My decision to read Monster by Walter Dean Myers was mostly driven by the intrigue of the font on the first few pages and the looming due date of a book review. This novel turned out to be so much more than “Kaushan Script” and a grade-boost as it forced me to explore the unsettling reality of the juvenile detention system.
Although fictional, the novel touches on a disturbingly real situation for many Americans and provides the reader with insight into the cyclical nature of the American judicial system and provokes empathy for the citizens caught up in it.
The novel is the captivating account of a teenage boy named Steven Harmon's frightening journey through the juvenile detention system as well as his trial. The story is presented as a screenplay and includes Steven’s journal entries and memories of life before it was thrown into the chaos of this event. Especially reading this as someone who is around the same age as Steven, Myers forces the reader to not look at Steven as some African-American boy on channel 4, but a friend, a neighbor, a family member. The strategically placed memories of his school life, his interest in film, and his love for his family add a depth to the young protagonist that make it impossible to not feel some compassion throughout the heartbreaking story, even as his innocence is constantly in question.
I recommend this book to anyone looking to better understand the realities of the justice system and the depth of the citizens who occupy it.
How do you take such a complex and deep topic and make it understandable to everyone? Just ask Ned Vizzini! Ned Vizzini, the author of It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, takes the topic of depression and writes about it in a light hearted, yet sensitive way. Vizzini takes the complex topic of depression and opens the eyes of many to what people with depression go through.
Craig Gliner, the main character of the book, is a teenage boy who lives in New York. Craig gets accepted into the prestigious high school of Manhattan, but as he starts his high school career the pressures of both school and his peers becomes overwhelming. Not shortly after, Craig can’t withstand the pressure any more and almost kills himself. After Craig’s realization of what he was about to do to himself, he checks himself in at the nearest hospital where he is prescribed to check into a mental hospital. Since the hospital is unable to send Craig to the kids mental hospital, Craig is required to stay at the adult mental hospital. Along Craig’s journey of trying to face his depression, Craig makes some unlikely friends and makes some new discoveries about the world around him and even himself.
Vizzini addresses a serious issue from a teenager’s point of view, which made me enjoy the book even more. It wasn’t a book that was serious or depressing for that matter, but rather it conveyed a message in an entertaining way. One of my favorite parts about Vizzini’s writing style is his ability to sprinkle humor throughout his book. I also was intrigued by the book because Vizzini spent five days in an adult psychiatric to obtain accurate feelings and events that happen when people are handling depression. I would recommend this book to anyone, but I would especially recommend this book to teenagers in high school and adults that deal with teenage kids. I say this because this book assures teenage kids going through depression that it’s ok to seek help and that they’re not alone. Also, this book opens the eyes of teenagers and adults that aren’t going through depression to the realization that depression is part of reality and it is not an easy thing to cope with. This book wisely shows each side of those who are affected by one of their loved ones going through depression.It’s Kind Of A Funny Story has it all: humor, seriousness, realization, wittiness and even a sense of romance...and that is why I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by: Jessica Lypka
I’ve never liked reading, but I’ve always loved a good book. I’d like to assume that many people have this problem; there’s just something about reading that screams boredom! Unless, of course, you find that one book. The book you refuse to put down late at night, the book you read during class, the book you sneak to work. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, is a true example of the saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”
When I first picked it up from my local library I rolled my eyes at its dingy, almost peeled off, musty cover. When I got to reading, however, things changed. I became sucked into the world of young Angelou, a little African American girl growing up during times of segregation and poverty. The whole plot is just a telling of her life story from her successes to her losses. I did not realize, however, how deeply I would connect with the book. Her triumphs became my triumphs, and her trials became mine as well. Throughout the book, Angelou keeps a hopeful tone, with the idea that things will get better. Her simplistic word choices really connected with me, and helped me follow her life journey.
This autobiography stunningly captivates real life problems that are still issues today. I would recommend this book to anyone solely because I feel anyone can relate to it. Angelou skillfully weaved so many negative parts of her life, from domestic abuse to racism, into one book and still wrote in such a positive way. That encourages people to view their problems a bit more positively.
So what am I trying to say in short, for those of you who don’t even like reading book reviews? Go pick this book up, it’s ‘the one.’
Reading the back of this book I was overwhelmed. I did not know it was possible to take so many diverse issues and somehow tie them all together. Jesmyn Ward does just this, coherently blending Hurricane Katrina, teen pregnancy, four motherless children with an alcoholic father, racial problems, poverty, and all complications associated with a new puppy litter into a single story. And she does this magically. And though Hurricane Katrina only is occurring in two of the twelve days that make up this book, I felt the intensity of a storm on every page.
During the days leading up to the hurricane, fourteen-year-old, Esch, her three brothers, Skeetah, Randall, and Junior, and their father face more obstacles than most will in a lifetime. Whether it’s Esch hiding a pregnancy at fourteen or Skeetah trying to keep his pitbull and her newborn puppies alive, each character has their own complex issues, making every page lively and eventful. On top of the abundance of personal issues, I must note that they are a black family living in poverty, preparing for Hurricane Katrina. The only way they were able to survive the extremity of the storm and their adversities was by battling these hardships with the support and unconditional love for one another.
Not only is Salvage the Bones an exceptional story and written remarkably, but Ward incorporates a storyline that is generally neglected. She takes a black, rural family, most often portrayed in books and movies as just that, a black, rural family, and actually writes them an interesting, strong, beautiful story. We rarely read of poor, black communities with fully developed, and such complex characters, but Jesmyn Ward fills Esch and her family with love, strength, bravery, meaningful relationships, and gives each a unique, elaborate character.
Salvage the Bones is an incredible, original novel taking on a point of view we are hardly ever exposed to. I highly recommend anyone and everyone to get your hands on a copy of this book as soon as possible and experience the brilliance that it is.
Typically when we think of literature about the lives of African Americans, we immediately begin to associate it with the all-to-prevalent themes of distress, prejudice, slavery, and inferiority. However in this book “The Color Purple”, Alice Walker manages to warp this common misrepresentation by showing readers a life of one family outside of these parameters. Although much of the book contains bitterness and tension between the members, throughout the book, Walker weaves a unique storytelling method to show the power of forgiveness, hope, love, and happiness.
The story begins on a wretched note with the main character, Celie, pleading to God for help after multiple traumatizing accounts of her father raping her. Within the first brief chapters, Walker establishes the main plot of the novel through short letters written by Celie to God. With a bed-ridden dying mother, younger siblings, and a sexually predatory father, Celie must learn to take responsibility and protect her younger sister Nettie. But on top of the already horrific events that happen to Celie, her life takes a dive for the worst when her father marries her off to an abusive man that strips away every piece of her humanity. Without knowing the whereabouts of her sister, Celie learns to forge scraps of a life by beginning to write letters to her sister Nettie. As the years move forward, Celie is introduced to multiple strong and independent African American woman including Sophia and Shug Avery who teach Celie the importance of self acceptance and bold actions. With their help, Celie begins to build a life for herself by standing up against the brutality of her husband and pursuing personal endeavors. While these events are underway, Walker creates a parallel plot line for the events of Nettie’s life through detailed letters written by Nettie to Celie. While Celie discovers herself, Nettie explores the world by running away from home and finding herself a host family. By escaping, Nettie is able to indulge in a world very different from before filled with religion and new cultures. Nettie and her host family take an almost decade long missionary trip to an indigenous village in rural Africa. The sisters continue to write sentimental letters to one another, updating each other on the current ups and downs of their life, ambitions, and longing to see one another. This ongoing 20 year separation is brought to an end when Walker beautifully merges these two very different plot lines together when the sisters reunite for the first time at the very end.
“The Color Purple” is definitely not a “fluffy” read. The book covers extensive ground on strong sexual themes and hardships. In addition, Walker adds a flavorful twist to the book by breaking away from the norm and writing traditional chapters in the form of letters between two characters. While many readers may enjoy this style of writing, there is sharp contrast between the voices of the two main characters that many may not like; Celie’s voice is completely filled with colloquialism and slang and Nettie’s voice is very collected and formal. However for readers who are willing to endure these scenes, I definitely believe this book is worth the read.
Despite some of the intense heartbreak and sorrow, I slowly began developing an appreciation towards this book as I continued reading. I loved how Alice Walker used her writing style to create a piece in which empowered African American women. All too often, in literature, we see African Americans as oppressed and African American women of even less significance. But in this story, Walker shows African American women as the strongest characters building each other up, taking control of their lives, and following their ambitions. They are seen as leaders who are able to make independent decisions and empower one another through sisterhood. On another level, Walker teaches her audience the importance of self-acceptance and forgiveness: two topics many people have trouble dealing with today. Through her characters, Walker is vicariously able to demonstrate how we must be able to forgive others for their actions and learn to love our own securities to keep moving forward. I know that many readers will appreciate Walker’s ability to gracefully transform a character from the inside out- carving out a tenacious, self-appreciative, and independent character from one that is unstable and insecure.
After reading this book to me, the color purple is a symbol of hope for all of us.
Raisa Zahir is a junior at Novi High School who is heavily involved in public speaking such as Debate and Forensics. She enjoys volunteering and spending time with friends and family. Raisa hopes to one day work in the medical field as a doctor.
In a country, where we are freely granted several rights, we never stop to think what life would be without them.But life is very different in a corrupt world without religious and political freedom.Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book provides us with insight into life in Nigeria during a military coup. Purple Hibiscus is a fascinating book that incorporates cultural and historical perspectives into a story about self discovery.
Fifteen year old Kambili lives a life that is heavily dominated by her father’s choices.While he is extremely wealthy and very charitable, he is also authoritarian and physically abusive.In her high walled family compound, Kambili knows no life except one spent striving to please her father.This all changes when Nigeria begans to fall apart under a political strife, and Kambili and her brother are sent to live with their aunt. For the first time, the children experience autonomy. Kambili struggles with change, as she realizes she can have her own opinions and make her own choices.
Why you want to keep reading
Purple Hibiscus is told from Kambili’s perspective, as her own views on the world are changing.It is told in a fragile, calm voice, contrasting the obviously dark happenings of the time.Through the writing, you can almost feel the tension that she faces at home, and the power struggle going on outside her.Her father’s dominance at home reflects political reality, as well as his need to maintain power in one aspect of life when everthing else is falling apart. Kambili manages to find her salvation in a country overshadowed by political threats, and a life controlled by family drama.
The story is very personal yet unforgettable.Through clearly three dimensional characters, Adichie blurs the lines between right and wrong, and leaves you wondering: what is forgivable?
Generally when I read a book, I don’t have any emotional reaction to it because it lacks depth and serious content. This was not one of those books. I would not recommend this to someone strolling along to breeze through a casual read or someone who I didn’t feel was mature enough to handle the content. Just as a forewarning, this book contains a lot of mature content with some very disturbing scenes.
Warnings aside, this book was very intriguing with a unique structure. Each chapter was a different source to tell a part of the story, be it a newspaper, report, homework assignment, or a conversation. With the variety of sources, all the characters fleshed out and seemed more real. Though it was fiction, Draper did a marvelous job creating a real atmosphere with situations that are very applicable to the mindsets of teens.
Draper begins with the tragedy that causes the story. Andy, the main character, returning from a basketball game after a few drinks, gets in an accident and his best friend dies. As the plot progresses, we are introduced to his close group and how each person deals with their grief. The variety of routes to acceptance are wide and help to show how different people deal with pain.
I’ve learned a lot about depression, death, pain, relationships, consequences of actions, and the stages of grief. If you have the maturity, and want to learn about how fragile life is and the importance of thinking before you act, READ THIS BOOK! I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book because at times it was disturbing and weighty, but I do appreciate how my perspective has changed.
Book review by Ethan Carter
How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents is the story of a Dominican family that immigrates to the U.S. in order to escape the secret police. The author tells the tale by discussing numerous occurrences during the daughters’ transition to the U.S that impacted their sense of heritage and self. The daughters Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia have distinct personalities, and they are reflected through the events the author chooses to retell about each one. Their parents are also a major influence on them, with the strict, traditional punishments from their father and the encouraging, yet uninformed support from their mother. Unfortunately, the disparity between their parenting styles often caused feud within the household.
The book is sectioned in chapters with one daughter at a time as the focus, but the sequence and timeline are both not uniform. The author’s purposeful disorder allows her to keep the readers’ involved in the book by telling seemingly unrelated stories and tying it all together at the end.
The first sentence of my review may have mislead readers to believe How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents was an eventful novel. On the contrary, this book is not something to pick up for an intriguing plotline or characters. Those who wish to put it nicely could refer to this as a “lighthearted, easy read”. However, in my opinion, reading page after page of uninteresting events in the characters’ lives is pretty hard.
I recommend this book to anyone who is open to simple writing styles and novels. Those who can stomach the boring plot enough to uncover the author’s central message may enjoy it, and might find some insight into the lives of immigrants in the U.S.
Book Review by Teja Mogasala
Most people would not look at a book whose cover features a word spelled out in lines of cocaine and think “hey, a poetry book!” I certainly didn't. Regardless, the cover is intriguing and jarring and makes a bold statement right off the bat, much like this book. It hooked me immediately, much like “The Monster” hooked Kristina. Based loosely off the real-life events of the author’s daughter, Crank instantly grabs the reader and doesn't let go until the very end.
Crank, like I assume many drug addictions do, starts off innocently enough. Kristina is a 15 year old girl visiting her dad in a small, dusty New Mexico town outside of Albuquerque. She resents her parents for their messy divorce and for forcing her to spend weeks holed up in her father’s disgusting bachelor pad. But given enough time to explore, Kristina discovers the darker side of her father’s life: a strong love of methamphetamines, also known as crank. A few nights at the sleazy bowling alley where her father works introduces Kristina herself to crank as well as a mysterious boy, Adam. Both addictions are the result of Kristina’s struggle with what seems to be Multiple Personality Disorder. While Kristina has her doubts and self-restraint, her alter ego Bree takes the lead when it comes to destructive decisions. Kristina heads home after a short while, but not without a newfound addiction. Back in her hometown of Reno, NV, Bree struggles to fuel her crank addiction and maintain Kristina’s straight-A student status. More boys enter the picture, bringing nothing but trouble. As the novel escalates and Kristina/Bree gets into more and more trouble, she is faced with harsher consequences as her life spirals out of control. In the end, she is faced with a difficult decision in a lose-lose situation.
Like I mentioned previously, Crank is written in free verse, a fluid poetry style that creates different emotions depending on the style of each page. The verse formatting meshes well with the story without distracting from the plot. This book may not seem very poetic at first glance, but Hopkins is a master of her craft and uses free verse to her advantage.
Crank is a strange book in that it’s very easy to read but also very difficult. It’s a quick book with few words that carry a fast-paced and exciting plot. However, the subject matter is very heavy, including drugs, rape, and teen pregnancy. This book is certainly not for the faint of heart. But those who are willing to read about Kristina’s difficult life will definitely get something out of this book. It’s been used across the nation to dissuade young readers from drug use. I can’t say I’ve ever had an interest in getting hooked on crystal meth before reading this book, but I certainly don’t have any interest after reading it.
Andrew Pospeshil is a Novi High School student involved in Robotics, Japanese club, and the school newspaper. He has a love of reading, but finds little time to sit down with a good book between his classes and extra-curriculars.
There is a line halfway through Jacqueline Woodson’s novel that perfectly encompasses the lesson learned, and reflected upon throughout her childhood. Little Jacqueline sits at her grandfather’s, or “Daddy’s”, feet while he explains the silent fight blacks had to endure during recent years. He explains the marches, boycotts, and silent acts of rebellion that people must be “ready to die for.” He looks down at his three grandkids, their eyes full of innocence, and says “Be ready to die… for everything you believe in.”
Woodson takes readers back in time to the 60’s and provides a firsthand view of a young black girl’s childhood during the fight for civil rights. She captures the days spent swinging under the hot summer sun in her South Carolina backyard, with blue ribbons tied to her braids whipping through the air; and the times spent gripping tightly to her mother’s hand as they walked to the back of an empty bus, where they were told they belong. It is an eye opening journey that is told through the fresh perspective of young Jacqueline trying to understand her friends, family, and place in this big world surrounding her through the will of her pen in hand.
Though Woodson captures her childhood beautifully, it can be quite confusing placing each of the many family members mentioned on the family tree correctly. This repeated confusion throughout the novel takes away from her overall purpose of her novel. Just like how words became scrambled in her five-year-old mind, her family and their purposes were confused in mine. Although, this may distract from Woodson's story, it does not detract from the learning experience that can be gained from reading this book.
By sharing sweet stories told from her happy summer days spent at her grandparents’ Carolina home, to the gloomy days of her preteen years in New York, Woodson forms a bond with readers that allows us to feel her happiest and most painful moments. Readers develop an empathetic understanding. The basic storyline of an African American’s struggling lifestyle in America during the 60s opens the eyes of those who have lived a more privileged lifestyle presently. Experiences such as murdered family members, being discriminated against in stores, and feeling fear as mama walks out the door to join the marches, is all eloquently captured in poetry format ironically reflecting her love of writing poetry as a child and longing to become an author. This novel opens a reader’s eyes to the day-to- day life of an African American in the south coping with turbulent times by following her dream as a writer. Kids to adults can all enjoy this novel and take valuable lessons from it.