Tag Archives: Young Adult

Book Review: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

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Rating: B-/ Before I read this book, I knew nothing about Yemen, not even where on the map it was, and I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what life was like there. I learned from Nujood Ali’s memoir that Yemen is a Middle Eastern country with the very traditional values that often come hand-in-hand with Islam. In Yemen young girls are often married off at an extremely young age, and that’s what happened to Nujood, when her parents fell upon hard times and her father sold her into marriage to a grown man in order to scrounge up enough money to live on. Continue reading Book Review: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

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Book Review: Monster by Walter Dean Myers

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Rating: B+/ I was reluctant to read this book because I was afraid it was going to be overly political. I don’t mind stories about racism and racial bias but it feels like that’s all people talk about these days and frankly, I needed a break from all that (I initially thought the same thing about the film Fruitvale Station, which turned out to be an exceptionally fair-minded and thought-provoking movie.) Monster is a very short novel and creatively utilizes a screenplay format, along with excerpts from the main character’s journal, to tell it’s story. Continue reading Book Review: Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Book Review: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

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Rating: B-/ The writing in Ruthless is good, not great, but the interesting backstories of the two main characters and breakneck pacing make it more than worthy of a reader’s time. The plot revolves around Ruth Carver, a seventeen-year-old rancher’s daughter who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Ruth is so hot-tempered that some of the girls who work for her father on the family farm call her ‘Ruthless,’ behind her back, of course. The conflict wastes no time whatsoever getting started, with Ruth waking up with a head wound in the back of a man’s pick-up truck. Continue reading Book Review: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

Book Review: The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier

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Rating: B/ The Rag and Bone Shop is unlike any young adult novel I’ve ever read. I knew that Cormier wrote some really dark books for teens that frequently courted controversy, and although The Chocolate War was his best known novel, this was the one that peaked my curiosity the most. This book is extremely short, probably about the length to read as a movie script, and a lot of it is set in one windowless room, chronicling the conversation between an interrogator and his twelve-year-old suspect. The tone is unrelentingly dark, with no moments of relief or humor to be found to upset the bleakness that exists throughout. Continue reading Book Review: The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Rating: A-/ I’ve been in a huge reading slump lately, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children helped me get out of that slump and back to reading on a semi-regular basis. I finished it in six days (quickly for me, considering what a slow reader I am) and I’m excited to get my hands on the next book in the series! The author’s idea to incorporate vintage photographs into his storyline was really cool, and the hours I spent reading the book just flew by. Continue reading Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

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“Marcelo in the Real World” is a novel that, like it’s sweet but often bewilderingly naive protagonist, took time to grow on me. It gets points for offering a unique perspective on Autism Spectrum Disorders and a fair and balanced portrayal of Christianity. Marcelo Sandoval, a quiet and innocent Mexican-American 18-year-old, seems to have an Asperger’s Syndrome like condition which, on top of typical AS symptoms, causes him to hear ‘mental music’ that no one else can. Doctors can’t figure out why this happens. and Marcelo is an enigma to friends and family.

All Marcelo wants to do is stay at Patterson, his school for kids with special needs, and take care of the Hafflinger ponies that reside there. His plan for a sheltered and uneventful summer takes a detour, however, when his father, Arturo insists he work at his law firm over vacation. Marcelo complies only after pressure and is send to Sandoval & Holmes legal firm, where he begins to come face to face with some very unpleasant realities for the first time. These include manipulative and hedonistic Wendell Holmes and his bullying father Stephen, Arturo’s partner in crime. But what rattles him most is a picture of a severely disfigured teen that leads him to bitter realities about his father, the firm, and the ‘real world’ his dad wants so desperately for him to join.

Consistent with most AS patients, Marcelo has a special interest- in this case, religion. He also has an annoying habit of referring to himself in the third person, i.e. ‘Marcelo is scared’ or ‘Marcelo is hungry,’ which got some getting used to. A lot of the book focuses on Marcelo’s relationship with his attractive and sturdy co-worker Jasmine. As his sweet genuineness and her strength brings them closer together, Marcelo wonders if he is capable of passionate, sensual love. The other parts of the book are a mix of coming-of-age, theology, and a little bit of legal thriller.

At first, I had trouble of conceiving of a creature like Marcelo existing. In today’s voyeuristic, media obsessed, sex-crazed world, Marcelo is a soft-spoken, childlike, pure, all-around good guy. Wendell, on the other hand, is not someone who you’d like to be on the receiving end of when he wants his way. I felt protective of Marcelo (why can’t he take care of the ponies over the summer anyway?) but was simultaneously annoyed by him. He really did not have a clue about human err. He grows a lot as a character throughout the book, however. Over the course of that crazy summer, he becomes a man.

I found a little bit of the dialogue distractingly over-the-top, particularly at the beginning. In fact, at many ways Marcelo seems like the least self-centered, blunt, ‘autistic’ person in the firm. Everyone says exactly what they want to say, everyone gripes and gossips. Maybe this is really how the world works, but it seemed wrong to me. Jasmine is a character who I liked a bit better over the course of the novel too. Wendell was the only lead character who stayed the same throughout the book. Frankly, he needed to be slapped.

Marcelo’s voice is well-researched and genuine. He doesn’t seem like an Autistic Spectrum stereotype or a “Rain Man”-type character at all. Author Francisco X. Stork doesn’t make Autism define Marcelo and doesn’t make him a number-droning zombie, incapable of human feeling. Marcelo is only mildly on the spectrum, but honestly, you fear for him a little while reading this book. He’s so easily beguiled and taken advantage of that I myself wouldn’t want him walking the streets of Boston, Massachusetts by himself. It’s not that he’s stupid or defective, but his seemingly boundless naivete makes him such an easy target.

This is young adult fiction but it’s written in a such a way that anyone can enjoy it, and it’s not bogged down with a lot of psychobabble about Asperger’s (“House Rules” by Jodi Picoult comes to mind in the psychobabble department.) “Mindblind” by Jennifer Roy (a book about a brilliant fourteen-year-old Aspergian) would make a good companion read with this. It is a touching coming-of-age story in the same league as books such as “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Witty and intelligent, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt trapped by their own isolation. It also has one of the most genuine teen voices I’ve ever seen. The protagonist. Charlie, is a good student but is never really noticed by his peers, and he lives inside of his head most of the time. Until the epic year that he meets Patrick and Sam, two free-spirited freshmen who encourage him put himself out there. Charlie promptly falls head-over-heels in love with Sam (a girl,) though she initially rebuffs him. The story is told from the point of view of a bunch of letters Charlie sends to a teenager he has never met. Charlie struggles with his psychological difficulties, dates. and comes to terms with a traumatic memory from his childhood he has repressed.

If that sounds boring to you and you would rather read a book with James Bond-style spy gear and car chases, maybe this isn’t the book for you. This is a book about life, teens, dating (but not that superficial teen stuff a lot of young adult books are about.) Charlie is a sensitive vulnerable kid, and doesn’t don the usual jaded teen voice that YA literature is rife with. He really wears his heart on his sleeve, and he is easy to love, although his naivete and immaturity can be troubling at times. The gay subplot between Patrick and a popular football player who won’t acknowledge him in school is sensitive and well-written.

I actually thought Patrick was a more vibrant character in the movie. I guess without Ezra Miller to play him, he falls a little flat. Also, some aspects were a little more fleshed out in the film. But there’s a on of great scenes and side-plots that weren’t in the movie. And actually, I liked and got to know Charlie a lot better in this. This book makes me a little melancholy (not in a bad way) because all the things Charlie is doing- getting out there, taking risks- are things I was told but never really did as a teen. I would have loved to have friends like Patrick and Sam. I would’ve loved to have one of those ‘infinite’ moments in a pick-up truck with the radio playing just the right song.

But overall. Charlie is not a character to envy. He’s just as messed up, confused, conflicted, etc. as any 15-year-old. He’s extremely bright and insightful, but sometimes those two things can be just as much a hindrance as a help, and he spends way too much time in his head. He is a very relatable character for me. Some people might not like the writing style, but I find that the somewhat juvenile way of telling the story helps it remain plausible. You really believe it could be being told by a 15-year-old.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is one of the better young adult books I’ve come across the last few years. Maybe this sounds corny, but it really restores my faith in the genre. Also, I added a wonderful sketch by a deviantart user. I’m going to add a link to the picture so you can visit her page.  I recommend both the book and the movie version to book and movie fans everywhere.