Posts Tagged ‘self esteem’

When I was Joe by Keren David

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was Joe by Keren David. Pub. Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2010.

Just before Ty turns fourteen he witnesses the murder by stabbing, of a black boy, involving his life long friend Aaron, and two associates who have connections with the criminal world of East London. Ty lives in a hard world in which carrying a knife is considered part of the school uniform.

Ty is prepared to testify against those that did the murder so they petrol bomb his home forcing him and his mother Nicky to go under the witness protection scheme. They move out of London, change names and appearance and try to adapt to a new life. Ty becomes Joe and adopts a different persona in which he is confident, becomes fit, mixes with girls, and he generally likes the person he has become.

Then things change again after his Gran is brutally beaten in his old neck of the woods. Will Ty aka Joe and his mother adapt again? Do they want to? What will happen to the new life and relationships that they have made? Will Ty testify?

Well you find out some of the answers but not all. This book has a sequel called Almost True which hopefully will be out this year and I for one will be looking forward to reading it. So will you I think.

A very readible novel which looks at teenage culture, problems and relationships within the context of this murder. A powerful look at the  deteriorating  world for young people particularly at school, in big cities. A topic that many British writers of young adult fiction explore. Read The Knife that killed me by Anthony McGowan and see what I mean.

This is compulsive reading and  there is hope. Ty aka Joe aka Jake has a social conscience, is doing the right thing under extreme pressure and meets some caring people along the way.

Has a cover that will appeal to boys in particular, they will certainly pick it up, but there are some interesting girl characters in this book as well, so it has something for everybody.

This Way up by Lindsay Wood

This Way Up by Lindsay Wood. Pub.HarperCollins, 2010.

This is a first novel and a very  good one at that because it is about a fat boy who is forced to change his life and does so.

Corey is behind his computer  playing games every chance he gets. He is like a couched potato, over eats and can barely get up his drive way without getting puffed out. His mother decides to take drastic action and threatens to cut his broadband link unless he does something about it and gets involved in some active sport.

Corey doesn’t like sport but decides to take a look at the school orienteering team because it is about reading maps. His team mates greet him in a variety of ways, some are cynical, some are supportive others are positively mocking because of his size.

Corey has to ride it all with the help of a supportive teacher who has a disability himself but Corey if he is to win over his colleagues and do himself justice, has to approach things differently and not expect miracles.  Achieving goals is not simple – “you gotta pay your dues if you want to sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy” Corey finds this out and a positive ending results.

I have never understood orieteering as a sport and the bonus of reading this book is that I now do. In the back are the rules, skills and tactics of orienteering and a piece on The Foundation for Youth Development in New Zealand.

An easy read for Intermediate and High school students.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Last night I sang to the monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Pub. Cinco Puntos Press, 2009.

A brilliant novel!  not for everyone, although everyone should read it, but they won’t.

The reason I say this is because it addresses the question that concerns everybody.  Who or what, is in charge of our lives? What drives and motivates us as individuals? Are we in charge of our own lives? If we don’t like the answer how do, or how can we sort it? Deep stuff!!

It is the story of Zach. An 18 year old high school student with a serious alcohol problem.

Zach lives with his depressed mother who makes improper suggestions to him, and  his alcoholic father who pays Zach little attention. They are visited on occasion by Zach’s older brother Santiago who is a violent psychopath. This is a dysfunctional family.

Zach’s way out is to drink and drink he does. Then something traumatic happens and Zach goes on a bender to forget and almost kills himself. When he wakes he is in a rehabilitation unit where he has a therapist, Adam, and he shares a cabin with Sharkey, a 27 year old rich kid who is rebelling against his family, and Raphael a 57 year old man who has a host of problems. They are all addicts but they need each other.

Zach doesn’t want to remember what happened but sooner or later he is going to have to front up. And with help he does.

Zach narrates this story and he opens the book with these lines “Some people have dogs. Not me. I have a therapist. His name is Adam. I’d rather have a dog”. A brilliant beginning, and the book continues in similar vein.

Totally compelling reading, I couldn’t put this book down.

The novel is structured in short chapters with short sentences and is easy to read in spite of the complex issues it puts to the reader. The dialogue is sharp, direct and enviable. I wish I could say some of those things. The discussions in the Group therapy sessions are just stunning.

What’s more this book has a positive ending, and heavens that matters a great deal.

Senior secondary and young adult in appeal. But there is something in this novel that everyone can relate to. Everyone!!

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer. Pub. Scholastic Press, 2010.

In the opening line of this mystery novel Abby Goodwin reveals “I have always been the one to protect my sister”. And she does, to lengths that very few people would go to, but why?

While out walking her dog Abby discovers the body of Jefferson Andrews at the bottom of a ravine with a large gash across his head, and her sister Maya’s cell phone a few meters away from the body.

Maya has been a difficult child to her parents and a bad sister to Abby. She is destructive socially, has behavioural problems with school and authority, is a compulsive liar,  disappears for days on end and is a known drug taker. She also had Jefferson Andrews as a tutor and was clearly obsessed with him.

It doesn’t look good for Maya but with a sister like Abby on her side, anything is likely.

Abby narrates this story over a one week period, as she chronicles the death, reactions to it and she investigates the circumstances to try and clear her sister.

It throws up a lot of what American High school culture is about particularly of troubled children and those that prey on them but essentially it is about sisterhood and all that that subject brings to the table.

One of the things that shocked someone like me was that as soon as Jefferson’s death was announced his social web site was inundated with messages as if he was still alive. Modern technology can be so instant and heartless at the same time.

I enjoyed this mystery, the ending is brilliant, and for those followers of the CSI type shows on TV, this is what not to do or maybe it is what you should do?

High school students will enjoy this book. I did and I am going to read Eliot Schrefer’s other books. You will want to too.

The Messenger by Markus Zusak

The Messenger by Markus Zusak. Pub. Picador 2009.

Ed Kennedy is a 19 year old kid living in a small Australian town who drives a taxi and is underachieving big time. He is intelligent, sensitive, a reader but really doesn’t know where his life is going.

His two male friends Marv and Ritchie are dead from the neck up, and his love interest, Audrey is not interested in him. His father is dead and his mother who is a real livewire, smokes, drinks, swears and wears Ug Boots. When he tells her that his life is going nowhere she says “why don’t you have a wee cry about it Ed?” Her voice is like the diff whine of an FJ Holden.

In the opening chapter Ed becomes a reluctant hero when he and his mates are caught up in an hilarious bank robbery. Ed makes the TV News, the Front page of the paper and everybody knows him.

Some days later Ed receives the Ace of Diamonds in the mail with three addresses and a time beside each one. He visits them over the first chapter at the time specified and contacts three interesting and apparently unrelated people and circumstances.

This forms the basis of a remarkable,  inspiring and uplifting read. I wish I could read it again.

I loved the maleness of the book, it was so refreshing.

Zusak is fast becoming an essential writer to read, his command of plot, character and language is superb. The novel is structured in five parts each beginning with an Ace and the final chapter being the Joker. Within each chapter the divisions are from Ace to King. The ingenuity of the man is astonishing.

Suitable for Secondary school readers and young adults. Read it, it’s just brilliant. Only criticism, terrible cover.

Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee. Pub.Dutton Books, 2008

At last a book about obesity and weight that doesn’t feature someone throwing up and becoming anorexic.

This is a beautiful story, with a positive ending, that features some wonderful human qualities, while recognising some of the horrible qualities of human beings.

The theme of the story can be summed up in one sentence from this novel “When you’re normal-sized, no one cares what you eat; when you’re fat, it’s everybody’s business”

Rosemary is pretty, clever and funny but she weighs over 200 pounds and her only comfort is eating. Her mother dispairs over her, and her Aunt Mary is positively insulting. At school her fellow students ridicule her and the general public show her nothing but contempt as they do to fat people.

The message of this novel is that most fat people  want to solve their eating disorder, Rosemary does, and keeping on about it solves nothing except keeping her on a vicious cycle to further weight gain.

Events occur that help Rosemary make the big decision. A client at her beauty salon has a heart attack, a cast off from the cheerleaders team becomes a friend and a jock from the basketball team shows an interest. The ending is wonderful.

Set in Tenessee, the language has the lovely drawl about it that makes you want to keep reading. I really enjoyed this novel which is aimed at the teenage reader.