Want to Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman

I have to warn you about Sarah Darer Littman’s newest novel. Want to Go Private? will make you squirm.  It will make you uncomfortable and angry.  You will want to put the book down and you will pray that Sarah Darer Littman is exaggerating and that events like those in the book don’t happen.  But then I read articles like this, this, and this.  All were published in the past month and only scratch the surface of the Google news results for online predators.

I hated  Want to Go Private?.  Despised it.  I felt gross just reading it.  Yet I could not put it down.  Darer Littman has written an important and powerful book about the dangers of online predators and it should be required reading for parents and teachers.  Adults want to believe that teens are “too smart” to fall for predators in this age of internet safety assemblies, guidance counselor pamphlets, and  PSAs.  But this book is proof positive that even the smartest and best kids can be “groomed” and it’s important that we, the gatekeepers, make them aware of the dangers on the internet.  I blog, so obviously I am a huge proponent of the internet.  (That sounds silly- is anyone really anti-internet?).  I am a huge proponent of my students using the internet.  But kids need to be smart and they need to be aware of the dangers that can be out there online.  Just like we teach kids about stranger danger at the park and in parking lots, we need to constantly ensure that teens and tweens are aware of online stranger danger.

Abby is a smart kid.  She’s a straight A student and a rule-follower.  She’s starting her freshman year of high school and she is nervous.  Her best friend, Faith, seems to be making new friends and getting involved in extracurricular activities.  Abby is sort of floating along, wishing that things weren’t changing.  She may have hated some parts of middle school, but she did like the innocence of it.  High school seems so much more real to her.  When Luke befriends her on ChezTeen.com, a new website for teens (as Abby says, everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook, so the teens are constantly migrating), she is flattered.  She makes sure that she keeps it anonymous and casual, being smart about not sharing any identifying information about herself.   Luke is understanding, listens to her rants and complaints, always takes her side.  He’s perfect.

Abby and Luke grow closer as the school year moves forward.  He’s always there for her and she looks forward to coming home from school and talking to him.  When he shares that he is a little older than her, she isn’t worried.  It’s flattering that someone in his twenties is interested in her.  Plus, he doesn’t actually know her.  Things get more complicated when her grades start slipping and Luke asks if he can send her a cell phone, so they can talk without anyone knowing.  And when he asks her to meet him at a particularly vulnerable time in her life, Abby’s life changes forever.

As you read, you follow Abby’s thought process and as an adult, the grooming she undergoes is blatantly obvious.  But Abby is a teen and her arguments are logical in her own head.  I could hear some of my own teens making the same justifications.  But when Sarah Darer Littman switches from Abby’s perspective to those of her friends and family, the book becomes even deeper.  Abby’s decisions affect her family, her friends, her classmates, her teachers, and her town.  Her own life will never be the same after the decisions she makes.

Abby is an irritating character because the reader wants to shake her and say “You are being preyed upon!”.  But at the same time, she’s a believable teen.  Her actions and decisions make sense to her and the reader is supposed to be upset by them.  You will be on the edge of your seat for the entire book, despite the eerie feeling that you know exactly what is going to happen.

 

Sarah Darer Littman’s Want to Go Private? is in important book.  It’s intense and gripping, and a cautionary tale that parents and teens alike should read.  Highly recommended.  This is a book that you will want to read and discuss with your kids.

 

*review copy courtesy of the publisher

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

I read Ann Brashare’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely.  I also enjoyed that movies that were made afterwards.  Last month, I was surprised to learn that Ann Brashares had written a new Sisterhood novel, but that this one was aimed at the adult market.  I picked up a copy and added it to my vacation pile, knowing there was no way I could miss out on the end of the series.

Sisterhood Everlasting: A Novel (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) takes place ten years after the last book in the series.  Lena, Tibby, Bee, and Carmen have grown apart as their lives begin to move down different paths.  I’ve been invested in the Septembers since the beginning, feeling like I was growing up alongside them.  I think Brashares is a brave woman: many of the women who love Lena, Tibby, Bee, and Carmen are in their late twenties now so it makes sense that they would continue to connect with them as they close in on thirty years old.  But at the same time, there is no way an author will make everyone happy.  I struggle to summarize the plot of  Sisterhood Everlasting because I don’t want to give anything away.  Just know that the girls are adults now, so they are dealing with adult problems.  Life isn’t simple and there are no easy answers.  People grow and change, but the girls are the same at the core.  They still need each other, whether they admit it or not.

The girls are growing up and have grown apart.  While they consider the rest of the group to be their best friends, they aren’t in touch as often and life keeps getting in the way of planned reunions, emails, and phone calls.  All of the girls are relatable and true to the personalities they have had all along.  The stakes are higher in some ways, because they are adults now.  But does that mean they don’t need each other anymore?  This is the question they all struggle with as they grow up and grow older.  Brashares explores this in a real and heart-wrenching way.

If you’re a fan of the Sisterhood book, read Sisterhood Everlasting.  You owe it to yourself and the characters to see them through to the end.  It’s well worth the ride, despite the tears along the way.  I am so happy that Brashares made the decision to revisit the Septembers as adults and didn’t succumb to the inevitable pressure of the perfect “happily ever after”.  If you haven’t read the series yet, don’t pick this one up!  For one, I don’t think people who missed out on the series will be able to follow the Septembers through their adult lives.  Too many nods to their past and important events mean newcomers may be lost.  Plus, reading this book first will destroy the rest of the series for you.  Just trust me on that one!  You won’t be able to get through the first few books, because of the tears that will be falling.

Highly recommended for fans of Brashares’ earlier books.

Spring Break!

Finally. Finally. FINALLY!  Spring break is here!

The months between winter break and spring break were way too long this year.  Spring break at the end of April?  Sheesh.  This break is so desperately needed.  So excited to settle in for #bookaday, updating the blog, planning my week-long summer camp, and spending time with Dublin.  Hopefully, that means the blog will be updated a lot over the next few days.  But first- I am off to NYC and Broadway tomorrow!

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room: A Novel has been on my must-read list for a few months. I finally got a chance to sit down and read it over Christmas break and all I can say is, “WOW!” Highly, highly recommended for teens and adults.

Published for the adult market, Room: A Novel is a riveting novel. I was unable to put it down and read it straight through in a single sitting. The story is told by five year old Jack. Jack and his mother live in “Room”, and everything in his life is named by its common noun. So the bed is Bed, the chair is Chair, and so on. I feel like the less you know about the plot the more you will enjoy the book, so I am having a tough time deciding how much to say here. Just know that Jack is an extraordinary child in an extraordinary situation. Imagine a precocious, above-average child raised in the most bizarre and horrifying of situations. What is “normal”? Can the abnormal become the norm for those who do not have a choice?

Room: A Novel is an engrossing read and I recommend it highly. It’s not for middle grade readers, but teens and adults are missing out if they have not read it yet.

 

 

*purchased by me

#Bookaday Over Christmas Break

I am happy to report that I succeeded in my quest to read a #bookaday over winter break.  Expect reviews in the coming weeks (and months, for some of these ARCs!), but here is a list of  the books I read:
Here’s the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades, and Getting in Your GTL on the Jersey Shore by Mike Sorrentino and Chris Millis- Yes, seriously. Jersey Shore is my guilty pleasure and I got this book for Christmas.  It is hysterical!

Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking: Book Three by Patrick Ness- Fantastic! Fantastic! Fantastic!

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue- I actually made time to read an adult book, and it was well-worth it.

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant- I loved this take on the opera, Carmen.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver- You know I love a good dystopian, and this is the first in what promises to be a great series.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan- This was an ARC I received from the publisher, and it did not disappoint. It takes a look at fate, coincidence, love, abuse, and the power of a single person on another’s life.

Father of Lies by Ann Turner- A historical fiction about the Salem Witch Trials.

The New World by Patrick Ness- A novella prequel to the Chaos Walking trilogy. Just as fantastic as the rest of the series!

Bumped by Megan McCafferty- I love Megan McCafferty. Her Jessica Darling series is on my list of all-time favorites. Bumped is her first official foray into YA, and it’s a dystopian! Absolutely wonderful!

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante- My first 2011 debut! A great middle grade read.

And I am currently in the middle of reading Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Expect to hear lots more about this one!

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