I Liked The Across The Universe Sequel Even Better

Beth Revis picks up her space tale three months later where Across The Universe left off.  Orion is still frozen, Amy is still a freak and Elder is trying to figure out how to be a leader.  The drugs have worn off the population and the results are not good.  It is chaos aboard Godspeed and many question Elder’s ability to lead.  Many want to be back on the drugs because life is just too terrifying without them.  The characters have been established in the first book, so this story gets running with a fantastic mystery and is very plot driven.  Orion left clues for Amy.  Since she came from a planet he thinks she is the best to make a decision what to do next.  Godspeed is not in great shape.  Eldest kept a big secret from the rest of the crew and inhabitants.  Once Amy finds enough clues one of them will have to venture outside the ship to see what is right in front of them.  Amy is confused by her feelings for Elder as they grow more intense.  I felt this book flew by, it was so exciting and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.  I felt this was even more of a page turner than the first book, which was also awesome!  I am dying to read the conclusion to the trilogy, Shades of Earth, which will be published in January 2013.   Ugh!  I don’t want to wait a whole year!!  For a cool diagram of Godspeed, check out this link.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Amy doesn’t want to be with Elder just because they are the only two teens.  Discuss.  Why do you think people get together?   Should Amy & Elder be together?

Talk about what happens when the feeders are off the drugs.  Which was better and why?  Would you choose?

Discuss the differences between Elder and Orion.

If you had the choice to remain on the ship or go to a planet, which would you choose?

Why do you think Doc did what he did?

What do you expect they will find on the planet?

John Green’s Best Book Yet! Please Don’t Read This Post Until You’ve Read The Book

 John Green sums up my feelings about his new book, The Fault In Our Stars, in one of his quotes, ” Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all humans read the book.”  I am a huge fan of John Green.  I’ve loved all of his books for his brilliant writing, hilarious moments of humor, highly intelligent girl characters, and deep human connections.  This book is my new favorite.  16-year-old Hazel has cancer.  She’s had it for a long time and will for however much longer she will live.  She is sheltered.  She attends college classes with her oxygen tank in tow, but her main social interaction is her parents.  Her mother makes her attend a support group, one that is normally depressing and boring.  That is until one day when Isaac brings his friend Augustus.  Augustus is a cancer survivor.  He won’t stop staring at Hazel, which both thrills her and freaks her out at the same time.  You see… Augustus is gorgeous.  With Augustus, Hazel’s world expands as she explores a deep friendship and love.  I don’t want to say more than that.  Sometimes you just have to experience the book and anything I have to say about their beautiful relationship would not give it justice.  Hazel has a favorite book about a girl struggling with cancer.  The author never wrote a follow up and Hazel would love to know what happened to the characters.  When she has a chance to meet her favorite author, who is a bit of a recluse, it makes for an odd experience.  While reading that section I thought about the time I met John Green, who is one of my favorite authors.  He came to my library to talk to teens.  He was extraordinary with them.  Afterward staff had lunch with him and we had a wonderful talk.  He was just as personable and funny as he is on his you tube videos.  I made him a cake that looked like the cover of Looking For Alaska, which would seem weird for anyone who is not part of his fan community.  He told me the cake tasted awesome and seemed to really mean it.  So my experience meeting a noteworthy person I admire was the opposite of Hazel’s.  I felt fully immersed in reading this book.  The characters seemed so real to me and I felt great sadness when they were in pain and struggled.  Teens will love this book, but I am glad I read it as an adult.  When you are a parent and you read this you get another perspective.  Reading this book was a rich experience.  I worried about the characters in between my times to read and couldn’t wait to pick it back up.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Hazel says of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, “There are books which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”  Discuss.

Talk about Hazel and Augustus’s connection.  Have you ever had that kind of relationship with someone?  If not, what do you think it would be like?

Compare Augustus to other boys in YA novels you’ve read. 

Talk about the breakup between Isaac and his girlfriend, Monica.  Why would that happen?  Would you do the same thing?

Discuss when Hazel tells Isaac, “Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them.”

Discuss when Augustus says to Isaac, “That’s the thing about pain.  It demands to be felt.”

Talk about when Augustus and Hazel are in the Anne Frank House and they overhear Otto Frank say, “Most parents don’t know really their children.”

Discuss Hazel’s curiosity about Augustus’s late girlfriend.

Talk about when Hazel met Peter Van Houten.  What would it be like to meet someone you admire?  Do you think you would be disappointed?

Do you watch America’s Next Top Model?

Chilling, Disturbing And Brilliant Modern Day Retelling Of The Scarlet Letter

Every so often I come across a book that grips me so tightly that I don’t want it to end.  When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is extraordinary!  This is technically not a teen book; however it is an appropriate read for a more mature teen, especially one who has read The Scarlet Letter.  In fact, I highly recommend teaching them as a paired text.  This book explores faith, the dangers of mixing church and state, human rights, and love.  Hannah’s story begins as she wakes up from a procedure called chroming which changes her skin to bright red.  Criminals now become Chromes; you can see their crime by the color of their skin.  She must spend 30 days in a room of mirrors so she can contemplate her fate.  Her 30 day confinement is also broadcast as a type of reality show, a modern day stockade if you will.  Once she is released the color of her skin will make her a target for discrimination, violence and likely death before her sentence is up.  Her crime is the murder.  She had an abortion rather than bring shame on the father, a powerful and famous man.  Conservative Christian views are the law of this dystopian version of the United States.  Scorned by her mother,  Hannah can only go to a half way house of sorts where a minister and his wife will rehabilitate her.  From there her journey runs the gamut of sheer terror, unexpected kindness and self discovery.  My favorite moment in the book is Hannah’s encounter with Reverend Easter.  I found that section deeply moving.  This book is riveting and will keep the reading thinking long after the last page is finished.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Compare the Hester’s stockade of The Scarlet Letter to the reality show confinement of Hannah.

If that was a reality show they had access to, would they watch it?

Talk about how government changed once religion took a large role.  Discuss church and state.  How do they feel about separation of church and state or should they be together?

Do they feel chroming is a just punishment?

Talk about how Hannah protected her lover.  What would you have done?

Discuss this passage: “Punishment was meted out in other ways; in increments of solitude, monotony and, harshest of all, self-reflection, both figurative and literal.  She hadn’t yet seen the mirrors, but she could feel them shimmering at the edges of her awareness, waiting to show her what she’d become.”

Talk about her encounter with Reverend Easter. 

Discuss her last meeting with Aidan.  How do you feel about his announcement after they met?

Discuss the Novemberists?  Do you consider them terrorists or freedom fighters? 

What do you think will happen to Hannah now?