Plot Summary: At the end of the summer before her freshman year in high school, Melinda Sordino and her friend Rachel attended a party. At that party, Melinda called 911. This resulted in the party breaking up, some students being arrested and Melinda’s social status going to zero. Her friends abandoned her. People she did not even know hated her. It was pretty much the worst way to start high school. And then something strange started to happen. Melinda’s throat seems to always be sore, her lips are badly chapped and she is often unable to speak, “It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis,” (Anderson, 1999, p. 51). Something is wrong, but when her parents try to ask her about it, Melinda cannot seem to get the words out. Soon she is almost completely alone, preferring to spend time in an abandoned janitor’s closet than her classes at school. Can she ever get out of her isolation and depression? What happened, and will she ever SPEAK?
Critical Evaluation: Moving and intense, Speak has a lot packed into its 208 pages. Part mystery, part issue novel, Speak tells Melinda’s story with attention to detail, reminding us that the little things are often very important. Melinda’s voice is clear and authentic, and resonates with honesty. Melinda’s dry commentary on the superficiality and ironies of high school will ring true for many a teen. Anderson delivers a novel that brings its readers in and does not let them go even after the last page have been read. Readers will root for Melinda, as she tries to find her way out of her quiet isolation. Speak, Anderson’s first young adult novel, was highly praised by critics and won numerous honors.Ffor example, it was a National Book Award Finalist, a Printz Honor book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and an Edgar Allan Poe Award finalist.
Reader’s Annotation: The events at an end-of-summer party create havoc for Melinda’s freshman year in high school.
Information about the Author: Laurie Halse, rhymes with waltz, Anderson is a highly acclaimed young adult and children’s book author. She is a two-time National Book Award Nominee, won an ALAN award in 2008, and won the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award, among many other honors and achievements.
Anderson “has loved writing since second grade” (Anderson, n.d.). She has taken Virginia Woolf’s quote “A woman must have…a room of her own to write fiction” (as quoted by Anderson, n.d.) to heart and has a lovely eco-friendly, off-the-grid writing cabin in the woods behind her house. Click here to watch a video of the cabin design and building process and, in the process, get to know a little more about Laurie Halse Anderson.
Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction, Suspense
Category: Issues: Physical, Mental, and Emotional Concerns: Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Problems; Issues: Life Is Hard: Sexual Abuse, Outsiders
Curriculum Ties: Sexual Assault, Underage Drinking
- What might happen to you, that would leave you unable or unwilling to speak?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 18
Challenge Issues: Underage drinking, sexual assault, rape. Anderson has a piece on her website with specific information to respond to challenges to Speak. (Anderson, 2009). Lastly, 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, four are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? Both the honors it has received and word of mouth from classmate,s as well as the mother of a teen I know, led me to choose to this book.
Anderson, L. H. (n.d.). Officially long official biography of Laurie Halse Anderson. Retrieved from http://madwomanintheforest.com/laurie/
Anderson, L. H. (2009). Censorship & book banning: Challenges to Speak. Retrieved from http://madwomanintheforest.com/teachers/censorship-book-banning/
Plot Summary: When teen techno genius Marcus gets a message that the Harajuku Fun Madness game has a new clue available, he is not going to let a little thing like school get in the way of his fun. And, it’s only right that his friends go to downtown San Francisco with him. But what starts out as an afternoon ditching school becomes six days Marcus will never forget, when a terrorist plot blows up the Bay Bridge, leaving residents and law enforcement officers on high alert. When homeland security teams swoop in to prevent any more terrorist destruction, they take Marcus and his friends into custody. Marcus questions Homeland Security’s methods when he learns all that is happening in the name of protecting the city and its people. Marcus, always a bit of a rebel, takes on those who would limit freedom and invade privacy for ostensible security, using his technological prowess, online connections with other hackers, and pure chutzpah. Can one teenager really make a difference?
Critical Evaluation: Exciting, gripping, and immensely entertaining, Little Brother has cross-genre appeal. Part science fiction, mystery, and adventure, part realistic fiction, dystopian novel and techno-thriller, this book has much to offer to many different readers. The heavy use of technology within the plot, but just a bit more than we have access to now, gives the novel an “in the not too distant future” feel. The book is relatively long, but maintains reader interest by being action packed and fairly fast paced. From a lonely prison cell to a large-scale demonstration in a public park, readers take a fantastic ride with Marcus, portrayed by Doctorow as a complex character with depth. Like many teens, his friends are of central importance to him, he falls in love, and he doesn’t tell his parents much about what is going on with him, but in other ways Marcus is quite unique. He spends much of his free time living in a virtual world of hackers where nobody knows his real name. Marcus doesn’t always follow the rules, and he is very adept at avoiding being caught, for example, he puts small pebbles in his shoes to throw off the school’s gait recognition software that would be able to identify him as he sneaks out during school hours. Details like these bring the reader into the story and into the life of Marcus, who, for all his mischief, is shown to be intelligent, creative and a good person who cares about the people and world around him. Doctorow’s opinions about freedom of speech and privacy online, he is NOT a fan of the PATRIOT ACT, for example, are obvious in the novel, but his treatment of the characters who express opposing views is not completely unsympathetic. A New York Times Best Seller, Little Brother has won several awards and honors, for example, 2009 VOYA Science Fiction for Young Adults/Golden Duck Award, School Library Journal’s Best Books 2008, and the 2009 White Pine Award (According to Wikipedia, “The White Pine Award is an annual literature award sponsored by the Ontario Library Association (OLA) that has awarded Canadian young adult books since 2002.”).
Reader’s Annotation: What starts out as an afternoon ditching school becomes six days Marcus will never forget, when a terrorist plot blows up the Bay Bridge. Marcus and his friends must stand up to the powers that be, who seem to value perceived security over freedom.
Information about the Author: Information about Cory Doctorow from the blog Boing Boing (http://boingboing.net/), of which Doctorow is an editor, “Cory is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger.” Doctorow’s activism surrounds issues of free speech and privacy in online environments. Doctorow, “has been named one of the Web’s twenty-five “influencers” by Forbes Magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum,” (http://us.macmillan.com/author/corydoctorow). Cory Doctorow was born in Canada and currently lives in London.
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Realistic Fiction
SubGenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Adventure, Dystopia; Adventure: Espionage and Terrorism; Techno-Thriller
Topics Covered: Freedom of Speech, Internet Privacy, Online Privacy, Love, Sexuality, Friendship, Activism,
Curriculum Ties: The US Constitution, The US Bill of Rights, Government, Internet Privacy
- What if every where you went someone was trying to get you? And this wasn’t paranoia?
- How much freedom would you give up for safety?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14-17
Challenge Issues: Anti-government sentiment, sexual activity, illegal activities. In response to any challenges, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, three are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? Originally included as part of class readings, Little Brother adds genre diversity to a collection. Little Brother is also an exciting, entertaining, and though-provoking read.