Eerie And Timely New Teen Read About A School Shooting

This Is Not a DrillJust a week after the horrifying events at Sandy Hook Elementary, This Is Not A Drill by Beck McDowell came into the library.  It was a chilling coincidence.  I showed it to my colleagues and we debated whether we even wanted to read it.  The pain of the recent events was still very raw but I felt someone should read it and so I checked it out.  It sat on my “book shelf of good intentions” for several weeks before I picked it up.  I am very glad that I did.  McDowell tells the story of two teens, Emery and Jake who volunteer to teach French to a class of first graders.  They are there when a father, who is a veteran of the Iraq War, comes in demanding to leave with his son.  He is in a custody battle with his wife.  The soldier is suffering from severe PTSD like so many of our brave men and women who come home.  The two teens try to take care of the children after something happens to the teacher.  I won’t give away what happens.  Just read it.  The story is told in alternating voices of Emery and Jake.  We learn that Emery and Jake were in a relationship that ended badly.  During this tragedy they also try to sort out their feelings for each other.  I read this in one day, I couldn’t put it down.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about how Emery’s mother is a helicopter parent.  Would you want your parent to be like that?  Why or why not?

If you were Cole would have you have admitted the drugs were yours?  Why do you think he did what he did?

Talk about security at school.  What kind of security do they have?  How does it make them feel?

What do they think of the new talk about having school staff carry guns during the school day?  What do they think about the gun control debate?

If you were Emery would you forgive Jake for what he did?

Did Emery’s friend Tab have a right to do what she did with the letter?  How would you feel if that happened to you.

Talk about the Iraq War and what the teens may know about PTSD.

Discuss the Dylan Thomas poem with the line, “After the first death, there is no other.”

Discuss the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Great New Teen Read About Obesity

SkinnyI have battled weight for the last decade and recently lost 55 pounds through a rather extreme program so  I was very curious about Skinny when it came into the library.  Ever is a 15-year-old who is obese at 302 pounds.  Her mother died when she was young and she filled the painful void with eating.  Her mother struggled with her weight before cancer took her and Ever inherited her mother’s challenges.  The part when she talked about how her mother makes everything better with food struck me hard.  I am that way and need to remember not to pass that habit onto my children.  Ever deals with bullying and cruel insults from her classmates, but the worst bully of all is the voice inside her.  Ever calls her “Skinny.”  Skinny is the voice that tells her she is no good and that no one will ever love her and everyone is laughing at her even if no one is.  Ever has an incredible singing voice that few people ever hear.  She would love to be part of the musical but her weight keeps her from doing anything.  Ever decides to have risky surgery to make her stomach smaller to lose weight.  As Ever shrinks in size she realizes her cruel passenger, Skinny, is harder to shake.  Ever learns about friendship and how she was the one who held herself back for so long.  The author, Donna Cooner underwent this same type of surgery.  This book is a very real, moving story of a teen who summons up the bravery to change and the true friend who helps her through it.  Cooner does not sugar coat how difficult this transition is for her character.  This book is much more than a weight loss book.  It shows how a person can change and the reward of taking such a leap.  I couldn’t put this down and I miss the characters now that the book is over.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about habits that can hurt us. Drugs, overeating… etc.

Talk about the friendship between her and Rat.

Talk about makeovers.  Have you ever had one?  What did it do for Ever?

Talk about the letter Ever’s father wrote to her.

Talk about exercise.  How did that change Ever?

Talk about the importance of playlists.  What songs would they put on their playlist?

Talk about how Ever’s mother made everything better with food.

Talk about how Ever’s relationship changed with Jackson throughout the years.  And with Rat.

Discuss Ever’s relationship with her stepsisters and stepmother.