The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Parallel Universe of Liars

The Parallel Universe of Liars

Author: Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson

Page Length: 218

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Robin is 15 and has the good fortune of living next door to (Frankie) the hottest guy on the planet. Despite her good fortune, life seems to be the pits right now. Her best friend has just moved away, and no matter who she’s around sex seems to be something that everyone has in common. She’s seen the next door neighbor and his girlfriend, her mother and Dick, and even the next door neighbor and her stepmother. Unfortunately, Robin isn’t immune either. As Frankie begins to make advances toward Robin, she has a decision to make. Will she too join the parallel universe of liars? Can she resist him? What about the new relationship developing with Tri?

REVIEW: My first reaction to this book – is that there is no way I would want to use it as a classroom discussion piece. The book is frankly all about sex. Robin knows what her mother calls out during sex. She knows that Frankie and China watch pornography while having sex. She knows what Janice and Frankie do during sex. She is also propositioned by Frankie and does not effectively resist. Even her best friend, who has moved away, writes to her about being kissed by another girl. Sexuality is everywhere in this book.

The book of course does deal with the topic realistically. It might be a good book for a parent and teen to read (15 and up) to discuss how people can be used for sex, why a teen should consider their partners, how dangerous having a relationship with someone older and more experienced can be, etc.

There is also a useful discussion provided for talking about the detriments of finding worth only in one’s appearance. However, the author does fail to address the severity of the inappropriate relationship between a 22 and a 15 year old.

Exercise caution in recommending the book – parental issues could occur.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, analogies, elements of plot, author’s purpose 

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES:

 “Her naked breasts make me shivery and nervous. Frankie works them with his mouth..” (41)

“Under my hand …it begins to get bigger, then hard, and incredibly smooth” (114)

“he’s gasping and shuddering and my hand is a gushy mess” (124)

“my nipples turn into hard buttons under his tongue …his shifts to run his penis against my privates…convulsing and sending gush all over my tummy” (139)

RELATED BOOKS: Gone, Dumb Love, A Fast and Brutal Wing, Target

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.kathleenjeffriejohnson.com/books.html

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4063/is_200301/ai_n9183385REVIEW

http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/johnson_parallel.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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August 30, 2009

Postcards from No Man’s Land

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Postcards from No Man’s Land

Author: Aidean Chambers

Page Length: 312

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Jacob’s grandmother is ill, and Jacob must take a trip to Amsterdam in her place. The purpose of Jacob’s journey to Amsterdam is to see his grandfather’s (a World War II veteran) burial site. Jacob meets the elderly ailing woman who nursed his grandfather during the war and learns much more than he was expecting about his family’s past. Along the journey, Jacob discovers new friends and new feelings he never knew he had. Geertrui shares with Jacob the secrets of his grandfather’s past as she weaves the tales of their adventures during World War II. 

REVIEW: Chambers wrote a masterful story that was outside the realm of the “normal” historical fiction novel. The author does a wonderful job of blending past and present events as the chapters shift from Geertrui in the past to Jacob in the present. In the end, it is revealed that Geertrui has recorded the story for Jacob in her journal – her last act before her assisted suicide is scheduled to take place. Be warned that the book addresses Jacob’s developing awareness of his sexuality and his attraction to both men and women. Bisexuality becomes a topic among more than one of the characters. The story of the war and Geertrui’s love for Jacob’s grandfather is wonderfully told. The reader gets a realistic sense of the urgency and danger present during the war.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, historical connections, character traits, methods of writing, compare and contrast

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: topic of bisexuality, pages 199-200 sex between Geertrui and a married soldier

RELATED BOOKS: Breaktime, Dance on My Grave, Now I Know, The Tollbridge, The Diary of Anne Frank, Four Perfect Pebbles

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Diary of Anne Frank

ART CONNECTIONS: Amsterdam – Dutch Resistance Museum online

http://goamsterdam.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=goamsterdam&cdn=travel&tm=12&gps=117_2_1419_706&f=00&su=p531.50.336.ip_&tt=3&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//

www.dutchresistancemuseum.nl/museum/en/museum

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Hit Songs from World War 2

http://nfo.net/usa/ww2.html

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.worldwar-2.net/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II

http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp?pid=1&lid=2

http://www.aidanchambers.co.uk/

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009

Silent to the Bone

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Silent to the Bone

Author: E.L. Konigsburg

Page Length: 261

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Bramwell and Connor have been best friends for years. When something tragic happens, Bramwell can no longer speak. Bramwell is being held in a juvenile detention center. The cards seem to be stacking up against him. Connor knows that there is no way his friend could have committed the crime. Connor sets out to prove Bramwell’s innocence; he must find some way to get his friend to communicate with him before it’s too late.

REVIEW: Konigsburg wrote a wonderful story that realistically portrays the heart and soul of a young man. The readers experience Bramwell’s emotions, his betrayal, and even his sense of disappointment with his father. This book deals beautifully with puberty issues, birth of a new sibling issues, and step parents. Told through the perspective of his best friend, the book delves into the psychological trauma the event has caused Bramwell. The reader heals with Bramwell.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: point of view, sequence of events, flashback technique, cause and effect, making predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: injury to a child, mild sexual encounter between a teen boy and an adult woman

RELATED BOOKS: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, George, All Together, One at a Time, Throwing Shadows, Journey to an 800 Number

RELATED WEBSITES:

 http://eduplace.com/kids/hmr/mtai/konigsburg.html

http://www.alanbrown.com/JustForKids/Previews/Z_Preview204.html

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=2648

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/konigsburg.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au_pair

REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

November 3, 2008

Crush

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Crush

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:

www.tower.com/crushcarriemac-hardcover/wapi/100068174

www.carriemac.com/crush.html

www.readerviewskids.com/ReviewMacCrush.html

orca.powerwebbook.com/…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/CrushTG.pdf,

www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol12/no21/crush.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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