reader’s Annotation

The stories of young boys navigating their first homosexual relationships, told by the chorus of men who walked the path before them.  A moving and uplifting novel about coming to terms with one’s sexuality.

Who Should Read It

Anyone looking for an upbeat LGBT story, or just a story about young romance and finding your way within it.

Why I Read It

It was a find at a bookstore on a trip and was recommended by one of the workers as a great YA LGBT novel.

Author Biography

David Levithan is both an editor and a writer of young adult fiction.  His most notable works include Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Boy Meets Boy, and Wide Awake. Levithan collaborates with other writers quite often and says that he might love editing even more than writing.  Levithan’s books quite often have strong gay male characters.

Genre

*LGBT Fiction

*Young Adult Fiction

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Booktalking Ideas

*Why do you think Levithan used the Greek chorus of those that have died of aids to be the narrator?

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

Challenge Issues

*LGBT

*Sexuality

Two Boys Kissing

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Bibliographic Info:

Title:  The Outsiders

Author:  S.E. Hinton

ISBN:  9780140385724

Publisher: Puffin Books

Copyright date: 1997

Plot Summary

Ponyboy is the younger of the Curtis brothers, all members of the gang the Greasers whose rival are the Socs, short for Socials, they’re the rich kids who like to cause trouble.   When Ponyboy comes out a movie theater and is jumped by a group of Socs, his two brothers Darrel and Sodapop along with a few other Greasers, save him.  When the next night Ponyboy and a couple friends run into two of the Soc’s girlfriends it sets off a series of events that no one quite recovers from.

When Bob, on of the Soc’s is killed the rivalry escalates Ponyboy and Johnny hide out for a few days in a church.  When the church catches on fire, the boys attempt to rescue the orphans trapped inside.  Though the boys are called heroes, Johnny back gets broken when a beam from the church falls on him; he dies a few days later.

The real struggle of the book is Ponyboy’s desire for a life beyond the Greasers and the book ends with his writing an essay for his English class about the clashes between the Greasers and the Socs.

Critical Evaluation

The Outsiders is a violent depiction of gang violence in the 1960’s where being from the other side of the tracks was enough to label you as not good enough.   Hinton’s writing is superb and she creates characters that despite their violent nature, you truly feel for them and understand their actions.

Reader’s Annotation

The Greasers and the Socs are rival games in the middle of a violent turf war, will Ponyboy be able to escape with his life or will he be another casualty of war?

Who Should Read It

The Outsiders deals with the differences in the socioeconomic lives of teenagers in the 1950’s and how they dealt with their issues.

Why I Read It

A classic coming of age novel, almost every one of my male friends read as a teenager.

Author Biography

S. E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was still a teenager, publishing it in 1967, when she was just 18-years old.  In addition to her young adult novels, Hinton has written for both children and adults.  Four of her five young adult novels have been turned into feature films.

Genre

*Coming of Age

*Young Adult Fiction

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Booktalking Ideas

*Why do you think Ponyboy tried to convince himself that he was the one that killed Bob?

*Knowing Ponyboy’s character, do you think he made a life for himself away from the Greasers?

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

Challenge Issues

*Gang Violence

*Alcohol

*Language

The Outsiders

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Bibliographic Info:

Title: The Other Boleyn Girl

Author: Phillipa Gregory

ISBN:  0739427113

Publisher:  Scribner

Copyright date: 2001

Plot Summary

The Other Boleyn Girl focuses on the less famous of the Boleyn sisters, Mary who as a young teen is married to one of Henry VIII’s courtiers when he notices her and takes her as his mistress, despite the fact that she is married.  Mary gives Henry both a son and a daughter, but as Henry’s affection wans, her sister Anne is right there to pick up the pieces.

Mary feels that it is Anne’s doing that Henry no longer looks at her and as Anne’s place at court grows she becomes more and more cruel to Mary.  Anne and Henry make plans for him to divorce his Queen, Katherine of Aragon in order for him to marry Anne.  Mary retreats from court and lives a simple life with her second husband, but as things begin to go wrong for Anne, she is summoned back to court to be by her sister’s side.

As Anne is accused of horrendous acts, including incest with her brother George, the Boleyn family does nothing for her and she dies with no one truly on her side as Mary lives her simple country life.

Critical Evaluation

The Other Boleyn Girl is easy to read and entertaining, but I hope no one mistakes this for an accurate account of Mary and Anne’s lives.  With a background in English history I can tell you that there are many inaccuracies throughout the book, but was most bothersome was the black and white nature of Mary and Anne’s personalities.  I found it Anne’s cruelty to be a real concern while Mary, the first to bed the king was the innocent bystander in the who story.

Reader’s Annotation

Two sisters competing for the heart of a king.  One will live out a happy existence, and one will lose their head.

Who Should Read It

Those who are interested in the dramatic, gossipy bits of history and love a little romance will adore The Other Boleyn Girl.

Why I Read It

A lot of my friends were reading this book in our senior year of high school and I came across it recently.

Author Biography

Philippa Gregory is a British author known best for her historical novels set in England.  Gregory has written a number of books about the Tudor era including The Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover, The Constant Princess, and The Boleyn Inheritance.

Genre

*Historical Fiction

*Romance

Curriculum Ties

*History

Booktalking Ideas

*Many historians contest the fact that Anne committed adultery, why do you think Gregory ignored this?

Reading Level/Interest Age

16+

Challenge Issues

*Sex

 

The Other Boleyn Girl

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Bibliographic Info:

Title:  The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries, Vol. 1)

Author: L. J. Smith

ISBN:  0061963860

Publisher: HarperTeen

Copyright date: 1991

Plot Summary

When high school senior Elena Gilbert meets Stefan Salvatore, she like all the other girls at school are intrigued by him and he ignores them all and goes to class and play football.  What everyone doesn’t know is that Stefan is a vampire, born during the Renaissance in Italy.  Elena pursues Stefan and is shocked that goes out of his way to avoid being near her.  As it turns out, Elena is the exact image of Katherine, Stefan’s first love and the vampire that turned him, and consequently he has a strong urge to feed from Elena.

Elena and her friend Caroline have a competitive friendship and when Caroline goes to the homecoming dance with Stefan, she hides her hurt by leaving the dance with two other boys and heads to the cemetery with them and another girls.  After a heavy amount of drinking one of the boys assaults Elena and Stefan comes out of nowhere and hits him until he stops fighting back.  Stefan takes Elena home when they notice the girl who was with them earlier wandering around in the road, saying she was attacked by something that wasn’t human.

Damon retreats from Elena as she continues to pursue him.  Meanwhile there have been a number of bloody deaths in their small town and people begin to put together that Stefan arrived not long before they began happening.  Elena confronts Stefan and he tells her the story of how he was turned, how he loved Katherine, but she also loved his brother, Damon; Stefan continues with the tale of his brother and their mutual dislike.  When Elena leaves, Stefan summons his brother who confesses to the local murders and then turns on Stefan when he refuses to give up Elena.

The next day Elena learns that Stefan has disappeared and she attempts to summon Damon.

Critical Evaluation

The Awakening isn’t the most complicated of books but it is a fast and addicting read.  The human characters are slightly spoiled and seem much less moral than the vampire, Stefan, but not as ruthless as his brother Damon.  The tone of the book is light and there are hints of foreshadowing, as every time there is a conflict with Stefan, the character seems to die soon after.

Reader’s Annotation

Elena is used to getting whatever boy she sets her eyes on, but Stefan is different and she can’t figure out why he goes out of his way to avoid her.

Who Should Read It

The Awakening is definitely a guilty pleasure read for those who enjoy a good supernatural story.

Why I Read It

This book was a recommendation from a teen at my local library.

Author Biography

L. J. Smith resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and is most well known for writing The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle book series which have both been turned into a CW television show.

Genre

*Young Adult Fiction

*Supernatural

*Vampires

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Booktalking Ideas

*Why do you think Damon kills anyone who goes up against Stefan if their not very close?

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

Challenge Issues

*Supernatural

*Magic

*Drinking

*Sex

The Awakening

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Bibliographic Info:

Title: The Virgin Suicides

Author:  Jeffrey Eugenides

ISBN:  0374284385

Publisher: Picador

Copyright date: 1993

Plot Summary

The Lisbon family of Grosse Pointe, Michigan have five daughters aged 13 to 17, and when one summer the youngest of the girls, Cecilia, attempts suicide the families fate is altered.  Cecilia recovers but not long after during a party hosted by the Lisbon girls, she jumps out of a window from the second story and dies.

We are told about the Lisbon girls by an unknown narrator that could be one or all of the neighborhood boys, over whom the girls hold some kind of fascination over.  The 14-year-old daughter, Lux, begins dating one of the neighbor boys.  Lux misses a curfew one night because she was having sex and her parents close ranks and take the girls out of school, believing that their behavior is a reaction to their sisters’ suicide.  Though Lux continues to sneak out of the house every night to have sex with her boyfriend, her parents never know until she has a pregnancy scare.

As a result of Lux’s actions, Mr. Lisbon leaves his job to stay home with his daughters, as the neighborhood watches the family sink farther into themselves.  The Lisbon house begins to smell and falls into a state of disarray but none of the neighbors can bring themselves to talk to the Lisbon’s about it.

The girls are no longer allowed to socialize so they begin call the neighborhood boys on the phone to play records back and forth.  One night the communication stops and the boys are desperate for word of the girls.  Three days later Lux calls and invites the boys over.  As they sneak over after midnight the house is quiet and dark.  Lux tells the boys to wait in the living room for her sisters while she waits in the car. After awhile the boys realized there are no more sounds, the walk through the house and find Bonnie, the middle child hanging, Therese, the oldest of the Lisbon girls had overdosed of pills, and Lux sat in the car and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Only Mary, the second oldest survived her attempt to put her head in the oven, but only for a month, after which she took a handful of sleeping pills.

Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon sell their house and move away, leaving all their possessions behind.  The narrators then go through the Lisbon’s trash to see if they can find anything to suggest why the girls killed themselves.

Critical Evaluation

The plot of The Virgin Suicides though dark is very clear, and I found it interesting that Eugenides used the neighbor boys on the outside of the Lisbon household to tell the story of what was going on within in.  The tone of the book wasn’t overly melancholy which I had assumed it would be, which helped with the subject matter.

The impact that the Lisbon girls had on the boys is what I found to be most intriguing.  The group of boys kept in touch with each other throughout adulthood, still discussing the girls and always looking for new “evidence” to help them understand why the girls committed suicide.

Reader’s Annotation

The Lisbon girls fascinate the boys in the neighborhood and when the youngest of them commits suicide, the family closes ranks, only increasing the affection of the boys.

Who Should Read It

The Virgin Suicides should be read by people with an open mind, the subject matter can be a bit disturbing but the frank language keeps it from going into depression mode.

Why I Read It

I saw the movie The Virgin Suicides as a teenager and have always wanted to read the book.  The Lisbon girls intrigued me and I wanted to get a better idea of who Eugenides wanted them to be.

Author Biography

Jeffrey Eugenides is an American writer whose debut novel was The Virgin Suicides in 1993, though he has since published the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex in 2002, and then The Marriage Plot in 2011.  During his time between his first two novels, Eugenides published short stories in The New Yorker.  The Virgin Suicides was turned into a movie in 1999, directed by Sofia Coppola.

Genre

*Crossover Fiction

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Booktalking Ideas

*Why do you think the boys still searched for evidence of the Lisbon girls even when they were grown men?

Reading Level/Interest Age

16+

Challenge Issues

*Suicide

*Sex

The Virgin Suicides

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Bibliographic Info:

Title:  Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Author:  Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters

ISBN: 9781594744426

Publisher: Quirk Books

Copyright date: 2009

Plot Summary

The plot of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters deals with the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, their mother a new widow, and their younger sister Margaret.  The book is set in the Regency Era of England after “The Alteration” happens which somehow turned all the sea creatures against the human race as well as creating a number of monsters from the sea.

When the Dashwood’s father dies after being attacked by a hammerhead shark, their house is left to their half-brother from his father’s first marriage and they must find another place to live.  Mrs. Dashwood then receives word from a distant cousin, Sir John Middleton, that he has a cottage available for her family, but it is on an archipelago where there is a large number of sea monsters.  The Dashwood’s have no choice but to accepts and the ladies move into Barton Cottage where they are welcomed into the home of the Middleton’s and are introduced to a close family friend, Col. Brandon who has the tentacles of a squid growing out of the bottom half of his face.

As the elder Dashwood sisters meet and fall in love with two men, they are left defending themselves against the violent sea creatures with both men disappointing the girls.  When an invitation to Sub-Marine Station Beta is offered the girls use it as an excuse to clear their minds, but it is there that both Elinor and Marianne find out that their former attachments are both engaged.  Meanwhile, a school of swordfish, a narwhal, and a number of other sea creatures begin to tap at the glass dome of Sub-Marine Station Beta and the glass begins to crack, causing an emergency evacuation.

The onslaught of sea creatures continues and the Dashwood’s are saved by Col. Brancdon who Marianne begins to see for the good man that he is.  Elinor’s previous hopes of marrying her love are ignited when she discovers that he, Edward Ferrars, has broken his engagement and loves her still.  The two couples are married and live happily ever after, except for the frequent attacks of sea monsters of course.

Critical Evaluation

Unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters doesn’t seem to blend together as nicely and the setting of submarine stations in Regency England is not as believable when they are still taking horse and buggy’s from house to house.

Though the plot was silly enough to keep me entertained, I found that I had too many questions to fully keep my attention.

Reader’s Annotation

What happens when the creatures of the sea turn against the human race?  And can you truly love a man who is part squid?   These questions and more are answered by Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Who Should Read It

Fans of Jane Austen should read it because the gist of the story of Pride and Prejudice is still there, and fans of zombie lore should read it because it could be a good introduction to a classic author.

Why I Read It

Being an avid fan of Jane Austen I was interested in how Seth Grahame-Smith brought zombies into such a classic book.

Author Biography

Jane Austen is the English novelist whose novels on social commentary and independent female characters has kept her in the hearts of many for over two hundred years.  Her most popular novels are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.

 

Ben H. Winters is an American novelist most well known for his mash-up novels Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina.  He also writes young adult fiction, horror, and mystery novels and was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award in 2011.

Genre

*Classics

*Science Fiction

*Supernatural

*Mash-up

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Booktalking Ideas

*Do the sea creatures in the story distract from the plot or is it a seamless inclusion?

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

Challenge Issues

N/A

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

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Bibliographic Info:

Title:  Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott

ISBN:  1403737010

Publisher: Dalmation Press

Copyright date: 2004

Plot Summary

Little Women tells the story of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy and their lives in Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War.  Meg, the eldest, gets wrapped up in society parties and desires to have nice dresses and suitors.  Jo is a writer whose independent spirit is endearing to her family but causes her problems in society. Beth, the frailest of the girls, is the homebody in the family and her only desire is to be near her family.  Amy, the youngest, can’t wait to get older in order to do the things her sisters get to do, go to the theater, parties, talk to men.

As the book begins we learn that the March family has fallen on hard times, their father is off fighting for the North, and the girls mother, Marmee, does a lot of charity work with the poorer families of Concord.  Little Women describes the lives of the sisters as they transition from young adults to women, and how the relationship between the sister’s ebb and flow depending on where their at in life.  Shown from the point of view of Jo, the sister’s lives evolve yet their bond is always strong.

As the March sisters grow older, Meg marries a man that Jo doesn’t quite approve of, while turning down her own offer of marriage from her childhood friend and neighbor Laurie.  After she refuses Laurie, Jo feels she needs to get away and moves to New York to be a “real” writer; it is in New York, at the boarding house where she lives, that Jo forms an attachment to an older German man, Professor Bhear.  When Jo learns that Beth is sick she leaves New York to be with her.

Beth then dies leaving Jo shattered.  It is with Beth’s death that the family is then wholly reunited, with Amy returning from her time abroad, with Laurie on her arm.  It is then that Jo realizes that Laurie does truly belong in her family, and soon after their return, Professor Bhaer comes to Concord and confesses his love for Jo, which she returns.

Critical Evaluation

Little Women was one of the first novels geared towards young adult women and it is easy to see why it’s still an important book today.  The diverse look at four young women and their individual goals and desires shows the reader that there are many ways in which we can live our lives, not everyone will follow the same path.

The tone of the book is steady throughout, and the plot is a strong one.  Set mostly inside the March’s home Little Women discusses the social roles of women as well as the repercussions of slavery and poverty on society.  A family with strict and firm beliefs, Alcott gives the characters a voice that represents her ideas on social justice.

Reader’s Annotation

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy couldn’t be any more different, but their bond is based in sisterly love.  Join the March sisters on their journey from youth to adulthood and see what life has in store for them.

Who Should Read It

Little Women not only focuses on the March family, but discusses many important social and historical issues from the mid-nineteenth century, slavery, poverty, and a woman’s place in society are just a few of the discussions in Little Women.

Why I Read It

Little Women is a classic book that has been a part of the reading curriculum of schools as well as a recommendation to young girls for almost 150 years.

Author Biography

Louisa May Alcott published Little Women in two parts in 1868 and 1869 as a quasi-autobiographical account of her and her sisters’ childhood.  Like the March’s, the Alcott’s were transcendentalists from Massachusetts and they encouraged education and intellectualism in their daughters.  Alcott was both a feminist and an abolitionists and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.  Alcott also wrote novels under the name A.M. Barnard as well as her two follow up novels to Little Women, Little Men (1971) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

Genre

*Classics

*Young Adult Fiction

Curriculum Ties

*History

*Civil War

Booktalking Ideas

*Was the March families beliefs rare at that time?

*What is a transcendentalist?

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

Challenge Issues

N/A

Little Women