Teen Mean Girl Drama And Wonderful Vengeance In New Teen Read, Winning!

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Alexandra is the worst stereotype of a popular girl.  Lara Deloza’s portrayal of a pageant winning beauty queen is wonderfully complex and engaging.  Alexandra is a shoe in for Homecoming Queen.  It is one of the steps in her plan to become miss Indiana and get out of her small town and have a life.  Her mother had the same plan but got knocked up with her so the pressure was passed onto Alexandra.  This story is told in varying view points.  Alexandra doesn’t care who she hurts on her way to get that crown.  Her best friend, Sam, has a crush on her.  Sam is not out and doesn’t want anyone to know.  A new girl named Erin moves to town and isn’t intimidated by Alexandra’s popularity status.  What’s more, this girl is actually nice and cute and students like her.  Alexandra has a fear that Erin knows more about her than she should.  When the nominations for Homecoming Queen come out, Erin and a girl very few people will associate with are on the list with enough votes to make Alexandra nervous.  The second girl’s name is Ivy and a while back she had an outburst and then disappeared.  People think she is a freak.  Alexandra decides to play a game of her own and “befriend” Ivy, making her over and bowing out of the race to make sure Ivy becomes queen and Erin’s chances at popularity are squashed.  But when you are mean to everyone at some point your enemies will rally against you.  Sam and Ivy are the other two view points in the book.  I like the theme that runs through the book that girls like Alexandra are not born that way.  They are made by not so great circumstances and often have something painful to hide behind their aggressive and manipulative ways.  Both Sam and Ivy evolve quite a bit through the book.  I thought the back story about why Sam is so devoted to Alexandra is interesting.  This book was a quick and enjoyable read.  Many teenage girls and adults who remember high school all too well will relate to these characters.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the friendship between Alexandra and Sam.  Are they truly friends in your opinion?  Talk about how their friendship began.

Discuss Ivy’s observation that Alexandra doesn’t have many friends.

Discuss Ivy’s comment about Alexandra wearing Matt “like a human accessory.”

Talk about dance proposals.  Would you want one or would it be embarrassing?

What do you think of pageants?

Discuss Alexandra’s relationship with her mother?  How did that create the person Alexandra is?

Discuss how Erin says “poor girl” and how that is learned behavior when she talks about Alexandra.

Discuss Ivy’s evolution in the book.  Also Sam’s.

Discuss what you think Alexandra’s next move could be?

 

Laurie Halse Anderson Tackles PTSD In New Gripping Read

The Impossible Knife of MemoryLaurie Halse Anderson is brilliant at taking on social issues.  The Impossible Knife Of Memory explores PTSD in veterans.  Hayley’s father, Andy, served in Iraq.  They have just moved to his home town to the house he grew up in so Hayley can go to high school.  She spent many years being “home-schooled” while her father drove a truck.  Hayley’s father is having a hard time adjusting to his home town.  His only friend might be a drug dealer.  Dealing with a new school situation is hard enough without worrying what her dad will do while she is at school.  She makes a friend quickly who lives down the street and remembers Hayley from a long time ago.  But Gracie has her own family issues to deal with.  Hayley divides people into two categories, freaks and zombies.  She meets Finn.  He is going to tutor her in math but he wants her to write articles for him for the school newspaper.  I love how their relationship builds throughout the story.  The first date is pretty fantastic!  Hayley’s relationship with her father and stepmother is painful and the climax of the story is intense.  As usual, Laurie Halse Anderson brings light to painful issues and tells a compelling story at the same time.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss what it would be like to be Hayley and go to school after spending the years on the road with her dad.

Discuss the moment where Hayley and Finn go to the quarry and she freaks him out.

Discuss freaks and zombies.

Discuss this passage, “Despite my best intentions,  I was beginning to understand how my dad saw the world.  The shadows haunting every living thing.” (pg. 193)

Discuss Gracie’s family life.  How is it better or worse than Hayley’s.

Discuss this passage where Hayley breaks up with Finn, “The bitch wanted to fight, wanted to scream.  She wanted someone else to get in the middle and give her an excuse to kick, to punch, and hurt.” (pg. 324)

Discuss Hayley not knowing The Rules. (pg. 146)

Talk about Hayley’s relationship with her step mom.

Discuss this passage, “Fear.  The fear made me angry and the anger made me afraid and I wasn’t sure who he was anymore.  Or who I was.” (pg. 115)

What do you think the future holds for Hayley and her dad?

 

2013 Printz Winner Takes On Somali Pirates In This Gripping New Teen Read In Hostage Three

Hostage Three

I so enjoyed Nick Lake’s In Darkness, I was thrilled to get a copy of Hostage Three from his publisher.  Hostage Three is an intense, fast moving story of Amy whose family’s yacht is taken by Somali pirates.  Amy is extremely wealthy but her life has not been easy.  Her brilliant but emotionally unstable mother is no longer with her and a new stepmother is on the scene.  We first meet Amy when she has a gun to her head.  The narrative then jumps to events before the yacht trip right before she takes her final exams, showing up to school with a face full of piercings and a cigarette to light up during the test.  She gets her kicked out on her last day.  Surprisingly her workaholic father decides to take a year off and sail around the world in a luxurious yacht called the Daisy Mae.  The voyage must pass near Yemen and Somalia, putting the passengers and crew at risk for pirates.  Although they take precautions, they are taken.  This is a terrifying and high intensity scene.  Amy befriends Farouz, the pirate who speaks English and acts as a translator.  As their friendship deepens the story of the pirates becomes less black and white and introduces us to why this way of life came to be.  This is a complicated love story and a story of loss as we learn more about Amy’s mother.   This book is full of well researched stories and the reader will learn a great deal about Somalia and the history of the pirates.  I enjoyed the stories from Somalia such as The Camel and the love story between Arabia and Africa that created Somali’s culture. I also enjoyed how music played a part in the friendship between Farouz and Amy. From the first page to the last, I didn’t want to put it down.  I even put off watching the mid season finale of The Walking Dead to finish it. I highly recommend this book.  It is one of my favorites from 2013.

Ideas for discussing with teens:

What would it be like to have wealth like Amy?  How does that help or hurt her?

Why do you think she got all of those piercings and messed up her exam at the last minute?

Talk about Amy’s feelings for Farouz.

Talk about the story of the camel tail in the sky.

Discuss the significance of Amy’s birthday cake.  Talk about what everyone went through to make it happen.  Why do you think it was that important.

Discuss Amy’s Before and After.

Discuss how Farouz became a pirate.  Do the ends justify the means?

Discuss Amy and Farouz’s love of music and their instruments.

Discuss when Amy’s mother said the turtle was telling her to hold on. (Page 156)

Discuss this passage, “I closed my eyes.  Dad was wrong and the stepmother was wrong:  I wasn’t self-destructive, and I didn’t have a death wish.  I knew it most fiercely in that moment – not because I wasn’t scared, but because I was excited.  I wanted to live.  I wanted to experience everything.”  (Page 254)

Discuss the end of the book when Amy says, “Mom and Farouz, they will be my hostages.  I will carry them round inside me, secretly, and never let them go, only ever keep them safe.” (Page 368)