Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gravel Road

Tillit, L.B. The Edge of Ready.
Saddleback, 1 January 2012

Here's the thing. I teach in a middle school, and yet I had students ask me for Fifty Shades of Gray. Really? It sounds so appallingly graphic that I don't even want to read it. Yet some girls had borrowed copies from their aunts and wanted to know if they would get in trouble if they brought them to school. Yes. Yes you will. And if you bring in Judy Blume's Forever, make sure it doesn't have the cover on it.

When I got the ARC for Unchained, in the Gravel Road series, I had a couple of boys who would not read anything else devour it. This book will be the same way. Dani is trying desperately to get through school, because her mother has told her the only way she can improve her life is to get an education, but when her mother can't find a babysitter for Dani's young brother so that she can go to work, she has Dani stay out of school to babysit. To complicate matters even further, Dani gets involved with her friend's brother, who coerces her into having sex (nothing graphic is described at all) and later rapes and then forces her into prostitution. The friend's other brother is a good guy and tries to save Dani. Despite the gritty situations, the book is circumspectly written. We know what is going on, and there are a few words that some people will find objectionable (Rape, pimp, etc.), but no f-bombs and no graphic descriptions. It is an ultimately hopeful story, too, with Dani's grandmother showing up and helping her get an education.

Do I really want kids to read this book? Not particularly. But for the reluctant middle school reader whose life makes something like, oh, Lily B. completely incomprehensible, this fits the bill.

Tillit, L.B. 2 Days.
Saddleback, 1 January 2012

Neema is very attractive and happy with school and her boyfriend Nate, but when her mother's boyfriend puts the moves on her, her mother takes the boyfriend's side and Neema ends up on the streets. She moves in with Nate's family for a couple of days, and his family is not happy. With good reason-- Neema is on the pill, but misses two days of taking it and does end up pregnant. Luckily, she is able to move in with an aunt, and when Neema realizes she is pregnant, the aunt takes her to a health clinic right away. Neema's mother had also been 16 when she had Neema, so no one is particularly surprised. Neema tries to keep up with her school work, with the help of Mike, whom she meets in her English class while assigned a project on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Eddie, who acts like a player at school but is really busy taking care of his younger siblings. Neema's mother eventually drops her boyfriend and moves in with Amina as well, and after baby Maya is born, the three women work together to take care of the infant and allow Neema to go to school.
Strengths: Again, girls will be interested in this topic, and nothing is graphic and the language is tame.
Weaknesses: This would have been far more interesting if Neema had had an abortion, or if things hadn't gone quite so smoothly for her. Granted, things aren't easy- Nate won't have anything to do with her, she has trouble in school, she finds out that you can't take infants to parties-- but it all seemed too easy to me. Unfortunately, this book accurately describes the experience of many teen moms.


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