Thursday, May 10, 2012

Young Adult titles

Davis, Tanita. Happy Families.
Publication date May 8
Ysabel and Justin both have their own interests, but enjoy hanging out with their supportive family. The book starts with them all at one of Ysabel’s art shows, but the next chapter is set much later. The twins’ father has moved out, their mother is stressed, and they don’t want anyone to know what has happened. However, their mother feels they must deal with it, and sends them to stay with their father
for spring break so that they can be with him... and come to terms with the fact that there father is transgendered and is trying to decide if he will live his life as a woman. The family goes through counseling and also meets up with other families going through similar difficult times. Ysabel and Justin just want things to be the way they were-- they miss having their father around and are confused and more than a little embarrassed about this turn of events.
Strengths: This is incredibly sensitive and well-researched, and the guide to the preferred way of referring to situations and conditions is very helpful. I can’t think of another book on the topic of dealing with transgendered parents, and I have known students who struggled with this issue.
Weaknesses: This is more of a high school book, not because of the content, but because of the tone. So much of this is about longing for family unity, and middle school students are more concerned about breaking away from their families, hence the whole phenomenon of orphans in middle grade fiction. This is completely appropriate for middle school, just not a title that those students will seek out.


Banks, Anna. Of Poseidon.
Emma and her friend Chloe are vacationing at the seashore. Right after literally running into the handsome Galen, Emma's friend is killed by a shark. Galen and Emma tried to save her, and it turns out that Emma can talk to the shark, although it's too late to save Chloe. Galen has come searching for Emma at the behest of Dr. Milligan, a human whom Galen saved and who saw Emma at the Gulfarium he runs. Suspecting that she is also a Syrena (basically a mermaid), Dr. Milligan has Galen hunt her down. Galen's sister Rayna and his human assistant Rachel (who is pretending to be his mother) take up residence in Emma's community, get to know her, and try to figure out whether she is or isn't "of Poseidon".
Strengths: Mr. Buxton, our language arts teacher and a fellow blogger, told his students about the book Ripple, and they all wanted to read it, so mermaids hold some fascination. This is an interesting take on the legend, told from both Galen's and Emma's perspective.
Weaknesses: This was hard to follow, and a bit creepy. Emma's mother seemed to want Galen to sleep with her, and there is a lot of talk about the merfolk mating that was just... weird and creepy. This moves it firmly into the young adult category, although there isn't anything graphic.

John, Antony. Thou Shalt Not Road Trip.
Luke Dorsey was writing parables with his young group, and his were so good that the pastor managed to help him get a book published. Now, he is on the road doing book signings at a variety of Christian book stores. His agnostic brother Matt is driving, and is a little too excited about the unlimited expense account (they are in a Hummer but still staying at some dive hotels). Along the way, they pick up Matt's sometimes girlfriend Alex, and her sister Fran, in whom Luke was, although now Fran has taken up drinking in a big way. Each character discovers different things about themselves on the trip, although nothing really happens. (Like spies, explosions, car chases or other things that middle grade readers look for in "great literature".)
Strengths: Road trip books are always good; An Abundance of Katherines is Surly Teen Boy's favorite. John's writing is quite nice, and his characters are well developed.
Weaknesses: This is just more of a young adult book, concerned with how people feel and grow as people. It was also, given the reason for the road trip, VERY Christian in aspect.

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