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?

 

Creepy, fun read with great teen LGBQ character.

22370796I loved Adam Selzer’s I Kissed A Zombie And I Liked It. So I was jazzed to get my hands on the ARC of his latest book, Just Kill Me.  Megan has an interesting job opportunity.  Her former babysitter, Cynthia and her boyfriend run a ghost tour company in Chicago.  Cynthia thinks Megan would be a natural.  Megan tries to hide it from her mom and quickly starts training.  To up their game, Cynthia decides to create ghosts of her own by murdering people on the sites of the tour.  This for some reason does not scare Megan away.  Selzer tells a great story.  Megan is a good female character and a good one for teens looking for great LGBQ characters.  Megan has an online relationship with a girl that won’t reveal what she looks like.  This can spark great discussions with teens on whether or not that is a good idea. Cynthia may have sinister plans for Megan as well.   I am not familiar with Chicago but I trust with an author like Selzer that it is authentic. The history and research makes the book even more interesting.  Selzer now has a Ghost Tours company in Chicago based on the book.  This is a fun read with a hint of creepy and fantastic characters.  Selzer knocks it out of the park again.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Do you believe in ghosts?

For teens that live in Chicago.  Do they ever go to these places?

What would you do if you caught on to Cynthia’s plan to make ghosts?

Discuss Megan’s online relationship.  Is this something you would do?  Why or why not?

Discuss what happens with the lady from the nursing home.  Was it mercy?

Discuss her interaction with the girl who may or may not be a ghost.

What do you think happened at the end when Cynthia wanted to make a stop on the way to see the girl?

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?