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Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

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On the outside, eleven year-old Melody seems to be just a girl with cerebral palsy in a wheel chair. Yet inside is a photographic memory and intelligence that goes beyond her years. No one knows it, because Melody can’t talk, walk, or write. For while, Melody is stuck in her mind, until something gives her a voice. However, not everyone wants to hear it.

One of the best things about this book is the author’s writing style. It brings Melody’s world and her story to life with rich sensory details. Melody hears music in colors and visualizes flavors. Jazz “sounds brown and tan, and it smells like wet dirt.” Country is “lemons, sugar sweetened tangy.”

Another amazing thing is this book are the supporting characters. Melody’s mom is like a tiger when she sticks up for her daughter. Mrs. V, Melody’s neighbor, is the most encouraging and kind mentor any kid like Melody could ask for. Last, but not least, Melody’s special needs classmates (forgive me if I use the wrong term) shine with humble and fun traits, such as loving music and wanting to zoom like a race car driver to the moon.

An important trait in this book is its realism. Everyday, kids like Melody are teased or ignored by normal classmates and misunderstood by adults. Not only is it because of a lack of knowledge and understanding, but because of the assumption that any physical or mental limitation equals a lack of heart and soul. This book does a fantastic job of stating otherwise.

I recommend this book to anyone who is around kids like Melody. This is Sharon M. Draper’s best book yet.

Written by Serena Zola

November 2, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Book Review: The House You Past On The Way

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 Even though she is the grand-daughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple, fourteen year old Staggerlee is lonely. Then, her aunt Hallique dies and Staggerlee meets her cousin Trout. Trout is everything Staggerlee wants her to be, and also a good friend. However, both girls have secrets that affect who they could love and become.

The highlight of this book is the main characters Staggerlee and Trout. They are brought to life very well by the author’s writing style. It uses metaphor and prose in a way that reads like poetry. Some of the best lines from the book involve Staggerlee being together and apart from others by using music and the moon.

Some pitfalls in this book are its pace and length. Since the book has short chapters and only one hundred fourteen pages, this book is good for reluctant readers. However, for readers who connect to the characters, it will feel too rushed. There isn’t enough time to be with Staggerlee and Trout when they are together. By the novel’s end, readers might want more when there might not be.

All in all, this book is good for preteens questioning their identity or their sexuality. However, it could have been drawn out a little more.

Similar Review:

After Tupac & D Foster-

Written by Serena Zola

August 24, 2012 at 7:57 PM

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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  From the moment she was diagnosed with cancer, sixteen year old Hazel Grace thought that death was the only thing her future contained. She was content with just going to college classes, reading An Imperial Affliction over and over, and watching America’s Next Top Model until her dying day. Then, her mother makes her attend a cancer support group. There, she meets the gorgeous prosthetic-legged Augustus Waters and her future is forever changed.

One of the best things about this book are the main and supporting characters. The main characters completely contradict how the world sees cancer kids. Hazel and Augustus are intelligent, funny, and vulnerable all at once. As for the supporting characters, the parents are just as good as the kids. In particular, Hazel’s mother is almost an adult clone of her daughter. She has Hazel’s sense of humor mixed with her own random and caring nature.

Another enjoyable thing in this book was that it is laugh out loud funny at times. Humor is found within most of the teens and adults and is not confined to a particular group of people. For instance, Hazel’s mom asks her daughter, “Did that boy give it to you?” Hazel replies, “By it, do you mean herpes?”

Some powerful features of this book are its themes of being remembered, being loved, and leaving a mark on the world. John Green uses many things including books, poetry, and people to convey  messages. They come together with John Green’s signature writing style to create something that  stirs the mind, heart, and soul.

Overall, this was a fantastic book. In fact, this has to be John Green’s best work since his debut novel Looking For Alaska. It is recommended to anyone being deeply affected by cancer, disease, death, and life.

Written by Serena Zola

July 2, 2012 at 6:40 PM

Book Review: After Tupac & D Foster

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  D Foster, Neeka, and Neeka’s best friend are known as Three The Hard Way. Together, they have a strong bond of friendship and a passion for the music of the rapper Tupac Shakur. For two years, Tupac helps the girls through their personal struggles. As time passes and things change, each of the girls are guided toward their Big Purpose.

One of the best aspects of the book is how the author conveys the impact of Tupac’s music on the characters. During vulnerable moments, D Foster explains to the girls how she connects to the music. These moments are raw because they are only observed by the characters themselves. They do a great job of showing how close the three girls are, making their friendship more tangible.

Another good way the author shows the impact of Tupac’s music is by relating Tupac’s life to the lives of the three girls and those around them. She connects the book to realistic things such as prejudice and the overall plight of young people. Furthermore, she shows how people can misjudge the music and how some people can be badly influenced by it.

Besides conveying the impact of music well, the book also has some well-developed the characters are. An example is the girl who is Neeka’s best friend. She is the brain in the group because she reads biographies. A unique thing about her is that she serves as the book’s narrator, but is never addressed by name. This makes the narrator’s experience universal. Also, the author is skilled at switching between the narrator’s inner thoughts and outer observations.

In addition to the character development, the unity between them is heartwarming. This goes not only for the main characters, but for the supporting characters as well. The latter members vary from adults, to parents, to older siblings. Together, the main and supporting characters form a loyal community. When the author shows how one person’s life affects everyone else, the loyalty is demonstrated.

Overall, this book was a great read. I recommend this book to any young black middle schooler, especially if they are a reluctant reader. Also, anyone who appreciates the music of Tupac Shakur or music in general should give this book a try.

Written by Serena Zola

June 25, 2012 at 7:47 PM

Book Review: Geektastic

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  Geektastic: Stories from The Nerd Herd is a collection of geeky short stories by some of today’s most prominent young adult authors. Some of them include John Green, Sara Zarr, David Leviathan, and Holly Black. A sample of story topics include Star Wars versus Star Trek, RPGs, and comics.

One of the best things about this book is how the stories go beyond the geeky passions and go into the personal lives of the characters. A good example from the book is “The Truth About Dino Girl” by Barry Lyga. In the story, a geeky girl has a crush on a popular guy. At the same time, she wants to be the world’s greatest paleontologist. Yet past memories and an uncertain future make Dino Girl feel alone and like nothing.

Another good thing about this book is the comic illustrations in between the stories. Done by Brian Lee O’ Malley (creator of the comic Scott Pilgrim VS The World that the movie is based on) and Hope Larson, these comics are funny and geeky. They catch the eye with headlines like “How to Look Cool and Not Drool in Front of Your Favorite Author”.

In the end, it all depends on personal taste. If you are a geek and a certain type of geek, then you will enjoy these stories. Even if you aren’t a geek, you might know someone who is and so will be able to understand them better if you read a story or two. Either way, this book is worth reading.

Written by Serena Zola

May 3, 2012 at 9:17 PM

Book Review: The House on Mango Street

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In the Latino section of Chicago lies the House on Mango Street.

In the house lives a young girl named Esperanza.

This is the story of her world.

One of the most powerful things about the House on Mango Street is the storytelling. Instead of chapters, the story is told in a series of vignettes. Think of a vignette as a verbal snapshot of a specific moment in time. With rich sensory detail and the narration of Esperanza, it is like a story and poem rolled into one.

Another notable thing about this book is its universal themes of identity and empowerment. Even though the characters in the book are Latino, the feelings and experiences that they have can resonate with anyone. In fact, the rawness and honesty in this book is similar to another well-known coming-of-age novel: The Outsiders.

While this novel does have its strengths, it also has a weakness. Besides Esperanza, there are many other characters featured. Since you only see things through Esperanza’s eyes, it can be confusing to take in her and everyone else she sees all at once. Despite this, The House on Mango Street is still a fantastic read.

Written by Serena Zola

February 29, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Book Review: Bloodlines

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The paranormal world of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is back with a all-new series called Bloodlines. This first book is told from the point of view of a human called Sydney Sage, whose job as an Alchemist involves studying magic to guard vampire secrets and protect human lives. After the incident with the half human-half vampire dhampir called Rose Hathaway, Sage’s loyalty to the Alchemists has been questioned. However, when dhampir Jill Dragomir-sister of Moroi vampire queen Lissa Dragomir- is in danger, she goes into hiding at a human boarding school. Unexpectedly, Sage is chosen to be her guardian and protector.

One of the best things about this first book in the Bloodlines series is the fresh narrator. In the previous series Vampire Academy, its narrator Rose Hathaway is beautiful, witty, and tough-as-nails on the surface. While she wasn’t a bad character, she was a little of something already seen in female-fronted action movies. Sage, on the other hand, is an intelligent girl whose insecurities are shown upfront. This alongside the storyline sets up a more authentic series. Another notable thing about the book is its theme of self-identification that Sage and one other character exhibits.

The only downside to this series is that is doesn’t work well by itself. If you haven’t read the Vampire Academy series first, then you may be confused when you start Bloodlines. While the author does explain the series’ world, she does it in a way that makes the reader want to read more and yet wonder if there is more. All in all, this is a good start to the series.

Written by Serena Zola

December 29, 2011 at 8:11 PM

8 Things to Save a Life Part 2

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In honor of Jonah Mowry as well as all the victims of bullycide, I have created a two-part post featuring songs and books that can be used to comfort any suicidal or bullied person. However, these posts are especially for children and teens.

Since part one featured the songs, this second part will feature the books.

The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins

Many teens are bullied because they are different from most of their classmates. Some of them resort to suicide because they believe they will suffer the same treatment all throughout their life. With this non-fiction book, the author presents what she calls “the quirk theory”, which states that the things that cause them to be bullied in high school will be the things that people appreciate later in life. To support this theory, the author follows several real characters that are ostracized for being different and issues them a challenge to change their situation without changing who they are. In addition, the author features celebrities that were outcasts in high school before they were famous.

On the Fringe edited by Donald R. Gallo

This book features several stories by many prominent young adult authors. These stories tell what it is like to be an outcast, to be excluded for being different. Some of these stories are hopeful, while others are shocking, but all of them have a lesson to be learned.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan

This fiction book tells the story of one gay teen and one straight teen who share the same name and what happens when they meet. A humorous yet serious story featuring love and friendship, this is a great book for anyone.

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Another thing that teens may resort to when bullied is self-injury. Jonah Mowry did it and so does the main character in this book. After a humiliating bullying incident, Melissa Miller accidentally creates a fatal wound while cutting herself with a razor. However, when Death comes he offers her the chance to become War, a Rider of the Apocalypse. When Melissa Miller takes the job, she slowly learns something that helps her conquer her pain: control.

Written by Serena Zola

December 16, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Book Review: Perfect

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Once again, Ellen Hopkins has written another raw, eye-opening young adult novel. For those who aren’t familiar with her work, Hopkins’ young adult novels are written in verse and their subject is teen issues. With her latest work, Hopkins’ discusses the issue of perfection from the point of view of four teens: Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre. Cara is the twin sister of Conner, a character from Impulse, another young adult novel from Hopkins. Cara is trying to live up to her parents’ high academic expectations until an unexpected love comes along. Kendra is trying to get the perfect body by using self-destructive methods. Sean is trying to have the perfect life, socially and athletically and will do whatever it takes to get it. Andre is trying to live his own perfect dreams, but his ancestors’ desires stand in the way.

One of the notable things about these characters was how they showed duality in the way they saw themselves and how other people saw them. Another appreciative aspect of the book was how the format and font of the verses changed for each character to make them unique. In addition, there is a great promotion of critical thinking in the way that  Hopkins approached the subject of perfection from different points of view. The only thing that may bother readers is how the book ends, especially if they really connect to the characters. All in all, Perfect was practically perfect.

Written by Serena Zola

November 6, 2011 at 12:04 PM

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