The Book Reviews – Website

November 14, 2009

Pain and Wastings

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Pain and Wastings

Author: Carrie Mac

Page Length: 122

Reading Level: 3.6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Ethan grew up on the bad side of town near Main and Hastings known to others as Pain and Wastings. Ethan’s mother was involved in prostitution and drugs – a life that eventually led to her murder. Ethan has been forced to grow up in foster homes. His anger and indifference to the world has landed him in legal trouble for which he is assigned to spend time with an emergency response crew. The events that happen on the nights out working the neighborhood remind Ethan of the pain he’s tried to avoid but just can’t escape anymore.

REVIEW: For an Orca book, this one was pretty good. I really liked the pacing and the way the author slowly reveals the tragedy that Ethan has so carefully disguised and tried to ignore responding to all these years. This book does deal with sex in the form of prostitution by both his mother and Kelly. In the story, drug use issues are prevalent and murder takes place. This is an intense read that the kids would probably stay hooked on—beware of all the “inappropriate” content.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, internal conflict, external conflict, character traits, dialogue, cause and effect, point of view, flashback technique

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: p. 104 “the man had finished, zipped up his pants…” and “her head bloody,” p. 96 “long enough to squeeze me through my jeans and give me a French kiss”

RELATED BOOKS: The Beckoners, Crush, Charmed, Retribution, Storm

RELATED MOVIES: “Forrest Gump”


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


August 30, 2009

Ball Don’t Lie

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Ball Don’t Lie

Author: Matt de la Pena

Page Length: 280  

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Sticky is a skinny 17-year-old high school junior living in Venice, California.  This is his fourth foster home, after living with his drug addicted, prostitute mother who committed suicide when Sticky was only a young child.  Sticky has an obsessive compulsive disorder, but can usually get control of it after a few minutes.

Although Sticky is white and has been passed from family to family, he has developed an amazing talent for basketball.  He considers his real home the neighborhood recreational gym where old NBA basketball players as well as the homeless hang out.  His passion for basketball is unstoppable.

Surprising even to Sticky, Anh-thu, an Asian girl from school is attracted to him. She loves to watch him play basketball and wants to help him reach his goals and aspirations of making something of the predictable future of a poor white kid living on the street.

Sticky has great plans for Anh-thu’s birthday but they are halted after Sticky is approached for sex at the rec center, makes a bad decision after being taunted by one of the players and finds himself in a dire situation.

REVIEW: I would recommend this book for mature teens.  It is well written in third person voice.  The author is able to create emotion, passion, and suspense in his writing, while covering several intimate scenarios that Sticky experiences in his young life.  Sticky is exposed to difficult situations as a young child, and life doesn’t get easier for him with age. 

The reader is able to see Sticky grow and mature as he progresses through his junior year with the boys at the gym, with his foster family, his girlfriend, and his schoolmates. This is an excellent book for boys interested in basketball.  

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Setting, Supporting Details, Sequence of Events, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

TOUCHY AREAS: harsh profanity (p. 53, 128, 171, 175, 230), physical abuse (p. 65), sexual activity (p. 88, 164), sexual abuse (125), drug use (p. 226)

RELATED BOOKS: Slam, Painting the Black, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, Athletic Shorts

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Ball Don’t Lie (not yet released), Hoop Dreams (1994, Documentary), Hoosiers (1986), Heaven is a Playground (1991), Above the Rim (1994), On Hallowed Ground: Streetball Champions of Rucker Park (2001 Documentary)


 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

November 3, 2008


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Author: Carrie Mac

Page Length: 106

Reading Level: 3.4

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Hope is disappointed when she learns her parents are going to Thailand to build a school and she is being sent to New York to stay a month with her sister, Joy and her loser boyfriend, Bruce.  While there, Hope incurs a huge veterinarian bill and must find a job.  She becomes a nanny for Maira, who introduces her to Larissa, her gay partner. Although Hope has lived in a commune with her hippie parents her entire life, this is her first introduction to “gay living”.  Hope meets Nat, who runs a bike shop, and is attracted to her.  The only problem is that Nat is a girl, too.  Now, she finds herself apart of the gay community as she strives to determine what her sexuality preference really is. 

REVIEW: This book was well written as it deals with a teen girl’s struggle to identify her sexual preference.  The writing is so descriptive that the reader can feel the emotions Hope deals with as she tries to decide what is real and what is imagined.  Although the parents are presented very liberal, I thought their immediate acceptance to Hope and Nat’s relationship, was unrealistic.  Although gay relationship is evidenced openly in our society today, I would question having this book on the shelves in my schoolroom.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The entire book is about a gay relationship as well as drug use and premarital sex.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Compare and Contrast, Imagery (p. 7, 13, 26, 68, 75), Irony, and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Born Confused, Orphea Proud

RELATED WEBSITES:…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/CrushTG.pdf,

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 24, 2008

One True Friend

One True Friend

Author: Joyce Hansen

Page Length: 154

Reading Level: 6

Genre:  Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of a friendship between Amir and Doris who met while Amir was living in a foster home on 163rd street in the Bronx. Amir’s parents were killed in a car wreck and he was separated from his siblings who were put into foster care.  As the story evolves, Amir is living with his youngest brother, Ronald and his foster parent’s, Alvin and Grace Smith. Amir is on a mission to find his aunt, who he believes has his other sibling’s living with them.  He has a letter and picture he wants to send to all of the people who have the same last name as his aunt to try to find them.  However, Mr. Smith forbids Amir to send the letters and says that he will help find his aunt.

Amir feels alone and writes Doris about his life in Syracuse, the Smith’s, and Ronald.  Doris writes back about issues she is having with her schoolmates and family.  Both Amir and Doris, give each other advice and support through their mail. They both feel disconnected from the world they live in and hold on to the distant friendship to solve their problems.

REVIEW: This book starts off slow, but gets better as the relationship between Doris and Amir develops through the letters they write.  The issues that the two teens face are realistic as to what many teens fact today.  A meaningful relationship also develops between the Smith’s and Amir that makes Amir realize what blood family and chosen family can both be a part of one’s life.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Conflict, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast, Setting and Characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: References to marijuana use and AIDS, but nothing that is not age appropriate.

RELATED BOOKS: The Gift Giver, Yellow Bird and Me


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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