Quote of the Week

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."
Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)

Literature Collection

In my Young Adult Novel class a couple of years ago we were required to start out own literature collection. This meant that we had to read several books and come up with a rating system for this collection. I loved this project so much that I decided to keep going with reading and rating etc. Hope you enjoy!

My collection is based on five things. There are several more topics that I could rate on but it would make it extremely complicated to give it a rating. So, I chose only five.

Rating System

Plot – 
Is it interesting?
Anything unexpected?
Good use of literary elements?

Characters – 
Do I connect with the character/s?
Are the relationships with the characters believable?
Do the characters have layer and depth?
Are the characters pushed?

Pace - 
Is it one that keeps the reader intrigued?
Did I ever put it down and not want to pick it back up again?
Will it keep young adults intrigued?

Writing – 
Well written?
Is there good use of grammar, punctuation etc?
Is there good word usage?
Is there a consistent voice in the characters?

Importance – 
Is this important to young adults?
Does it end with hope?
Does it inspire young adults to want to keep reading?
Are there valuable lessons the reader can take from this book?

I'll start with these books:

American Born Chinese 

Rating - 5
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. New York & London: First Second, 2006.
Type: Graphic novel
Age group: 12-18
Pages: 233
ISBN # 1-59643-152-0

This book puts a hilarious spin on the serious subject of racial discrimination. I have never read a graphic novel before and I was very pleasantly surprised. American Born Chinese is essentially about three different characters that are seemingly unconnected but in the end they are really all part of the same story. Jin Wang just wants to fit in. He is embarrassed about his culture, heritage and different skin. He wants to be American through and through. The monkey king does not want to be a monkey anymore; he wants to be a god. This is the story about staying true to who you are no matter the opposition.

The plot is interwoven into three different stories that eventually go hand in hand. The reader has no idea how the three are connected to each other until the end. The story actually goes quite deep into the reasons a person should stay true to who they are.

Jin really cracks me up because he is so focused on being someone completely different that who he really is and to me it seemed like it backfired. In the end you find that he is actually two characters in the book. The characters are very well thought out. They have to be for the author to get his point across.

This is the fastest book I have ever read. It only takes about an hour to read it and the great thing about it is the fact that it keeps the reader reading. This could largely be because the story is told with pictures as well as text. The humor in the novel set a good pace for it to. A young adult will keep reading it to get more humor while also learning an important lesson.

I have never read a graphic novel before and I was very pleasantly surprised. The pictures tell the story every bit as much as the text. It’s really a genius way to tell a story. Young adults need new and different ways of storytelling, though the graphic novel is not really new. Young adults today are fixed on a world where everything is moving extremely fast and done visually through movies and most media.

This novel is very important for young adults today. They need to know that they are special because of who they are and not what they could be if they were something or someone else. Jin was one such character who wanted to be something he’s not and in the end he learned that he just needed to be his best self.

Nobody’s Princess 

Rating - 3
Freisner, Esther. Nobody’s Princess. New York: Random House, 2007.
Type: Adventure/Fantasy
Age group: 12-18
Pages: 305
ISBN # 978-0-375-87528-1

I must say I gravitated towards this novel because it is about Helen of Troy. I was very curious to see a young adult depiction of the “Whore of Troy.” This book may not be judged fairly because I kept expecting to have Paris pop up somewhere in the story and was saddened when I had to wait an entire year for the next one to come out.
This is a great story following Helen’s life up to the age of 14. Helen is constantly seeking adventure. She doesn't want to be a queen one day who can only sew and walk gracefully; she wants to fight and defend her country as well. Later in the story she actually defeats the Boar of Calydon with the help of Atalanta.

This is a very original idea for a plot. There is no other book out there (to my knowledge) about Helen growing up and how she came to be who she was.

Helen’s character is very adventurous and witty. She wants to be a hero and trained like the Spartan she is. She has no desire to sit idly by and watch her kingdom when she grows up. Helen is a fighter and she wants to be. I loved that her mother was a hunter as well. Her mother had the same charisma as Helen. Her brothers provide the comic relief in the story as well as Helen’s protectors. The reader does connect to Helen as she goes through her adventures.

This is a book that goes rather quickly for readers. There is plenty of adventure and interesting way of telling the story of Helen that keep the reader turning pages.

The author has to have a very clear understanding of the story of Helen and all Greek mythology. She has combined several Greek myths to create one story that is completely original. Helen’s thoughts are also very unique because the author has a very clear idea of who Helen is to her.

Mostly, I would have to say that this is just an entertaining read but it does teach young adults to not give up even when things get hard. It also teaches that no one should settle for stereo types. Each person should be who they want to be and not be afraid to fight for the good things they want.

If I Should Die Before I Wake 

Rating - 5 
Nolan, Han. If I Should Die Before I Wake. New York: Harcourt, 1994.
Type: Historical Fiction
Age group: 14-18
Pages: 293
ISBN # 0-15-204679-8

This is a fantastic historical fiction novel about a modern day neo-Nazi girl (Hilary) who ends up in a Jewish hospital. While in this hospital she is in a coma and has visions of the life of a Jewish girl (Chana) in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Hilary transforms into Chana and experiences these visions as if they were her own. Hilary suffers as though she is Chana and grows to love the Jews as if they were her own people and family.

This plot is very well mastered by connecting two very different people who have a hate for each other by becoming one in the same person. The author captures every aspect of the Holocaust in this story and turns it into a beautiful modern day story.
These characters are very rich and vibrant. You grow to experience the same things that Chana does and feel as though you are right there with her doing the same things. These characters grow so much and are pushed beyond the limit that anyone should have to endure and best of all they come out on top. Not everyone comes out on top but the main character does after nearly giving up several times.

Never once did put this book down and not want to pick it back up again. There is something new at every page that keeps the reader going and going with little chance for a breath. Young adults will love this book because it goes quickly and is a good book.
This book is very well written. The way the author goes from Hilary to Chana and back again is wonderful. The author has a very clear understanding of what the Holocaust must have been like and transports the reader there effortlessly. This is definitely an author that I would read again. The writing was very consistent and very expressive and colorful.

This novel is important to young adults because it tells a fictional story of what really happened to many people during the Holocaust and makes it very real. There are many young adults who face problems and feel like it would be easier to give up but they must have the perseverance to keep on going.


Rating - 5
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Penguin Group, 1999.
Type: Realistic Fiction
Age group: 15 and up
Pages: 198
ISBN # 0-14-240732-1

I absolutely loved this book. It is one that I would read again in a heartbeat. This book is about a girl (Melinda) who has a seemingly dark secret. We don’t know what that secret is until about halfway through the book though; all we know is that everyone appears to hate her for something that happened over the summer. We find out later that she was raped during a party and in a state of panic she called the cops. She develops one true friend in her art teacher who is the greatest help to her though her deep depression. Many would say this book is about rape, but it is really more about depression.

While this book is not necessarily plot driven it is very interesting and intriguing. Humor helped to tie everything together. In fact, it may be humor that saved this book from being horribly depressing. The reader can laugh through the hard times the protagonist faces and yet still feel the severity of them.

I really connected with Melinda in this book. She had some of the same thoughts about life that I did at her age so it was very real to me. This book is very character driven. It’s about her character and how she changes and comes out on top in the end by defeating her demons.

I never once put this book down and didn't want to pick it back up again. It keeps the reader intrigued especially since we do not find out what happened to Melinda until halfway through the book. It’s also a fast read. Young adults will read this because the chapters are short and the pace keeps the reader in just enough suspense to keep the book in hand.

This book was extremely well written. The voice in it was consistent to Melinda. The reader knows who Melinda is because she has a voice of her own to the reader. Humor is gently woven into nearly every scenario in the book and very tastefully done. Grammar and punctuation were in no way a distraction.

I think this book is very important for young adults and teachers of young adults to read because there are so many teens out there who are going through the exact same problems that Melinda faces. Melinda also comes out on top which is important when considering young adults; they need to know that there is a way out of their problems.

Snow Falling in Spring 

Rating - 5
Li, Moying. Snow Falling in Spring. Canada: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 2008.
Type: Non-fiction
Age group: 14-18
Pages: 165
ISBN # 0-374-39922-0

This is a wonderful and heartbreaking non-fiction story about Moying Li who is growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. She talks about her life during war times and the visions she saw of teachers friends and relatives be accused of having no loyalty to Chairman Mao and to the government. She witnesses horrible things that are done to the people she loves and all the while moving from place to place when all she wants to do is go back to the way things were with her family in her little courtyard.

This is a beautiful plot. Moying is growing up and coming of age during terrible war times and there is no escape for the people she loves. Her family keeps sending her to places where she will be safe and she would much rather stay with her family.
Since this book is a story about the author’s own life she has a very clear picture of how things were and every account of how she felt during all of these terrible ordeals. The way the other characters such as her family are portrayed are very meaningful and loving. The reader really does connect with Moying; he or she feels like these things are almost happening to them.

There is plenty of action that goes on in this book. The parts that were most intense and kept my attention were the parts when to government once again take away something that is very dear to the main character. The author does an exquisite job of telling the story in a very real way that keeps the reader reading.

This book is beautifully written. It is almost like reading a journal but even more in depth because we are getting more accounts of her family that we may get in just a journal entry. Her similes, metaphors and comparisons are very powerful and beautiful.

After reading this book I can see how important it is for young adults to read a non-fiction book. They need to know about the things that have happened to real people in history. Young adults need to understand real accounts of the average person and how they fought and came out on top and eventually conquered their fears. Moying continued on with life despite nearly everything being taken away from her at one point or another.

Ella Enchanted 

Rating - 4
Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. New York: HarperCollins, 1997
Type: Fantasy
Age group: 12-18
Pages: 232
ISBN # 0-590-64608-7

This is a wonderful version of the Cinderella story we all know and love. This is the story of Ella. She has been granted a horrible “gift.” Ella must do everything that is commanded of her no matter what the consequences may be. She tries with all her might throughout the entire book to deny the forces of the curse but always must give in until it comes down to saving the man and prince she loves more than anything.
I greatly enjoy the thought of Ella needing to do everything that is commanded of her. It is a refreshing twist on an old classic story. She is also friends with the prince from the beginning of the story and falls in love with him after their friendship has blossomed. The best part of the plot is that there is only one thing she can do to break her curse and that is to save the man she loves. A completely selfless act.

Ella is a bright, funny and dynamic character. Her stepsisters and stepmother are as cruel as they ought to be for a Cinderella story. There really are thousands of characters in this book which is typical of a fantasy. She has created several mythical creatures that have distinct personalities that are unique to this story. I felt a strong connection to Ella.

The pace in this novel moves along rather quickly. There is adventure on every page and there is a lot of emotion that keeps the reader attached to the characters and keeps the reader avidly reading. The reader cannot wait to see if Ella and the prince actually find their happily ever after.

The author has created a new language for each of her mythical creatures and keeps with it. She also has a way of keeping the reader intrigued with the story. This is a very refreshing way to tell the Cinderella story in a new way.

These situations can be very real to young adults today, especially young women. Some have been trapped in situations that they can’t get out of and sometimes it takes a selfless act to get out of these situations. This book would also be important for young readers because it is just a good book that will make young adults want to pick up another book and read and continue to read.

Whale Talk

Rating - 4
Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk. New York: Random House, 2001.
Type: Sports
Age group: 16 and up
Pages: 220
ISBN # 0-440-22938-3

Though I didn’t particularly like reading this book, it has great value for young adults. It is the story of a boy named TJ. He is an excellent swimmer and because of the intense bullying situations that happen at his high school he develops a swim team of misfits. He wants to prove that these guys are worthy of wearing a letter jacket. TJ has already conquered his demons and now has the opportunity to help others conquer theirs. His team comes out on top of the game and they all receive their letter jackets despite the opposition of their peers and teachers.

The plot of this story is basic, it’s the sub-plots that make it interesting and intriguing. All of the little stories that take place come together very well and create a beautiful but sad resolution.

There were so many characters and each of them had a very distinct personality and voice. I didn’t really connect with the main character and that could be a bit gender specific and the fact that I have never gone through the challenges that these characters did. The characters are pushed to their limit a perhaps beyond and the good guys come out on top.

The pace was set quite well. This book was not particularly a fast read but the characters keep you intrigued and want to read more and know more about their secrets. The problems and challenges that each character face are what keeps the pace going.

The writing was done well with a good use of literary elements. It is written very “matter of fact” which is what this novel needed to get its point across. I didn’t really appreciate the constant foul language, but at the same time it is necessary. The foul language is part of what makes this book so profound.

I think this book is very profound. The issues are handled in a very realistic way and yet the good guys still come out on top. The reader leaves with a sense of hope. I would recommend this book to older teens because it teaches them that there really is no underdog and first impressions are not always what they seem and we need to take a look at what’s on the inside.

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