The Book Reviews – Website

August 8, 2009


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Author: Mary Beth Miller

Page Length: 276

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As far as everyone else is concerned, Zoe’s guilty. She can’t go anywhere near her old friends and her parents have had to move her away to a new school. Aimee is gone, and this is what Zoe gets for “helping” her – total alienation from her friends, loneliness, isolation, parents who think she’s a murderer, and weekly visits to see a shrink. All Zoe did was try to be a friend and this is her reward??

REVIEW: This book is not the average read by any means. Aimee was Zoe’s best friend. She talked often of killing herself and one night in Zoe’s presence does just that. There are issues of teen sex where Zoe had sex with Chard and took hot baths, etc. taking what she considered aggressive actions not to be pregnant. Aimee tells Zoe stories of an abusive step mother who assaults her sexually. Zoe deals with her own depression and anorexia as a result of the incident. Zoe’s parents are cracking under the stress of probation, psychiatrists, and Zoe’s erratic behavior. On the other hand, the book deals well with an extremely emotional topic – suicide. The reader experiences first hand Zoe’s pain, loss, and suffering (which might make an excellent anti-suicide teaching point). The topics covered in the book are excellent for sparking classroom discussion / debates. Should you elect to let your students read this book – it should definitely be a page turner and of high interest.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: character traits, sequence of events, flashback, depth of emotion for character development, cause and effect, comparing and contrasting

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: girl talks about slitting her wrists (p. 86), child abuse reference (p.133), suicide reference (pgs. 243-246)

RELATED BOOKS: On the Head of a Pin, Handtalk School, The Pact, Thirteen Reasons Why, Hold Tight, Teen Suicide

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Good Charlotte – Hold On, Linkin Park – Breaking the Habit


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

July 29, 2008

Kissing Doorknobs

Kissing Doorknobs

Author: Terry Spencer Hesser  

Page Length: 149

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: At the age of eleven, Tara, becomes obsessed and haunted by the childhood saying, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back”.  In a narrative form, Tara shares her story, she notes that she was very happy as a young child and loved spending time with her mother.  However, from the age of 11 to 14 she experiences out of control obsessions of praying, counting, terrible thoughts and arranging her food at meals.

Tara is a likeable girl, with three best friends.  Keesha is a proud African American, Anna is an athlete, and Kristen is a beautiful girl who desires to be a model. Tara has been a friend with them since pre-school, but as her obsessions become her priority, she loses her closeness to her peers.

Tara’s mother takes her to several counselors but she is misdiagnosed with disorders such as ADD, low self-esteem, immaturity, anger, and anorexia.  Her behavior becomes so obsessive that her parents begin to argue and her mother is almost abusive to Tara.

Then, one evening Mr. Jacobson, an old friend of her father’s visits their home.  He witnesses Tara, as she is unable to open the door before she counts the doorknob up to almost 89 times.  As Tara and her father breakdown crying, Mr. Jacobson is able to share some good news that will help Tara.

REVIEW:  This is a book that will help the reader understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  The reader will share empathy for Tara, as she knows it is not normal to have her obsessions, but she cannot stop them.

The book is fairly short; an interesting read for junior high and high school girls.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Conclusions, Generalizations and Predictions 

RELATED BOOKS: Speak, Cut, Passing for Normal: A Memoir of Compulsion


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

April 15, 2008

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things

Author: Carolyn Mackler

Page Length: 244  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Teen Fiction/Humor/Drama

PLOT SUMMARY:  Virginia Shreves is an overweight high school girl, named for Virginia Woolf.  Her family is dysfunctional, but her mom, an adolescent psychologist, wants the world to believe they have the “perfect” family.  Virginia’s older sister has graduated from college and joined the Peace Corps.  Byron is her older brother who she idealizes.  He attends Columbia University.  Her father is a prominent businessman who is rarely home.  Besides being a doctor, her mom is also a health nut.  Virginia is not only overweight, but a loner, since her best friend moved to Seattle for a year. 

As the book opens, Virginia is experiencing her first boy/girl relationship, which is a make-out session every Monday afternoon with Froggy Welsh the 4th.    Virginia does not feel apart of her family or school.  She tries to please her parents by dieting and finds refuge in one of the teacher’s classrooms during lunch so that she doesn’t have to eat alone.  One night in a rare visit with her dad, the phone rings and the Shreve’s’ learn that Byron, the all-star stud, has been dismissed from Columbia for date rape.

For the remainder of the book, Virginia copes with her brother’s mistake, her parents approach to dealing with family problems, and looking at herself as an individual important human being.

REVIEW: Virginia feels she is inferior to the entire world, but learns that sometimes people aren’t quite as special and perfect as we imagine.  She then realizes by making some independent and aggressive decisions, she can redefine herself. 

I enjoyed this book a lot.  Although the title is catchy and humorous, the contents of the book cover serious teen issues.  I found myself thinking of several students and family members who could relate experiences to the different characters in the book. 

The reader can easily empathize with Virginia in  the way that her family treats her.  I would suggest this book for high school age girls and older.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Characterization

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: pgs. 2-6 (make-out scene), pgs. 57-59, 96-98, 155- 159, and 197 (date rape and strong language)

RELATED BOOKS: What My Bother Doesn’t Know, Speak, The Truth About Forever, The First Part Last


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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