Friday, March 28, 2014

Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time by Carissa Phelps

When Carissa Phelps was just twelve years old, she was kidnapped by a pimp. This is the introduction she gives herself, later on, each time she finds herself telling her story to a new group of people. Carissa, who is now an attorney and a youth advocate, has written down her story in this memoir and it’s an inspirational ride. Her teen years were turbulent; she spent most of them running from one dangerous situation to the next. Placed in group home after group home, spending time in juvenile hall and alternative school programs, the author reflects often on the adults she met along the way who believed in her and gave her courage. Students might relate to her history of emotional and sexual abuse, but they will absolutely be able to connect with her time spent in and out of group homes and juvenile hall. I am often asked by students for books about “real people who had it rough, but made it out in the end,” and this book fits that description perfectly. Carissa’s story demonstrates that anything is possible with the support of a few caring individuals and a lot of determination. --Anja Kennedy

Phelps, Carissa, with Larkin Warren.  Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time.  New York: Viking-Penguin, 2012.  Print.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

High school student Hannah Baker has committed suicide, and protagonist Clay is trying to discover why via thirteen cassette tapes Hannah recorded prior to her death.  Each tape incriminates another person at the school, explaining how that person played a part in Hannah’s suicide.  Hannah makes it clear from the first tape that if you received the tapes, it means there is one about you—and Clay has no idea why he received them. Inspired by museum audio-tours, one unique feature of the novel is the inclusion of a map that goes along with the tapes, marking the locations where Hannah’s stories occurred.  Another unique and impressive component is the structure of the novel: Hannah and Clay’s point of views are woven together throughout the storyline, so that the reader has access to Clay’s immediate reactions after hearing Hannah’s stories.  Exploring themes of sexual abuse, bullying, and teen relationships, this novel is recommended for high school students, specifically females as Hannah focuses on many painful situations that young women may face.--Mackenzie Magee

Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.  Print.

Mackenzie Magee is a first year ELA teacher at Passages Academy-Belmont. She grew up in Portland, Oregon and enjoys writing, running, and reading. Her favorite books include The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

Eighteen-year-old Nikki is in love with her twenty-year-old boyfriend, Dee. She had no idea when he took her on a ride over the weekend that he would point a gun, pull a trigger, and leave a man dead.  She loves him so much she would do anything for him.  When the police call Dee in for questioning in conjunction with the murder of a retired police officer over the weekend, Nikki doesn’t question Dee’s directions to lie, to provide an alibi, and to attest to his innocence.  But what Nikki can’t do is tolerate Dee’s order not to speak with him.   When the police seem to be closing in on the killer, will she tell the truth or take responsibility for what she didn’t do?  Recommended independent reading for older high school students who enjoy suspense and characters in trouble with the law.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

McVoy, Terra Elan.  Criminal.  New York: Simon Pulse, 2013.  Print.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Predator: Life and Death in the African Bush by Mark C. Ross and David Reesor

“Who would win in a fight? A lion or a tiger?” I can’t tell you how many times students have asked me some variant of that question - cheetah and lion, hyena and leopard, anything and a crocodile - the pairings are endless and the discussion endlessly fascinating.  Predator is a natural companion to these conversations - its full color photographs with informative captions invite further investigation.  But Predator is not all style and no substance.  Written by a wildlife biologist, the book is split into five main sections, each covering one large African predator.  The prose covers each animal’s biology, behavior, development, and habitat and is engaging and informative without being overly scientific.  Still, Predator is a text for confident readers.  Backmatter includes a bibliography and index.  Predator is a compelling book for browsing and is well-suited for inquiry, though some pictures are not for the faint of heart. --Regan Schwartz

Ross, Mark and David Reesor. Predator: Life and Death in the African Bush. New York: Abrams, 2007. Print.