The Sun Is Also A Star is my favorite read of 2016.

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Nicola Yoon creates a story that weaves together lives that collide by chance and shows how we are all interconnected.  The Sun Is Also A Star is one of my favorite reads in 2016.  It is written for teens but adults will love it too.  Daniel is the son of Korean immigrants.  He is on his way to an interview to get into what his mother calls “second best school” also known as Yale.  Natasha’s family is set to be deported that night to Jamaica.  Her father’s DUI made the family’s undocumented status known and Natasha is trying one last time to halt the deportation. Because a security guard takes too long getting Natasha through the line, she misses her last chance appointment but gets a shot with another attorney.  While killing time before her appointment, she collides with Daniel.  Daniel has been looking for signs ever since the subway driver evangelized to the passengers.  Did this happen for a reason?  Then he sees the dues ex machina jacket Natasha is wearing and follows her because he thinks this might be a sign.  The two meet and an adventure begins.  Is this by chance or destiny?  As the two get to know each other, Daniel explains that there is a science to falling in love.  He thinks he can make Natasha fall in love with him.  Natasha is a scientist and is skeptical.  The story unfolds into beautiful character development as we get to know these two exceptional characters.  It is told in point of view with many other perspectives from side characters and theories.  I couldn’t put it down and was deeply moved at the end.  I dare you not to cry during this one.  Good luck!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

How are these characters similar or different?

Discuss how we touch each others lives without knowing it.

Discuss when Natasha says: “Human beings are not reasonable creatures.  Instead of being ruled by logic, we are ruled by emotions.”

Discuss when Natasha observes Rob and Kelly and thinks, “He’s very persuasive, and she wants to be persuaded.”

Discuss when Daniel says that Natasha makes him think his life could be extraordinary.

What do you think about the science behind falling in love?

Read out loud the discussion about culture and what people think on pages 156 & 157.  Discuss.

Discuss Natasha’s thoughts about hair on page 130.

Discuss when Natasha says, “It is not up to you to help other people fit you into a box.” (pg. 158)

Discuss how the waitress  feels about culture and why she felt that Natasha should use the chopsticks.

Discuss their fight in the park.  (pgs 192-195)

Discuss when Daniel says, “We tell ourselves there are reasons for the things that happen, but we’re just telling ourselves stories.  We make them up.  They don’t mean anything.”

Discuss the ending and how the security guard fits into it.

 

 

Aristotle

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseI love books about smart well spoken teens.  Benjamin Alire Seanz’s characters Aristotle and Dante are deep and emotionally interesting characters.  The two meet at the pool when Dante offers to teach Aristotle to swim.  Neither one has any real friends.  Over the summer they grow into a deep friendship where they discuss matters of the universe and books.  Not your typical teenage boy dialogue.  The book explores male friendship in a meaningful way. It is only when they think they might lose each other that the author reveals how deep this friendship goes.  The boys both of emotional journeys that help define who they are and who they become.   I loved this book up until the end.  I felt the ending was too tidy and that Aristotle made this change a little too quickly.  The parents are very supportive in this book which is a nice change from many teen books I read.  This book definatly deserved the Printz Honor.  It is very well written and the story and characters are well developed.  If you want a thoughful book about two extraordinary characters, this book is for you.  It might have you question you own thoughts on secrets of the universe.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss, “Words were different when they lived inside you.” (pg 31)
Discuss, “Fifteen-year-olds don’t qualify as people.” (pg 8)
Do you think the world is a dark place? (pg 19)
Discuss this passage, “Through the telescope, the world was closer and larger than I ever imagined.  And it was all so beautiful and overwelming and – I don’t know – it made me aware that there was something inside of me that mattered.”
Why do you think Dante didn’t run when he was attacked?
What do you think Dante’s parents expected of Ari when they asked if he would always be his friend?
How do you think learning about his brother changed Ari?
How do you feel about the way their relationship evolved at the end?

Conclusion To Angel Fantasy Halo Series Takes Us To Heaven

Heaven (Halo, #3)

Bethany and Xavier get married, much to the chagrin of her siblings and a frightening group of rogue angels known as the Seven.  The priest pays his own price for performing the rite and we get a look at the grim reaper.  Just minutes into their union, the couple goes into hiding in a cabin in the woods.  When that idea fails Gabriel and Ivy create new identities for them and send them to Ole Miss to pose as brother and sister.  That creates all kinds of interesting challenges.  Her friend from Venus Cove, Molly, shows up with a scary new boyfriend who is a Christian extremist.  It is interesting how Gabriel deals with this strange cult.  Adornetto’s descriptions of the Seven are frightening with their hollow eyes and expressionless faces. The idea of rogue angels adds a little more drama to the story, especially in the slower parts.  Xavier, surprise, surprise is not entirely human.  Bethany ends up back in Heaven and separated from Xavier.  Time moves differently and she will do anything to get back.  But to return she must make the ultimate sacrifice.  This was a decent ending to the trilogy.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Xavier and Bethany go to Ole Miss.  What is your idea of a great college and would you want to go a school like Ole Miss?

If you were Bethany would you choose to stay in heaven or go back to earth?

Is it worth all the trouble for Bethany and Xavier to be together?

What do you think about the different take on the grim reaper?

Discuss the Sevens.

If you were Gabriel would you have made that sacrifice for Xavier?

What do you think drew Molly to Wade?  What would you do if that was your friend?

What did you think of Bethany’s roomate?  Would you want her to be your roomate?  What would the ideal college roommate be like?

Talk about what Xavier really is?

If you could be an angel what kind would you want to be?

How does the author’s version of heaven compare with your own?

More Than 260 Years After The Adoration Of Jenna Fox – Her Two Friends Wake Up!

The Fox Inheritance (Jenna Fox Chronicles, #2)

This is the story of Locke and Kara, the teen’s whose minds were scanned and preserved along with Jenna Fox’s.  This sequel takes place 260 years into the future.  Locke and Kara’s minds have been locked in a silent, dark prison for all that time.  Now they are awake, in new bodies created by a mad man.  The world is nothing like they remembered.  They are floor models for the scientist’s new wave of immortality for sale.  Locke has one thought, find Jenna.  The two escape with the help of a robot chauffeur and one of their caregivers on Dr. Gastbro’s estate.  Kara is not the same.  The time in the darkness has done something to her and Locke is not sure what she is capable of.  She wants revenge for all those years.  Why didn’t Jenna save them or destroy them?  Kara and Locke’s bio gel and abilities are even more advanced than Jenna’s.  When they find her, what will Kara do?  Will she be the same Jenna?  Will she even help them?  Mary E. Pearson creates a freighting future world where there are two United States without clear physical boundaries.  You belong to the country based on ideology.  Anyone who does not join a side is considered an outcast, a non-pact.  Roadways are inaccessible unless you have an I.D.    This book is also about friendship and how it lasts through the years.  Locke wants his friendship with Jenna back while Kara is full of hate.  His devotion to her is still as strong as it was centuries ago.   My favorite quote is “There are different kinds of friends you make in life.  Allys was very dear to me, more like family.  But there’s something different about someone who spreads their wings with you.”

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

If you had a choice, would you want to stay in your human body or a BioPerfect body?

Why do you think Jenna didn’t know about Kara and Locke?

Discuss the future reality of the book.  What do you like about the future?  What don’t you like?

Discuss the Bots.  Should they have rights?

Would you want to live as long as Jenna?

Talk about life on Gatsbro’s estate.  Why would they want to leave there?

Talk about the non-pacts.  Why do you think they wouldn’t choose a side? What would you do?

Would you want your mind preserved and wake up hundreds of years later?

Discuss this passage: “There are all kinds of friends you make in life.  Allys was very dear to me, more like family.  But there’s something different about someone who spreads their wings with you.” (pg. 241)

What do you think happened to Kara that made her the way she was?

Discuss “Change doesn’t happen overnight– it is molded by people who don’t give up.” (pg. 291)

Discuss “We held hands.  We crossed a line.  We made one another braver.” (pg. 194)

Across The Universe Lives Up To First Chapter Hype!

When the publishers made the first chapter of Across the Universe available as a teaser, I was drawn in.  When they said it was the best first chapter you’ll ever read, they were not kidding!  I waited impatiently for the book to come out.  I actually grabbed it off the shelf and shrieked, “Mine!” before I could stop myself.  The rest of the chapters have not disappointed!

Amy’s parents are important people who will be frozen for a 300 year journey to a new planet.  Amy wants to be with them, but is having second thoughts.  She has a boyfriend and a life and is not sure she wants to give that up.  She watches her parents go through the freezing process before she steps into the box herself.  The writing of the freezing process is terrifying and intense.  It reminded me about Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, where he writes the horrifying chapter where he explains the unwinding process.  Amy is awakened, prematurely by an unknown person who wants some of the frozen passengers dead.  Her red hair and pale skin stand out against the olive skinned, dark haired passengers who after generations of inbreeding look alike.  She navigates this strange space, dystopia with the help of Elder, the ship’s future leader.  There is something very wrong with the passengers of the ship, Godspeed.  It is almost like they are drugged.  Amy and Elder must try and learn the ship’s secrets before more people, like her parents, are unplugged and killed.

Beth Revis kept the mystery going throughout the story.  I wanted to know the ship’s secrets.  The ending made it seem like a sequel was coming, but it could stand on its own.  I thought the pacing was good.  It was bleak and creepy.  Dystopian fans will enjoy it!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Would you choose to stay on Earth or join your parents?

Would you be willing to be frozen?

What are you initial thoughts of Elder and Eldest?

Why would they keep the frozen passengers a secret from the rest of the people on the ship.

Discuss the three causes of discord.

Are lies necessary to save people from themselves?

What do you think will happen next as the passengers become more aware?

Was Orion right to do what he did?

Talk about Harley and his art.

 

 

New Fallen Angel Fantasy With Christian Flavor In Halo

Bethany and her brother, Gabriel (as in Archangel Gabriel) and sister, Ivy are on assignment to Earth to spread love and goodwill.  They must battle against the darker forces that are spreading hate, crime and misery.  An angel’s love is supposed to be for all humans, not just one.  So when Bethany falls in love with Xavier, she has a real problem.  She not only risks angering her brother and sister, who trust her, but God himself who is far less lenient with his angels as he is with humans.   Bethany is becoming very comfortable in her human skin, which separates her even more from Gabriel and Ivy, who long to return to Heaven.  Jake Thorn’s arrival at school makes things even more complicated.  He has the power to block Bethany’s healing powers.  He is starting to cause chaos and you can guess where he is from.

Readers who fell in love with Edward from Twilight will love Xavier too!  He is just as selfless, romantic and crush worthy as the him.  This good versus evil tale is filled with hope and optimism, unlike some of the other fallen angel romance you will find.  This one is much better written as well.  Bethany, Gabriel and Ivy are more angelic than tragic and beaten down.   I enjoyed this book much more than Lauren Kate’s Fallen and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush.  I feel very strongly for angel characters to have depth, there needs to be a religious tone and biblical perspective to the story.  The characters in Fallen and Hush Hush felt flat without them.  The cover is awesome!  There will be two more books in this series, Hades & Heaven

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Is having a boyfriend worth breaking your family’s rules?  Is it worth punishment?

What do you think makes Bethany more human than Gabriel and Ivy?

Why is Jake Thorn attractive to people?

If appropriate, discuss about what they think life after death means.  What do you think Heaven will look like?

Are characters like Xavier and Edward from Twilight realistic in their treatment of teenage girls?

Would you rather be like Bethany or Molly?

How do angels compare with vampires when it comes to supernatural romance?

Vampire Turns Human In Gripping New Teen Read

Lenah is a 600-year-old, vicious, blood thirsty vampire queen.  But unlike many vampire characters you may have read, she hates being a vampire and longs to be human again.  As the book begins, she is waking up after a ritual performed by her maker and lover, Rhode.  He makes a sacrifice to make her human.  He leaves behind only a pile of glittering dust.  Lenah is now 16 years old again and is a student at a prestigious boarding school.  Her time is limited because her dangerous coven of vampires will be hunting her down once they discover she is gone.  If they find out she is human, she is as good as dead.  Before the ritual, Lenah slept in the ground for 100 years.  The world has changed and she is baffled by computers, TVs and the strangeness of modern music.

It is refreshing for a character to want to change from the supernatural to human.  Twilight readers will enjoy this change.  There is plenty of romance as Lenah becomes involved with Justin.  And there are flashbacks of her relationship with Rhode.  The richness of the flashbacks to her life in an English castle are what I loved the most.  I really enjoyed this one!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

When so many characters in teen books want to become vampires why would one want to become human?  What would you choose?

Talk about Lenah’s friendship with Tony.  What drew them to each other?

What drew Justin and Lenah to each other?

Talk about how dancing in the club helped her embrace her humanity.

How is her type of vampire different than the others you’ve read?

Talk about how the vampires lose their sense of touch.  If they had to lose a sense, which would it be?

How is longing to be human different than longing to be a vampire?

Talk about the three girl clique.  Do you know any groups like them?

Talk about making sacrifices for the ones you love.  How much is too much?

Rhode says the intent of the sacrifice is the most important part.  Discuss.