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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 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:  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

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Bibliographic Info:

Title:  Little Brother

Author:  Cory Doctorow

ISBN:  0007288425

Publisher:  Tor Teen

Copyright date: 2010

 

Plot Summary

Little Brother is about a teenager named Marcus, an amateur hacker with a strong internet presence. When the novel begins Marcus ditches school with four friends one day to find a clue for an online game when a terrorist attack occurs in his hometown of San Francisco.  Marcus and his friends get caught up in the aftermath and are arrested by the Department of Homeland Security.  Held against his will with no legal counsel Marcus is questioned and told he is a suspect in the attack.  Released four days later after being told that he will be watched, Marcus is angry and scared, as well as having no idea where his friends are and if they are still being held.

 

In the aftermath of the attack the Department of Homeland Security has even more power in the Bay Area, tracking people using their metro cards and stopping drivers and questioning them for no reason other than curiosity.  Marcus and his friends create an “underground” internet in order to communicate with one another and discuss their dissatisfaction with the changes to security in the Bay Area.

 

What Marcus creates is an underground movement with his peers to expose the injustices brought on by the DHS in the aftermath of the attacks and to remind us of the liberties that American citizens are guaranteed.

 

Critical Evaluation

Though the subject matter isn’t one that I would normally have picked up, I found that it was my favorite of the assigned reading this semester.  The character of Marcus is true to the typical teenager, rebellious yet not quite understanding the true consequences of his reactions.  Though the main character is quite rebellious the morality of his actions keeps you on his side throughout the book. 

 

Doctorow’s writing is very detailed when it comes to technological descriptions, but he explains it all in a way that those who have no understanding of computer science can understand.  The plot of Little Brother is very clear and Doctorow does a wonderful job at setting the stage for the conflicts that Marcus gets into with authorities.  

 

Little Brother moves at quite a fast pace and at times it can be hard to determine how much time has passed between events.  Doctorow’s writing is very descriptive with out going overboard and he creates an event that makes the reader really think about the kind of society they want to be living in.

 

Reader’s Annotation

When a terrorist attack happens in Marcus’ hometown, he is in the wrong place at the wrong time and questioned as a potential suspect. As a hacker and believer in freedom to speak, can he and his friends expose the injustices brought upon themselves and others by the Department of Homeland Security?

 

Who Should Read It

Little Brother is a great read for anyone who is a little skeptical of government surveillance or likes a good young adult rebellion.  Also, anyone interested in technology would enjoy this book as well.

 

Why I Read It

Little Brother was an assigned book.

 

Author Biography

Cory Doctorow is a Canadian writer who is very active in copyright law activism, believing that the laws should be relaxed in order to allow sharing of all digital media.  Doctorow is also a journalist and blogger in addition to his fictional writings as well as having a one year residency at USC writing and teaching.  He now lives in the UK and is a Visiting Senior Lecturer for the Open University as well as co-editing the blog Boing Boing.

 

Doctorow’s other novels include Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, For the Win, The Rapture of Nerds, and Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother.

 

Genre

*Young Adult Fiction

*Science Fiction

 

Curriculum Ties

*Government and security

 

Booktalking Ideas

*Why do you think Doctorow chose San Francisco as the setting for the story?

*Do you agree with Marcus’ decision to fight back?

*Do you have concerns about the government watching its citizens so closely?

 

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

 

Challenge Issues

*Government Rebellion

Little Brother

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Bibliographic Info:

Title:  Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

Author:  Francine Pascal

ISBN:  B00457X82Q

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Copyright date: 2011

 

Plot Summary

It’s been ten years since identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield graduated from High School but things couldn’t have gotten more off track.  Though the twins were identical in every physical way, they couldn’t have been more different in personality, but no matter what Jessica and Elizabeth were best friends, not matter what came between them, that is until Todd happened. 

 

Todd Wilkins was Elizabeth’s high school sweetheart and the two got married not long after high school, but when Todd and Jessica have an affair, it destroys the relationship and trust between the twins.  Elizabeth moves to New York to be a real journalist and escape the heartache back in Sweet Valley, while Jessica and Todd try to forge a relationship in the shadow of Elizabeth’s pain.

 

Can Bruce Patman, Elizabeth’s long time friend help mend the twins’ relationship, while showing Elizabeth that he’s the right man for her?

 

Critical Evaluation

The Sweet Valley series has never been the most consistent or well-written books, but this I found to be hard to read at times.  The language used by the characters in conversation felt more juvenile than that used in Sweet Valley High and the amount of typos within the book itself was astounding.  There was also a lot of inconsistency in the characters that Pascal brought back from the twins’ high school days, which as a rabid fan in my teen years, was glaringly obvious.

 

Sweet Valley Confidential did not feel as if it was truly written for the fans of this series and I was quite disappointed.

 

Reader’s Annotation

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield were the idyllic California blonde-haired, blue-eyed identical twins and the best of friends their entire lives. Will the twins’ relationship ever recover from Jessica and Todd’s betrayal?

 

Who Should Read It

You should pick up this book if you’re a fan of the Sweet Valley series, if not, the characters won’t quite be as easy to follow, or even like. 

 

Why I Read It

As a teenager I read every Sweet Valley High book I could get my hands on and the teenager inside me could not pass up the possibility of reading about adult Wakefield twins!

 

Author Biography

Francine Pascal is a novelist who created the popular series Sweet Valley High in 1983 and a number of spin-off book series, as well as a television series called  Sweet Valley High.  Though Pascal created the series, the books were written by ghostwriters.  In addition to the Sweet Valley books, Pascal has written the Caitlin trilogies about a young girl transitioning into adulthood as well as the book The Ruling Class about a not so nice group of popular girls that rule their high school.  Pascal has won a number of awards including the Publishers Weekly Literary Prize.

 

Genre

*Young Adult Fiction

 

Curriculum Ties

N/A

 

Booktalking Ideas

*Why do you think Francine Pascal would have Jessica hurt Elizabeth so badly?

*Does the inconsistencies in the character backgrounds bother you as a fan of the series?

 

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

 

Challenge Issues

N/A

 

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

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Bibliographic Info:

Title:  Pink

Author:  Lili Wilkinson

ISBN:  0061926531

Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher

Copyright date: 2011

 

Plot Summary

Ava is a high school student that excels in her classes, has a fabulous girlfriend, and wears all black so when she decides to leave her public school to go to the more posh private one it’s a shock to both her extremely liberal parents as well as her girlfriend, Chloe.  Even more shocking is the driving reason behind her decision to change schools: the desire to wear the color pink.  Ava finds she wants to wear pretty clothes and possibly be a part of a popular group of girls, maybe even try to date a boy.

 

As Ava begins her new life she becomes friends with the popular girls who urge her to try out for the school musical and just as her dreams are within her reach, she bombs her audition.  In order to stay close to the musical Ava joins the stage crew, a group of misfits who have just as much disdain for the popular girls who they call “Pastels” as the popular kids do for them. 

 

Ava understands the stage crew group, nicknamed “The Screws,” but is still striving to be a part of the popular crowd, though neither knows about her former days of an all-black wearing lesbian.  As she juggles the three groups in her life, Pastel, Screw, and lesbian at home, Ava becomes even more confused and goes to great lengths to keep the groups separate, but when they all come crashing down, will she have anyone left to stand by her?

 

Critical Evaluation

The most prominent part of the book is the driving force behind Ava’s actions.  As a protagonist, the reader doesn’t always like Ava, instead there are times when I felt as if I didn’t even like the character.  The supporting cast of Pink is where Wilkinson’s writing really shines, the characters are so vibrant that you can visualize them so easily with their descriptions.

 

 At the heart of Pink is the struggle to find who you are, something which most if not all teens can identify, and Wilkinson doesn’t a wonderful job at capturing just how confusing that can all be.

 

Reader’s Annotation

Young adults are at a confusing time in their lives where seemingly you’re supposed to know who you are already; Pink highlights the struggles of finding where you belong.

 

Who Should Read It

Pink is a great book for those struggling with feelings of sexual as well as a personal identity.

 

Why I Read It

Pink was assigned to the class.

 

Author Biography

Lili Wilkinson is an Australian author who writes young adult fiction.  Wilkinson graduated from Melbourne University and then spent some time in Japan teaching English.  She is now getting a PhD as well eight novels as well as a collection of short stories. 

 

Genre

*LGBT Fiction

*Young Adult Fiction

 

Curriculum Ties

N/A

 

Booktalking Ideas

 

 

Reading Level/Interest Age

14+

 

Challenge Issues

*LGBT issues

Pink