Gorgeous visual storytelling in Holly Black’s dark and lovely tale!

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Hazel and her brother, Ben live in a small town where people believe in fairies because they are real.  The woods are host to the Alderking and his court.  In the forest sleeps a fairy prince with horns known as the “horned boy.”  For generations the people of Fairfold played and partied around his crystal coffin.  The people and “the folk” live side by side peacefully unless someone does something stupid.  Usually tourists fall prey when they go in search of fairies that are nothing like Tinker Bell.  The fairies are not to be taken lightly.  There are many rules and superstitions.  Ben has an enchanted talent after a fairy woman has a chance meeting with him and his mother.  As children, Ben and Hazel were hunters of the folk, taking down the fairies that harm humans.  Ben played music that mesmerized the folk while Hazel would strike them with a magical sword.  Their hunts stop when Ben struggles with the music, nearly getting Hazel killed.  The story beings with a party in the forest at the coffin of the horned boy.  Hazel is having friend problems because of the way she likes to kiss boys.  The story is told in current times as well as flashbacks as the horned boy wakes up.  Holly Black brilliantly intertwines the past and present together, giving the story interesting twists and turns which combine at the end for a satisfying conclusion.  I love her descriptions of the forest, the folk and especially Sorrow.  The story of how Sorrow came to be is fascinating as well as Hazel’s secret of what happens to her in the night.  Black creates two parallel worlds one of fantasy right along with reality in a way that makes the fantasy feel real. This book is hard to put down.

Some ideas for discussing with teens.

Discuss Hazel’s need to kiss the boys and how that impacted her friendship with Molly.

Discuss the fascination with the horned boy.  What would it be like to have that as part of your reality?  What kind of story would you make up about him?

Discuss Hazel and Ben’s quests when they were children.

Discuss Carter and Jack.  How is Jack different from them and how is he the same?

What do you think really happened between Ben and Kerem?  Did he bewitch him with music?

Discuss Ben’s decision about his hand and how that changed his life.

How did Ben and Hazel’s relationship change with their parents throughout the book?  How did you feel about them after Hazel’s memories returned?

Discuss superstition and how it plays into our lives and family culture.

Discuss Ben’s relationship with Severin.

Discuss how Sorrow came to be.  How did the events in the book change her.

What do you think will happen with Ben, Hazel and Severin?

A Special Needs Student Is Sexually Assaulted At A Football Game While Two Classmates Do Nothing To Stop It. This Is The Premise For One Of The Best Teen Reads Of 2015.

stepMy friend Sarah shared this book on Facebook.  The author one of her fellow Kenyon College grads.  Sarah’s picks are always great.  I was worried about reading this book.  I have a special needs daughter and the thought of her being assaulted is terrifying to me.  A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern is one of the best books of 2015.  It is told in alternating voices of two very different young women, Emily and Belinda.  Belinda is sexually assaulted at a football game.  Emily and football player, Lucas witness the attack and do nothing about it.  Emily is frightened and Lucas has his reasons.  Because they failed to act they are expected to serve community service hours at a class for the developmentally disabled on dating and boundaries.  What really happened and the events that led to it unfold throughout the story.  I love the way all three characters, Belinda, Emily and Lucas evolve throughout the story.  There is much more to Lucas then Emily realized.  The way their friendship developed was fascinating to me.  But my favorite part of this book was the voice of Belinda.  She is so honest and endearing.  Emily and Lucas become moved to help Belinda and students like her.  I found this story empowering and inspiring.  I enjoyed how Pride and Prejudice is weaved into the story.  The way the school acted with Belinda enraged me.  The teachers had the ability to create great opportunities for Belinda but chose not to.  I highly recommend this book to teens.  It would also work well in a classroom setting.  It has both male and female appeal.   It will be published on October 6, 2015.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Belinda and Emily and how are they different.  How are they the same?

Discuss Emily’s first impression of Lucas.  How does it change during the book?

Discuss how Emily and Lucas did nothing while Belinda was being attacked?  Why do you think they froze?  Why did Emily freeze the first time she saw wrongdoing during flag corp?

Discuss Emily’s friendship with Richard and what it means to be in the nerd herd.

Discuss how Emily’s relationship with Lucas throughout the book.

What made Chad so unappealing?

How did the class change Lucas and Emily?

Discuss Lucas’s relationship with Debbie?

Discuss this passage, “Suddenly Lucas will look ordinary to me again, like a regular person.  It’s almost like I need to get away from him to over inflate him again in my mind.”

Discuss how Pride and Prejudice compares to the relationships and boundaries class.

Discuss how Emily tries to convince the principal to create a peer program for special ed students at her school.  Is this something you would be willing to do?  Discuss this passage, “These aren’t students who need protection from the real world, they need experience in it.  Clubs and activities will offer them a chance to get that experience.”

Discuss “Choose carefully the people whose approval you seek.”