January 7th, 2013

SPN: Sam Book

books I didn't want to read but did anyway

Recently I've read several really good books that I wanted to share with you. The common denominator is that all three were books with huge buzz that I absolutely REFUSED to pick up for a very, very long time.

If you've read any of these, I'd love to know what you thought!

  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio:

    Review: Wonder is the story of a boy named Auggie who has severe facial deformities. He's mainstreamed into school for the first time and predictably, it's hard going. The story switches character viewpoints every few chapters, and it is fascinating to see different people's reactions to Auggie and his situation.

    Though this story has the potential to be a difficult read, it never ventures into that territory. It's interesting and empowering, a fascinating story told with a fresh voice. It includes a strong and relevant message that bullying is never OK, that every person has worth and that we all need someone to stick up for us and to be on our side. Palacio has called the book "a meditation on kindness," and she is not wrong. This story will tug at your heartstrings and make you want to treat everyone more kindly, and to be a better person, in general, every day.

    What I Thought: I didn't want to read this book because I thought it would be heartbreakingly sad. I thought the story would be upsetting and a huge downer. I was wrong.

    Also, there are five basic publications that most children's librarians use to evaluate books. In 2012, only one book received starred reviews (the highest honor) in all five pubs -- it was Wonder.

  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers:

    Review: From the author's web site: It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn't sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

    As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she's forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone's motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group's fate is determined less and less by what's happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

    What I Thought: It's a book about an abused girl who wants to commit suicide to escape her horrible life. No thanks. And, it IS all those things...but so much more too. Also, honestly, I think zombies are boring. But this is a cool spin on them, with a shocking twist at the end.

    I really loved seeing how Sloane wants to protect others, while not caring at all about herself. It's interesting to see how she's completely detached from all that's happening around her, and despite the story being in her POV, I was totally absorbed by every moment. How the author managed to portray both those things, at once, I have no clue. But, she did and it works so, so well.

  • Life as we Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer:

    Review: From the wiki summary: Sixteen-year-old Miranda is living in Northeast Pennsylvania, United States. She is a sensitive teenager with a struggling life, seeing as how her parents are divorced, and her stepmother has a baby arriving. She has two best friends, Sammi, a carefree girl, and Megan, an overly religious girl. Told in diary form, Miranda lays out the story of a meteor knocking the Moon closer to Earth's orbit and causing worldwide catastrophes. She tells how her family struggles for survival in the apocalypse, which has caused tidal waves on the coasts, volcanoes that turn the air into killer smoke, and earthquakes shaking up the land.

    What I Thought: Literal "rocks fall, everyone dies"? No thanks. But good gravy, this book is well written. I barely could put it down. It also brought forward the issue of food, a subject usually glossed over in teen apocalyptic books. (Quarantine had a food drop, Monument 14 takes place in a megastore, etc.) I literally had never before realized that in that situation, you can live without human contact, without electricity, without school...but you can't live without food. And when you're completely cut off from civilization, food is the thing you can no longer GET.

    Miranda notes in one of her entries that she's chronicling what is happening simply so there will be a record of "life as we knew it," which I found to be incredibly poignant. Because of that, the story ends very abruptly, which disappointed me. I've just discovered that there are sequels (YAY), though from what I can tell they take place in the same universe but with different characters (BOO). We shall see, but I'll definitely be reading them.

    (To clarify: the review for Wonder is one I wrote for another project. The other two reviews are taken from other (noted) sources. The What I Thought sections are all mine.)
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