Plot Summary: Isabella “Bella” Swan has recently moved from sunny and dry Arizona, where she lived with her mother, to cloudy, moist, and often overcast Forks, Washington. Bella loves the sun and, at first, feels overwhelmed by the darkness of Forks, but, eventually, she starts to get used to the climate and finds a welcome distraction in Edward Cullen. Edward is from a somewhat unusual family of adopted teens, each one as strikingly beautiful as the next, but it is the beautiful and seemingly endlessly talented Edward who has caught Bella’s eye. To say Edward makes Bella swoon would be an understatement and when at first his interactions with her seem to try to push her away she is confused, hurt, and disappointed. But, then Edward seems to feel as intensely about Bella as she does about him and they touch. That touch tells Bella there is something even more different about Edward than the fact that he seems like a boy genius in every school subject. The touch tells Bella that Edward’s blood runs cold; he is a vampire. And though this fact does not seem to bother Bella in the least, Edward has made it his life’s goal to protect Bella from himself and others of his kind. Bella and Edward are drawn to each other in such a way that staying apart to keep Bella safe seems impossible. But, is it possible? Can their love survive the fact that they are creatures from different worlds? Can Bella survive at all?
Critical Evaluation: Twilight is not your average fairy tale romance, nor is it Romeo and Juliet, though the book has things in common with both of these. In many ways, Bella and Edwards really should not be together. After all, vampires drink blood for sustenance, and even though Edward is of a family of more “civilized” vampires, who only kill animals to survive, his instincts are still to kill. And though, as mentioned above, his primary goal is to keep his love Bella safe, he does not even always trust himself with her. But Bella is very trusting, or, more accurately, her love and passion for Edward override her natural instincts to fear for her life. The connection between Bella and Edward is magical and their feelings for each other are palpable through Meyer’s elaborate writing. And even though, due to their circumstances, Bella and Edward’s physical relationship is explored less than in many teen novels, their romance is steamy and exciting. A feminist reading of Twilight leaves a bit to be desired, but as far as engaging the reader and taking us on a journey to place where vampires attend school with mortals, this book is an exhilarating thrill ride. Twilight was one of Publishers Weekly‘s “Best Children’s Books of 2005, one of School Library Journal’s “Best Books of 2005” and was number two (after Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) on YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten, “a ‘teen choice’ list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year!” (YALSA, 2006)
Reader’s Annotation: Bella Swan moves from her mother’s home in sunny Arizona to damp and overcast Forks, Washington where the climate difference takes a back seat to the beautiful and enthralling Edward Cullen. But there is something different about Edward, and Bella is soon going to find out what it is.
Information about the Author: Stephenie Meyer’s inspiration for Twilight was a dream she had one evening. She was a full-time mom at the time and had not done any writing in years, but she was compelled to eke out time in her day to write down the dream, and the next day to write more of what she imagined and then write even more the next day and the next. Readers can basically read what Meyers dreamed; she says, “For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 (‘Confessions’) of the book.” (Meyers, n.d., The Story Behind Twilight).
Twilight is the first of four books in the Twilight series, books two through four are: New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. Meyers’ other books include graphic novels of the Twilight series, The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella (Twilight Saga), and The Host, an adult science fiction thriller. All four books of the Twilight series have been made into movies. Meyers lives with her husband and three sons in Arizona, Bella’s previous place of residence before moving to Forks, WA. (Meyers, n.d., Bio).
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Categories/Themes: Paranormal: Werefolk and Vampires
Curriculum Ties: Forbidden love stories, how does this compare?
- Would you be willing to die for love?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 – 19
Challenge Issues: Twilight was number five in the ALA’s 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009. The reasons given were: “religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group,” (ALA, 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, three are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? Because t
Because this book and the vampire novel craze, that the Twilight series inspired, are ubiquitous in teen literature today, I felt the need to read at least one book in the series, in order to more fully serve young adults.
ALA. (2010). Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/21stcenturychallenged/2009/index.cfm
Meyers, S. (n.d.) Bio. Retrieved from http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/bio.html
Meyers, S. (n.d.) The story behind Twilight. Retrieved from http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilight.html
YALSA. (2006). Teens vote for favorite young adult book. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/teenreading/teenstopten/06ttt
Plot Summary: Sam Jones loves to skate, that’s “skate” using a skateboard, in case you are not familiar with the term. His idol is Tony Hawk, shortened by Sam to T. H. Sam has a poster of T. H. on the wall of his bedroom and often speaks to T. H., asking for life advice. Here is how Sam tells it, “I talk to Tony Hawk, and Tony Hawk talks back,” (Hornby, 2007, p. 4). Sam’s home life is stable, his parents are divorced, and he is being raised by a single mother, who had him when she was 16. Sam is now 15 years old and has the youngest mother of all of his peers. Sam’s greatest passion is skating, which he does whenever he can fit in the time for it. And then, he meets Alicia Burns. Alicia is beautiful and funny and she and Sam fall head over heels in love. They want to spend every possible moment together, mostly in Alicia’s bedroom. Their relationship becomes sexual and intense and then something happens, and it changes, and Sam no longer wants to see Alicia every possible moment of every day. In fact, he does not think he wants to date her at all anymore. He is confused about his feelings, and while he is trying to sort them out, he gets the news: Alicia is pregnant. This sends Sam right to his advisor, T. H., who seems to send Sam – SLAM! – on a journey into the future complete with visions of himself, Alicia, and their baby. What is happening? Can he get back to the present? Does he want to?
Critical Evaluation: Slam is written in the first person from the perspective of Sam. Sam’s honest voice, through Hornby, comes across as a confused, insecure, and, mostly likable, 15 year old boy. Sam’s language and thoughts feel authentic for someone who is not quite yet an adult but is dealing with very adult circumstances. The path of the novel is interesting, as it takes a twist from realistic fiction to science fiction with the element of time travel woven into the story. At first, I found the time travel surprising and wondered if Sam was going to wake up and we would realize it had all been a dream, but then it seemed the time travel was really happening and it was up to Sam to figure out why he was being given this glimpse into his future. Sam assumed Tony Hawk was sending him into the future to teach him something, though that thing was not always obvious. This book contains a lot of humor. Sam’s dry wit and sarcasm will make readers smile and, possibly, chuckle. And Sam’s eye rolling-annoyance, at certain things adults say, feels just like what a teen would do. The text is accessible, and, as it is written from a boy’s perspective might be a great choice for male reluctant readers.
Reader’s Annotation: When 15-year-old Sam finds out he is going to be a father his life trajectory takes him into unchartered territory.
Information about the Author: British Writer, Nick Hornby has written other popular novels including Fever Pitch, About a Boy, High Fidelity, A Long way Down and How to Be Good. Fever Pitch, About a Boy, and High Fidelity, were all made into films (Hornby, n.d.). Though many of his novels would be interesting to young adults, Slam is Hornby’s only novel geared to young adults.
Hornby is very interested in music, and music often plays a significant role in his novels. For example , Sam and Alicia’s baby is named Rufus, because Rufus Wainwright’s music was playing in the delivery room. Hornby collaborates and performs with the rock band Marah (Nick Hornby, n.d.)
Genre: Issues, Science Fiction
Category: Issues: Pregnancy and Teen Parents; Science Fiction: Time Travel
Curriculum Ties: English and Health
- What if you spoke to a poster of your idol and he spoke back?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: Premarital Sex, Teen Sex, Sexuality, Teen Pregnancy. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book.
Why is this book included? I was familiar with Hornby from the book and movie About a Boy, and I wanted to see what he could do in his young adult novel.
Nick Hornby. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Hornby
Hornby, N. (n.d.) Nick Hornby: Biography. Retrieved from http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/uk/0/minisites/nickhornby/aboutnick/index.html
Bibliographic Information: Van Sant, G. (director). 1997. Good Will Hunting (DVD). Santa Monica, CA: Miramax Films. ASIN: 0788814664. 126 minutes. Movie Rating: R.
Plot Summary: Will Hunting, a young adult from the hardscrabble streets of South Boston, prefers street fights and drinking with his buddies to developing his semi-hidden genius. From economics to mathematics, Will stuns snobby Harvard and MIT students at local bars who look down on him and his friends for their social status, although he meets a Harvard student who gives him her number. Will works at MIT, as a janitor, and, while cleaning one evening, is drawn to a proof posted on a chalkboard in the hallway. He solves the proof correctly and anonymously, and so ensues a search for the “student” who award-winning MIT mathematics professor, Gerald Lambeau, wants to praise. After an arrest in a street fight, Will is bailed out by Lambeau who has taken note of Will’s innate math talents and wants to become his mentor. The conditions of Will’s bail include being under Lambeau’s supervision and attending therapy, an idea Will openly laughs at, but agrees to in order to avoid further incarceration.
Critical Evaluation: Good Will Hunting is a great young adult movie. It takes the common themes of love, friendship, and overcoming adversity and weaves them into a compelling, interesting, and moving story. The main characters are three dimensional with strengths and flaws and, above all else, resilience. The acting in the film is high quality, with particularly believable roles by Matt Damon playing Will and Robin Williams playing his therapist, Sean Maguire. Will’s relationships are complicated by his troubled past, but his friends are always there for him. His love interest, awealthy Harvard student, tries to understand who he is and where he is coming from, though he is not at all forthcoming about himself., and, in fact, lies about his past. Those who do not care for curse words may bristle at times, but the language feels realistic, not gratuitous. This movie deals with heavy topics with grace and beauty. Viewers will hope for Will to triumph over all the troubles life has handed him.
Good Will Hunting was highly praised and honored. A the 1998 Academy Awards, the movie was nominated for nine awards and won two: Robin Williams won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won the Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). The screenplay also won the 1998 Golden Globe award, out of four Golden Globe nominations.
Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: Troubled young man, Will Hunting, works as a janitor at MIT. When his math skills seem to exceed those of any of the MIT students, Will’s life take a turn that could bring him far away from his South Boston roots, but does he want to go?
Information about the Author/Director: Gus Van Sant is an award-winning director who has directed highly acclaimed films. A sampling of his films include: Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Finding Forrester, Elephant, Paranoid Park, and Milk. His most recent film, Restless, was released in September 2011.
Curriculum Ties: Discussion of class, emotional problems, abuse, overcoming obstacles
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 15 to 25
Challenge Issues: Sexuality, Language, Violence, Drinking. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Why is this film included? I loved it when it came out and I was a teen, and it was just as good watching it today.
Plot Summary: Since the death of her parents at age 13, Quincie Morris has been in the care of her uncle Davidson. With her parents gone, the place that has felt the most like home to her is Fat Lorenzo’s, the Italian restaurant that has been in her family for generations. And Fat Lorenzo’s chef, Vaggio, and the rest of the staff were like Quincie’s extended family. But there was a problem, competition, from other local Italian restaurants, was cutting into Fat Lorenzo’s business. Quincie, who, at 17, helped manage the restaurant, and Uncle Davidson came up with a plan: turn the restaurant into a Sanguini’s, an Italian restaurant, with a vampire theme. From the food to the décor to the wardrobe of the staff, everything had to be planned out perfectly. But, in Quincie’s world, in Austin, Texas, there really are vampires and werewolves. In fact, Kieren, her best friend since childhood, and current love obsession, is a hybrid werewolf. So, when Vaggio is literally torn apart in a brutal murder in the restaurant kitchen, while Quincie, unawares, watches a nature special in the break room, the spotlight turns to the non-humans around her, including Kieren. In the shadow of Viggio’s unsolved murder, Quincie must focus on Sanguini’s and get it up and running for the reopening in a few weeks. She also must deal with the fact that Kieren is just about at the age where he will be leaving Austin to join a wolf pack, and Sanguini’s new, young, and handsome, chef seems to have more than a fleeting interest in Quincie.
Critical Evaluation: Leitich Smith manages to take a vampire story with all the fantasy and darkness that comes with vampire novels and merge it with a young adult story that feels realistic and even relatable to many teens. After all, problems with love and attraction are universal themes, even if the one loved is not always a hybrid werewolf. Written in first person from Quincie’s perspective, readers learn information as Quincie does. Her voice is honest and down to earth, even while dealing with otherworldly topics. Adding to the immersive experience, that reading this book brings, are special pages sprinkled throughout. A restaurant critique looks like a clipping on the page, the restaurant’s menus are presented in menu style complete with fancy script. For those who can not get enough Tantalize, Leitich Smith has written others in the series: Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story.
Reader’s Annotation: When 17-year-old Quincie Morris and her uncle open a new vampire-themed restaurant, there are many changes afoot. With vampires and werewolves, new love and old, will Quincie make it?
Information about the Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith writes books for all ages, from young children to young adult and adult. She has published picture books, in addition to short stories, essays, and young adult novels. Leitich Smith’s website (http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/) is a wonder of resources for readers and writers. It includes recommended reading lists, advice for those interested in becoming writers, and extensive information about Leitich Smith and her writing.
Leitich Smith is genuinely interested in the world and people around her and generously shares her talents and insights. She is a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and some of her works include authentically portrayed American Indian characters, something that is unfortunately often lacking in books about American Indians. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, the setting for Tantalize, with her husband, also a writer, Greg Leitich Smith (http://gregleitichsmith.com/).
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
Categories/Themes: Paranormal: Werefolk and Vampires, Fantasy: Myth and Legend
Curriculum Ties: Reading comparison between this novel and Stoker’s Dracula and ancient vampire legends
- How would you feel about your love interest being a hybrid werewolf?
- Would you go to Sanguini’s? Which menu would you pick?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: Underage drinking, sexuality, mythical creatures. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Additionally, there are several positive reviews of the book.
Why is this book included? This book was assigned reading, which is how I learned about it, though I was already a fan of Leitich Smith. Also, I wanted to include some novels with vampires and werewolves, as they are currently very popular among young adults.
Plot Summary: Sixteen and pregnant, Juno MacGuff, has a lot to figure out. First, she must tell her dad and stepmom the news; they are supportive. She knows she is not ready to be a mother, so she has some decisions to make. She discovers that she does not want to have an abortion. The option she chooses? Adoption. She then sets out to find the perfect parents for her as yet unborn child. She finds what she deems to be the ideal couple in Mark and Vanessa Loring and she begins to establish a somewhat awkward but honest relationship with them. She is also not quite sure how she feels about the boy who fathered her baby, Paulie, who has been her close friend for years and has had a crush on her for a long time as well. While she remains somewhat coolly distant from him, Paulie and many viewers suspect she feels more than she is willing to admit.
Critical Evaluation: Juno is a charming movie. The dialog is witty, straightforward, and intelligent and the characters possess a truthfulness not always found in movies. The storyline and the characters are compelling, making viewers care about what happens to the young protagonist and her friends and family. The movie demonstrates that a person does not have to be a grown up to become pregnant, but becoming pregnant, as least for Juno, can make a person grow up. Her obvious caring about the life of her soon to be born child and her decisions around that demonstrate that her pregnancy forced her to grow up fast. Her teen angst and insecurities demonstrate that she is not all grown up yet. With its humor and warmth, to some extent, this movie romanticizes teen pregnancy, but the honesty and integrity of the movie as well as the fact that it is highly entertaining make it worth a watch. “The film received four 2008 Academy Awards nominations: Best Original Screenplay, which Diablo Cody won, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Ellen Page” (Juno, Wikipedia).
Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: When sixteen year old Juno MacGuff discovers she is pregnant she realizes she is not ready to be a mother, so she goes in search of the perfect parents for her as yet unborn baby.
Information about the Author/Director: When asked in an interview about his first reading of Diablo Cody’s Juno script, director Jason Reitman stated, “Page One and I was just like, it was instantaneous. I was like “Oh my god, this girl can write.” Then it just becomes a question of, “Well she can write, but is there a story here?” then about halfway through, by the time we got to the ultrasound scene, I was pretty confident that if I didn’t direct this movie I would regret it for the rest of my life [emphasis mine].” (Douglas, 2007).
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Curriculum Ties: n/a
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 15 to 19 to adult
Challenge Issues: Premarital sex, teen sex, sexuality, teen pregnancy. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Why is this film included? It is a great movie, and with its humor and honesty, I believe it is destined to be a teen classic.
Juno (film). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_%28film%29
Douglas, E. (2007). Jason Reitman Tackles Teen Pregnancy in Juno. ComingSoon.net. Retrieved from http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=39765