Review of Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

coverLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Available in Print and E-book.

I have great respect and admiration for those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. I am awed by their courage to stand up and say “No more” to laws and people and attitudes so ingrained in society and everyday life. I cannot imagine what it was like for those who marched and boycotted; those who sat at lunch counters and at the front of buses; those who protested peacefully and practiced non-violence; those who fought in the courts and in the streets to obtain the basic rights and dignity that we all deserve.

This story follows the first African American students to attend an all white high school in a small Virginia town. Ten students are finally allowed to go years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of it. The governor and parents fought it. The school closed down for months to prevent it from happening – better for no one to go to school than to let ‘them’ go.

Sarah Dunbar and her sister are among the ten. Through Sarah’s voice, we experience her life. We hear the racist chants by students and adults. We feel the spit on her clothes. We see teachers acting indifferent to the bullying if not expressing their own distaste of her presence in their classroom. We feel the ugliness of racism.  Sarah is a senior and one of the top students at the all black school. Her parents moved to Virginia to be part of the movement, but it is Sarah and Ruth who must face daily onslaught and threats.

Had we just had Sarah’s voice, the story might have become overwhelming and desensitizing but we also hear from Linda Harrison whose father runs a newspaper and is one of the most vocal opponents to integration. She spouts the same hateful things her father has been saying her whole life about black people. She tries to defend segregation as Southern tradition. She believes it is unnatural for races to mix and be together in the same places. She knows God never meant for that to happen. Linda also blames the ten for messing up her senior year – if they had not riled things up, she could go to prom.

It is only when Sarah and Linda are put together for a school project that Linda begins to see Sarah differently and Sarah gets the opportunity to tell a white person how she truly feels.

This story takes the reader right into the minds of these brave students. We see all they see and hear all they hear. We know the excruciating reality they face every day. It is unpleasant and shameful. The story did go in a direction I was not initially expecting. If the author was trying to draw parallels with today’s issues, I don’t believe it was necessary. Nonetheless, this is a compelling read.

~Review by Will Smither, Indy PL Librarian and Teen Services Committee. You Know You Wanna Read It Blog.

Review for John Green’s Paper Towns

paper*Paper Towns* by John Green. Speak (Penguin Books), 2008.

Available in Print, CD Audiobook, Downloadable Audiobook, and E-book.

Another excellent and thoughtful teen novel from author of the best-selling *The Fault in Our Stars.* It was also a winner of the Edgar Award for best young adult mystery novel.

Quentin is a high school senior in Orlando, Florida. His next door neighbor is the dynamic, charismatic Margo. They were good friends when they were 10 but by the time they got to high school, he was in NerdLand and she was a school leader. He is still fixated on her. A few weeks before graduation, she climbs into his second story window and drags him off for a night of adventures, getting revenge on her cheating boyfriend and other people, and breaking into SeaWorld, just to say they did. She complains how she hates living in this paper town with all the paper people. Quentin is hoping this will be the start of something between them; but the next day Margo does not show up for school. She has left a cryptic, depressed note and a lot of clues. Quentin fears she may have been contemplating suicide, and he talks several friends into helping him track through the clues. As he does, he begins to realize that he has kept this idealized image of Margo in his head for years; but he has no idea what she is really like. To track her down, he will have to learn who she really is – and to discover a lot more about himself.

Excellent dialogue and characters, with some hilarious scenes, will keep teen readers galloping along; but the philosophy and wisdom is what will stick with them. Walt Whitman’s *Leaves of Grass* provides a lot of the clues and subtext for the story (and gave me a better understanding of the work, too). A challenging book in a lot of ways, not necessarily as a hard read, but as a book which challenges the reader to move toward adulthood.

*The Fault in our Stars* is probably more universal in its appeal to both teen and adult readers; but anyone who likes books for this age group will like this, too. A film version of *Paper Towns* will be released this summer.

Reviewer ~ Steve Bridge, retired children’s librarian

Librarian Beth Pintal Reviews Half Bad by Sally Green

half badHalf Bad by Sally Green

Available in Print and E-book.

The world is divided in so many ways in this book – witch and human (or Fain as the witches call them), black witches and white witches….but what happens to someone who is half black witch and half white witch?  Nathan is the only one so divided, and his father is the most hated black witch in the world.  Which side of him is more powerful?  Is Nathan destined to be evil, or, because the so-called “good” white witches presume he is already evil, will he be turned that way due to their abominable treatment of him?  And what of the prophesy that he will kill his father?  Does he even want to?  After being held captive by the White Council, Nathan escapes, but now what?  Where do you go when the world is against you?
The second book in this trilogy, Half Wild, comes out in March 2015.

You Know You Wanna Read It Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

truthThe Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Available in Print.

Can rumors destroy you? Can your reputation be so ruined by others that you can no longer function? Alice was popular and now she is called horrible names and shunned. One party started it all and the death of the star quarterback made it worse.

Alice lives in a small Texas town where football is everything. So when there is no game, what else is there to do? Parties are not those huge deals you see in the movies where hundreds of teens pack a house. Mostly, people (the popular upperclassmen and a select few of younger teens) hang out and drink. Occasionally, something big happens like at Elaine’s party where Alice had sex with two guys in the same night. Brandon, one of the guys himself, said it so it must be true.

Kelsie didn’t go to the party (she was ill), but she has been Alice’s best friend for…well, since she moved to Texas from Michigan. She was such a nerd back then and decided to start over in her new home. Alice was the first one to speak to her and they have been friends ever since – until the party. How could she risk losing her semi-popular status by staying linked to Alice who is ridiculed be everyone?

Josh is Brandon’s best friend. He was in the car when Brandon crashed and died. It was Alice’s fault. She kept sexting him. It was that distraction that caused the crash. Josh can’t keep that kind of info to himself, so now everyone in town knows (including the adults).

Kurt has been crushing on Alice for a long time. He is very smart and keeps to himself. Yes, he lives next door to Brandon, but Brandon would never admit to speaking to Kurt civilly (like he sometimes does when they are by themselves). And that’s just fine with Kurt. He doesn’t care about the rumors or whether they are true. He just wants to help Alice.

Through the alternating voices of Elaine, Kurt, Josh and Kelsie, we learn about the events leading up to the party and the accident. They each have their own motives and perspectives. What do they reveal and to whom? And is it too late for Alice?

Review by Will Smither, Indy PL Librarian and Teen Services Committee. You Know You Wanna Read It Blog.

 

Flipped

FlippedIn general, the movie never seems to be as good as the book. Especially when we as the readers are attached to a particular book, and when they turn it into a movie, disappointments such as “But they left out that part!” or “They got the characters all wrong!” are bound to happen.

Luckily, this was not the case with the film production of the book Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen. When I found out that one of my favorite books as a teen had been made into a big screen movie, my curiosity was sparked, and I hurried down to the Art Cinema, which often shows independent films not always offered in the big box.

 Although it had been a few years since I’d read the book, my memory of the story came back easily, as the movie did such a good job following it! Flipped tells the story of two childhood friends, Bryce and Juli, who like and dislike each other at opposite times. Since age seven, when Bryce Loski moves to town, Julianna Baker is head over heels for him and his dreamy blue eyes. But Bryce isn’t into thinking of Juli as anything more than weird. As they enter eighth grade, a series of twists and turns alter the way they see each other. In the book, the chapters alternate between perspectives, so the reader is able to see both sides of “he said/she said.” In turns funny and moving, Flipped captures a real sense of coming-of-age understanding.  

Flipped

The main difference between the book and movie that I noticed was that the book’s setting is modern, but in the movie, the story takes place in the 1960’s. Also, the actor who plays Bryce doesn’t actually have blue eyes. Still, the plot elements, characterization, and themes are driven home nonetheless. Strong-willed Juli and self-conscious Bryce are believable, and so are the situations they find themselves in.  Beyond budding junior high romance, the story stretches to lessons about family and about growing up.

I would definitely recommend both the book and movie versions of Flipped. (In fact, I noticed the DVD has just recently made it into the library system!) See (and read) for yourself the differences and similarities in these two takes on a charmingly crafted story. In a School Library Journal interview with Wendelin van Draanen, the author even says herself, “It really is more like the book than any movie I’ve ever seen!”