Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Eternal and other titles

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Eternal is about Miranda and her guardian angel, Zachary. When Zachary does not save her from a vampire, he becomes fallen but still tries to save her soul. Miranda becomes the princess of the head vampire and is treated to a life of luxury -- clothes, an endless supply of people to drain of blood in violent ways, and a personal assistant. Zachary gets the job, returns Miranda to a more humane way of living, and in the end, both saves and loses her.

I wanted to like this one, since Tantalize was a good read (albeit one that has rather tefloned out of my brain)and Smith works so hard for the cause of young adult literature. Perhaps this is for older students, but I found the violence unnecessary and disturbingly dispassionate. A lot of heads roll, a lot of bodies are drained, and people are trussed and hung to wait to be killed. My 9th grade daughter's friend was over while I was reading this. They are both huge fans of Twilight, so I read them portions of this until my daughter said "Stop. No, really. I don't want to hear any more. It's just gross." We came to the conclusion that while vampires are intriguing because of the possibility for eternal love, we all like the vampires to be conflicted about taking human life. These weren't. If this were a book for boys, the gratuitous violence would be okay-- they like that (see Darren Shan's Demonata!) We are, however, in the minority on this opinion.
Beam's Can You Spell Revolution just made me angry. When new student Cloud comes to Laverton Middle School, he incites the students to uprise against "tyrannical teachers and their boring busy work." Great: I just spent two days worrying that I was an evil librarian. The students don't have good solutions to problems or understand that the rules are there for their benefit. If this had been tremendously funny or clever, I might be willing to overlook being painted as inherently evil, but I wasn't in the mood.

Rita Garcia-William's Jumped tells the story of three different girls in an inner city school. Leticia is more concerned about her nails than studying, which is why she is assigned to remedial math. Trina loves her art and bounces around school spreading joy (she thinks). Dominique is an angry basketball player whose poor grades are keeping her from the sport she loves. When Trina accidentally invades Dominique's space, Dominique vows to jump her. Leticia hears this but does not warm Trina, with disastrous results. I loved the depiction of the three very different girls, and how they all interacted with their environment. Then I got to page 109 and read about one way that Dominique dealt with disappointment on the basketball team "I was mad and had to do something and mad sex is some good sh**, yo. It's some good, mad sh**." That's really the only objectionable page in the whole book, but it gets worse. If this won't bother you, your students, or their parents, go for it.

Rich Wallace writes such wonderful sports books, so it was fun to have him turn his hand to chess with Perpetual Check. In this slim volume, brothers Randy and Zeke are at a chess tournament and know they will be competing against each other. Their father is very competitive and gives them both a hard time. There is some beer drinking in this one, and lots of mild bad language. My 7th grade son read it quickly and didn't have much of an opinion of it. I loved this author's One Good Punch, but it's been a tough sell, so I will think about this one. It did seem to be geared more toward older students interested in athletics, which is not the profile for my students who would be apt to pick up a book about chess.

Notice how beautifully color coordinated my reading was? I've had a lot of students not have any idea what they want to read this week, so I"ll pick out a good books that match their outfits. You would be surprised how many times this is sucessful!

1 comment:

  1. Hello
    It has a nice blog.
    Sorry not write more, but my English is bad writing.
    A hug from my country, Portugal