This is a compelling and riveting YA novel set far in the future. A future in which all disease has been cured, and humans live forever. Except for a few, here and there, who are “gleaned” by a sanctioned group of Scythes who are able to permanently take the lives of people to control earth’s population.
Becoming a Scythe is an arduous process that is closely monitored and governed by a conclave of eternal Scythes who occasionally take on apprentices and welcome them into this elite group of killers.
Neither Citra nor Rowan wanted to become Scythes, but they find themselves as apprentices and then suddenly, pitted against each other in a contest that will prove fatal to one of them.
Shusterman envisions a plausible and complicated future and offers up lots of exciting adventure for his characters! This is a great read, and the first arc in a championed trilogy.
Title: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
Author: Ben Philippe
Date Read: August 19, 2019
Norris Caplan is the son of Haitian parents, living in Montreal and loving Canadian things like hockey, specifically the Montreal Canadiens. But now his parents are moving– his dad to Vancouver with his new wife and baby; and he, with his mother, for her new job in Austin, Texas.
Norris feels extremely out of place as a black French Canadian in the heartland of football and high school tropes straight from a teen movie. Spending most of his lunch hours alone, he walks the campus cataloguing the people he observes: jocks, cheerleaders, loners, and even his dream girl. He figures his notebook will be plenty of company until he can finally return to Canada where he belongs. Much to his surprise he actually makes friends, good ones. And he realizes he may have been rash and unfair in the judgements he scrawled in his notebook.
But what happens when someone else sees his notebook?
This book is witty, honest and fun to read. Phillipe’s use of the field guide format is a unique way to open his chapters, I got a kick out of it– I bet you will too!
We all play roles in our lives, and Mara plays many: she is a twin; a daughter; a girlfriend; a friend; a student; and an activist. Although all of these roles have independent names, her loyalties and decisions are blurred as these roles intersect and find themselves at terrible odds.
Mara and her fraternal twin, Owen, are close. Very close. They share stories of the stars from their rooftop together. But when her brother is accused of raping her friend Hannah, it tilts her whole world on an unsteady axis. As she navigates her way through her family loyalty it forces her to deal with the trauma of her own past.
“This. This is why I never said anything. Because no one ever believes the girl.”
(Ashley Herring Blake, Girl Made of Stars)
Herring Blake explores, with compassion, the complicated lives of teens– especially young female teens, as they navigate high school friendships, relationships (LGBTQ), misogyny, and the misuse of power. Mara is a fully developed character with whom we can see ourselves and for whom our heart aches as she tries to makes sense of how to just be with others as each of her roles morph.
One of my favourite passages is where Mara wonders at the types of things that could be inscribed as an epitaph to her as she tries to sort out who she is, and who she wants to be.
Mara McHale, Some type of girl
Maybe I’m the type of girl who likes short skirts.
Maybe I’m the type of girl who likes boys and girls and those who sometimes feel like both and neither.
Maybe I’m the type of girl who slaps a boy in the face when he does something shitty.
Maybe I’m the type of girl who hides and cries in her bed alone, remembering the terrifying day that took away all her control and trust.
Maybe I’m the type of girl who’s tired of hiding and crying alone.
Maybe I’m the type of girl who realizes she’s not alone.
Maybe I’m the type of girl whose favorite person in the world did something unforgivable.
Maybe I’m the type of girl who finally accepts it.
Maybe I’m nota stupid girl.
Maybe I’m just a girl, plain and simple and real.
(Herrington Blake, p.264-5)
We are all, all types of girls. Highly recommended reading! You will love the Girl Made of Stars.
Author: Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Date Read: August 2, 2019
I inhaled this one!!! It is a sensational YA novel adapted from the Broadway smash-hit. Beware: after reading you’ll want to book a trip to see it on the stage as well!
Evan’s chronic social anxiety leads his therapist to give him a unique homework assignment: write a daily uplifting letter to himself, promising that today’s going to be a great day.
Evan is lonely, he doesn’t fit in, and he begrudgingly completes his letters without much belief that they will ever really help him to cope with life in high school. When his letter falls into the wrong hands, Evan becomes embroiled in a lie that takes on a life of its own. For the first time in his life he is no longer invisible– he is a viral social media sensation and his life at school is remarkably changed as well. But it’s all a lie. And one lie leads to another.
Dear Evan Hansen explores life and how we choose to live it. Do choose to read this book– you will love Evan Hansen!
Laurie Halse Anderson is well-versed in writing compelling novels for Young Adults. Her best-known novel, Speak, became a finalist for the National Book Award and won Anderson honours for its portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl who becomes mute after a sexual assault.
Shout is an extension to her fiction, a poetic memoir written in free verse about her own life growing up as a teen, including details of her rape and the trauma she faced afterward. As she describes it, “The true story of a survivor who refused to be silenced.”
She writes about many pivotal moments throughout her life including how she came to love to read. This is a portion from the poem entitled, “lovebrarians”:
And so, with extra Leslie help and a chorus
of angels disguised as teachers and librarians
for years unstinting with love and hours
of practice, those ants finally marched
in straight lines for me
shaped words, danced sentences,
for a girl finally learning how to read
I unlocked the treasure chest
and swallowed the key.
(Halse Anderson, p.26)
She writes about high school with prickling insight. I particularly liked the metaphor of lockers as “steel soldiers lined against the wall.” It made me recount those long girds running through my own high school. I could hear the metallic slamming and smell the rotten bananas inside. She is more condemning in “gauntlet, thrown” when she writes: “My high school was designed by an incarceration/ specialist to make the herding, the feeding/ and the slaughter proceed as efficiently as possible/ that’s what we thought,/ anyway…” (p.77)
Halse Anderson does not withdraw behind words, she uses them skillfully and without censor. Her voice is unapologetic. You echo in her anger, her frustration, her pain. She says she was “indoctrinated by magazine covers” (29). She tells us that: “the taste of shame smells/ like stubborn vomit in your hair” (32). Her father was “… a shitty driver/ and the booze sure didn’t help.” (127). When working as a court reporter during a rape trial, she watched the victim being re-victimized by the lawyer and then, “I saw myself crawling over the seats, leaping/ throwing punches, busting knuckles, breaking/ a chair over his head, the sweet sound of his teeth/ skittering across the floor/ my pencil snapped” (155).
Twenty years post publishing Speak, Halse Anderson puts up a memoir that rants. Using poetry, every word clamours for our attention. In the age of #metoo, it is an important read. Young Adult readers will resonate with this story, and will, hopefully, find comfort in it– and may be freed of the nightmares to tell their own stories too.