Jay Asher’s Latest Novel Is Perfect For The Holiday Season

29093326I loved Jay Asher’s two previous books so I couldn’t wait to dig into his new novel, What Light.  One of the things I noticed right off the bat is that the story has an incredible sense of place.  I feel like I am at the gorgeous Christmas tree farm in Oregon and in her family’s trailer when they sell their trees during the holiday season in California.  Sierra has two lives in a sense.  She lives in Oregon on her parent’s Christmas tree farm.  Each year at Thanksgiving they move to California for the holiday season to sell their trees at the same lot her grandparents ran many years ago.  Sierra has a best friend in California she looks forward to seeing every year.  Heather decides that Sierra needs a winter romance, but Sierra wants no part of it until she sees Caleb.  Caleb has a dark past that has made him a bit of a pariah in his small town.  But Sierra knows there is more to his story and sees the sadness in his eyes.  At the same time Sierra’s parents are struggling with the economic challenges of opening the tree lot each year which would end their holiday tradition.  This is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness.  It gave me the warm fuzzies with its holiday atmosphere.  I highly recommend this one on your holiday reading list.  This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss how Sierra’s life is different in Oregon her time in California.

What makes Caleb more appealing to Sierra than Andrew?

Discuss what it would mean to have a vocation that you loved the way Sierra’s parents love their farm and seeing the customers faces as they pick out their favorite tree.

Discuss that moment where Caleb realizes Sierra has heard something about him.

Discuss how their relationship unfolds.  How did Sierra and Caleb change each other’s lives?

Discuss how rumors can affect someone’s life.

Discuss Caleb’s relationship with his former best friend and how his family acted around him.

What do you think is next for Caleb and Sierra?

 

 

Save Me, Kurt Cobain is one of my favorite reads this year.

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Nico lives with her dad and mom is missing.  She has a few memories but doesn’t understand why her mother would just leave her.  She comes up with the idea that her mother had an affair with Kurt Cobain and maybe he is her real father.  Nico searches for Kurt, convinced he is still alive and will lead her to her mother.  This book has such vibrant characters.  The cover jumped off the shelf for me and I was instantly hooked.  Just like I did as a teen, Nico uses music to escape and make her stronger.  I recently read The Carnival At Bray and Love Letters From The Dead which are teen books that feature the Nirvana front man.  It’s been quite a while since I was a teen but listening to the music always brings me back to senior year when Nevermind rocked my world.  But I digress, back to the book.  Nico dangerously follows a man she is convinced is Kurt Cobain hiding away from the world.  Nico discovers much about herself during this journey and learns what really happened all of those years ago.  Along with well developed characters, Manzer writes with a fantastic sense of place in Canada.  I highly recommend this book for both teens and adults who remember what it was like to be a teen.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Nico’s friendship with Obe.

Discuss how Nico guards her memories and does not want to hurt her brain so her memories of her mother won’t fade away.

Discuss how Nico uses music from Nirvana to deal with difficult moments like when the girls in the bathroom made fun of her.  How did the music make her stronger?

Have you ever used a Ouija Board?  What did you ask it?

Discuss when Nico says, “Nirvana’s music made me feel better even though it was dark.  I had never heard music before that sounded like I felt.”

Discuss when Nico says, “People were always hopeful that I was a normal girl, and I always let them down.”

Talk about Kurt Cobain’s journal and how it said, “If you read, you’ll judge” on the cover.

Discuss how Nico and Obe’s relationship changed.

Discuss this line, “There is a comfort in being sad.  But I am ready to give it up.”

 

New Riveting Read About Amish Teens Is Hard To Put Down

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Lucy is Mennonite in Pincecraft, Florida. While she and her father have electricity, he is very strict and she cannot use the computer or have a cell phone.  Her best friend, Alice is Old Order.  Every summer Alice comes down on the bus from the north for the season.  Alice’s culture is much more strict but she has something that Lucy does not, Rumspringa.  This is the time when Amish teens can try out life outside the Amish way.  This means drinking, wearing English style clothing and using electronics.  Alice is going through her Rumspringa so her new behavior is shocking to Lucy.  She gets Lucy to come to a party with her and her new boyfriend.  There Lucy meets Faron, an Old Order boy who has been shunned.  Their love story is an interesting one.  During the party Alice disappears.  Everyone Old Order and Mennonite blames Lucy. Lucy will won’t stop until she finds the truth about what happened to Alice.  Snowbirds is a riveting read.  It is a mystery, love story and a peek into several secretive cultures from Amish to LARPing.  The story twists and keeps readers engaged until the end.  Lucy is a strong female character who has dreams and isn’t afraid to seek out ways to make them come true.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss when Lucy says Faron is “like a book I want to keep reading.”

Discuss what it must be like to have your dreams go against your family’s plans for you or the beliefs you were raised with.

What do you think is the significance of the doves inside the sand dollars?

Discuss Rumspringa.  Why do you think you would do with Alice’s choice?

Discuss this passage as Lucy talks about her dad. “But he doesn’t understand why I need to study the ocean.  When I told him about the hole in the Gulf, he shrugged.  “Not my business,” he said.  He’s wrong.  It’s everybody’s business.”

Discuss the experience when Lucy sees how the community shuns Faron.

Discuss this passage, “The longer you hold a secret, the deeper it grows like the poison bleeding into the Gulf.  I know exactly how it feels.”

Discuss when Crystal says, “When I’m LARPing, I can be myself.  At school, everyone things I’m a freak.  But at the Games, we’re all freaks.”