Archive for Tough Issues
Published by Dutton Juvenile on 1/10/12
Genres: Tough Issues
Source: Gifted ♥
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Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
I have busted my John Green…I have broken John Green ground, finally! Thank you to everyone who voted for this book during my April book poll. As difficult as this book was, I thank you all for giving me the push to finally dive in. I am happy to have finally experienced John Green’s brilliance. He certainly knows how to tell a story, and more importantly, how to write characters.
Hazel and Augustus. I am not even sure what to say about these two characters that would prove the magnitude of their presence and spirit in this book. Both are afflicted with different types of cancers, in different stages and with different outcomes. Both have been through utter hell and continue to experience the physical and emotional pain and suffering of terminal illness. However, there are times where I would not have even remembered they were sick, had it not been for Hazel’s need for oxygen and Augustus’ limp. When they found one another, they both started to truly live again. And live they did. They had big moments and small moments and glorious moments and devastating moments. But they experienced them all together, basking in the glow of their new found love and respect. That “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” marriage vow was never more apparent in any story than it was with Hazel and Augustus. And they were teenagers who were not married, nor thinking about it. There was just so much truth and honesty inside them both that it burst out to envelop the other. Not to mention, they were like two peas in a pod. It’s definitely hard to put into words the perfect imperfection these two characters were together.
And I just have to talk about Augustus all by his onesies. This young man was AH-mazing. He was full of lust for life, and despite his illness, lived life to the absolute fullest. Never once did I see negativity or pessimism cross this young man’s thoughts. He was romantic and nerdy and fun. He was also very compassionate and humble. This guy had it all, and I will never forget what a beautiful character he is, and how much he made my heart smile in this book.
This book was much more than a book about kids with cancer. It was about living life and taking risks and being in love and exploring the world and enjoying beauty and the inner strength people can muster when life hands them a basket full of lemons. Believe it or not, I did not ugly cry. My eyes teared up, and I put the book down numerous times to gather myself, but I did not sob myself to sleep. I held on tightly to the beauty of the character’s life-altering experiences, and it got me through the book. I am really happy that I’ve been digging my heels into YA contemporary books more than I ever have. There are some incredible gems out there and I look forward to reading all of John Green’s work.
“May I see you again?” he asked. There was an endearing nervousness in his voice.
I smiled. “Sure.”
“Tomorrow?” he asked.
“Patience, grasshopper,” I counseled. “You don’t want to seem overeager.
“Right, that’s why I said tomorrow,” he said. “I want to see you again tonight. But I’m willing to wait all night and much of tomorrow.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m serious,” he said.
“You don’t even know me,” I said. I grabbed the book from the center console. “How about I call you when I finish this?”
“But you don’t even have my phone number,” he said.
“I strongly suspect you wrote it in this book.”
He broke out into that goofy smile. “And you say we don’t know each other.”
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on 8/28/12
Genres: Tough Issues, Young Adult
Source: The Smashtastic Library
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Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
This is one of the most unique stories I’ve ever come across. David Levithan is a contemporary writer, but this story has a supernatural twist to it. This aspect of the story, however, is never explained nor is it ever the focus. I was ok with this. The How and Why were of no interest to me because of how engaged and engrossed I was in the Now. I categorized this one under Tough Issues because of the wide array of people and situations that A experiences day after day. I really loved that the author choose to give us the good, the bad and the ugly, in terms of human behavior and circumstance. It really catapulted the story into amazing.
A goes through each day trying to remain impassive and causing as little disruption for the host as possible. A has long ago come to terms with daily change. Then A meets Rhiannon when A is inhabiting her boyfriend’s body. A no longer wants to stumble though life as Jane, Dick and Mary. A wants to be with Rhiannon and A does what A can to see her as much as possible. A remains careful and thoughtful about the hosts but begins to step outside the code A has set up for A’s existence, all in the name of love. I think this aspect of the story felt so real, because people really do lose some of their logical reasoning when they fall in love. The mind becomes obsessed with doing whatever it takes to be with that person.
This is not your typical love story. It’s raw and personal, simple yet extremely complicated. You can’t help but wonder what you would do in Rhiannon’s shoes, how you would feel to love someone who is a different shape, size and sex every day. For love to transcend such stiff boundaries is an incredible feat. Rhiannon definitely struggles with the situation, but in very different ways from A. Their perspectives are unique because Rhiannon cannot compare life to A’s, and though A has been in human bodies since birth, A simply cannot understand what it means to really be human because A is not around long enough to feel the impact.
The author’s grasp on the emotion, vulnerability and pain of some of the character’s that A inhabits for a day was meaningful and intense. I became those characters for a day. I felt their joy and pain and laughed and cried during their experiences. I found this paragraph about addiction to be extremely touching.
There comes a time when the body takes over the life. There comes a time when the body’s urges, the body’s needs, dictate the life. You have no idea you are giving the body the key. But you hand it over. And then it’s in control. You mess with the wiring and the wiring takes charge.
I want to thank Amy (bookgoonie) for her thoughtful review that had me pull this book off my shelf and read it. One simple line in her review – “A’s heart will win yours, but A’s journey will break it.” – grabbed me. I met David Levithan at Decatur Book Festival last year and he read a passage from the book. It was hella intriguing and I definitely wanted to read it, but it got put on the shelf with all the other lonely books I have yet to read. I’m glad I picked it up sooner rather than later. It was an experience that will stay with me.
Amy also posted the book trailer for Every Day, which I had never seen. I am posting it here for you because it is also an attention grabber.
We watch the trees, the sky, the signs, the road. We sense each other. The world, right now, is only us. We continue to sing along. And we sing with the same abandon, not worrying too much if our voices hit the right notes or the right words. We look at each other while we’re singing; these aren’t two solos, this is a duet that isn’t taking itself at all seriously. It is its own form of conversation- you can learn a lot about people from the stories they tell, but you can also know them from the way they sing along, whether they like the windows up or down, if they live by the map or by the world, if they feel the pull of the ocean.
If this book cover does not demand your attention, I don’t know what will!
In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.
From the author
Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on some of my own experiences of bullying, abuse, and trauma to write STAINED and to give it greater emotional depth. Like Sarah in STAINED, I experienced abduction, imprisonment, periods of forced starvation, mind control, and having my life threatened. And like Sarah, I tried hard to fight against my abuser, keep my own sense of self, and escape. I hope readers will see Sarah’s strength and courage, and appreciate her emotional growth as she reclaims herself.
Release Date: Nov 19, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available For Pre-Order on:
- Amazon (hardcover): (well, it says you can get an email when avail)
- Amazon (kindle)
- Amazon.ca (hardcover)
- Amazon.ca (ebook)
- Amazon.co.uk (hardcover)
- Amazon.co.uk (ebook)
- The Book Depository
I truly enjoy Cheryl Rainfield’s work. I’ve read and reviewed Scars and Hunted, both of which are powerful stories. I look forward to reading her latest, Parallel Visions, and of course, Stained, later this year!
Published by Flux on 7/8/11
Genres: Tough Issues, Young Adult
Source: Public Library
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During Ramadan, we're not allowed to eat from sunrise to sunset, for a whole month. My family does this every year, even though I've been to a mosque exactly twice in my fifteen years. My exercise-obsessed mom—whose hotness skipped a generation, sadly—says I could stand to lose a few. But is torture really an acceptable method? I think not.
Things wouldn't be so bad if I had a boyfriend, but my oppressive parents forbid me to date. This is just cruel and wrong. Especially since Peter, a cute and crushable artist, might be my soul mate. Figures my bestest friend Lisa likes him, too.
To top it off, there's a new Muslim girl in school who struts around in super-short skirts, commanding every boy's attention—including Peter's. How can I get him to notice me? And will I ever feel like a typical American girl?
For the record, I did not pick up this book for the cupcake on the cover, despite the fact that it is one delicious-looking cupcake. I mean, in the annals of luscious food on book covers, that cupcake is right up there, because unlike you cake-loving heathens, I am Team Icing all the way.
Judge me if you must.
I picked this book up because a) I find the title hilarious, b) I love the expression on Almira’s face, as it is very her once you actually read the book and c) I know nothing whatsoever about Ramadan except for the bit about fasting. Not being Muslim myself, the whys and the whereofs were a total mystery.
And that’s something Sharif does very well in this book: explain Islam in a way that feels nothing like an explanation. Background on the whys of Ramadan is provided in dialogue with Almira’s traditional-practicing grandfather and in Almira’s off-the-cuff musings. There’s also a scene where Almira goes to a mosque with her family that I found both informative and beautiful, seeing the place and the practice through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old girl who the reader knows has been struggling with showing her faith throughout the book.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Almira Abdul is 15 and attends school in Coral Gables, FL which, as I know from my research for writing Miami Vice fanfic (shut. up.) is a well-to-do area. As the book opens, Ramadan has just begun and Almira is determined to live down last year’s inability to fast, along with the dressing-down her family gave her when they discovered her failure.
As one of only two Muslims at her school, she has a hard time explaining her practice to her non-Muslim friends, but is hoping to use the month to lose some weight, which she does, despite this hilarious depiction of evenings in the Abdul household:
The pretty colors are gone. The sun vanishes. The sky is dark. What happens next is not a sight I’m proud of.
We all simultaneously lunge for the food. My shish kebab stick gets suck on top of Dad’s and we each yank hard to disengage them. We don’t speak to each other as we operate on pure animal instinct … I gulp the chunky meat as if I’m a wild animal chewing on raw deer in the Serengeti. We all belong on National Geographic.
If you think about it, it makes total sense that if you haven’t eaten all day you are going to chow hard the minute you can, but I had just never thought about it. The scene comes right after Almira’s grandparents arrive at her house and everyone is being very polite and family-like together and is incredibly effective at making you sit up and pay attention to the physicality of eating for this family during Ramadan.
I liked the way the conflict between Almira’s immediate family and her grandfather was handled, even if it included a mandatory He’s Not So Bad, Really, Just From Another Generation moment. And what I liked about it was that Sharif didn’t soft-pedal just how harsh Almira found her grandfather’s ubiquitous pronouncements of “Infidel!” and how he lectured Almira’s parents because he found her to be arrogant.
Because here’s the thing: Almira? Is arrogant. Very arrogant.
She’s a hard character to like even as you’re sympathizing with her. She falls for the same Goatlike Teenage Boy her best friend falls for, and thinks incredibly uncharitable things about winning him over the friend. She disdains her friend’s apparent ignorance and fixates on losing weight and how good she starts to look after losing weight. She steals the Goatlike Teenage Boy’s book bag and rips a sketch off of his sketch pad.
But she also has these heartfelt moments of longing and blind emotion and confusion: “Peter made me feel beautiful and wanted, and now I feel ugly and hated and weird and Muslim.”
Y’all, that sentence slayed me.
I think everyone gets how it is to be in high school and feel ugly and hated and weird, but that Almira feels her Muslim-ness further isolates her and how deeply she feels it really struck a nerve with me. Not enough of a nerve to make her likeable, but being snarky and sympathetic-able (I have lost control of this sentence) are more important than likeable, in my book.
Published by Scholastic on 10/191
Genres: Horror, Middle Grade, Tough Issues
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Kelly has always been afraid of final exams. Now she's scared to death.
Something strange has been going on all week....something weird. It started with someone playing a few pranks on her at school. Trashing her locker. Stealing her purse. Then the pranks turned deadly.
Someone doesn't want Kelly to graduate. They've prepared a special final exam, just for her. And she'd better not have any wrong answers ... because her life depends on it.(
Yesterday, I completely lucked out down at the Goodwill and, on a grey tag day no less (half off anything with a — wait for it — grey tag), I found a whole trove of Point Horror classics. Oh yes, those lovely lurid late 80s and early 90s Scholastic paperbacks with the neon raised letters, the cheesy taglines and the lurid-yet-middle-grades-appropriate covers.
Point Horror books follow a simple yet effective formula: a group of teens is involved in an accident and/or prank and our heroine (because it was always a heroine) sees something that’s a clue to the guilty party (there’s always a guilty party, even with the accidents) and innocently tells everyone what she saw, then is perplexed when she’s either stalked or pranked or kidnapped or some combination of the three, impelling her to investigate and become suspicious of all her friends. Cue the big fight between the heroine and the culprit, which the heroine always wins.
Let me repeat that again, because it’s really awesome: THE HEROINE ALWAYS WINS.
Point Horror books are basically the love children of slasher flicks and Scooby Doo, with a healthy dose of magic Pringles dust: once you pop the top…you just keep filling your cart and re-scanning the shelves to make sure you got them all.
Anyway, The Lifeguard, The Accident, Final Exam, My Secret Admirer, The Funhouse, Trick or Treat — all of them came home with me and all of them were grey tag specials. It was like Christmas, people, only not the kind of Christmas where you and your sister are snowed in with a serial killer on the loose and bleeding strangers at the door.
But wait, I’ve said too much.
In Final Exam, Kelly (heroine) stumbles across a strange book someone dropped (clue), then is shocked when her car is egged, hat stolen, house set on fire (pranked) and is then accused of stealing the English final (accident/prank). Then she’s kidnapped by the culprit and thrown over a cliff. After that, things get a little melodramatic.
These formulaic little potato chip books could get old after a while, or you could get old, except in Final Exam:
- Kelly loves fixing cars, and this is presented as a completely valid vocational choice;
- She uses her mechanic skills to address a learning disorder/school issue;
- She and her best friend Talia discuss the pranks and school and and finals (Bechdel test = passed)
- Eventually her mechanic’s skills help her catch the culprit.
These are things that warm my jaded, bitter little heart.
In addition, there’s a whole subplot about Kelly’s ex-boyfriend, Danny, who is violent and punched out one of the windows of her beloved Thunderbird, so — and this is key — she breaks up with his ass and, when he tries to get back together with her, she turns him down and talks about her feelings and his temper with her best friend, and then basically everyone tells Danny to quit being a d-bag and get help.
I like the modeling of what to do in this type of situation. It doesn’t come off as preachy or Lifetime Movie of the Week-y, it’s just accepted that because Danny likes to punch things, Kelly should break up with him. And she does. Done. Now, let’s get back to solving that mystery, kids!
Although I’d just like to say: wherever the Point Horror series is actually set, there’s an awful lot of cliffs about, and with the number of teenagers who go flying off them in book after book, maybe some barricades are in order. Or just a mandatory Cliff Safety course in the schools.