Friday, January 2, 2009
Books for older readers
Now let's look at some newer young adult books. Always curious to know when a book goes into the young adult category...
I have another couple of books by author, Joan Bauer, who I wrote about in an earlier blog. Neither of these books are new but are new to me. Rules of the Road is about a girl who works part time as a clerk in a a branch of Gladstone Shoe Stores while she goes to high school. She is invited, or almost ordered to drive the head of the company to an important corporate meeting in Texas. This involves a few stops at shoe stores along the way and a plot to keep control of the company away from Mrs. Gladstone's son. Jenna is a great character who can sell anything to anyone but has a few family difficulties(her dad is an alcholic as was Joan Bauer's) that she doesn't mind leaving behind but, of course, she gets more than what she bargained for on this road trip. Here's a link to a unit plan for this novel. This is also a sequel.
Another good book by Joan Bauer is Stand Tall. This time the hero, Tree, is really tall but no good at basketball and dealing with going between his mom's new condo and his old house where his dad is living still confused by why his wife has left him. Into this situation moves his grandfather who just has had part of his leg removed. His brothers are off at university and Tree has a lot to deal with. But of course, this is a coming of age novel, and Tree, with the help of a new friend, Sophie, finds how to "stand tall". Both of these novels would work well with grade eight and nine students.
Looking for something with a harder edge? Another author, new to me, is award winner, Paul Volponi. Paul Volponi is a white man but both these books have black heroes and his fiction come out of his experience as a teacher of incarcerated youth on Rikers' Island and in drug day treatment centres.
The first of his books that I read was Hurricane Song which is about a boy who has just moved to New Orleans from Chicago after his mother has remarried and life is crowded with his step-father and his family. Miles' dad is a jazz musician and this is the most important thing in his life while Miles' most important love his football. A broken down car forces Miles, his dad, and his uncle to seek refuge in the Superdome which as you may remember was most equivalent to a sentence in Hell. This well-paced novel takes you through the effects of the storm, and Miles emerges as his own person.
His new novel, Response is the story of how a black high school student and father is convinced by his friends to go to the neighboring "white" town to steal a Lexus. The Lexus isn't stolen but a brief conversation in a pizza joint leads to Noah being beaten up by a gang of white youth. When the case is called a racial incident and it goes to court, Noah's life gets complicated. A very good look at racial tensions and complications and how Noah grows up. Well done!
In a slightly different direction but still a coming of age novel is Jennifer Bradbury's Shift ury's about two friends, Chris and Win, who set off on a bicycle trip across the United States the summer between high school and university. Only problem is that Win disappears, and federal authorities think Chris knows where he is. Well paced story as the mystery is unraveled.
The next book is a real page turner and somehow rather relevant with our strange Vancouver weather currently. Winner of many prizes, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer is about what happens when a meteor hits the moon and knocks it closer in orbit to the earth. The book focuses on Miranda, a high school who lives with her divorced mom and her younger brother. Her older brother is initially away at university and her father and his new pregnant wife live some distance away but also figure in the book. This is a survival novel in the truest sense of the word. Lisa's family is safe in their own home but food is running out as is fuel and the winter is cold and long. You really are wondering if they will survive and if the world will survive. Pfeffer has also written another novel, The Dead and the Gone about a family in New York City surviving the same ecological disaster. In her blog, she says she is at work on a sequel to Life As We Knew It, and I, for one, want to read it. She is currently at work on a third novel which will link the two heroes of each story. Her blog on as she calls it,The World We Live In, is a fascinating way to see an author's thought processes.
This entry is becoming way too long and I can't stop sneezing so...