It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.30.17 #yalitclass

You know that moment when a book just disappoints you? There’s all this hype, everyone tells you that its a great book, and then it just falls flat? I remember when I was growing up  hearing that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books were the best ever (and maybe they were for a bunch of tween/teen girls?) This last week I finished up the first book in the series. Now I won’t say that it totally disappointed me, but it also wasn’t a book that I Image result for the sisterhood of the traveling pantswould reread time and time again.

For those that aren’t aware the book, as well as the following books, is about a pair of magical pants. Why are these pants magical you may ask? Because they fit four girls with totally different body types. The discovery of the pants takes place only a few days before the girls begin their first summer away from each other. They see the pants as a way to stay connected, and the traveling pants are born. We follow each girl’s adventures by following the pants on their travels from one girl to the next.

Overall I enjoyed the way the book was written it was an easy read and very relaxed. It definitely had that sappy romance feel to it, as each girl pursues and or finds a guy for the summer, but as we discussed in book club, what teen girl isn’t obsessed with guys? There were some pretty realistic elements. Brashares does do a good job of portraying a few of the things that girls face in their teens. She demonstrates what it is like to come from a split family, what it means to be the oldest, and even the trials of a young girls ‘first time.’ I think all these things brought a relatable aspect to the book. I found myself relating to Tibby as she is stuck at home caring for her siblings and working all summer. It brought back several memories of spending my summers babysitting for my parents or putting in hours as a cashier at Runza while my friends had adventure after adventure.

One thing I didn’t notice until it was pointed out at book club is that the girls are almost too diverse. It seems that if it hadn’t been for early circumstance they never would have become friends. In fact, we see very few aspects of their friendship. A few of the moments stand out, but other than that I struggle to see how close the girls really are. That could also be because the girls are separated for the whole summer too.

The more I write about the book, the more I’m not so sure that it is as a big of a disappointment as I originally thought. I think I let myself get too caught up on the things I didn’t enjoy and didn’t look for the good parts. It’s interesting what reflecting on a novel makes you think of. All you can do I guess is check it out for yourself, and see if I’m talking nonsense or not.

 

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Book Blogger Hop Prompt #yalitclass


Book Blogger Hop

 

I’ve read a lot of books that I couldn’t finish. When I first looked at the prompt I could hardly think of any. Being a nerd I’ve always tried to read every book that I pick up, but that always hasn’t been the case. Not finishing a book isn’t always because a book is unenjoyable, sometimes it’s the sheer fact that I haven’t had the time to finish. I couldn’t give an exact number of books that I haven’t finished, but I’m sure it’s somewhere around 10 or 15. When I was in high school and junior high I started a lot of books that I didn’t Image result for cricket on the hearthreally enjoy. These books were mostly those that were older classics that I couldn’t get myself to enjoy. The one that stands out the most to me is “The Cricket on the Hearth” by Dickens. I enjoyed most of Dickens’s novels, but this one was a struggle for me to get through.

I know that there have been other books that I struggled to get through, but I can’t think of them right off the top of my head. I’ve been working on finishing the Lord of the Rings series, but I have yet to finish the final book that I started this summer. It isn’t the fact that I haven’t wanted to finish the book it’s just that I haven’t had time. I hope that this doesn’t become one of those books that I never get around to finishing. Although at this point in time I’m not really sure I remember where I was or even what was happening when I stopped reading.

Writing Prompt: How many books have you started, but not been able to finish?

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.23.17 #yalitclass

Do you remember when you were a child? What did you think about? What games did you play? Do you remember ever thinking about death? This week’s book was about a group of kids that tackled the idea of death head on. This book definitely caused me to step out of my comfort zone a bit. I honestly don’t know what genre you would classify it as either. It was one of those books that pushed you to think outside of the box, and among the confusion of it all, actually enjoy it.

When I picked up Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond I wasn’t sure what to expect. I read the back excerpt, saw it was in lyrical prose, a Printz Award, and ran with it. I seemed to ignore the part where the game of Death was mentioned. Maybe I just skimmed over it, or maybe I read it and just forgot. Whatever it was, it didn’t take long before I was drawn into this game.

When Kit and his family move back so that they can be closer to his dying grandfather, Kit is pretty much the outcast. The book seems to be this story about a kid trying to fit in. Well, until John Askew is introduced that is. John Askew seems to be attached to Kit. He shows up at weird times, and he is constantly trying to get Kit to join his secret group. When Kit finally decides to see what it is all about he discovers that the group gets together and plays Death in one of the abandoned coal mines, also known as The Pit. The kids eventually get caught, but that isn’t the end of the story. I’d try to explain the rest, but I’m not sure I really understood what happened.

One thing that this story does in multiple ways is explore the idea of what dying is from a child’s perspective. Christopher, or Kit, is only thirteen when he joins his other peers in playing the game. The idea of death also follows you through the book as Kit’s grandfather becomes sicker and sicker. Kit, and each of the kids, seems to be trying to explore just exactly what death is. I enjoyed this exploration and discovery. It was intriguing to think back and look at a young teens perspective on death. It’s one of those books that makes you think about your thoughts on death as well.

One thing I didn’t like was that there were parts of the book where I was totally lost. Things happened that weren’t expected or explained. John Askew and Kit’s friendship goes back and forth. Not to ruin the ending, but by the time the book ends this relationship goes from trying to kill each other, to being friends, and back to this middle ground. There was supposed to be this hidden relationship between the boys relating back to an old mining accident, but it never really gets explained. There are a few other small plot holes in the novel, but that was the only one that really seemed to take away from the story. Maybe if someone else decides to read this or has read it they can explain what I missed.

Anyway this book was really intriguing, and I would highly recommend at least checking it out. I also started reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants this week, but I haven’t made it very far. So far I’m really enjoying it, and can’t wait to tell you all about it next week.

What Does it Mean to Be YA?

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Photo CC- Valerie Everett

Starting out I found myself questioning what it really meant that a book was classified as YA. Sure I’ve been familiar with the term, but I wasn’t really sure what fell under what seemed like such a broad topic. Sure you can narrow it down to books that are written for kids 12-18, but is there more to it? How do you write a book “toward” an age group? Sure a target audience is a great start, but how do you go forward from there? I think Shannon Allen summed it up nicely when she pointed out that Young Adult books capture what it means to be a teenager. Her blog post “The Young Adult book Tropes That Ate the World” specifically focuses on this idea of being a teen.

When one picks up a YA novel I feel like they should be prepared to enter the world of a teenager. This world won’t be clean cut, perfectly planned out, or even remotely organized. Instead, it will tell a story of someone finding their way through what it means to be a teen. Why read The Hunger Games? How is any teen supposed to relate to a girl who lives in an oddly twisted dystopia? In the article, “A Brief History of Young Adult Fiction,” CNN author Ashley Strickland points out that Katniss is real. She feels real emotions, and she experiences real things.

These articles taught me a lot about what it means when a book is classified as YA. There were ideas about young adult fiction that I had never considered before. Do we often think of YA books as being specifically directed toward girls or can boys read them too? How often do we think of books being aimed toward girls when guys read just as much? I know guys that loved The Hunger GamesHarry Potter, and even Divergent. Sure these books have romance in them, but they also have something more. They have teens being teens in their own world. Everyone can relate to that on one level or another.

Another thing that I was forced to consider was diversity in young adult books. Different teens are reading these books, and each teen has different experience. Why not allow teens to read stories that are about heroes just like them? We need to encourage, or even develop ourselves, books that tell everyone’s story. The great thing about books is that they can be about whatever you want them to be. My question is how can we make these books more diverse? How can we as readers, and some of us as writers, increase the diversity in young adult novels?

I am realizing now that I need to look for readings that are outside my comfort zone. I need to explore all the genres not just the ones that I’m comfortable with, or that I enjoy. In order to fully understand and expand my knowledge in the field of young adult literature I need to explore every area. I am really comfortable reading romance and mystery novels, but when it comes to horror I’m out. I don’t like to read what I am unfamiliar with. I’m not really sure I have an area of expertise. I really love romance and mystery novels, so I’ve read a lot of those. Either that or historical fiction. It seems odd, but I’m a sucker for looking at how very different (and same) teen’s lives were in the past.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.16.17 #yalitclass

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This last week I took a trip back into the world of post-apocalyptic and science fiction novels. This was a genre that I really enjoyed as a teen, and there were still some books that I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. One that stood out while I was browsing the bookcases was The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. I had known there was a movie by the same name, but didn’t realize that it originated from a book. It didn’t take me long to get lost in the streets of Ember, and to get caught up in the sense of fear and hope each of the character’s was experiencing.

Doon and Lina are two kids trapped in the slowly dying cit of Ember. Each day the must face the fact that they are getting closer and closer to losing the light that they depend on most. Surrounding the city on all sides is a darkness, and when the lights are out that darkness will consume the city as well. Ember was once created with a specific purpose in mind, but over the years that purpose has been forgotten. In the 200 years since Ember was created by the Builders. The instructions, once carefully guarded, have been lost until Lina discovers them at the back of the closet. It is up to her and Doon to try and go against the status quo and save the city.

I actually really enjoyed this book because it brought to life the idea that anyone can be a hero. It doesn’t matter how old you are you still have this opportunity to do something great with your life. Doon and Lina have multiple opportunities to just sit back and let the “grownups” do their own thing, but instead they refuse to give up. Any kid who has been told that they can’t do something because “they are too young” should check out this book. It allows the reader to acknowledge that there is always something you can do.

It also serves as a tale of caution. The children, and the people of Ember, are forced to decide who they are willing to trust. Are the people in power really looking out for them, or do they only care about their own survival? What makes a good leader in the first place? These are questions that everyone must ask as they slowly try and understand what is happening to their home. With every flicker of the lights, and every power outage, people are forced to start thinking for themselves instead of just following their leaders blindly.

I loved how the story slowly started to evolve. It didn’t throw you into a lot of facts or action right away, instead it slowly introduced you to the law and the origination of Ember. Upon opening the book one doesn’t feel like they are drowning in pages of backstory and description. The novel gives the reader a good amount of story and action with backstory sprinkled in between so the reader isn’t lost.

Even though the story evolved well there were moments where I felt like I had come to a standstill. I wondered whether or not the book was going to move forward at all, or if I was going to be left with questions. Sometimes it took a couple of pages for the actual plot to show back up in the story.

I’ve already recommended this book to my sister who is obsessed with books like this. Honestly there is something for any young reader to find here. There is action, friendship, suspense, family, and in even a sort of hero and heroine. I’m considering checking out the movie, but the thought of it makes me nervous. I’ve seen too many books ruined by movies, so we will have to see what happens.

Growing up a Book Nerd (5 picture story)

 

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Photo by Holger Zscheyge

To understand my love for reading, and my experience with Young Adult novels we have to start at the beginning. There were many building blocks that made up my love for reading. My kindergarten teacher and her books about Astro were one of them. The Astro books were simple and easy for me to read. They gave me a better understanding of reading, and ultimately taught me how to read. Many of the different teachers I had in elementary school recognized my love for reading, and encouraged me to explore many different books. They were willing to help me as much as they could, and they taught me a lot about being a good reader. Without their help to get a good foundation in reading I doubt I would enjoy it as much as I do today.

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Photo by Abbey Hendricksen

As a young teen reader Nancy Drew books were absolutely my favorite. I was continually getting lost in the mysteries, and following the adventures of Nancy, Bess, and George. I would stay up late reading them (ignoring my parent’s warnings that it would strain my eyes). It was in these books that I finally started to find imagination within reading. Very few books had come to life for me like the Nancy Drew mysteries did. I could get lost in the books for hours at a time. It was around this time that I started hiding in my room with one or two books. I had always enjoyed reading, but know reading was starting to come to life for me too.

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Photo by Pioneer Library System

Discovering the young adult fiction part of my library was probably a big step to me growing as a reader. Growing up I read a lot children’s books or classics like Little Women, but I didn’t really have the opportunity to read YA fiction until I got into Junior High and High School. The only young adult books I had read up until this point were the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books as mentioned above. During this time period I grabbed just about every book I could. I started exploring more parts of the library, and trying to find new books and genres to read. I had always stuck to one or two genres. With the doors to new novels opened I was also able to discover new genres. I started reading a lot of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, and mystery novels. This new discovery allowed me to find relaxing books. These books didn’t hurt my brain, and weren’t a struggle to read. They built off of the foundation I had already found in the Nancy Drew books. I was able to let my imagination go even more, and discover subjects and ideas I’d never thought about before.

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Photo by SteHLiverpool

In about my freshman year of high school my English teacher began to notice my love for reading. It was then that she suggested I start rotating the books I read. In order to keep me occupied she suggested books from all different genres intermixed with some of the classics. One of the classical authors that I started to read was Charles Dickens. His books appealed to me, but they were hard to read and they took me a lot longer to get through. At first I hated reading them, but at the same time I learned that if I intermixed his works with fun Young Adult novels I could get through them. I also started to enjoy them more. It helped that I had a teacher that was willing to work through some of the harder books with me. She realized that I needed challenged and brought in books that I would be challenged by as well as enjoy.

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Photo by Elisha Pospisil

My senior year of high school we read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. At the same time we were reading the book we our teacher left on maternity leave, and we were left with a less than knowledgeable substitute to teach the book. It was during this time period that I started to realize my own classmates’ opinions of the book. Not only did they not care, but they hardly ever did any reading. They managed to cajole our substitute into allowing us to read the book out loud in class. This would have been fine if, but it was soon realized that many of my classmates didn’t really understand what they were reading. Because of all this we moved very slowly through the book. I enjoyed it, but those around me were detesting it more and more. I think this experience helped to show me that not everyone really enjoys the classics. It also taught me an important lesson about why some people hate reading. I tried my best to help out my classmates, and ended up doing a lot to help. This experience encouraged me to pursue a degree in English.