New Spin on Werewolves and Interesting Story Telling in Liar

Micha is a liar!  She knows it, everyone knows it.  But this time she promises to tell the truth about what she is.  Maybe.  Justine Larbalestier writes her book in three seperate sections – “Telling The Truth”, “Telling The True Truth” & “The Actual Real Truth.”

Micha is a werewolve, but this is not your cute Twilight werewolve.  Micha shares with us the painful transition between girl and wolf and what causes her to change.  She refers to her secret as the family illness.  She was born covered with fur. The story begins with Micha’s after hours boyfriend, Zach is killed.  He is an after hours boyfriend because at school they don’t talk to each other and only meet up when no one else is around.  They both like to run.  Because of what she is, Micha is wicked fast.  The author peels away the layers of the lies until we finally get an idea of what happened to Zach.

I really like the way Larbalestier doesn’t suger coat the change from human to wolf.  It is extremely painful and the ritual her family puts her through is humiliating.  I enjoyed the three layers of storytelling and we get closer to the truth with each version of her story.  There is a part where we see being a wolf from her perspective and what she’s thinking as she advances on her prey.  It is very chilling.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

How does Micha differ from other werewolves you’ve read about?

Talk about lies.  Share stories about when you told one and how did it affect you.

Did you believe Micha’s lies at the beginning of the book?

Did you think she killed Zach?

Talk about Zach’s relationship with Micha.

Talk about the part near the end where Micha as a wolf stalks her prey.   Talk about the wolf perspective.

Micha feels like a freak.  Many people do.  Have you ever felt like a freak?

Interesting Teen Read About Death And What Comes After

Madison wants to be clear.  She is dead.  She is stuck in a dark place pulsing with energy.  The only things she sees are lost items from her life.  Each one takes her back to a moment when she was alive.  A lost orchid takes her back to getting to know Gabe, her boyfriend.  A rattle takes her back to when she was an infant.  Only when she revisits a hair clip she lost at a slumber party does she encounter another ghost.  As the girls play with a Oujia Board, Madison realizes she is not the only spirit watching this scene.  Using the board, the ghost reveals she’s Tammy and that she’s sorry Madison is dead.  Madison has no idea what happened to her, but she does not have any memories past the age 17.  Her lost physics homework takes her to Gabe, who she soon realizes is also dead.  Together they witness what ended Madison’s life.  Only then can they move onto the Everafter.

I really liked how the author uses lost items to connect Madison back to her life.  The nonlinear story telling keeps us guessing about what happened to Madison.  It also gives us glimpses about Madison as Huntley slowly builds her as a character.  I love it when a young adult writers use the classics as their muse.  Huntley shares the Emily Dickenson poem,  “My Life Closed Twice Before Its Close.”  Madison uses this poem to write an English paper, somehow forshadowing what is to come.

“My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,”   – Dickenson

Some Ideas For Discussion With Teens:

If appropriate, talk about how the teen’s beliefs about the afterlife differ from the author’s idea.  Or maybe they are the same.

Talk about the Emily Dickinson poem and about how that forshadows two deaths.  What could the third even be?

Why do you think the author chose lost things as a way to reconnect with life?

Which lost item affected you the most?

Think of a lost item from your own life that is significant.

Discuss the Ouiji Board and how the game is played. 

It took a while for the cause of Madison’s death to be revealed.  How did you think she died?  Did you expect what happened?

Christmas Romance With Cheerleaders and Tea Cup Pigs

Popular teen authors, John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle write three intertwined short stories about Christmas romances.  Maureen Johnson starts with “Jubilee Express.”  Jubilee (yes, that is her name) is heading to her grandparents after her parents are arrested on Christmas Eve for taking part in a riot at the Flobie Santa Village factory.  Jubilee is upset that she’s missing Christmas with her overachiever boyfriend, but even more upset that he doesn’t have time to listen to her troubles.  On the train, she meets Jed, who we’ll get to know better in the third story.  Jubilee’s train gets stuck during a snow storm, forcing her to schlep over to the Waffle Hut with 14 perky cheerleaders.  There she meets Stewart.  We also meet the interesting “tin foil guy” who makes other appearances as the next two stories unfold.

 In John Green’s Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, we find out how the guys at the Waffle Hut feel about being invaded by cheerleaders.  It’s a Christmas Miracle!!  Kuen phones friends, JP, Tobin and “The Duke” and tells them to get there, pronto and bring the game, Twister.   The story is filled with John’s signature hilariously witty friend banter.  There is also a great car race in the snow between the friends and two lopsided twins.  Tobin realizes he should have been thinking about the girl sitting next to him, instead of perky cheerleaders.

 In The Patron Saint Of Pigs, Addie is heartbroken because she ended things with her boyfriend, Jed.  (You’ll remember Jed from the train, he is also moping at the Waffle Hut in the 2nd story.) Addie is a bit of a drama queen, as her two friends subtly remind her.  Jed is not the boyfriend Addie wants him to be.  She would like him to be more romantic (Edward Cullen-like, I am assuming.)  After Addie’s huge mistake, Jed is supposed to meet her at Starbucks.  When he never shows, Addie suspects the worst.  Addie’s friend, Tegan has a pig obsession.  Enter the world’s cutest pig, a tiny tea cup pig named Gabriel and lewd boy named Charlie and a bus full of senior citizens and the cast of interesting characters grows even larger. 

 Some ideas for discussing with teens:

 Addie wants Jeb to change.  She doesn’t think he’s romantic enough.  Talk about how drama can get in the way of a good relationship.

 Why are the guys so obsessed with the cheerleaders?  Talk about how the cheerleaders pay attention to them at first and why the guys are disappointed later.

 Jubilee thinks she has a great relationship with her overachiever boyfriend.  Talk about how she may have lost herself along the way.

 What drew Jubilee & Stewart, Addie & Jed, Tobin and Angie to each other?

 Tobin and the Duke (Angie) are good friends.  The Duke likes Tobin, but he is afraid to ruin the friendship.  Talk about making that transition between friends and more than friends.