The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

What They Always Tell Us

What They Always Tell Us

Author: Martin Wilson

Page Length: 288

Reading Level: 4.8

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Career Connection: None

PLOT SUMMARY: James and Alex have grown up together as close siblings. People often considered them twins because they were similar in many ways. James and Alex are one grade level apart. The book takes the reader through an entire year of high school – James’ senior year and Alex’s junior year.

The school year begins with a big party at which time Alex chugs down a bottle of Pine Sol. He is rushed to the hospital where he fortunately recovers. However no one, not even his once close brother, knows why Alex attempted suicide.

Alex’s beginning junior year is filled with studying, visits to his therapist, and avoidance from former friends such as Tyler. Alex becomes an isolated homebody, a recluse.

James’ beginning senior year is filled with questions about his brother’s suicide attempt and daily “weird” behavior.

When James’ friend, Nathen, befriends Alex, Nathen encourages Alex to try out for the cross-country team. To prepare, Nathen and Alex begin a training workout together and develop a close friendship. At first, James is glad that his brother is out of the house and doing something “normal”. However, little does he know that the side activities that Nathen and Alex engage in are more intimate than mere cross-country teammates.

REVIEW: This is a beautifully written coming-of-age story for both Alex and James – two brothers that were once close and have now grown apart due to lack of communication. The reader will discover the character of Alex as one who is caught in the confusing maturation process during high school – cut off from his friends because he is “not acting like them” – not dating, not chasing girls. Alex’s cry for attention during his suicide attempt backfires for him as he experiences increased bullying from former friends. However, once James realizes his brother’s “true feelings”, the two grow closer together once more.

This is a great story of brotherly bonding. The story works because this is the central theme of the story – not the supplemental gay themes. However, both are intertwined. The gay relationship and intimate scenes between Nathen and Alex are maturely written in context of the plot.

Any male who has a brother struggling with a part of themselves as they mature will understand this story. This story contains characters with fresh voices. It is a book that is calmly written and one that will take many readers with siblings on a trip down memory lane.  

There is also an intriguing subplot in this story that deals with a young boy named Henry in search of his real father.

This book is written in third-person point-of-view. Odd-numbered chapters focus on Alex while even-numbered chapters focus on James.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, text to world, compare/contrast, prediction

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: there are several pages that list words such as “gay, faggot, queer”, a few scenes depict intimate scenes between two teenage males, and page 120 depicts one of those scenes

RELATED BOOKS: Crush by Carrie Mac, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Big Guy by Robin Stevenson, Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher, Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.randomhouse.biz/booksellers/childrens/files/2010/08/GLBTQ_DiscGd_BIZ.pdf (GLBTQ book discussion guide)

http://martinwilsonwrites.com/ (author’s website)

http://www.readwritethink.org/parent-afterschool-resources/podcast-episodes/lesbian-characters-young-adult-30329.html (podcast)

REVIEWED BY: K. Stratton

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January 18, 2009

Silent to the Bone

Filed under: S — thebookreviews @ 7:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

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