Matched by Ally Condie

Bibliographic Information: Condie, A. (2010). Matched. New York, NY: Penguin.  ISBN: 0525423648.  384 pages.

Plot Summary: Cassia lives in a “Society” where everything is decided for her and the rest of the members by Society Officials.  From her meals to her wardrobe, everything is predetermined, thus lessening the potential “stress” decision-making might cause Society members.  When Cassia was young she did not think much of the lack of self-determination in her life.  Now, she is 17, of age to be given her “match,” her ideal life mate that Society Officials will choose for her, as determined by algorithms and scientific data.  At the match ceremony Cassia is happy to be matched with her close childhood friend, Xander.  Their match is an unusual one, as the scientific method of determining matches makes it statistically unlikely that both people in a match will be chosen from the same Borough, but Cassia and Xander are that exception, and they are both pleased.  They are each given a “match microchip” to view on their “ports” once they return home.  Match microchips contain information about your match, so you can get to know your match better.  Even though they have known each other for years, Cassia puts the microchip into her home’s port.  And then something unpredictable, irregular, and seemingly erroneous happens, which, in a society built on predictability, regularity, and precision, stuns Cassia.  While watching the match microchip about Xander, a face other than Xander’s flashes on the screen.  And she knows who it is: Ky Markham, a boy who cannot be matched with anyone, because he has been classified an “aberration” by the Society because of some unsanctioned actions that his father took.  And Cassia knows Xander is the match for her, or is he?  Ever since his face appeared on the screen, Cassia cannot stop thinking about Ky, and the Society Officials are trying desperately to recover from this error.

Critical Evaluation: As far as Dystopian novels go, Matched is a great one.  Condie weaves intricate details of a freedomless, future society with the authentic thoughts and feelings of a 17-year-old girl.  Matched is its own novel, with nods to the dystopian novels, particularly The Giver and The Hunger Games, who have come before it.  The voice of Cassia is strong and clear as she struggles with her feelings, her obligations, and her new found perspective on the society she has lived in and followed the rules for all of her life.  The reach of the Society’s control is demonstrated again and again, by small events in addition to the larger ones.  For example, Cassia receives an artifact from her grandfather for her matching ceremony.  Artifacts have mostly been disposed of, as they are considered unnecessary, but her grandfather has held on to this one, a metal compact, from Cassia’s grandmother.  In a tiny, unnoticeable compartment Cassia finds a small slip of paper with a bit of a poem written on it.  Most poetry has been eliminated from Cassia’s society, except for a few works that have been archived.  This bit of a poem was on an older type of paper, and Cassia was fairly sure that if she put the paper in the incinerator at her home, Society Officials would be able to determine that a foreign, even forbidden, object had been incinerated.  She could get her whole family in trouble for burning a wisp of paper, so she finds another way.  And this way of thinking, this trying to outsmart Society Officials, continues as Cassia starts to see her way of life differently.  This book is accessible for teens of all ages and its message leaves much to be discussed and considered.

Matched was favorably reviewed and received several awards and honors.  Matched is a New York Times Best Seller, was named number six on YALSA’s 2011 Teen’s Choice Top Ten, was on the 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Readers and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers lists, and was on Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010 list as well.

Reader’s Annotation: Cassia lives in a “Society” where everything is determined for her and the rest of the members of the Society.  So, when something unplanned happens, when there is a glitch, Cassia is stunned out of her rule following and starts looking for the truth.

Information about the Author: Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who keeps her license current, as she says, “just in case,” (Condie, 2011).  She lives outside of Salt Lake City, UT with her husband and three sons.

Matched is the first book in a trilogy, something I did not know until I was doing research for this blog post.  The second book of the trilogy is Crossed, which was released November, 1, 2011, and the third, and final, book of the trilogy is scheduled to be released in November 2012.

Genre: Science Fiction

Subgenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Dystopia

Topics Covered: Freedom, Choice, Love, Conformity

Curriculum Ties: Social Science, Political Science

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Would you choose to be matched or to be a single?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 18

Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book.  Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.

Why is this book included? I found out about this book from a classmate in this course, I was excited to read it because it was fairly current, and I had not heard of it before.

References

Condie, A. (2011). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.allysoncondie.com/bio/


Teen Ink

Bibliographic Information: Teen Ink (magazine). Newton, MA: The Young Authors Foundation, Inc.

Plot/Content Summary: Teen Ink is a magazine that does not employ writers, reporters, or artists.   The content of the magazine is entirely made up of submissions from teens from all over the country.  Topics covered are diverse, from health issues to discrimination, teen activism to sports.  Teens write fiction and non-fiction and provide paintings, photographs and other forms of artwork for the magazine.  Each monthly issue contains articles written around specific themes, in the December 2011, issue the themes were “Celebrating the Season” and “Sibling Stories.”  The magazine is organized with the following “sections:” Art Gallery, College Directory, College Reviews, Community Service, Environment, Feedback, Fiction, Health, Heroes, Nonfiction, Points of View, Poetry, Pride & Prejudice, Reviews: Book, Reviews: Movie, Reviews: Music, Reviews: Video Games, Sports and Travel & Culture.  The wide range of topics covered provides a place for teens with varying interests to enjoy both reading as well as contributing to Teen Ink.

Critical Evaluation: Teen Ink is packed full with interesting and high quality writing and artwork.  The honest, authentic teen voices that can be found throughout the pages of the magazine lend it depth and significance.  The teen contributors to Teen Ink, both young women and young men, are creative and intelligent, interesting and interested.  Teen Ink provides an opportunity for teens to become published writers and artists, “Hundreds of thousands of students have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 45,000 teens since 1989,” (Teen Ink: About Us, n.d.).  Teen Ink empowers and engages, it provides an important forum for teens to exchange ideas and discuss issues important to them.  It is by teens and for teens making it a great resource for information and inspiration.  The magazine is used in English, creative writing, and journalism classrooms across the country.  Several books have been published by the Teen Ink organization, they are entitled Teen Ink and contain themed collections of essays gathered from the magazine.  The Teen Ink website contains content from the magazine as well as content unique to the web and is an additional place for teens to engage and exchange thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Genre/Format: Print and Online Magazine

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 -18

Challenge Issues: There are many real issues that young adults deal with covered in this magazine, so there might be a challenge to some of the content.  However, this magazine has been praised by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Teacher Magazine and many more.  In response to challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.

Why is this magazine included? Teen Ink is the perfect magazine for older teens of both genders to include in a library collection.  I found it when I was in search of interesting and independent teen magazines that do not simply repeat the same beauty tips and celebrity gossip as many magazines on the market.


Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia a Project of Planned Parenthood of Toronto

Bibliographic Information: Planned Parenthood of Toronto. (2004). Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.  ISBN: 1896764878.  197 pages.

Plot/Content Summary:

We all need a space to tell our stories, to be heard.  So for me being able to tell this story is an important act of resistance.  I tell my story often and loudly.  I tell it to break the silence, to educate, to inspire.  I tell my story in the hope that someone who hears me might think about the revolutionary potential of simply loving themselves and sharing their stories.

 ayden isak hoffman-scheim

Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia, pg. 51

Hear Me Out is a book of stories, teen stories, true stories by teens about themselves.  These teens are volunteers with Toronto’s Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia (T.E.A.C.H.), “a peer-based program run by Planned Parenthood of Toronto to educate and change negative attitudes about gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, transsexual, and transgendered [GLBTT] people.”  These teens are brave, they’ve been through a lot, and they are here to tell their stories, to educate and inform, and, perhaps most importantly, to make sure other GLBTT young people know that they are not alone.  Each chapter is written by one young person, the chapters range from coming out stories to stories about homophobic violence and bullying to stories of first love and family acceptance.  Issues of culture and race are woven throughout the book, as the teen voices come from diverse backgrounds.  Through it all, the wise, honest – and brave – voices of teens come through loud and clear.

Critical Evaluation: This book is important, as it addresses serious subjects from the perspective of the teens experiencing what is being discussed.  Hearing from the teens themselves makes this book powerful and moving as well as telling and illuminating.  One only has to read the first page to realize that reading Hear Me Out is going to be a different experience than reading any other book.  It is honest, authentic, and interesting.  Even people in GLBTT communities will learn from the diversity of experiences and voices, and people outside the community will get a glimpse into what life is like for the young people in the book, and possibly other GLBTT youth that readers may know.  Many of the teens also speak specifically about the T.E.A.C.H. program, which could be useful for those interested in starting a similar organization.  The back of the book includes a brief glossary and section of short biographies of each of the 19 teen contributors.

Reader’s Annotation: Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and transgendered teens tell their stories in their own words of what life is like for them.  Their stories describe adversity and struggle as well as achievement and triumph.

Information about the Author: n/a

Genre: Non-Fiction

Category: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Transgendered youth

Topics Covered: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transsexual, Homophobia, Racism, Bullying, Violence, Family, Friends, Identity, Coming Out

Curriculum Ties: Gender and Sexuality

Booktalking Ideas: Read a piece from any of the essays, like the quote included above in the “Content” section.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12 -19

Challenge Issues: This book is all about GLBTT youth and sends a message of the importance of acceptance, so it could very well be challenged.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, including reviews by VOYA and Booklist.

Why is this book included? Initially found in the YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006 list, under the GLBTQ heading, this book is included because young adult collections should address the needs and issues of the diverse communities they serve.

References:

Planned Parenthood of Toronto. (2004). Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.


Precious directed by Lee Daniels

Bibliographic Information: Daniels, L. (director). 2009. Precious, Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (DVD). Santa Monica, CA: Lionsgate.  ASIN: B002VECM4A.  110 minutes, Movie Rating: R.

Plot Summary: Clarisse “Precious” Jones is sixteen, pregnant, illiterate and living a life of unimaginable horror and suffering.  The physical and emotional abuse, that Precious endures at the hands of her mother is so brutally and meanly inflicted, that most viewers will wonder how a person could be so incredibly cruel.  Precious lives with her mother. Her father only appears every so often, and his visits resulted in the rape and impregnation of his daughter Precious.  The depths of abuse and cruelty leveled at  Precious might make another person crumble, but she pushes forward. She keeps trying to make a life for herself, dreaming, in beautifully filmed fantasy sequences, of being a much adored star.  When she is kicked out of her high school for being pregnant, Precious attends an alternative school. There, Precious has a teacher who believes in her students, often when they do not even believe in themselves. At her new school, Precious finally learns to read and write and she literally and figuratively finds her voice.

Critical Evaluation: This film is intense.  I expect that people familiar with the type of abuse and suffering Precious is subjected to, could experience some level of post traumatic stress.  Others, who have been fortunate enough not to have experience with this level of cruelty and brutality will likely find themselves in disbelief.  But, there is something about the acting and directing and scenery and dialogue that forces us to look at Precious’s life and recognize that there are people who suffer in similar ways.  Even those viewers who do not want to believe will be hard pressed not to, given the gritty realism of the film.  There is sadness and such devastating circumstances that viewers could become overwhelmed by emotion, but there is a tempering force.  Precious is strong, sometimes witty and often triumphant, and these moments, make worthwhile the viewer’s endurance of the suffering in the movie.

Critics loudly applauded this film; it received numerous awards and nominations, fifty film organizations nominated Precious for a variety of awards, the film won several of these.  Here are some highlights:

  • The 2010 Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Mo’Nique (Won); Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Geoffrey Fletcher (Won); Best Picture, Precious (Nominated); Best Director, Lee Daniels (Nominated); Best Actress, Gabourey Sidibe (Nominated); Best Film Editing, Joe Klotz (Nominated)
  • The 2010 Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Precious (Nominated); Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama, Gabourey Sidbie (Nominated); Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture, Mo’Nique (Won)
  • Independent Spirit Awards: Best Feature, Precious (Won); Best Director, Lee Daniels (Won); Best Female Lead, Gabourey Sidibe (Won); Best Supporting Female, Mo’Nique (Won); Best First Screenplay, Geoffrey Fletcher (Won)
  • NAACP Image Awards: Outstanding Motion Picture, Precious (Won); Outstanding Independent Motion Picture, Precious (Won); Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, Gabourey Sidibe (Won); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Mo’Nique (Won); Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture, Geoffrey Fletcher (Won); Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television), Lee Daniels (Won); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Mariah Carey (Nominated) and Paula Patton (Nominated); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Lenny Kravitz (Nominated)

An extensive list of awards and nominations for the film can be found here.

Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: Abused and ignored Clarisse “Precious” Jones is sixteen, pregnant, and illiterate.  When she gets kicked out of school for being pregnant, she starts attending an alternative school, with a teacher who believes in her, and her journey toward a life of her own begins.

Information about the Author/Director: In addition to being a director, Lee Daniels is an actor and a film producer.  Notably, he produced the highly acclaimed film Monster’s Ball for which Halle Berry won the Best Actress Academy Award and which won the Best Screenplay Academy Award as well (Lee Daniels, n.d.).

Genres: Drama

Curriculum Ties: Discussions of poverty, abuse, acceptance, self-respect, self-esteem

Reading/Viewing Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 to adult

Challenge Issues: Violence; Emotional Sexual, and Physical Abuse; Mature Language.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.

Why is this film included? While this movie is difficult to watch and painful at times, it also sends a message of hope and the strength of the human spirit.  It is feels frightening real and provides a voice to Precious, and other young women, who deserve to have their voices heard.

References:

Lee Daniels. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Daniels


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Bibliographic Information: Hinton, S.E. (1967). The Outsiders. New York, NY: Speak.  ISBN: 014038572X.  188 pages.

Plot Summary: In Ponyboy Curtis’s world (yes, that’s his real name), there are two things you can be: a greaser or a Soc, short for Social.  Greasers, like Ponyboy and his brothers and all their friends, live on the east side.  They are poor, they slick back their hair and are often considered “hoods” or JD’s, juvenile delinquents, by non-greasers.  Socs, on the other hand, live on the west side, are wealthy, and are not considered to be hoods, but often behave like JD’s toward the greasers.  It seems that when Socs get bored, they beat up greasers for entertainment.  One night 14-year-old Ponyboy and his friend Johnny get jumped, not the first time either of them has been attacked by Socs, but this night things go terribly wrong.  What will happen to Johnny and Ponyboy, who will help them, and how will they survive?

Critical Evaluation: S. E. Hinton was 16 when she wrote this classic coming-of-age novel in the 1960’s.  The Outsiders contains universal themes relevant today.  Tweens and teens struggle with fitting and not fitting in, being labeled and pre-judged, going along with or against the crowd.  All of these challenges are presented in a compelling and engaging story, which is filled with narrator Ponyboy’s thoughtful reflections and raw emotions.  The honest real-life situations of The Outsiders set it apart from other books, for young adults, from the 1960’s.  Perhaps because she herself was a young adult, Hinton captured authentic voices and her readers responded with great delight.  This classic is still meaningful and alive and well today.

Reader’s Annotation: Ponyboy Curtis lives with his two brothers on what some would consider to be the wrong side of the tracks.  When a fateful event brings Ponyboy and his friend Johnny together with the rich socialites, their lives change forever.

Information about the Author: Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, OK, in 1950.  She still calls Tulsa her home.  The Outsiders, which takes place in Oklahoma, was inspired by people and the social situations in her own Oklahoma high school.  Her first book was The Outsiders, but she has continued writing, with her most recent book, Some of Tim’s Stories, a book of short stories, being published in 2006. (Hinton, n.d.)

In 1988, Hinton was given the first ever Margaret A. Edwards Award.  She has written several novels for young adults, children and adults.  Several of her novels have been made into movies, including The Outsiders, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1983.

Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction

Subgenres/Themes: Issues: Social concerns: Gangs

Topics Covered: Social Status, Fitting In, Outsiders, Gangs, Violence, Love, Friendship, Family

Curriculum Ties: As The Outsiders is a classic, it could be read for an English class with lots to dissect and discuss,

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Imagine being in trouble, the kind of trouble you have no idea how to get out of…

Reading Level/Interest Age: 12 – 16

Challenge Issues: Profanity and violence.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, the book is considered by many to be a classic and was, and still is, highly praised by critics.

Why is this book included? As a young teen, I loved this book (and the movie) so much that I decided I would memorize the book.  I was a dreamer, to say the least.  It took me forever to learn the first two sentences and I lost interest in memorizing after that, but not in reading it and re-reading it and re-reading it again.  A classic in YA lit!

References:

Hinton, S. E. (n.d.) Biography.  Retrieved from http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling

Bibliographic Information: Rowling, J.K. (2009). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7). New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.  ISBN: 0545139708.  784 pages.

Spoiler alert: This review may include information revealed in the Harry Potter books 1 through 6.

Plot Summary: In this, the last book of the wildly popular Harry Potter Series, Harry, now 17, must seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.  Each of the books in the series has gotten more dark, Harry’s journeys more dangerous, and this one is no exception.  Harry’s quest to defeat Voldemort is more harrowing and challenging than ever.  This book contains bravery and triumph, in addition to heartbreak, sorrow and devastating loss.  In the midst of trying to save the wizarding world from unimaginable evil and to keep himself alive, Harry is transitioning from Hogwarts school boy to a full-fledged wizard and a grown man.  This is one coming of age story readers will not want to miss, full of drama, danger, friendship and love. Harry’s last book will not disappoint his fans one bit.   The only problem is, it leaves us wanting just one more…

Critical Evaluation: In this nearly 800 page finale, Rowling, astoundingly, does it again.  The elaborate, magnificent fantasy world she created in the first Harry Potter book comes alive again, with enough of the familiar to satisfy and comfort and enough new elements to thrill and engage.  This is gripping reading at its finest.  The characters are charismatic, unique, and multidimensional.  The story is riveting and unpredictable.  The book mixes the fantastical with, realistic young adult story lines of friendship and love, family and loyalty.  This mix keeps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows grounded and believable, even as unbelievable as many of the elements are.  This is a great book for boys and girls, reluctant and eager readers alike, and, of course, fans of fantasy.

Of note, is that this book and the entire Harry Potter series are excellent choices for audio books.  The audio books are unabridged, so they take many hours to listen to, but the reader, Jim Dale is himself magical in his ability to act out each role as if a different person were performing.  Highly recommended.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was named the best book of 2007, by Newsweek‘s Malcolm Jones, was on Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2007 list, and was on the 2008 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list, among many other honors and awards.

Reader’s Annotation: Harry Potter, now 17, must take a dangerous and circuitous journey to seek out the hidden objects that are sustaining life for the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.

Information about the Author:  J. K. Rowling started writing stories as a young child.  The idea for Harry Potter came to her while she was on a train.  She did not have a pen, so she spent the four-hour train ride just dreaming up Harry and his magical world.  She says “I think that perhaps if I had had to slow down the ideas so that I could capture them on paper I might have stifled some of them.” (Rowling, 2011).

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final book in a seven-book series, books one through six are: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,

Genre: Fantasy

Subgenre/Theme: Fantasy: Magic

Curriculum Ties: n/a

Booktalking Ideas:

  • How would it feel to be the only person who can save your world from evil and destruction?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 9 – 18

Challenge Issues: There are those who claim the books promote the occult and witchcraft.  In fact, the Harry Potter series is number one on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, some are mentioned above.

Why is this book included? The great popularity of the Harry Potter series makes it a natural choice for a young adult collection.  Also, I really enjoyed the audio books of books one through six, so I was thrilled to get to listen to number seven.

References:

Rowling, J.K. (2011). Biography.  Retrieved from http://www.jkrowling.com/en/


Teen Voices

Bibliographic Information: Teen Voices (magazine). Boston, MA. ISSN: 10747974.

Plot/Content Summary: Teen Voices is not your average teen magazine.  It is a print and online magazine for teen girls, BY teen girls.  The mission: “Teen Voices supports and educates teen girls to amplify their voices and create social change through media.”  Teen Voices is not just a magazine but a non-profit organization that supports teens’ development in creating the magazine and mentors teens through the process.  Teen Voices also supports teen girls’ leadership development and social justice awareness and activism.

Articles in Teen Voices cover a wide breadth of topics, like arts and music, book reviews and author interviews, diversity and equality, food, health, the media, careers, teen activism, relationships, social networking.  The magazine also includes fiction and poetry written by teen girls.  Recent articles include:

  • Recent Events in Egypt from a Girl’s Eye View
  • Girl’s Hurt by Gang Violence
  • Got the Knowledge to Go to College? Teen Voices Helps You on Your Way!
  • When Relationships Get Tough, Can They Be Too Rough?
  • Got the Facebook Blues?

Critical Evaluation: The content of Teen Voices, like the voices it represents, is diverse and intelligent.  Since teens are creating content, the magazine is highly relevant and authentic.  Articles cover real-life issues and, while there is always room for fun, the magazine addresses young women as competent, intelligent people with the ability to think and analyze and question the status quo.  Other teen magazines, with their emphasis on appearance and social status, do not compare to the depth and strength of the content in Teen VoicesTeen Voices and its staff have received awards and honors, that acknowledge the important and life-changing work that the organization does.

Genre/Format: Print and Online Magazine

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 -18

Challenge Issues: There are many real issues that young women deal with covered in this magazine, so there might be a challenge to some of the content.  However, this magazine has won awards and has a positive review in School Library Journal.  In response to challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.