Saturday, October 28, 2006

Zoo--Graham Marks

Title: Zoo
Author: Graham Marks
Pages: 266 p.
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 1582349916

I don't usually go for the spy/action/boy books and I probably would not have read this if it hadn't been for one of my middle school boys choosing it for our book group. But once I started reading I couldn't stop. This is an intelligent, quick-paced, action-packed book that boys are sure to love. Although it's probably geared more for high school (the main character is 17), there's nothing preventing middle schoolers from reading it. There is a little lovey-dovey stuff, but nothing more than kissing, and it definitely takes a back seat to the action.

17 year old Cameron Stewart has always lived a privileged life. His mother has never been very affectionate and treats him more like an investment than her flesh and blood, but he's had a happy childhood. His father is not a millionaire, but pretty well-off and able to provide whatever Cam needs. Life is great until he gets kidnapped, manages to escape, but discovers that he can't trust anyone and must survive on his own until he can figure out what's going on.

I enjoyed this book and was able to finish it in just a couple of days (hey, I have a toddler). I'm looking forward to the middle school book group next month. I think the boys are going to really respond to it.

On My Nightstand: New Moon--Stephenie Meyer

Looking for Normal--Betty Monthei

Title: Looking for Normal
Author: Betty Monthei
Pages: 185 p.
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 0060725052

"Daddy killed Mama today, just like he told her he would."

With that haunting first line, Looking for Normal, tells the story of young Annie and her younger brother Ted after their father goes crazy and kills their mother and then himself. This is *not* an easy read. After dealing with the trauma of losing both of their parents, the kids have to deal with an abusive grandmother and a distant grandfather too much in denial to help them.

This was a very good book and made my middle school boys cry. We had a great discussion about the book itself, as well as whether or not they had ever discussed with their parents who would take them in the event of a tragedy. Although it's a difficult book to read and didn't lend itself to a "fun" discussion, it's an important book in today's violent world and would be good for a discussion group.

On My Nightstand:

Nailed--Patrick Jones

Title: Nailed
Author: Patrick Jones
Pages: 216 p.
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 0802780776

I read this a while ago for the teen book group and just haven't had a chance to get a review up. Consequently the details are a little fuzzy. The core plot of the book is Brett's abuse at school by the rich jocks who think he's a freak. The subplot, but more important aspect of the story, is Brett's relationship with his father, who also thinks he's a freak and doesn't understand him at all. By the end of the story the abuse has reached its climax and is the catalyst for Brett and his father to find some common ground.

This book prompted a really good discussion, something that doesn't happen often in our teen book group, about high school and cliques and stereotypes. At our local high school the cliques aren't so clearly drawn--the cool kids aren't necessarily the jocks. And everybody makes fun of everybody. They all seem to bully each other. The girls didn't like the book as much as librarians have, but it certainly sparked a really good discussion.

On My Nightstand:

Thursday, October 05, 2006

King Dork--Frank Portman

Title: King Dork
Author: Frank Portman
Pages: 344 p.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 0385732910

I've read a lot about this book and most people seem to think that you have to either *love* it or *hate* it. I disagree. I didn't think it was the funniest thing I've ever read or the most interesting book in the world. I definitely had some problems with it. But it was entertaining and I enjoyed most of it.

Tom Henderson, aka Chi-Mo and King Dork and a bunch of other derogatory nicknames, is an introspective, witty, high school boy. He is tormented by bullies, both students and teachers, and has very few friends. His relationship with his best friend, Sam Hellerman, is based on the fact that their last names are in alphabetical order and thus they sat near each other in school. He and Sam are in a "band"--although all they have are band names (which change constantly) album names and song titles. They don't have actual instruments or rehearsals for much of the book. The band names are hilarious.

Most of the plot revolves around Tom finding his dead father's copy of Catcher in the Rye. From there he is embroiled in a mystery surrounding his father's death, a secret code and a funeral card. Somehow this mystery also ties in to Tom's current bullying teachers and miserable existance in high school.

I enjoyed most of the book. I thought Tom was funny. The conclusion was wrapped up too nicely--seemingly unrelated events fit together--but then Tom questions the conclusion and wonders if maybe there is none at all. It seemed to be a bit of a cop-out.

The major problem most people seem to have with the book is its portrayal of girls. While I do believe the girl social structure (with the Queen Bitch at top) is true, I do think the cavalier attitude the girls had toward oral sex was over the top. Granted, many people (especially young people) do not think of oral sex as sex, but these girls were just unbelievable with their willingness to perform this service.

Overall I was entertained and would recommend this book, but I would caution teens to seriously think about the girls' attitude toward oral sex.

On My Nightstand:

Blog Archive