Saturday, April 6, 2013

Books I think more people should read.

I seem to notice more and more adults shy away from the YA genre. Yes, I realize that a large portion of these books are written completely and totally for those that fall into the age group of about 14-18. And I must admit, though I read quite a bit of YA books there are some that I tend to stay far away from (basically anything Vampires due to Twilight killing that idea or anything similar to Pretty Little Liars. If you're into that kind of thing, cool, but it's not for me). I definitely have books that I really enjoy that just so happen to be Young Adult. And honestly, there are many adult books that have similar plots, so I guess when I see people kind of look down on YA books I don't completely understand it. Anyway, there are some books that are techincally calssified as YA that I really think people should look into more. Just because they are written from the view point of someone that is a bit younger does not mean that we, as adults, cannot take something from these books. So I thought I would share three YA books that I really feel people should pick up, not matter their age (and there are probably many others that I'm missing). This is in no particular order, and these books have all been written in the last 3-5 years.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

This is actually a book that I just finished, so I'm still kind of on a high from it (which is probably why I'm struggling to get through my latest book even thought I'm enjoying it). This book kind of reminded me of a modern day Freak The Mighty or something similar to that. Not to say they are exactly the same. Though heartbreaking, this book did not read the same as Freak the Mighty did when I was in 8th grade. This book is essentially about August's transformation to a new school, where he is stared at all the time. He gets picked on, a lot, and struggles to adjust. This book made me feel a bit guilty, because as humans we tend to stare at things that we don't understand or that make us feel uncomfortable. I can definitely think of times where I would stare at someone because they looked different or had some sort of deformity. It's human nature, but I still feel guilty about it. Reading this made me feel a bit more aware of the fact that I do that. And it kind of is helping me to stop that. This book is really interesting because it also reads from different characters. You would think that the entire book is from Auggie's perspective, but really it goes into the perspective of his sister, and two of his friends. I found this interesting because in books like this those characters are ignored. They are just shown as the strong characters that stand up for their friend/brother, but this showed some of their insecurities as well and some of the ways that being friends with Auggie changed their lives. Auggie is not the only one that puts up with name calling and stares.

What can adults take from this book about middle schoolers? They can see just how bad bullying can get. I think that some adults think that bullying really isn't a huge deal or that it doesn't happen as often, but it does. It is so much worse these days than it was when I was in school (though I could be completely oblivious to the world around me, that has been known to happen). The things that kids say to each other is just downright mean, and the fact that they can pick on someone for something that is completely out of their control is ridiculous. So what if someone looks different than you? That is absolutely no reason to pick on them. I think this books shows us as adults what kinds of things kids say (because this does happen, no matter where you are) and what we can do to help change that. It shows that we can be positive role models to these kids and we can show that things like this is wrong. I think it also gives a bit of a perspective on the things that some parents say (yes, you get to read about what parents think of certain situations, and it made me cringe because I know this actually happens). As adults, we should model positive behavior to everyone. Bullying can tear people apart, and normally those people are the nicest and sweetest people, just like Auggie. 

“Kinder than is necessary. Because it's not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.” 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.

This book was such a surprise for me. I kind of randomly picked it. I had never heard of it before, but I was like "Yea, sure I'll read that one on vacation." Best. Choice. Ever. I typically don't read an entire book in a day (gotta spread out all the goodness right?) but I could not put this one down. I finished it within 6 hours of starting it. The story was captivating and intriguing. I remember just needing to know what would happen next, which is why I read it in an entire day. I am not entirely sure how historically accurate it was (with the age of the girls being the agents and all) but it was so interesting. It was a view of the events that happened during the war that I had never really heard, and the main events themselves seemed pretty accurate. And the best thing is, this is a story about a strong friendship. They were strong even when everything was against them. Wonderful.

What can adults take from this book? Well, the value of a strong friendship basically. I mean that should be something that can translate with any age. Also, historical fiction tends to end up very similar in the end, so if you like historical fiction this this book is one you should read. It's been almost a year since I read it, and I still have nothing but good things to say about it. I don't have life lessons to take from it, but I think it's well written and a nice read that is really well worth your time. 

“It’s awful, telling it like this, isn’t it? As though we didn’t know the ending. As though it could have another ending. It’s like watching Romeo drink poison. Every time you see it you get fooled into thinking his girlfriend might wake up and stop him. Every single time you see it you want to shout, You stupid ass, just wait a minute and she’ll open her eyes! Oi, you, you twat, open your eyes, wake up! Don’t die this time! But they always do.” 

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

Ok, so the description may not be selling it completely. It sounds like your stereotypical young adult book about real life stuff right? Well, that's part of it. And yes, there's a really awkward love triangle (it's just a little weird to have feelings of some sort for your dead sister's boyfriend, and it's also a little weird that he even acted on it...but that's a different story). My main thing with this book is that it was such an accurate description of an average person going through the loss of a family member. To say that everyone deals with the grief the same way as Lennie would be a lie, but when you kind of look at some of the way she dealt with it and you look at others that have gone through it (or if you have gone through it yourself) you can find so many similarities. It's been awhile since I read this book, but here's something I said when I wrote a short review of it on Goodreads: " If you ever want a glimpse into how a loss can affect a person's every day life, definitely read this book. All the emotions towards the loss of my dad were experienced by the main character with her sister. It was a beautiful story about loss and the strength a person needs to try their hardest to move on...Obviously each and every person has their own way of grieving, but this book seemed to take the approach that most people would assume of it and then dig deeper. No one knows that side of grief until they are a part of this." I really don't think there is much more to say on how I feel about this book.

What can adults take from this? They can kind of see how teenagers handle grief, or even full grown adults. When I was in school and we were talking about at-risk students many of my classmates were kind of stumped about what to do with students that have lost a parent or sibling. It's a tricky situation, and I think this book kind of gives a good glimpse into what the grieving process entails. It is also really beautifully written. I honestly wish more teenagers would read this book.

“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn't go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That's just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don't get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”

So yea, I think more people should read these books. Not just adults, but any ages. It is amazing to me how many people haven't read some of them. I'm obviously missing some too, or not sharing some, so feel free. 

In fact, right now I'm reading yet another book that I have never heard of.

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn't . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

So far, super interesting (though I'm only 100 pages in). And also, it has me giggling every now and then. Anyone else reading anything good? Or have something that they think more people should read (for any age group, though I think the age requirements get kind of ridiculous...so many of the classics started as Children's books.)?