Thumped by Megan McCafferty

Last November, while at NCTE, I was ecstatic when I checked the program and realized I would have the opportunity to meet Megan McCafferty. I’ve been a huge fan ever since I read Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling, Book 1).  Jessica and I are kindred spirits.  I also read and reviewed Bumped when it was released. Megan doesn’t live to far from me but I’ve never been able to make it to any of her local signings.  Needless to say, I was very happy that I would get a chance to meet her, even if it was in Chicago instead of NJ!

I waited on the long line for Megan (one of the only lines I waited on at NCTE!) and I was looking forward to getting a copy of Bumped signed (which I reviewed here).  When I got closer to the table where they were selling the paperbacks, I almost fainted.  They had ARCs of Thumped on the table! Thumped was scheduled for an April release, so I was not expecting to see ARCs at NCTE, in November. My day was pretty much made. The only thing that made it better was getting my ARC signed by Megan, who was a complete sweetheart. She even recognized me from blogging and Twitter. :)

I read Thumped as soon as I got home because I had a waiting list for it. My colleague, who teaches Biology, had really enjoyed the first book in the series, so I wanted to pass it on to him. I read Thumped in one sitting and absolutely loved it.

Thumped is awesome.  Absolutely awesome.  I recommend the series to upper-YA readers and adults.  In a culture where millions of people watch sixteen-year old girls give birth and raise their babies on TV, McCafferty has crafted a speculative dystopian world that resembles our own a little too much.  You know the saying “too close for comfort”? That’s what McCafferty has crafted in these books.
Thumped picks up about eight months after the first volume left off. Harmony is back with her church family and Melody is the pregnant girl.  Think Beyonce’s pregnancy times a million.  Her every move is calculated and tracked by her fans.  Both girls are about to give birth, but it’s not as simple as it seems.  Before either girl gives birth, they are brought together once again and some tough decisions are made.  I can’t tell you much more because it will give it away.  Just know that this is a book you won’t be able to put down once you start it.

The best part of McCafferty’s writing in these books is the world building.  The slang she uses is intense but you quickly slip into the world she has created and the language becomes your language.   I know the word choice made it difficult for some readers to get through the first volume, but it’s really the best part of the book for me.

And you know what else I love?  The sarcasm in these books.  People, I am sarcastic. Seriously. All. the.time.  It’s a problem.  And I know that there were some people who took issue with the premise of these books and seemed to miss the whole point- it’s a satire.  But it’s the best kind of satire; the type that makes the reader really think.  You will close this book and you will wonder how we can ensure this doesn’t happen in our world.  I think teens will read this pair of books and think about the repercussions of having babies when they are still a child themselves. These aren’t books you can finish and file away in the back of your mind.  These books are intended to make you think and think you will!

Highly recommended for mature readers.  As with the first volume, I’d recommend reading it yourself before placing it in a classroom library, but I think it is a valuable addition to any library.  Definitely a high school book (and even college!), but I wouldn’t recommend it for middle school readers.

Dystopian Literature and Tweens

As teachers, it is difficult not to share our passions with our students.  Obviously, books and writing are a passion of mine (along with monarch butterflies).  However, my students know that all books are not created equal in my eyes.  No sirree- show me a dystopian novel and I’ll show you a book I can’t put down.  Needless to say, our unit surrounding The Giver is always one of my favorites.  Today my students wrote in-class short essays comparing the themes in The Giver to those in a dystopian short story.   (Old Glory by Bruce Coville, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., or All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury).  They chose one of our 5 essential questions to answer and had to use examples from both pieces of literature to back up their opinions.  I am so proud of the thinking and writing they did!

After they completed their work, I rewarded them by handing out a list of dystopian books.  Sort of “If you like The Giver, then you will love….”  I listed about 15 dystopian novels and they were thrilled.  I will share the list on the blog tomorrow, but for now I am looking for your suggestions.  My students exhausted my collection of dystopian novels, so I need more ideas!  What are some of your favorite dystopian tween or YA novels?

Gone by Michael Grant

How did this one slip under my radar for so long?!  

One minute, Sam is sitting in class zoning out like a normal teenager.  The next minute, his teacher and some of his classmates have disappeared.  Just POOF!  There one minute, gone the next.  Within minutes, Sam and his friends learn that everyone fifteen and older in Perdido Beach is gone, without a trace.  Reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, Gone is a fast-paced page-turner that you won’t want to put down.

What happened to all of the adults?  Cars are left running, stoves are still on, and young babies are left alone.  Could it have something to do with the nuclear power station in town? Nobody can figure out what is happening as panic starts to set in. Most of the kids begin to wander Perdido Beach, looking for someone to take charge; Sam is an obvious choice (he once saved a bus full of kids) but he doesn’t want to take the lead. He is afraid his strange “powers” may have started all of this and he doesn’t want anyone to find out. His friend, Astrid, is aware that her autistic brother, Little Pete, also has special powers, but she is reluctant to let anyone know.  But when the students from Coates Academy, the school on the outskirts of town for “troubled” kids, including Caine, their ringleader, come down to the town they set themselves up as the new rulers of the FAYZ, as they now call Perdido Beach.  

As Sam, Astrid, Little Pete, Quinn, and Edilio work together to survive they discover things are even weirder than they first thought- they discover they are living within a ten-mile radius around the nuclear power plant that is bounded by a barrier they cannot see any end to, see through, or even touch without harming themselves.  And that’s not strangest thing in the FAYZ.  There are talking coyotes, seagulls with talons, and flying snakes.  Not to mention the strange “powers” that more and more kids seem to be developing.

I couldn’t put this one down.  Thank goodness there is a sequel coming out this summer!  I can’t wait to find out how the kids continue to react and adapt in the FAYZ.  

 

Check out this awesome book trailer for Gone .

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a future world, North America as we know it has been destroyed and the continent is now divided into 12 regions. The capital of this new nation, Panem, is in the Rocky Mountains and the remaining districts (1-12) are spread in descending order throughout the continent. Katniss lives in District 12, the last district, in what we call as the Appalachian Mountains. The closer you are to the Capital, the better off your district is. District 12 is in charge of mining coal and as the last district they are exceedingly poor. Starvation is a way of life and ever since Katniss’ father died in a mining accident, she has been in charge of caring for her mother and 12 year old sister, Prim.

The capital is bent on reminding the districts who is boss and does this by withholding food, supplies, and other necessities. Their trump card is the annual Hunger Games, which are held to ensure that no district makes an attempt at a rebellion or uprising. The Hunger Games are a like a combination of American Idol and Survivor, with Roman gladiator games tossed into the mix. Each district is required to supply one male and one female child between the ages of 12 and 18 for the annual event. The competitors are chosen via a lottery system. Families can buy more food and supplies for the year if they purchase additional entries into the games. Thus, the poorer you are the more likely it is that you have dozens of entries in the mix. The entries compound each year, so there are children with dozens of entries in the mix. Those who are well-to-do have fewer entries, with some only responsible for one entry. (In other districts, wealthier ones, children are raised for the opportunity to participate in the Games. These “Careers” see the games as an honor).

Ever since her father’s death, Katniss has been forced to purchase extra entries to ensure the survival of her mother and Prim. This, coupled with her talent for illegal poaching/hunting, has allowed them to live as comfortably as possible. Each year she hopes and prays that she is not picked, as the entire nation watches the drawing live, either in person or on their television. This year is different, however, as Prim is old enough to be entered. Katniss has not allowed her to gain extra entries, so she has only her required entry into the games. When Prim’s name is drawn, Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place, an old custom that has not been called into action in District 12 in many years.

Katniss and Peeta, the two competitors chosen from District 12, are immediately swept into a whirlwind of events that eerily resemble our culture’s obsession with reality TV. They are whisked to the Capital, where they receive stylists, makeovers, interview coaching, and gourmet food and living accomodations. While Peeta and Katniss slowly become friends and come to terms with their fate, they also realize that in order for one of them to survive, they must kill the other. You see, the Hunger Games leave the 24 competitors in a secret location (desert, tundra, etc) and the competitors must fight to the death. While the entire nation watches live on TV. The sole survivor wins food and supplies for their district for the next year, and set themselves up for life.

I read this novel in less than a day. The action is non-stop and heartpounding at many points in the story. Katniss is a likable character: she isn’t perfect, she isn’t a moral compass, and sometimes you even want to hate her. However, the situation she is thrust into is eerily similar to the modern-day obsession with reality TV and you can’t help but wonder if this the frightening direction into which we are headed. Collins never mentions a year in the novel, so it could be tomorrow or a thousand years from today. That in itself will keep you engrossed in the novel. The story is violent and writhe with betrayals, but there is also kindness, love, and drama. This is one novel you will not be able to put down. This is the perfect start to what should amount to a fantastic trilogy.

*For anyone who enjoyed Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone, Collin’s Hunger Games should be a natural choice.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,589 other followers