Strong, Brilliant Book About A Hate Crime And True Friendship

Lauren Myracle’s Shine received plenty of press for its egregious snubbing by the National Book Award Committee. I thought this book was outstanding and hope it is remembered for being an important book for teens.  This book is about so many things:  a gay teen who wasn’t afraid to be himself, another teen who is so afraid of himself he does a terrible thing and a girl who shuts out the world.  Cat is a girl who would rather be alone.  She lets go of her friends and for most of the book we don’t understand why.  She lets go of her best friend, Patrick, who is an openly gay teenager and now feels guilty because he is the victim of a vicious hate crime.  Patrick is now in a coma. Local authorities can’t or won’t figure out who did it.  They assume it was someone from out of town.  But Cat thinks it is someone in her town who did this and she is determined to figure it out.  Shine is about that journey as she digs through things people in her town would rather leave undisturbed.  Readers watch Cat go through a transformation as well.  Her transformation is my favorite part of the book.  This is a good read for any teen, especially girls who are trying to figure out who they are.  Myracle does a great job developing her characters and I found I missed them long after the book was over.  This is one of my favorite reads this year.

Ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss this passage from page 15, “Life was fragile.  Things happened.  Things changed.  A girl full of light could get that light snuffed out, and when everything around her was dark, she could roll up into a ball and ignore the whole world, starting with her best friend.”

Talk about what happened with the college boy in the library.  What would you have done?

Discuss this passage from page 96, “I was proud of myself for taking action at all.  I didn’t hide or run away for pretend the ugliness didn’t happen.  I stood up and said something that was true.  I said it out loud, and by doing so, I was standing up for lots of people, not just me.”

Discuss Christian’s friendship with Tommy.  Why do you think he was still friends with him after what he did to Cat?

What do you think will happen with Cat and Patrick?

Did you have any theories about who attacked Patrick?

Talk about Cat’s transformation throughout the book and what it means to shine.

Do you feel you shine?  Why or why not?

Talk about what friendship means.

Discuss the moment when Cat realized her brother did save her in his own way.

Discuss this passage, “I was possibly in love with Jason, just a little.  Not in love in love.  It was too soon for that.  But ready to be in love with everything again, or everything good anyway.”

Francesca Lia Block Gives Us Beautiful Weetzie Bat Prequel! I Loved It!

I adore anything written by Francesca Lia Block, especially Weetzie’s lyrical world of art, magic and love.  It was interesting to see Weetzie before she became a confident woman.  In Pink Smog, she is a insecure 13-year-old named Louise whose father just left and her mother has a serious drinking problem.  She is bullied by mean girls and her best friends have moved away.  A mysterious family lives in her apartment complex.  The boy is like an angel who saves Weetzie and claims to know her dad.  The boy’s sister on the other hand is more of a demon with powers of voodoo with her creepy Barbie dolls.  What does this family have to do with her dad’s abandonment and who is leaving her cryptic notes that lead her to her favorite places in L.A.?  Again Block shares her love of Los Angeles and makes you feel like you are there.  I get lost in the author’s mixture of words, magic and setting.  One of my favorite moments is when Louise befriends other outcasts and creates her own group of true friends.  Block does a beautiful job of sharing Weetzie’s insecure, scared side and shows us what Louise went through to become the strong character I love.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Compare 13-year-old Louise Bat with her older more magical character, Weetzie.  If they are not familiar with the books, have them take turns reading out loud the blurb in the back.

Discuss “the magic of forgetting.”

Discuss “The senses can give you magical gifts, no matter what else is happening.  Especially if you know how to use them selectively.”

Discuss the spell Anna put on her brother and Casey.  Have you ever wanted to do something like that to someone?  What would you have them do?

Talk about how Weetsie made her own group with Lily and Bobby.

How do mean girls bring other groups of people together?

How do our experiences as teens shape who we are as adults?

What If Jane Eyre Fell In Love With A Rock Star?

19-year-old Jane’s parents are dead after a car crash.  She has to drop out of school and take a nanny job to survive.  The agency places her with rock star, Nico Rathburn, because she cares little for pop culture.  Jane becomes caregiver to his daughter, Maddy.  Nico seems puzzled by Jane’s simplicity and non-groupie behavior.  Jane really doesn’t know what to think of Nico. If you know the story of Jane Eyre than you will not be surprised by the rest of the plot.  April Lindner follows Charlotte Bronte’s story pretty faithfully.  Settings are one of the things I love most about books and I was pulled right in.  I love how the author describes the Thornfield Park, the beautiful grounds and the barn where Nico’s band rehearsed. I very much enjoyed this book.  But mostly it was because of the mood and feeling I had while reading it.  I felt like I was at Thornfield Park in the beautiful fields feeling all the same feelings as Jane.  I got lost in her world.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Would you want to be a nanny for a celebrity?  If so, which one?

Does Nico remind you of any rock stars you like?

Discuss how Jane is not into popular culture.  What do you think that would be like?

Compare Jane Moore with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Why do you think Nico is drawn to Jane?

Discuss the tenderness between Nico and Bibi, even though she repeatedly tries to kill him.

Discuss now Nico wants to dress Jane up.  Talk about her reaction to that.

When Jane finds out about Bibi, she runs.  What would you have done?

Talk about how Nico changed after his injury.

Nico and Jane talked about getting married shortly after becoming a couple.  Talk about celebrity marriages that happen quickly and end quickly.  Why do you think this happens?

Talk about Jane’s relationship with River.  How would that relationship differ from the one with Nico?

Talk about Jane’s relationship with her mother and how she compared her to her sister Jenna.