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: High schooler Nicole Maris seems to have it all. She is popular, and fashionable, she is in charge of the school’s 100 anniversary celebration, which includes a dance. She has a huge crush on the star basketball player, Brad, who she hopes will take her to the anniversary dance. Nicole gets the good news from her best friend that her dream date is about to happen, and then fate steps in. Brad, right in front of Nicole’s eyes, literally falls head over heels in love with a cheerleader during a basketball game, when he stumbles and falls on her. What is Nicole to do? Without a date to the dance, she will be humiliated! And then, she gets a great idea. Nicole decides that she can turn Chase, her next door neighbor, into the perfect date to make Brad jealous. Chase, not part of the popular crowd, is more interested in political rallies than pep rallies, and was recently dumped by his girlfriend; dating peppy, popular Nicole will drive his ex crazy. Will their plan work, backfire, or turn into something neither of them could have imagined?
Critical Evaluation: Drive Me Crazy, based on the novel How I Created My Perfect Prom Date by Todd Strasser, is cute, has its moments, and has some entertainment value, but overall it is fairly predictable. The main characters are flat but not unlikeable, and the plot takes a few unexpected minor twists. The movie misses some opportunites, though, when it touches on, but fails to fully make any in depth comment on, popularity, judging people by their appearances, and friendship. Surprisingly, this movie was on YALSA’s 2010 Fabulous Films for Young Adults list.
Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: When the star basketball player and love interest, Brad, fails to ask Nicole to the school dance, she comes up with a plan to drive him crazy by going with her next door neighbor.
Genres: Romantic Comedy
Curriculum Ties: n/a
Reading/Viewing Level: Ages 12 to 16
Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this movie. 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 film included? I chose it because it was on YALSA’s 2010 Fabulous Films for Young Adults list.
Plot Summary: In three concurrent story lines, American Born Chinese follows Jin Wang, the only Chinese American student in his school; the Monkey King, who is on a quest to become a true deity; and Chin Kee (yes, that is his name), the embodiment of negative Chinese ethnic stereotypes who, when he comes to visit, humiliates his popular, all-American-looking cousin, Danny. Jin Wang is picked on by bullies, falls in love with an “all-American” girls, and is an all-around sympathetic and likeable character. The Monkey King’s tale is reminiscent of ancient fables. And Chin Kee is so over the top, he just might make readers squirm. Using illustrations with clean lines and a cool, earthy color palette, Yang raises issues of ethnicity, race, identity, and self-acceptance. Each story gives readers lots to think about. Are they really separate stories, or is there a connection between them?
Critical Evaluation: Expressive illustrations and carefully chosen text make this graphic novel sophisticated and intelligent. Yang uses some over-the-top characters, as well as more relatable ones, to demonstrate the complexities of identity and being comfortable in one’s own skin. His prose is humorous and poignant, entertaining and thought-provoking. His illustrations work hand in hand with his prose to create a visual story with depth and emotion. His weaving of the book’s elements into a whole that is so much more than the sum of its excellent parts is what makes Yang a master at his craft and highly praised by critics and award committees. American Born Chinese has earned many awards and honors, what follows is a selected list: 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, Winner of the Printz Award, YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens – Top Ten List, 2007.
Reader’s Annotation: In three concurrent story lines, colorfully and expressively illustrated American Born Chinese follows Jin Wang, the only Chinese American student in his school; the Monkey King, who is on a quest to become a true deity; and Chin Kee (yes, that is his name), the embodiment of negative Chinese ethnic stereotypes.
Information about the Author: Gene Luen Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay Area; he started writing comic books in 5th grade. For his Master’s in Education at Cal State Hayward, he wrote his thesis on using comics in education. He has written several comic books; the highly praised American Born Chinese was his first graphic novel.
Yang is playful and has a great sense of humor, as is demonstrated by his books as well as the following answers to eight questions (as quoted from his Macmillan biography page.
EIGHT QUESTIONS from GENE LUEN YANG
What’s your favorite book that wasn’t written or drawn by you?
I have to pick only one? I’m gonna say Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. If it weren’t for that book, I wouldn’t be a cartoonist.
If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what one piece of media would you take with you? If it isn’t your favorite book, explain how you came to this peculiar decision.
A picture of my wife. Or maybe the Bible. No, a picture of my wife. Because she’s so pretty.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
I love all flavors of ice cream, but I’m lactose intolerant so I’ll have to say Rainbow Sherbet. Not as yummy as Mocha Almond Fudge, but so much better for my stomach. And for the folks sitting next to me.
How are you planning to survive the zombie apocalypse?
I’m gonna develop a taste for zombie flesh. Then I’m gonna go buy a large carving knife and lots of hot sauce.
What’s your favorite word?
“Moded.” Remember when junior high kids used to use that word to diss on their friends? So fun. We gotta bring that back. A whole generation is missing out on getting “moded.”
If you suddenly fell into a dimensional vortex and ended up in 1529, what profession would you adopt?
Black or white? Cats or dogs? Apples or oranges? Robots or vampires?
Black vampire apple-dogs
What’s the worst fortune cookie advice you ever got? Did you take it?
You take advice from fortune cookies? Seriously? We invented those things as a gimmick to sell you more moo shu pork. You’re not actually supposed to run your life by them.
Genre: Issues, Humor
SubGenre/Themes: Issues: Racism,
Format: Graphic Novel: Real Life Themes
Topics Covered: Race, Racism, Outsiders, Fitting In
Curriculum Ties: Race in America, Stereotypes
- Thinking about being the only one in your school that…
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 to 19 to adult
Challenge Issues: Stereotypes. Response: 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 numerous awards and honors, four are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? Graphic novels are very popular and often reach out to reluctant readers. With an enthusiastic endorsement from YASLA and its numerous awards, this book is a great choice for adding diversity to a collection’s formats.
Yang, G.L. (n.d.). Gene Luen Yang. Retrieved from http://us.macmillan.com/author/geneluenyang