Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WHAT THEY FOUND: LOVE ON 145th STREET by Walter Dean Myers

I have only read Walter Dean Myers war books. They are excellent and he has been writing forever. I chose this one for my YA class thinking it was straight up love stories, but it was much richer than that. All the stories, which are somewhat interconnected, touch on love, not always romantic. Some stories are purely comic, some are sad, some are wise. They show an interesting slice of life that keeps coming back to characters that we grow to love. I want to know more about these characters, mostly the daughters of Mama Evans who runs the local beauty parlor.


So before I talk about the books, I will just say that the only thing I had read by Jack Gantos previous to the pathetic photobombing you see in the picture was A HOLE IN MY LIFE which was a very bleak look at the time Gantos spent in the pokey after a drug smuggling conviction when he was 19 or 20. It is a great book, but it in no way prepared me for how hilarious I found him to be as a speaker at the MSLA convention two years ago.

Well, I expected to fall in love with DEAD END in no time. It had nostalgia, mischief and Eleanor Roosevelt - what's not to love? But it took me some time to get really into it.

However, but the end I had come around. I will say that I couldn't stand his parents. They were annoying at best, mean at worst. Of course Jack was kind of a pain so I could see their issues. I loved the character of Miss Volker who soaks her hands in wax, performs questionable medical experiments on Jack's nose and keeps track of the town's dead as the medical examiner and obituary writer. She is unequivocally a hoot. This was a slow starter for me, but I ended up smiling through.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Wow, I have tried to start Jellico Road so many times and I just get confused or bored or distracted by some shinier, sexier book and move on. But my pal Kate says it is one of her all time favorites and she as excellent taste so I knew I would eventually succumb.
As it turns out, it took me assigning it to the YA literature course I am teaching to make me finally commit and was it ever worth it!
This book is amazing. It is two stories - five friends who meet on Jellico Road twenty years ago under horrible circumstances are somehow connected to the story of an isolated girl who lives at a boarding school and is embroiled in a territorial war between school kids, townies and some military cadets.
It is so weird.
And it is so magnificent.
There was all this brouhaha on the internet about how adults should not read YA because it is simplistic tripe and this book is the one I would choose to throw at the heads of those who try to make that tired argument.
I'm going to go read it again!