Saturday, December 3, 2011

Things I have to tell you by teenage girls and edited by Betsy Franco and photographs by Nina Nickles


Franco, Betsy. Things I have to tell you by teenage girls. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2001


This book is a collection of thirty poems, stories, and essays by young women age 12-18 from across the country. They tell their stories of their adolescence and how they made it through this challenging time of their life. The purpose was to give hope to everyone who reads it. The black and white photographs were how teenage girls fill their days like the mall, putting on make-up, taking a bath, and playing outside. The girls in the photographs did not read or write the poems.

Critical Analysis:

The teenage girls who wrote these poems express how they feel the world is treating them. "The poetry offers a search for their identity" (Publisher's Weekly).  Especially in relationships with friends and boys. Many of the poems have to do with the obsession of looks and being thin. Why the world stresses the ideal girl is thin. It deals with the pressures teenage girls face like sex and drugs. It talks about how they find the strength to deal with the pressures. It reminded me of my adolescence. Bad Hair Day reminded me of meeting boys the first time and Words reminded me of my father who always told me to never say "I can't". He always said it was another way of saying "I won't". I think teenage girls could really relate to reading this book of poems and prose. It would help them realize what they are going through is normal. "Teens will listen and see themselves" (Booklist).


"In allowing the words of teens from across the nation to shine through, without polishing or pushing, Franco has succeeded in compiling one of the brightest collections out there today. In a mixture of prose and poetry, the young women express their fears, dreams, relationships, and angst." School Library Journal

"The poetry and pictures offer glimpses into the writers' raw anger, budding sexuality and search for identity. Publishers Weekly

"Betsy Franco has collected the voices of a wide range of girls in poetry and immediate prose that speak with power and uncertainty....Teens will listen and see themselves." Booklist


An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults

An American Library Association Quick Pick

An International Reading Association Young Adults' Choice

A Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year

Children's Literature Choice List Title

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Keesha's House by Helen Frost


Frost, Helen. Keesha's House. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.


Keesha's house is not actually her house. It is a safe house owned by a guy named Joe in an urban setting. He opens his house to kids who have a need to sleep somewhere safe. Teenagers who have had to run away from their homes. Keesha is the one who tells her friends in school about the house when they need somewhere to stay. The story is about seven characters. Each character has a problem and needs Keesha's house at this time in their teenage life. Each poem is written in a particular form of poetry called sesina or sonnet.
Critical Analysis:

Lisa Johannes states " The situations are real and prevalent in society, and even though they're sometimes uncomfortable to talk about and read about". The poems tell of the problems of seven teenagers. The problems include teenage pregnancy and how it effects the girl and the boy, DUI, parents throwing their child out when they find out they are gay, the foster care system and an abusive stepfather. The book tells how a teenager feels about the decisions they have made and why they need a safe place to stay. The poems are easy to read and they flow so well that you will not realize you are reading a poem that is set to rules. After reading the rules for sonnets and sestinas I am amazed that Frost could do this with all of the poems. The stories are all weaved together well because everyone of the characters must know Keesha.

Strengths & Weaknesses:

The strengths of this novel are the characters are interesting and realistic. The poems are easy to read.


"Frost has taken the poem-story to a new level with well-crafted sestinas and sonnets, leading readers into the souls and psyches of her teen protagonists...engaging." -- Starred, School Library Journal

"Spare, eloquent, and elegantly concise." -- VOYA

"This moving first novel tells the story in a series of dramatic monologues that are personal, poetic, and immediate." -- Booklist

"Impressive." -- Kirkus Reviews

"this moving first novel tells the story in a series of dramatic monologues that are personal, poetic, and immediate, with lots of line breaks that make for easy reading, alone or in readers' theater."  Booklist

"Teens may read this engaging novel without even realizing they are reading poetry." School Library Journal


2004 Printz Honor Book

White Ravens Award (2004)

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults

Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year

Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library

Recorded Books Audiotape--finalist for an Audie Award

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones


Sones, Sonya. What My Mother Doesn't Know. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.


This book tells the story of Sophie a fourteen year old girl in verse. It is very easy to read and can be read quickly. It begins when she broke up with Lou and is beginning to date Dylan. She has supportive friends, Rachel and Grace to talk to, but she feels her mother really does not listen. Her mother seems to be dealing with her own depression and her struggling marriage. The book touches on the creepy world of cyberspace and religious bigotry. Sophie is also trying to deal with fighting with her mom, and her parents constant fighting. She makes friends with a dorky boy in art class. They both love art and a friendship begins. She struggles with letting her friends know that she is in love with the boy Murphy, who everyone has made fun of in school. He turns out to be Mr. Right.

Critical Analysis:

This story would appeal to young girls. This is poetry written in first person using verse. It reminded me that I was peeking into Sophie's journal. It focuses on the experiences of adolescence. The story touches on your emotions of humor, love, and fear. Every verse is short and easy to read. School Library Journal says it best when they say it is "a fast-paced, page turning romp that gives authentic voice to female youth even when it is painfully truthful." You feel that Sophie is speaking honestly from her heart. Sones uses short lines to create a staccato rhythm. She chooses her words carefully to create an image in your head. For example she is soaking in the tub after ice skating and says she is "watching the steam curl into question marks". This story is "a satisfying, moving novel that will be a winner for both eager and reluctant readers"

There are no illustrations in the book until the last twenty eight pages where there is a black and white drawing of Sophie's favorite painting from the museum. Le Bal `a Bougival (a woman dancing with an unmasked man) is drawn like a flip book at the end. You do not realize that you are reading poetry. I had to smile because this book took me on a journey back to my adolescent years.

Strengths & Weaknesses:

This book is easy to read and a very quick read. This is definitely a strength. It is easy on the eyes and there is not a lot of print on each page. The print will also form shapes to keep the reading interesting. It is a quick read for good readers and easiest for struggling readers. The only weakness is this book lacks a male point of view.

Awards and Reviews:

"Winning" by Entertainment Weekly

"A great choice for reluctant and avid readers alike" by Booklist, starred review

"A fast-paced, page turning romp that gives authentic voice to female youth even when it is painfully truthful." by School Library Journal

"A satisfying, moving novel that will be a winner for both eager and reluctant readers" by Booklist starred review

"Gripping, enjoyable, and memorable" by School Library Journal, starred review.

"A verse experience that will leave readers sighing with recognition and satisfaction" by Kirkus Reviews

"Brilliant" by Kliatt

"The highs and lows of Sophie's life reflect much of the excitement and anguish that mark adolescence." by Children's Literature


Soaring Eagle Book Award 2004

International Reading Association Young Adult's Choice 2003

2001 Booklist Editor's Choice

American Library Association 2002 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

American Library Association 2002 Best Book for Young Adults

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lincoln through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life by Martin W. Sandler


Sandler, Martin W. Lincoln through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life. New York: Walker & Company, 2009.


Martin uniquely begins each page of text with a quote from Lincoln. The page next to it is a picture about the text. There are also smaller images on the page with captions at the bottom of the page of text. The two pages are like a chapter about Lincoln's life and times. They are arranged chronologically. The majority of pictures were taken by Matthew Brady. It was said that Brady's photograph won Lincoln the presidency. The book is part biography and part history of the Civil War. It includes over 100 photographs, drawings, paintings and cartoons. The photos depict Lincoln's career, battlefields, his family and important men in history like Stephen A. Douglas, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and John Wilkes Booth.

Critical Analysis:

The reading level is appropriate for fifth graders or above. Each small chapter give the reader insight into Lincoln and the Civil War. It is filled with interesting facts. It is said that one little girl wrote to Lincoln and told him his face was too thin and he needed to grow whiskers. He was never seen photographed without a beard again.  The text and photos are organized chronologically with quotes at the top of the page and captions at the bottom of the page explaining where the photographs were taken. There is an index at the end of the book too.

The information is accurate and there is evidence in photographs. The sources of all of the quotations are included at the end of the book. Also included at the end of the book are a list of sources, and books and web sites for further reading. There is also a list of places to visit in the country that are reminders of Lincoln.

The photographs are the critical part of this book. They are laid out alongside the text on the next page. The photos are generally clear and the content from the visuals is easily understood with he captions. The photographs from war are graphic to show the evil of war. Booklist talked about the photos being "the wow factor". The "wow factor" to me was how many children fought in the Civil War. Photos of ten year old children were heartbreaking!

I as the reader learned so much about Lincoln the man, president and husband. I also learned so much about that time in history through a "slim book that speaks volumes"- Booklist.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
The photographs and the writing in this book were its strengths. I found no weaknesses.

Awards & Reviews:

"Part history of early photography, part Lincoln biography, and part documentation of the period, this slim book speaks volumes in both words and pictures."  School Library Journal

“the very first generation of human beings ever to be photographed.”  Booklist

"Divided into short sections, the book chronicles key moments in Lincoln's life through text and quotations, with supporting full-bleed photography on the facing pages." VOYA- Amy Fiske

"Lincoln welcomed having his picture taken and ruffled his hair so it would look like the common man he identified with." Children's Literature- Jennie DeGenaro

"Although it’s the pictures that provide the “wow factor,” Sandler’s perceptive words have their own elegance. Well sourced and offering numerous ways to learn more , this will be an excellent tool for history classes; and browsers, too, will be caught up in Lincoln’s story.”  Booklist- starred review

Nonfiction Honor List (VOYA)

Notable Social Studies Trade books for Young People

Orbis Pictus Recommended Book

Jefferson Cup Honor Book

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past by James M. Deem


Deem, James M. Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008.


A husband and wife climbing the mountains in Italy discovered a man that lived 5,300 years ago. He was preserved in the alpine glacier. He was the oldest human mummy preserved in ice ever found. All around the world glaciers are melting at alarming rates and hikers are discovering hidden bodies of people who died during climbing accidents, hunters from hundreds of years ago, women climbers, and children sacrificed to the Gods many years ago. Scientists are worrying why glaciers have melted rapidly in recent years and if we can slow down or prevent this process in the future.

Critical Analysis:

This non-fiction book begins with a drawing of the Alps and the reader learns about a discovery by a husband and wife. The discovery is the Otzi, the oldest man every found. He is 5,300 years old. There are actual photographs with red circles depicting where the body was found. There are pictures of the body, tools and artifacts found with the body. The pictures are in color and black and white. There are 65 photographs and many of them are rare photographs. The photos of the mummies will fascinate the reader.

There is technical language, but the chapters are readable for children. The writing is of high quality. Each chapter takes you to different glaciers in the world where discoveries were found. There are pictures of what the glaciers used to look like many years ago and what they look like today. the visuals definitely aid in understanding what you are reading. The material is well organized with a table of contents, a list of glaciers around the world, suggested websites, bibliography and index.

The information is accurate. There is a chapter of children found in the Andes. These children were sacrifices to the gods.Young readers will be mesmerized by the mummies found in sitting positions. There is also a chapter on the mystery of George Mallory and if he reached the summit of Everest before he died. There are personal ways to help the environment included at the end. Deem reminds the reader that these glaciers are a source of water supply and what will happen if the glaciers disappear in the next 15-50 years.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

School Library Journal states that this is a "great resource" and that is true. I did not find any weaknesses unless you do not like gruesome pictures.

Reviews and Awards:

"There are books about melting glaciers and books about frozen bodies, but this attractive offering combines the topics in a way that will intrigue readers . . . Heavily illustrated with historical memorabilia as well as photos of bodies, scenery, artifacts, and rather simplistic maps, this offers a lot to look at and learn about."--Booklist

"With its extensive bibliography, suggested Web sites, and a listing of glaciers to visit, Bodies is a fantastic resource. Deem superbly weaves diverse geographical settings, time periods, and climate issues into a readable work that reveals the increasing interdisciplinary dimensions of the sciences."--School Library Journal, starred review

"Glaciers—and the preserved past they offer up—give us an intriguing peek into various cultures, yielding information on everything from human sacrifice to occult superstition to sporting endeavors. As the book concludes, a striking irony becomes evident: glaciers continue to melt at an alarming rate, warranting caution and concern for the global environment, yet even as they dwindle they offer up more clues to our human past. The book design, with its variety of photographs, captions, and sidebars, seals the appeal."--Horn Book

"Gripping stories are accompanied by highly informative expedition photographs of human remains discovered in glaciers around the world, such as in the Alps of Europe and the Andes of Peru. The preserved bodies give us a glimpse into our human prehistory as well as the climate and inhabitants of Earth's past." Science Teacher March 2009

2009 Robert F. Sibert Informational Award Honor Book
2011 Prairie Pasque Award
2008 Best Children's Book
Notable Book for Children 2009
2009 Outstanding Science Trade Book for students K-12

Sunday, November 13, 2011

We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson


Nelson, Kadir. We Are The Ship The Story of Negro League Baseball. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children, 2008.


This is the story of Negro League Baseball. It is a story of their owners and athletes who loved baseball (America's favorite pastime). It shows the reader how difficult it was to play the game due to our history of racial segregation. The athletes persevered and would not let racial segregation stop them from playing the game they loved! Kadir Nelson's oil painting are amazing how they are woven into chapters that are the nine innings of baseball. The book ends with Jackie Robinson being admitted into the major leagues and that was the downfall of the Negro League.

Critical Analysis:

This book was written on a sixth grade reading level. The story of the Negro League is told by an anonymous narrator who could have been any Negro baseball player. Every inning opens with a quote from a Negro player. The title of the book comes from the quote of Rube Foster, founder of the Negro National League "We are the Ship; all else the sea."

The book is organized into the nine innings of baseball. Nelson does a wonderful job of weaving the Great Depression and WWII in the story and explaining how they contributed to the story. WWII was also segregated and black men played baseball or had cooking or cleaning jobs instead of fighting. This story is about a subject of interest to many young readers. Even if you are not the world's biggest baseball fan the reader will be intrigued how the author wrote the story with zest. I found the actual accounts from the early 20th century interesting. It is told from the point of view of a baseball player who loves the game and had to endure discrimination, name calling, death threats to play the game they loved.

The innings are short and build on each other. They are appropriate for a young reader to want to know more about that time in history, or more about their baseball heroes.The illustrations are my favorite part of the book. I agree with Booklist that the players appear "like the giants they are." The open out of the first colored World Series is impressive. The details and the vivid colors in the oil paintings help bring the book to life!

Strengths and Weaknesses:
I did not find any weaknesses in this non-fiction story. One of the strengths is definitely the illustrations. They aid in the understanding of the text.

Awards and Reviews:

2009 Coretta Scott King Award

2009-2010 Texas Bluebonnet Award

New York Times stated "Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008"

School Library Journal states "The history of the Leagues echoes the social and political struggles of black America during the first half of the 20th century."

Booklist states " If the story is the pitch, though, it’s the artwork that blasts the book into the stands."

Booklist "With enormous blue skies and jam-packed grandstands backing them, these players look like the giants they are."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Twilight by Stephanie Meyers


Meyers, Stephanie. Twilight. New York: Hachette Book Group USA, 2005.


When her mother remarries, Isabella Swan chooses to move in with her father in a small town of Forks, Washington. It is her junior year in high school and she meets Edward Cullen. It does not take her long to fall passionately in love with him. Edward falls in love with Bella too. This is not your ordinary love story because Edward is a 90 year old vampire. His family is different because they do not drink human blood, but live off of animals in the wild. While playing baseball with the Cullens during a thunderstorm another group of vampires are moving through the town of Forks. James finds Bella's blood irresistible. James lures Bella to Phoenix, Arizona and tries to kill her. She is injured, but Edward fights to save her and kills James. This leaves James' girlfriend or partner with a vow to kill Bella for revenge.

Critical Analysis:

The setting of Forks is realistic and the perfect setting for a vampire. It is gloomy or rainy most of the time. This is not a town where the sun is shining. The woods make the story realistic. The story is told through Bella's eyes in first person. The theme of the book is love. Bella and Edward have a strong love for each other. Amazon Books states that this story is "deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite."

Edward is described as charming, beautiful, well mannered and very protective. He is almost over protective and feels like a stalker at times. His skin is cold and like a marble statue. He glistens in the sunlight. The protagonist, Bella, does not recognize at first that he is not human. Bella, the protagonist, is an average girl. She does not believe she is beautiful. She is clumsy and stubborn. Her character undergoes changes throughout the series. She is a well developed, dynamic character. She could represent any teenage girl.

James and his gang of vampires represent evil in the story. Bella encounters life and death situations with James. She is seriously injured by him. The Cullen family conquer evil by killing James, but the conclusion leaves a new quest for Victoria to avenge James' death. The theme appears to be the choice of free will. Bella is given the choice to walk away from Edward when she finds out he is a vampire and Edward has the choice to not become involved with Bella. Edward also uses choice to not hunt humans. Even with free choice Bella and Edward are drawn together.

Strengths & Weaknesses:

This novel has something for everyone. There is suspense, humor, romance and tragedy. I did not find any weaknesses. Stephanie Meyers writes so that you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. I did not find any weaknesses in this novel.

Awards and Reviews:

A New York Times bestseller
A New York Times"Editor's Choice"
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly"Kids' Book Adults Would Love"
An Amazon "Best Book of the Decade * So Far"
An ALA "Top Ten Books for Young Adults"

"Propelled by suspense and romance in equal parts [this story] will keep readers madly flipping the pages of Meyer's tantalizing debut."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The novel's danger-factor skyrockets as the excitement of secret love and hushed affection morphs into a terrifying race to stay alive. Realistic, subtle, succinct, and easy to follow, Twilight will have readers dying to sink their teeth into it."-School Library Journal (starred review)

 "In the tradition of Anne Rice. . . this dark romance is gripping." -Booklist (starred review)

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Among the Hidden.New York: First Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers eBook edition, 2001.


Luke Garner is the 12 year old protagonist in this novel. The story takes place in time where it is illegal to have more than 2 children in a family because of a shortage of food. Luke is the third child in his family and has been living in hiding since he was born? The government decides to take down the woods near Luke's home and he must live in the attic of his house and is not even able to eat with his family. He used to play outside, but he is never able to do this again. He is totally isolated from everyone. One day he looks out a vent in the attic and sees a child's face in a nearby home. He knows the parents and two children have already left the house. Luke musters up the nerve to sneak to the house and find out who the third child is. He discovers Jen Talbot, another hidden child. Jen is planning a rally against the government to oppose the population law. Luke does not have the courage to go with her and then finds out Jen has been killed at the rally. Jen's father gets Luke a fake I.D to go off and live his new life.

Critical Analysis:

The setting of this novel is integral to the plot of the story. Luke's family is living during a time where it is illegal to have more than two children due to overpopulation. This is an interesting topic since just recently the seventh billion person was just born in our world. Since we are finding cures for diseases and people are living longer will over population become a real problem? Can we really face a rule like this one in the future?

Luke's character does not represent every adolescent. He lives a strange life. He technically does not exist and does not have a life. His mother visits him in the attic for a break. She calls it her "Luke break". His brothers Matthew and Mark visit him too, but not very often. They are busy with their own lives. His character changes during the book. He is a very scared child in the beginning, but takes huge risks to visit the other "shadow child". "Suddenly he hated his house. It wasn't a sanctuary. It was a prison." He visits Jen, but does not have the courage to go with her to the rally. He does get the courage to accept a fake I.D and begin a real life for himself.

The novel contains dystopian elements and the loss of free will. I think this is one theme of the book. School Library Journal says “…the loss of free will is the fundamental theme of an exciting and compelling story of one young person defying authority and the odds to make a difference. Readers will be captivated by Luke’s predicament and his reactions to it.” The government is very strong and tells the people what they can grow for food and how many children they are allowed to have. Everyone is afraid to stand up to the government.

Strengths & Weaknesses:
This books is an easy read and a page turner. It gets exciting when Luke risks everything to find Jen. The tension builds when he must decide whether he should try and visit the child in the window. The tension was huge when the population police were in the house and Luke was in the closet hiding. I did not see any weaknesses to this story.

Reviews & Awards:

American Library Association's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adult Honors

International Reading Association Children's Book Award

American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults

American Library Association Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Reader's

Junior Library Guild Selection

American Bookseller"Pick of the List" Notation

School Library Journal states "the loss of free will is the fundamental theme of an exciting and compelling story of one young person defying authority and the odds to make a difference. Readers will be captivated by Luke's predicament and his reactions to it."

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2008.


This science fiction story is set in the future in North America. Panem is the name of the country that maintains control of the twelve districts in this country. Years ago the twelve districts were at war with the capital. They lost and part of the surrender deal is every year they have a televised show of a survival game. The capital chooses a boy and a girl from each district to fight to the death on live television. One victor is celebrated and their district is honored. Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister's place whose name was drawn in the lottery. Katniss' male counterpart is Peeta Mellark. The capital controls the games by altering the weather and introducing mutated animals that also try to kill the competitors.

Critical Analysis:

Katniss Everdeen is a strong female protagonist in this science fiction novel. She doubts herself as a heroine. She is a good hunter, but realizes she does not compare to the other careers that have trained for these games. She worries that she is not strong, but her friend Gale reminds her "Okay, listen to me, you're stronger than they are. You are. They just want a good show, that's all they want. You know how to hunt. Show them how good you are." Katniss is able to transform herself and defeat problems along the way. The majority of her characteristics are good. Katniss has been the provider and nurturer for her sister Prim at home since her father died when she was 11 years old. He taught her the skill of using an arrow which helps her in the hunger games and may be her side of evil.

The setting of the novel is in North America in the future. The world is believable, except when the Capital controls the weather. That part is difficult to believe. The capital also creates muttations of animals to attack the competitors in the games. The suspense builds when the 24 young people are transported to the cornucopia. It is ironic to use a symbol of plenty when the goal is to kill everyone and so many districts are suffering from starvation. Katniss encounters a few life and death situations. Rue actually saves her from the hornets nest. Katniss becomes an ally with Rue and this saves her from Thresh killing her in the cornucopia. The end of the novel becomes a beginning for a new quest because Katniss has angered the Capital by attempting a dual suicide and leaving them with no victor for the 74th games. The reader knows all is not well for Katniss and Peeta.

There are a few themes in this novel. The first theme I think about is survival. Katniss has no wealth or social power and is forced to play the game. She has to survive. She has promised Prim she would survive. She uses her skill of the bow and arrow to hunt for food and kill Cato. The next theme is friendship and love. Katniss has a strong love of her sister Prim. She voluntarily takes her place in the games. She is willing to die for her sister. She also develops a friendship with Rue while playing the games. Peeta has a love for Katniss that she has never known about until the games begin. The third theme could be the fear of government control. Government, or Big Brother, always knows what you are doing. The capital has rules that everyone must follow. Katniss and Peeta do not like the power that the Capital has, but they do not know how to change it yet.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Suzanne Collins has brought her imaginary world to life. One of the strengths that School Library Journal states is "Collins's characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds." A weakness for me is the ending, because the story really does not end here. It continues in the next book of the series.

Awards & Reviews:

Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of the Year 2008

New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2008

Cybil Winner in 2008

School Library Journals Best Books of 2008

Booklist Editor's Choice 2008

School Library Journal states " the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like 'Survivor' and 'American Gladiator'."

Stephen King finds a new YA novel as scarily addictive as his favorite arcade game. Sept 12, 2008


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Inside Out by Terry Trueman

Trueman, Terry. Inside Out. New York: Harpertempest, 2003.

Zachary Wahhsted is the main character in this novel. Zach suffers from schizophrenia. He suffers from hearing voices that make fun of him. He has fewer problems when he takes his medicine on time. The story begins when Zach is at a local coffee shop waiting for his mother to bring him his meds. He wants to order a maple bar when he is in the middle of a hold up. The police arrive before the burglars can escape. The burglars are juveniles themselves. They agree to let everyone in the coffee shop go, but Zach stays behind as a hostage while they are making a deal with the police using Zach's doctor. It has been too many hours without meds and Zach struggles with the voices in his head as he begins to hallucinate.

Critical Analysis:
Terry Trueman does an excellent job of telling the story through first person with Zach. The author weaves the dark world of schizophrenia with Zach's words. The reader must read all of the words on the page. At times, I as the reader began to laugh at the way Zach honestly answers the burglars. He can not infer or read between the lines. During the entire hostage situation Zach is fixated on getting a maple bar. That is his true concern. Even when the hostage situation is over Zach still wants the maple bar. Terry does a great job of showing the reader what it is like in the mind of a schizophrenic young adult. At times what Zach is saying does not make any sense to the reader. "Long gone long gone long gone longgonelonggonelonggone" "Hey, Wasteoid, time to die" (p.92). Zach is a very powerful character. The theme of the novel is schizophrenia and the reader is left wanting to know more about this disease that attacked Zach as a young adult. Trueman adds notes from Zach's doctor visits to teach more about schizophrenia. The plot untangles as the reader discovers the burglars have no real weapons or ammunition. They are just trying to get money to buy medicine for their mom who has cancer. This part of the book would yield to a great discussion. It is surprising that an odd friendship develops between the robbers and Zach. The reader feels sorry for all of them. The hostage situation ends peacefully and then the reader finds out that Zach committed suicide three months later. What a powerful surprise ending! This novel leaves the reader with a lot to think about and a lot to discuss.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
A strength of this book is the surprising climax. Zach's words are also a strength to understand the mind of a schizophrenic. I did not see any weaknesses. I was riveted until the end of the book.


School Library Journal states "Trueman uses Zach's narration to challenge readers to feel the confusion and dark struggle of schizophrenia. The effect is disturbing, if somewhat didactic."

Booklist states "excerpts from Zach's psychiatric records interweave with his first-person account of the dramatic robbery, offering readers the medical facts as well as Zach's personal story, especially the terror and confusion he feels when he can't distinguish between the real and the imagined."

Christchurch Public Library states "Short, sharp and shocking. It's simply brilliant." states “Inside Out” is a psychological thriller that will keep you reading to the surprising end. Few teen books out there deliver half as much intelligent writing as this compact novel."
Publishers Weekly states "Despite the suspenseful story line, this is ultimately a book about understanding and empathy; the climax is surprising, logical and moving. Fans of Cormier will likely enjoy this psychological and gripping tale." August 2003

School Library Journal states "Trueman uses Zach's narration to challenge readers to feel the confusion and dark struggle of schizophrenia. The effect is disturbing..." 2003

Kirkus states "... events unfold with an edge of danger that provides riveting suspense ... a plot line that grabs and doesn't let go." July 15, 2003.

The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney

Cooney, Caroline B. The Terrorist. New York: Scholastic Press, 1997.

Laura and Billy move with their parents to England for their father's job. Their father travels to factories to close them down and many people lose their jobs. On the way to school someone hands Billy a package. When he realizes what it is Billy holds on to it to protect a mother and child near him from being injured. Billy is killed instantly. Laura and her parents try to come to terms with Billy's death. Laura wants to know if it was a random act of terrorism and her brother died for no reason or if Billy was targeted by someone. Laura looks at all of her friends as if any one of them could be her brother's killer. A friend from school now asks Laura for Billy's passport to escape an arranged marriage. Laura ironically is helping the villain she is trying to find.

Critical Analysis:
This mystery is told in first person by Laura. Laura and her brother Billy have been forced to move to England for their father's job. Billy was an interesting character and loved life. Laura thought he "was the most interesting person on earth, but he was not on earth now" (p.30). He was darker in complexion than anyone else in his family. This small detail provided at the beginning of the story would be one reason he was targeted. The setting of this novel is perfect. It is believable because residents of England face terrorism daily.  Americans are not used to terrorism in their country, but England has had many terrorist attacks. They teach the students rules about terrorism in school.  "Terrorism, whether there is one victim or a hundred, earns its name. People are terrified" (p.49). Cooney does a great job of making Laura believable with what she says and her thoughts. I think there are a couple of themes in this book. The first theme is terrorism and what it is like to live with terrorism daily. The second theme is how to deal with the death of a loved one. Laura wants revenge and screams out in her thoughts often. She wants her brothers death to have some kind of meaning. Her mother and father do not know how to put the pieces of their lives back together again. They are living in a daze. The plot becomes terrifying when you realize that the real villain is a friend of Laura's and she is helping her leave the country with Billy's passport. It is a thriller of a read.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
I think one of the strengths of this book is the plot and how it builds with excitement. I think a weakness may be the stereotyping of a Muslim being the terrorist. This fit the stereotype of a Muslim.


Publishers Weekly states this novel is "thought-provoking as well as a just plain good read".  Nov. 1999.

Booklist states "tension builds expertly in Cooney's latest thriller, which is sure to hook fans early on with its breezy dialogue, believable characters, and--since it's set in an international school in London--interesting global perspective."

Kirkus Review states "while most of the characters are as real as their grief--making human choices, and suffering the consequences--others simply fade out of the story, and the culprit is based more on a stereotype than on logic."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Downriver by Will Hobbs

Hobbs, Will. Downriver. New York: Atheneum, 1991.

This story is told in first person by Jessie. Jessie's dad has put her in a wilderness therapy program because he believes she is hanging out with the wrong kind of friends. Jessie is angry with her dad. Angry that he has a girlfriend named Madeline after her mom has died.  Jessie, Troy, Adam, Star, Freddy, Pug and Rita become friends in this therapy program. They call themselves the Hoods in the Woods. Al is their counselor. Jessie and her friends ditch Al to go on an adventure on their own down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. They have many adventures and brushes with death. The five friends escape from Troy and Pug when they believe that the two tried to kill Freddy by placing a poisonous scorpion in his sleeping bag. The five friends are rescued. Pug is caught, but Troy evades the police until he is finally caught in Malibu. In the end Star moves in with Jessie, her dad and Madeline. They live together as a family.

Critical Analysis:
This adventure story is told in first person by Jessie. She is in a wilderness therapy program with other children who are having problems with their families. The story is about friendship and leadership. These young children form a bond with each other and ditch their guide to raft down the Colorado river on their own without an adult. Adults do not understand them at all. There is a struggle to become a leader of this group, but they discover they have to work together to survive. The theme appears to be surviving teenage years. Learning to make decisions and the consequences that come with those decisions. When you are young you tend to see everything in  extremes. All of these teenage characters suffer from this. At the beginning of the book all of the kids lives are headed downhill or "downriver". The characters all appear so real and believable. Each one is dealing with their own unique problems. School Library Journal states "that it is filled with nail biting suspense." This is definitely experienced when the reader worries that Freddy will die from the scorpion. The setting builds to the excitement of this novel. Even if you have never white water rafted you are able to experience what it would be like to face massive rapids. You discover that nature is a challenge if you are alone, but it is bearable with friends. They learn their problems are not so negative and much more bearable since they have made lasting friendships.This story would have universal appeal.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
This story was action packed. There were challenges the entire way throughout the book. I did not see any weaknesses. The unique characters were the strength. The characters were believable and interesting. It is a strong story about friendship and survival.

  • An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • ALA YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
School Library Journal states "the book is exquisitely plotted, with nail-biting suspense and excitement."

A student Brad Vonbargen states "he enjoyed this book because of the detail to all the wondrous things you can see in the Grand Canyon." May 6, 2005

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Before I Die by Jenny Downham


Downham, Jenny. Before I Die. New York: David Fickling Books, 2007.

This story begins when the reader finds out Tessa, age 16, the main character who is telling the story is dying from leukemia. She lives with her father and brother and sees her mother once in a while. The cancer has spread throughout her body and she is finished being poked and taking treatments that make her sicker. She compiles a list of ten things she wants to do and experience before she dies. Number one on the list is sex. Others include trying drugs, breaking the law, traveling, getting her parents back together, not saying no for a day, becoming famous, and falling in love. She has a best friend Zoey who helps her accomplish some of the items on her list. She must battle her weakening body to complete the items on her list. Tessa's father is struggling with her dying and keeps trying to find a cure for her. Tessa stays in bed for days and then disappears without telling her father where she is going because she knows he will never ground her. She dies with everyone she loves around her. Her dad, mother, brother Cal and boyfriend Adam.

Critical Analysis:

This novel definitely conveys the theme that we need to live life to the fullest every day. It left me wondering how I could enjoy life more. Jenny Downham shows respect to everyone battling cancer no matter what age. The plot is believable and difficult to read towards the end. The character Tessa definitely shares with the reader her thoughts and the pain she is feeling throughout the book. She is so believable. The character of the father is incredible too. Her mother is estranged and her father spends every minute of his life taking care and trying to protect Tessa. The only part that was not believable to me is when he allows Adam to spend the last 2 months spending the night with her in her bedroom. I cannot picture a father giving approval to this. The reader realizes the severity of her illness when Tessa does not attend school and the description of the hospitals and physicians. Jenny Downham writes in a smooth style that carries you to the end. She then writes a few choppy sentences at a time on a page near the end of the book. The short sentences give the reader the feel of Tessa's short shallow breaths up until she breathes her last.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

The strength of this book is definitely the character Tessa. She is a strong-willed girl that has had to endure a painful cancer and treatments. She courageously faces death peacefully and she is in charge. She has accomplished her list of what she wants to do before she dies.


John Burnham Schwartz- "This may sound too depressing for words, but it is only one indication of the inspired originality of Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, that the reader can finish its last pages feeling thrillingly alive ... I don't care how old you are. This book will not leave you."NYTBR, October 14, 2007

"Lucid language makes a painful journey bearable, beautiful and transcendent." Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007

"The eloquent dying teen can seem a staple of the YA novel, but this British debut completely breaks the mold. Downham holds nothing back in her wrenching and exceptionally vibrant story." Publisher's Weekly, August 6, 2007

"Bound For Glory: This fall, five young authors deliver breakout books packed with razor-sharp writing." Entertainment Weekly, September 21, 2007
"In luminous prose that rings completely true, Downham earns every tear she wrings from her readers. I trust there will be many of them—many readers, and of course, many tears. Entertainment Weekly, September 28, 2007

Livvy Dodd- This book has to be the best book I have ever read. It completely broke my heart, and made me cry ALOT but it really opened up my eyes to how illness and death can happen at anytime and how fragile and precious life really is. July 23, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams


Williams, Carol Lynch. The Chosen One. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2009.


This is a nail biting, heartbreaking story of a 13 year old girl named Kyra. She is growing up in a polygamist community or compound. She lives with her father, three mothers and nineteen brothers and sisters with two more on the way. She loves her family and is trying to live their way of life. She feels like she is evil because she sneaks out at night to meet with Joshua the boy she dreams of spending the rest of her life with. Kyra has another secret that she loves to read books in her Russian Olive tree that her community has banned because they are words of Satan. She sneaks away to the Ironton County Mobile Library on wheels where she meets Patrick who gives her books to read. Prophet Childs comes to their home one evening to announce that he has had a vision and Kyra must marry her sixty year old mean uncle. Kyra begs her family to not make her do this, but everyone is convinced that the Prophet is holy and his word must be obeyed. He also has a God squad that beats Joshua and Kyra when they find out they want to marry. Kyra finally gets the courage to tell Patrick and he trys to help her escape, but they are caught and it appears the God squad has murdered Patrick. Kyra finally gathers the courage to escape on her own using the bookmobile and dialing 911 for police help. She is in a safe house at the end and the reader hopes she can stay there.

Critical Analysis:

This book is unique because Kyra is born into the problem. Her family practices polygamy and it is the only way of life she knows. The problem emerges when she is thirteen years old and she is chosen to marry her sixty year old, mean uncle. This story does give the reader insight into life on a polygamist compound. The setting definitely enhances the story because the character Kyra is watched and feels trapped in her setting. The compound is in the desert and there is a chain link fence to keep the families in and others out. When she ventures out for the day with her mothers to buy material everyone in the "real" world just stares at them. They do not fit in. The plot becomes so strong and interesting. Joshua and Patrick try to help her and we are left to wonder if the God Squad has killed them both. Nothing is predictable.The reader is kept on the edge of their seat and cannot stop turning pages to see how the story ends. Kyra is a believable character that comes alive in the book. The reader knows exactly how she feels and what she is thinking. The theme is worthwhile. The reader is left to think about what this type of life is really like and you have an understanding why the women do not try to leave their lifestyle. Carol Lynch Williams easily carries you along Kyra's journey. The reader is left with insight in this society. This novel would appeal to many different groups of readers.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
This book has a strong problem that will keep you riveted until the end. The words flow easily to understand how Kyra feels and what she is thinking. A young adult reader would have a great discussion about this book.


Gregory Maguire states "The Chosen One makes the heart race, the teeth grind, and the brow bead up in sweat."

Meg Cabot states "A powerful and heartbreaking novel of love and hope. One girl's poignant journey as she struggles to find herself and, ultimately, the Truth."

David Ebershoff says this story is"powerful and unforgettable...will break you heart."

An Na says this is "truly thought-provoking, heartfelt, and just a plain old good read."

Sara Zarr states "unsettling and courageous...beautiful, compassionate, and full of hope."

Michael Cart a past president of the Young Adult Library Services Association says "it is an important book."

Kyra's life  revealing that moment in childhood when you recognize your thoughts as your own and discover forces in the world that your parents cannot — or will not — protect you from." --The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
"Intensely gripping and grippingly intense"- Kirkus Reviews

“…this is a heart pounder, and readers will be held, especially as the danger escalates. Williams’ portrayals of the family are sharp, but what’s most interesting about this book is how the yearnings and fears of a character so far from what most YAs know will still seem familiar and close.” --Booklist

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr


Zarr, Sara. Story of a Girl. New York: Hachette Book Group USA, 2007.


Deanna Lambert was 13 years old when her father caught her having sex in the backseat of Tommy's car in the old Chart House parking lot. The story of what happened spreads through the small town of Pacifica. Three years later and everyone still whispers about her and she is known as the school slut. She cannot shake her bad reputation. Her father still has a difficult time looking at Deanna and talking to her. She has a good relationship with her older brother who is raising a child with his girlfriend Stacy in the basement of their house. Deanna gets a job at a pizza shop in town to raise money in hopes she can move out of her house with her brother and his family. She discovers that Tommy is working at that pizza shop too. His presence still bothers her and it leads up to a confrontation at the end of the book which brings closure to their relationship. She has only two close friends Jason and Lee that she can talk to. She is jealous of Lee and almost destroys their friendship. Deanna learns to get past her one huge mistake and continue with her life.

Critical Analysis:

This story is a problem novel of a young girl who makes a big mistake at 13 years. old. The plot is realistic. It is very believable that a young girl may have been caught by her father in the backseat of her boyfriend's car. The setting is a small town which helps make the plot even more believable. Rumors spread quickly in a small town. Deanna feels she can never get away from everyone talking about her. The author Sara Zarr allows the character of Deanna to become real through what she says and thinks. The reader feels bad for the way she is made fun of and the names she is called. The scene in the mall where the boy reaches between her legs in line at a fast food restaurant because he wanted self serve shows how cruel other students can be towards Deanna. The reader can almost feel how terrible Deanna feels at this point. The story flows smoothly and the reader is left to think about how Deanna learns to go on with her life. She had to learn to deal with her problem of having sex at a very young age and how it has changed her.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

One of the strengths of this book is the plot is very believable. It is about an issue young teens will deal with. The character Deanna lets us know how she thinks and feels so we understand her problem.


E. Lockhart states that it "throws a sharp right hook at the assumptions people make about girls who have sex early."

Chris Crutcher states "this is a hell of a good book."

Lael Littke states "I literally stood up and cheered.... A rare and wonderful book."
Cynthis Leitich Smith states "A heartfelt, realistic novel about being defined by one moment, one choice, and then having to reinvent who you are... An evocative, thoughtful read from a debut author to watch."

Mary Pearson states "Masterfully explores the many layers and degrees of forgiveness. Theses are people you will recognize and never forget."

Keith Dixon states "Tender and sad, critical yet redemptive...A complex, rawly affecting portrait of a young woman unfairly harried by a past indiscretion."

John Green states " Sara Zarr's first novel tells an engrossing story with exquisitely drawn characters. Story of a Girl is the rarest mix: It's both impossible to put down and the kind of book that stays with you long after you've finished reading it."

Andrew Auseon states " Anyone who has ever made a mistake that they regretted will find themselves at home in these pages. Story of a Girl may be fiction, but it overflows with hard truths."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Penguin Group, 1999. ISBN 0-14-240732-1.


The story begins on the first day of high school for Melinda Sordino. She does not have any friends and does not seem to fit in at all. The reader finds out at the end of summer Melinda attended a party with her friends and has too much to drink. She is raped by a senior Andy Evans at the party. She calls the police, but then becomes to frightened to tell the police what happened and runs home. No one knows the real reason she called the police and everyone hates her for breaking up a "great" party. Melinda used to be a happy girl with friends and now she becomes depressed and withdrawn trying to live with her secret. She cannot tell anyone what happened that night and hardly even speaks. Her grades go down in school. The only person who recognizes she has something to say is her Art teacher. Art is the only class she still has an "A". At the end of the book Melinda is cornered by her attacker for the second time, but this time she has the courage to scream and speak out about what he did.

Critical Analysis:

Speak is written in first person narration. Melinda Sordino is telling you her story as a teenager would tell it. She has a very sarcastic tone and wit. All readers will empathize with the main character is going through. Melinda is very believable. The book is divided into four marking periods and you watch Melinda's grades drop during the year. Everything except Art. The marking periods are broken into journal entries. The theme of alienation resonates throughout the book. The reader feels so bad for her because she has no one to sit with or talk to. He favorite place at school is a closet under a stairwell she has created as a home for herself. Melinda stops speaking to everyone. A quote at the beginning of the book sums her feelings up best. "It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on tv about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say" (p.9). Melinda's feeling of fear is clear when her attacker Andy Evans is around. She refers to him as It or The Beast. Laurie Anderson's voice is strong when she writes what someone says as a script. Their words come after their name and a colon. It is powerful when she writer Me: and the space after her name is blank. The use of flashbacks are used throughout the plot. I found the tree she was trying to create very interesting in the story. The main character Melinda goes through a dynamic change in character by the end of the book. Melinda finds her strength towards the end of the book to spreak, similar to a tree finds its strength to endure all of the seasons from very cold to very hot temperatures and still stand strong. It is no wonder this book was a Printz honor book in 2000.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

One of the strengths of this book is the reader becomes very empathetic toward Melinda and it is difficult to put down. There does not seem to be a good place to stop reading. You want to know more and help her. I think this is a great book to open up dialog with a teenager that is suffering from depression.


The Horn Book states this is "an uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last."

Publishers Weekly states this is "a stunning first novel... Anderson infuses the narrative with a wit that sustains the heroine through her pain and hold readers' empathy...Melinda's hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired."

Michael L. Printz Honor Book
National Book Award Finalist
Edgar Allan Poe Award Finalist
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
SCBWI Golden Kite Award
New York Times Best Seller
Publishers Weekly Best Seller
ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Quick Pick
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
Booklist TOp Ten First Novel of 1999
BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Title

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


Gailman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008. ISBN 978-0-


The main character Nobody Owens, known as Bod is a human boy. The story begins when Bod's entire family is murdered by a man named Jack. Nobody escapes this brutal attack by crawling to a graveyard at the top of the hill for safety. Bod is protected by the family of spirits in this graveyard. Bod is safe as long as he remains inside the graveyard gates. He has a guardian and mentor named Silas who goes between the living and the dead to bring him food and clothes. Bod grows from a toddler through adolescence by learning from the many spirits in the graveyard. They become his friends and teachers. The spirits teach him a lot about history and also how to fade. He makes a friend with a witch named Liza in the Potter's field, and also a human friend who visits the graveyard named Scarlett. He ventures out of the graveyard into the human world to attend school and encounters bullies. Every time he leaves the graveyard he is in danger of being killed by Jack. The story ends when it is safe for Bod to leave the graveyard to see the world and enter the world of the living.

Critical Analysis:

This book is a recent John Newbery Medal winner in 2009. This is a fantasy novel dealing with the supernatural. This story will appeal to boys and girls who would like to read a ghost story. The plot is fast paced and the opening scene is quick and sets the theme of self vs. another. The villain is a person named Jack. Bod's archetype is an orphaned protagonist who gets himself in trouble, but learns from his mistakes. The setting of this story is very important. Even though the story is told in a graveyard there is a strong theme of community and family. The protagonist learns the meaning of friendship from humans and spirits. The book is full of very rich vocabulary. The book is recommended for children ten and up, but a ten year old may need support with the vocabulary. The book is not all dark. It is filled with humor and wit. The author's style uses humor and suspense as the tone of this book. There are a few black and white illustrations by Dave McKean that do add to the story.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

The story is filled with supernatural and terrifying at times. A good story develops and you do not want to put the book down. Gaiman is a great visual writer. You picture a child in a dark, cold graveyard, but he is happy with many friends.


Diana Wynne Jones states that "this is the best book Neil Gaiman has ever written. He has managed to combine fascinating, friendly, frightening and fearsome in one fantasy. He pulled it off magnificently. It is perfect for Halloween and any other time of the year."

The Horn book states it is "lucid, evocative prose and dark fairy-tale motifs imbue the story with a dreamlike quality."

ALA Booklist states "this is an utterly captivating tale that is cleverly told through and entertaining cast of ghostly characters."

Toronto Star states "there are a great many books out there about spooks, vampires, and ghouls. But Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is the one to pick- a tale of hauntings and huntings that's full of kindness and wit, humor and horror. Read aloud, it should make a young audience sit up and take notice."

Holly Black states that this book is "endlessly inventive, masterfully told, and, like Bod himself, too clever to fit into only one place. This is a book for everyone. You will love it to death."

San Francisco Chronicle states that "Bod's coming-of-age has its moments of wonder, terror, and tenderness, and Gaiman hits exactly the right notes every time."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Speak, 2003. ISBN 0-14-038572-X.


The narrator of this book is fourteen year old Ponyboy. He lives with his two older brothers Darry and Sodapop. They have been allowed to live on their own since their parents died as long as they do not get into any trouble. The story begins when Ponyboy is walking home from the movies alone. This is something he should not do since he lives on the East side of town, which is a very dangerous neighborhood for him. He is proud to call himself, his brothers and friends Greasers. While walking home he is jumped by a gang called the Socs which is a gang of rich kids. They are attempting to give him a haircut when his brothers and friends save him and chase the Socs off. Later in the book Ponyboy meets the Socs again. This time they try to drown him in a fountain at the park when he is with his friend Johnny who has been beaten by his father numerous times at home and has also been beaten by the Socs once before. Johnny stabs one of the Socs named Bob and he dies. The boys run to their friend Dallas who gives them money and tells them to jump a train to hide in an abandoned church until he can get there. Dallas arrives days later and takes them out to eat. On their way back to the church they see it is in flames. School children are trapped inside and Johnny and Ponyboy never hesitate to go inside the burning church and rescue the children. They are injured on the way out and Johnny is seriously injured with a broken back from a beam falling on him. After Johnny dies, Dallas runs away and robs a store. He is shot dead by the police while robbing the store. Ponyboy has to go to court but is allowed to remain living with his brothers.

Critical Analysis:

This book falls under the title of Awards and Classics. This story is told in first person by Ponyboy Curtis. Ponyboy is orphan archetype. Teenagers can identify with Ponyboy and the need to belong. The reader gets to experience what life in a gang would be like through Ponyboy's eyes. The Greasers become a family to one another. Loyalty holds this gang together in this book. Teenagers are familiar with conflict in their own families or conflict between groups at school. The setting is very important to the story. The rough neighborhood makes the story between two gangs believable. The characters in this story have conflict in their families. Johnny comes from an abused home and no one seems to care about Dallas. The conflict between groups is solved by fighting. Ponyboy goes through a dynamic character change by the end of the book. At the end of the book Ponyboy is asked to write an English paper that is an essay from the heart. This is where the theme of the book shines through. Self vs. society.  Ponyboy tells his story about his brothers and friends in hope that it will help others. He realizes that fighting has been senseless. Johnny tells Ponyboy while he is dying to "stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold" (p.148). It was Johnny's hope that Ponyboy would stay innocent and end all of this fighting against the Socs. The author writes with clear style and that is why this book remains a classic today.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

One strength was the tone of this book was written with tension. When the blue mustang appears the reader has a feeling of apprehension knowing there will be trouble. The tone keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.


Hornbook states "we meet powerful characters in a book with a powerful message."

My daughter Kristin read this book when she was 13 and her quote is " S.E. Hinton was so realistic in showing me what life was like in a gang."