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

The Gift That Keeps on Giving #sas2011


Welcome to Friday’s edition of Share a Story, Shape a Future!  Today’s topic is The Gift That Keeps on Giving.

 

Literacy is a gift.  It can’t be wrapped, it doesn’t fit in a box, and it doesn’t look fancy.  But it’s the gift that fits every person, regardless of race, creed, sex, background.  Literacy is the gift that keeps on giving.  Here at Share a Story, Shape a Future, we want to make sure that every child is given this important gift.

As a teacher, I share the gift of literacy with my students every day, and it’s my favorite aspect of teaching.  As a high school teacher, I have a huge bookshelf in my room, and a rotating display of books on the edges of my whiteboards.  I also have a shelf in the front of my room devoted to new books and ARCs that I bring in.  Whenever I have time, I booktalk- whether to individuals, small groups, or the class as a whole. And this year I am trying something new- digital booktalks.  I have been posting book trailers on our class Edmodo page, and students reply to the entry if they are interested in the book.  It’s been a great way to booktalk even when I am unable to do so in class.  Plus, my kids are very tech-oriented so the trailers really meet them where they are.

There is no better feeling than seeing a child connect with a book for the first time.  Except maybe seeing them reconnect as a tween/teen.  Both moments are very special.  Recently, one of my seniors stopped me as she walked out of class on a Friday afternoon.  “Thank you for reminding me that I love to read”, she whispered as she handed back a stack of books she had borrowed over the course of the semester.  Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day beaming.

That was her gift to me. I think was the one who got the better end of the deal.  There is nothing like sharing reading and writing with kids.  Nothing like it in the world.

How can you give the gift that keeps giving?  It doesn’t take any life-changing ideas.  It just takes time.

Maybe you don’t enjoy reading fiction, but you start every morning with the newspaper.  Take a few minutes each morning and sit down together.  Point out articles your child will enjoy.  Fill out the crossword puzzle together.

Or maybe you love to end each night by journaling.  Children of any age can journal, too!

Love to read magazines? Get your child a magazine subscription.

The possibilities are endless.  But literacy truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  Below, a few authors share their own gifts.

***************

Writer’s With Stories to Tell

“One of the most exciting moments of my life as a parent was when my son Josh (my firstborn) learned to read, because I knew that a whole world was opening up for him. We’ve shared so many wonderful books over the years, but here I talk about one of the first books he read to me.”

 

 

 

Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman

I have to start this review by admitting my true shallow nature- I am a cover girl.  Yes, I judge many a book by its cover.  So when I opened an envelope from Scholastic and Sarah Darer Littman’s Life, After fell out, I was immediately smitten. Is this not the most beautiful cover you have ever seen? I wish I could hang a print of it on my wall!  Even better is the fact that the story between the covers lives up to the artwork.  This is a quiet story that left me thinking long after I read the last page.

Dani lives in Argentina with her mother, father, and younger sister.  Ever since a terrorist attack killed her pregnant aunt, life has been different.  Her father loses his business and he shuts down emotionally and mentally.  The national crisis has caused chaos and both Dani’s best friend and boyfriend have moved out of the country.  When it is time for Dani’s family to do the same, her life is turned upside down.  What is supposed to be a new beginning feels like the end when the family is stuck in a tiny, cramped apartment, Mom is working night and day, Dad has completely shut down, and your new school is the opposite of everything you thought it would be.  Dani misses her old life.  Her life before.  But as time goes on and she connects with what she assumes is the meanest girl at school, Dani realizes that life, after, might not be so bad after all.

Sarah Darer Littman packs a whole lot of power into one story.  Dani deals with terrorism, immigration, cliques, Asperger’s, depression, family, death, life, siblings, friendship, Judaism, Argentinian history and politics, and more.  It sounds impossible, but LIttman deals with each theme gracefully and beautifully.  One thing I really enjoyed about this book was that the background information was so unfamiliar to me.  Dani lives in Argentina during the present-day, but I know very little about Argentinian politics (outside of Eva Peron).  But I do know too much about 9/11 and Littman does a brilliant job of bringing both experiences together in a way that is accessible to young readers.

While I believe this is a book aimed at the YA crowd, I won’t hesitate to recommend it to my 6th graders.  It’s an outstanding book that is both heartwarming and touching, while also thought-provoking.  This is a dynamic novel that you have to wait to read as it isn’t available until July.  However, put this one on your must-read list because I think you will hear a lot about it in the coming months!

*ARC provided by publisher

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,858 other followers