Shine by Lauren Myracle

This book is important. It is a book that teens need to read. So do teachers, parents, administrators, and anyone else who works with teens. It’s not an easy book to read- not by any stretch. I found myself repulsed at times, horrified by the actions of some characters. Yet it’s realistic. There are adults who will hate this book, who will call it all sorts of names and demand that it be taken off the shelf. But we must not let that happen. Shine is too important, and I hope it is able to change the way teens think and act.

Cat is damaged. Something happened to her a few years ago, and she has buried the event. However, she knows the ugly is still there and it still changed her. After the incident, she pulled away from her friends and family. She is angry at her family for not protecting her and she hopes that by pulling away from her friends she can heal. Unfortunately, all she did was become a loner.

Now, how (former) best friend, Patrick, has been beaten almost-to-death, the victim of a hate crime. Cat knows that someone in their small town almost killed Patrick and she is determined to find out who it was. Patrick’s sexuality is no secret to the rest of the town, and there is very little acceptance for LGBT people. I hesitate to tell you anymore, but just know that you need to read this book.

Lauren Myracle has crafted a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, reality-checking book. It’s graphic. It’s horrifying. And yet- it’s real. Cat lives in a small town and the people she loves are small-minded. The regularly use derogatory terms around Patrick. Heck, even his friends mock him for being gay. But how many of our teens experience the same thing every day of their lives? How many teens laugh alongside their friends and don’t realize the damage they are doing?

One of my favorite characters in Shine is Robert, a supporting character’s tween brother. Myracle does a fantastic job showing the reader how kids and tweens learn to bully, how derogatory terms become a part of their vernacular even when they don’t fully understand the implications of those words. Then those kids grow up to be teenagers and adults who share their views with their own children. It’s a vicious cycle, and Myracle is trying to show teens that it needs to be stopped.

There will be some readers who are angry about the ending. Know right now that the issues at the heart of the book don’t get wrapped up in a nice little bow. But does life ever end that way? Myracle keeps this book realistic through and through. She is dedicated to changing the culture of hate that flows through so many cliques, high schools, and this country as a whole.

Shine is important. It begs to be shared with teens and to be discussed. I can’t see it being read aloud in school (language, drug references, etc), but high school literature circles and book clubs are the perfect playground for for this book. As teachers and librarians, we need to get books like Shine into the hands of our readers. They have the power to change the world and this book is one that might help get them started.

*ARC provided courtesy of the publisher

ALA Award Winners

On Monday I had the ALA Youth Media Awards Twitter account running in the background while eating lunch. I checked every few seconds while waiting for the awards to be announced.  Boy, was this a wildcard year for a few awards!  I was thrilled with some, surprised by others, and shocked by some more.  Here are the winners:

Newbery Medal-
Moon Over Manifest written by Clare Vanderpool- Well, I did not read this one before the announcement.  In fact, I did not even recognize the title!  However, upon coming home I did find a copy in my TBR pile. Needless to say, it has been moved to the top of the file!

Newbery Honor Books:

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm- My sister’s all-time favorite author. She was so excited when I called to tell her that Jennifer won another Newbery Honor.  Needless to say, my sister read “Turtle in Paradise” the day it was released and is anxiously awaiting Holm’s next book. :)  (read)

Heart of a Samurai written by Margi Preus

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night written by Joyce Sidman

One Crazy Summer written by Rita Williams-Garcia

Printz Award:
Ship Breaker written by Paolo Bacigalupi- I was actually in the middle of reading this one on Monday. So I am counting this as read!

Printz Honor Books:

Stolen by Lucy Christopher  (read)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (was on the TBR pile, reading now)

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Nothing by Janne Teller- Woohoo!  This was my pick and I am so glad that it got recognized. My favorite book of the year, without a doubt.

 

 
And I was beyond thrilled when After Ever After won the Schneider Middle Grade Award. I love love love this book and somehow managed to leave it off my “hopeful” list. Needless to say, I am thrilled it picked up a shiny sticker!

Alex Awards (Best Adult Books for Teens)
“The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel,” by Alden Bell,

“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel,” by Aimee Bender

“The House of Tomorrow,” by Peter Bognanni

“Room: A Novel,” by Emma Donoghue (read this one!)

“The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel,” by Helen Grant

“The Radleys,” by Matt Haig

“The Lock Artist,” by Steve Hamilton

“Girl in Translation,” by Jean Kwok

“Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard,” by Liz Murray

“The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To,” by DC Pierson

Looking forward to adding all of these to my library.

See all of the award winners here!

On a more personal note, I was checking Facebook and saw that a high school friend posted a link to the ALA Notable Recordings list. Imagine my surprise when I learned that The Flannery Brothers, he and his brother’s band, made the list!  How cool is that?!  So if you are a children’s librarian, make sure you get a copy of The New Explorers Club into circulation!

Finally, I am not happy to learn that the Today show did not invite the winners of the ALA Awards onto their show this year.  I love seeing the books and authors get more exposure and it’s always a great segment.  This year, they turned down ALA’s proposal and their literacy time was devoted to Snooki and her book instead.  Jersey Shore is a guilty pleasure of mine (I admit it…), but it should NOT be bumping actual authors promoting great children’s literature from major media promotion.  Ridiculous.

ALA Awards

 

Jan. 10, 7:45 a.m. PST

 

It’s almost Newbery and Printz Award time!  Be sure to follow the awards live online, via Twitter or Facebook.  I’m compiling my list of Newbery and Printz hopefuls and will post it later this weekend.  In the meantime, what do you hope will take home a shiny sticker on Monday?

 

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi is on the edge, toes already over and the rest of her ready to fall forward. Two years ago, her little brother Truman was killed. In the ensuing years, her family split up, her mother has slowly lost her mind, and Andi has blamed herself for her brother’s death. When her father, a Nobel-Prize-winning geneticist, makes a surprise visit on account of Andi’s failing grades, he discovers just how deep her mother has retreated into herself. He immediately gets her into a treatment center and takes Andi with him on his business trip to France. He hopes that in Paris she will be able to concentrate on her thesis, a graduation requirement.

Andi is miserable in Paris, medicating herself with her pills in increasing dosages. The only thing that keeps her tethered to the earth (barely) is music. When her father’s friend shows her an antique guitar case, she is drawn to it. When she discovers a secret compartment in the case, a dusty diary falls out. It is here that we are introduced to Alexandrine Paradis, companion to Louis Charles, the young dauphin who was imprisoned as a child, walled up alive. Andi begins reading the diary and feels a strong connection with Alexandrine and the young prince, who reminds her of her brother. What ensues is a story of pain, of loss, of love, and finally hope.

This book is absolutely unbelievable. First of all, what a fantastic way to introduce teens to the French Revolution. I was hooked from the moment I read the first words in Alexandrine’s diary. And Andi…oh my gosh. It was like I was standing there next to her. That is how real she felt to me. And honestly, all of the characters are compelling. I fell in love with them all, even if I wanted to hate some of them, too.

I am not sure how I can convince you to go out and read Revolution right now. If you love historical fiction, this is for you. If you love teen characters who are actually real teens, then you will love Revolution. If you just want to immerse yourself in some of the best writing of the year, go get Revolution. If you want to shut out the world for a while and forget about everything else, pick up Revolution. Jennifer Donnelly is a genius.  My fingers are crossed that this book is on the list of Printz winners come January.  It sure as hell deserves it.

And hey, I already have a few students gushing over this. Really! Gushing over a book about the French Revolution. As one of them updated on Goodreads recently, “Still reading. I can not put this book down!”.

*ARC from BEA

Nothing by Janne Teller

This year I will be reading Lord of the Flies with my seniors, so when I saw Janne Teller’s Nothing called a “Lord of the Flies for a new century”, I added it to my TBR pile. Last night I pulled it out after doing some planning and I read it straight through in one sitting. It is that good.

On the first day of 7th grade (Danish 7th grade, so closer to our 8th/9th grade), Pierre Anthon announces to his classmates that nothing matters and nothing has meaning. We all begin to die as soon as we are born, so there is no point to anything or everything, he says. He proceeds to climb a plum tree in his yard and verbally harass the rest of his class as they walk to and from school each day. While they try to ignore him, his words start to crack their insulated teenage world. As a group, they decide Pierre must be stopped. The solution, the conclude, is to prove that life does have meaning.

In order to prove meaning in life, the students begin collecting items that mean something to them. Each student demands a meaningful item from the next student in line. What starts out innocently enough quickly becomes more intense and eventually morbid. The students are falling down a slippery slope and falling out of control.

This is a haunting book. Philosophical, thought-provoking, and horrifying all at once, I read Nothing in one sitting. Not a word is wasted by Teller and I found myself gasping at points. She does not delve into explicit details, but in some ways her terse wording is even more horrifying. It is a perfect companion to Lord of the Flies and will be fantastic for class discussions. I’m considering it as a read aloud with my seniors.

While the characters are not particularly memorable individually, they are disturbing as a group. As the reader, we don’t need to know them as individuals. It is the mob mentality that drives the book and drives the action. The group is not even redeemable in my eyes, but I still could not put the book down. It is completely haunting. And while the students are 13/14 in the story, the book is more appropriate for older students and even adults.

I am shocked that I have not heard more about Nothing this year.  It is without a doubt one of the best books I have read this year.  It has classic written all over it.
*my own copy

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