Ads 468x60px

Thursday, November 29, 2012

REVIEW: The Bar CodeTrilogy

Not my usual M.O., but I decided to review the entire trilogy, not just the recently released third book. I re-read the first 2 because I realized when I started book 3, that it had been far too long since I'd thought about Kayla's story.
Note: these books do not stand alone well. But, that's okay.

The Bar Code Tattoo
Originally published in 2004
 The bar code tattoo. Everybody's getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity.

But what if you say no? What if you don't want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There's no option but to run . . . for her life. Indivuality vs. conformity. . Identity vs. access. Freedom vs. control. The bar code tattoo.

Debut near-future dystopian novel. Interesting premise, not so awesome writing. It's most certainly not Weyn's best work, but it is what got her some attention. There really wasn't a huge amount in this genre at the time and she did well breaking in with something different.

I've read reviews that tell you the story is predictable. It's not. Well, it wasn't for when it was first published. is now, when dystopian YA fiction is all the rage. The characters are all a little weak, and yes, Weyn has some disjointed connections here and there. But the book isn't a lost cause.

The story doesn't wrap up neatly, which is a plus. You want some closure for Kayla and the love triangle she finds herself in while running from the government. pick up the second book.

Monday, November 26, 2012

10 Things Your YA Student Wants to Hear From You

I was reading an article the other day about things kids need to hear from their parents. Specifically, it was directed at parents of "tweens" and was really pretty interesting. (Read it here, if you're interested.) It got me to thinking about the students I work with. I've always called them "my kids--All 1800 of 'em a year." Some of the ideas from the article certainly apply to those kids, too.

So, I started an informal poll. I asked kids I know would give me a straight answer, so yes, it's probably a bit skewed, but I have managed to create a good working relationship with kids from all walks at our school. Some of them are things I would've easily answered. Some of them sparked more conversation and kind of opened my eyes.

  1. "How is your day going?" I heard this from one student, and it stuck with me. He stopped juuuuuuuust short of calling some of his teachers automatons--that just teach without ever really connecting.
  2. "Good job." This one sounds so obvious to me. SOOO obvious. But some of our kids, much like some adults, need to hear it regularly, not just when they do well on a test.
  3. "I had a hard time understanding this, too." It helps kids to know that YOU, the teacher, had a hard time learning how to solve quadratic equations or understanind the language in Beowulf. Not only are you infinitely more human when you admit that you know what they're feeling.
  4. "I promise, it does get better." This one isn't just one that kids today want to hear, I think a lot of formerly struggling high school students wanted to. Needed to. Sometimes they need to hear that the garbage they are going through right now doesn't last, and that life does get better.
  5. "You're smart." Another one that sounded so obvious to me. I get what this student meant, though. She wants to hear that she's smart, and have the statement have no relationship to her grades. 
  6. "I saw your name in the paper/heard it in the announcements/etc. That's awesome!" Provided what you heard is positive news, get them talking about life outside your classroom. It's called "being interested" in what they do.

Homework: What do you think? Tell me below. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sites to See, Nov 8

Two Hands-On Economics Lessons
There’s Captains of Industry, which is a simulation of the business practices of American businessmen in the late 19th century (Think Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc.). The 2nd is Life on Minimum Wage is designed to show students how difficult it is to get ahead financially when your only job pays minimum wage and doesn’t offer benefits.

WeSeed Virtual Stock Market Game
The stock market game that we’d used for years stopped being free, but WeSeed appears to have stepped up. There’s a special educators site that shows you how to set up classes for competitions and has free lesson materials

The Smithsonian’s Seriously Amazing Just a fun site with some neat things. Just by clicking a trivia-style question, you can quickly find yourself lost in articles, videos, and pictures  from the Smithsonian magazine website (which is also an awesome website to explore).

Amusement Park Physics
A neat site you can easily use to explain some basic physics concepts. There are interactive games for experimenting with the way different forces interact. Kind of fun.

Spanish Language learning resources from the BBC
Lots of different resources, including games, online tutorials, and a 12-week interactive video drama (with teacher guide)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Something to check out...

Lizzie knows it isn’t right to eavesdrop, but is it really eavesdropping if her neighbor Maura makes all of her phone calls on her parents’ pool deck in easy earshot of Lizzie’s backyard? And of course it’s wrong to go snooping around on someone else’s computer, but is it Lizzie’s fault that Maura keeps her computer turned on (and logged in to Facebook) all the time?

Lizzie Richard’s father has moved the family around every few years to advance his career, so she has never had a chance to develop the kind of “BFF” relationships she thinks most kids have. She’s bracing herself for another lonely year at her third high school when her new neighbor Maura gets sick of watching her little brother when she could be partying. Thanks to Maura’s plotting, Lizzie becomes everyone’s new favorite babysitter. Seeing her opportunity, Lizzie breaks her strict parents’ rules and uses Maura’s computer to create a secret Email address and Facebook account. She is quickly friended by Missy, a fellow transfer student as eager for a friend as she is. Things are looking up for Lizzie until Maura’s ex-boyfriend Paul sets his eye on Missy. Caught between her new best friend and the neighbor whose friendship promises instant popularity, Lizzie doesn’t know what to do—because she’s fallen for Paul, too.

An Excerpt

I like the makeup better when I put it on myself. I apply it more lightly than they had, so it looks more natural. Try as I might, I’m not very handy at hairstyling, though. I can’t seem to tease the roots as Katherine instructed, and I have no luck with the up-dos they showed me. In the end, Katherine produces a small set of scissors and, while I hold my breath, trims some fringy bangs and layers, which we iron flat into a funky style. When we’re done, I don’t look like me, but I look sort of good. And good thing, too, because all the little pieces she cut are never going to fit into a ponytail.

“See,” Maura says. “That wasn’t so hard.”

“Maybe we should come raid your closet and see what we can do with that,” Katherine says, laughing smugly. She has gotten a little friendlier as the day has gone on. When I let her cut my hair, I think that sealed the deal. She is willing to at least consider extending friendship to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UnWholly, by Neal Shusterman

Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

     Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

My gosh. This book was simply amazing. I knew it would be, (it's Shusterman--it will be.).

Set shortly after the end of Unwind (my review is here), UnWholly picks up Connor's story. Connor, our hero in Unwind, is now the leader of a rather large AWOL refugee camp, all of kids who are waiting to "age-out" of being unwound.

There are some new faces, and some new challenges. We found out some history, and we find out what some hope unwinding will become--and it's scary.

I loved Unwind because it hit the ground running and Shusterman took a new spin on a controversial topic (frankly, "unwinding" is just abortion, 13-17 years  after birth.). UnWholly, obviously, takes this vein further, but also brings up a "man as Creator" scenario. Wow, heady heady stuff.

I've loved this book. I love the characters and the way they think--and so distinctly think. Each is deeply developed. 

Word is, this may wind up being a trilogy (I hope so, I need to know what happens to Cam). I can't wait for it.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book for my personal collection. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Regine's Book, by Regine Stokke

Regine’s blog about living with Leukemia gained a huge following, and eventually became this book. She writes openly about emotional and physical aspects of her 15-month struggle to recover, and explains how her disease impacts her life. In the course of her illness, Regine has photography exhibits, goes to concerts, enjoys her friends & family, and advocates for registering as a blood and bone marrow donor. 

She was a typical teenager with an amazing will to live; and the lessons she learned have relevance for all of us. She died at home on December 3, 2009 with her family and cat by her side.

This is, easily, one of the toughest books I've ever read.

Regine faced life, rather the end of her life, with amazing poise and beauty. She wrote her thoughts, feelings, personality. She bared her soul, and didn't sugar coat. 

The text is translated from Norwegian, and while very well done, does have a few choppy bits. That could be the translation, that could be Regine. Regardless, it doesn't detract from the story and certainly not from the emotion.

Tough, tough book to read. I will not lie, I cried--sobbed--as I realized I was reaching the end. But I would class it a "must read."

Regine's blog can still be found online, here.
Shop Indie Bookstores

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Zest Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. 

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. 

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Really good book. I'm the weirdo who wasn't so into The Shiver Trilogy. My students don't understand why I never latched on. They're good, just not me. The Raven Boys is me. It's a mystery with some paranormal mixed in, and a strong female who doesn't know how strong she is. My kind of book.

Blue is VERY quickly caught up in something much bigger than she expected, and it all started when a mysterious "half-aunt" shows up for an extended visit. And that's chapter 1.

I like Stiefvater's writing in this book. The characters are well--developed, and likeable (even the jerk), or not likeable when necessary (even the best guy in the group). They aren't over-written or over-played. It's a slow start, but you need that to get all the back story and get attached to the characters. When it picks up speed, the story doesn't disappoint and definitely surprises.

Another trilogy, it appears. I'm looking forward to it.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Scholastic Press through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Endangered, by Eliot Schrefer

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sancuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Sophie is half Congolese and half Italian-American. After spending time in the States with her father after her parents divorce, she is "home" in the Congo to visit her mother for the summer.

Sophie's mother started and runs a sanctuary and habitat for bonobos, which are considered little more than a food source by most in the Congo. She has to play by some very strict rules (both the government's and her own) in order to protect the animals she helps. So, Sophie buying one from a street merchant on her way from the airport to the sanctuary causes more trouble than good. There's nothing to be done now, the infant bonobo needs help, and it's up to Sophie to take care of him.

When revolution breaks out, no one is safe, especially a young girl from the "wrong" tribe AND half American and carrying a young bonobo. But Sophie is committed to saving Otto.

I read this book thinking it was non-fiction, then realized at the end that it's not. (The author is male. That should've been a clue.) But it reads that way, which is why even boys will read it.

It's a survival and acceptance story. Sophie is gritty and surprisingly mature for someone about to enter high school. I do wish there was some more research, specifically more about the Congo, its culture, and its political climate. Admittedly, though, Schrefer tells us that the story is the Sophie/Otto story, not the Congo.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Scholastic, Inc. through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed by Jennifer Turney under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Animated Social Gadget - Blogger And Wordpress Tips