Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (5 stars)

Why We Broke Up

by Daniel Handler


Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316127257
  • Publisher: Hachette Book Group
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Pages: 354
  • Sales rank: 474
  • Age range: 15 – 17 Years
  • Lexile: 980L (what’s this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)
This book is a long letter from Min explaining to Ed why the two of them broke up. It comes with a box that is filled with all of these random items from their relationship and Min goes through the memory that comes with each piece. Through this, we learn about Ed and Min’s relationship. We learn about the rip of a poster that ended up with a first date, some bottle caps, a book of matches, and books that Min has kept as mementos of the relationship. Everything is accounted for while Min purges her memories onto the page of her letter to Ed. I’ll give you a brief summary of the torn poster story, but honestly, this is a book where everything chains together to have the reader infer and use their own judgment more than pointing out every single thing that happened. Anyways, Min is helping her best friend Al hang posters advertising for Halloween events. She promised him, so she needed to make sure she lived up to her responsibilities even though her head is filled with puppy love la-la. While she is hanging posters, Ed comes over to her to talk for a few moments. When he needs to give her his phone number, he rips a piece of the poster that had just been hung and writes on it. At the time, Min doesn’t think much about it, but after the breakup she notices that it was something she should have cared about because her friend had spent a lot of time on the posters. It was just one of a ton of things that showed how different Ed and Min were from one another.
My thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was fun and different. I was able to learn about the plot and the characters in a new way, and the little props were adorable. Ed was not a unlikeable character and Min never makes him out to be a horrible guy. He just has different priorities than Min has, and I think Min realizes that as she goes through each story. Min is not your normal teenager. She has a niche that she is really into, old movies, and she goes on tangents from time to time about that interest. I really enjoyed that, but I’m not sure it will keep the interest of my high school students. I’d just hope that the interactions between the characters would keep them interested in spite of the diatribes.
Since we come into the book already knowing that they broke up, I did not expect to like Ed at all. I assumed that it would end up being a broken-hearted ex-girlfriend rant, like the ones where the girlfriend tares everything to pieces and throws everything around. Min is tossing the box at his front door, but she is actually pretty balanced between showing that Ed should be sad about things more than calling him a jerk. I was pleasantly surprised with every aspect of the book, and would love to recommend it to more people to read.
* 5 Stars



Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith (3 stars)

Kiss Crush Collide

  • by Christina Meredith
  • Product Details

    • ISBN-13: 9780062062246
    • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
    • Publication date: 12/27/2011
    • Pages: 320
    • Sales rank: 132,138
    • Age range: 14 years
    • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 1.06 (d)
    • Summary:
      When we meet Leah, she is a junior in high school. It is the end of the year and her sister is valedictorian, just like her sister before that. She has a cute boyfriend that plays on the football team, and her life is fairly predictable. All she has to do is follow in the same footsteps as her two older sisters. Her mother has orchestrated the family so that each girl knows exactly what is expected from them. Leah is not happy, but not altogether unhappy either, until they go to the club to have dinner and celebrate her sister’s achievements. At the club, Leah runs into a porter. When she sneaks away from her family, and drunken boyfriend, she is swept up into the porter’s embrace as he is “borrowing” Leah’s sister’s fiancé’s car. They end up making out in the grass and being reckless. It’s something that Leah is not used to and it exhilarates her. Unfortunately, she has to go back to her normal life and help her oldest sister plan a wedding that will happen before the end of the summer.
      Leah also works as a lifeguard at the local pool. While working, she has to deal with her competition for valedictorian, Valerie. Valerie brings all of the recommended reading with her each day to the pool and follows Leah from station to station. At first it is beyond annoying, but eventually Leah begins to expect and possibly enjoy their meetings. Porter also shows up at random times in a different car each time. Leah and Porter’s relationship is constantly hot and heavy, but she continues to go home and act like the good daughter that she is supposed to. When everything catches up to her, what will she do?
    • My thoughts:
      I think I would have liked this better if Leah was not so one-dimensional. She literally reads like a robot. I understand that the “perfect” girl situation means that there is not a ton of depth, but even goody goods need to have some internal personalities. Most of this book takes place in Leah’s very boring head. There is supposed to be this ongoing tension between family, what she thinks is right, and rebellion, but the tension is flat. There is nothing gripping to keep me wanting to read the book. The mother is vilified, but the author only tells us about the fear Leah seems to have of upsetting her, there is no connection made between the reader and the characters. Why should I care if Leah upsets her mother or not? I usually like these types of stories because I like seeing characters break away and make their own lives, but it’s because those character driven stories are often the ones that make you really fall in love with the characters. This one just did not deliver.
    • 3 Stars

The File on Angelyn Stark by Catherine Atkins (5 stars)

The File on Angelyn Stark

By: Catherine Atkins


Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375869068
  • Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 657,908
  • Age range: 14 – 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.91 (d)
Summary: Angelyn Stark is in high school. She has a small group of friends and a popular boyfriend. She does okay in school, but does not feel like she is intelligent. We first meet Angelyn in the bathroom. She is smoking with her friends, when a girl comes in to use the restroom. This is off-limits. Angelyn and her friends make sure the girl knows that from now on, she is not allowed to go into that restroom during that break. As the girls leave, the girl tells Angelyn that she knows someone who knows her. The girl tells Angelyn about Mrs. Daly, a former neighbor and tutor of Angelyn’s, and how she sees Mrs. Daly when she volunteers at the old folks home. From there, Angelyn is late to class, but her teacher gives her a break, and then at lunch she goes to drink beers with her friends and boyfriend. She is caught by her teacher again while she is fooling around with her boyfriend in the truck. Her teacher talks to her and tells her to not give herself away. We then follow Angelyn around and learn that her home life is not that great. I could go on, but I don’t want to do a play by play of the story. The basics are that Angelyn is finding out about herself and dealing with a lot of things that other teenagers are also dealing with. Her boyfriend is pressuring her to do things she doesn’t want to do, her friends leave her when she breaks up with him, and the abuse that has happened in her life seems to linger throughout everything. It’s very candid and realistic.

My thoughts: I think one of my favorite parts about this book is the fact that you see Angelyn struggling with decisions. When her boyfriend is trying to get her to have sex with him, she keeps passively pushing him off. As a high school teacher, I’m afraid to say that I see this happening and read accounts from my students about similar things as well. It is very hard to say no. Even as an adult, I believe we have a hard time saying no. Angelyn says no, but there are consequences to that action. It’s interesting how she weighs pros and cons within her head and how she views the world around her. The reason I go so into this book is because of the complete honesty involved. It does not sugar coat issues, skirt around issues, or exaggerate. The File on Angelyn Stark is just like reading the diary of a teenage girl. I appreciated it and know that my female high school students will enjoy it as well. I’m always being asked for books that are more realistic and “more like me.” It’s nice to give them one that is well written and still appropriate for their age group.

(5 stars)


Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott (3 stars)

Ship of Souls

by Zetta Elliott


Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612182681
  • Publisher: AmazonEncore
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Summary: D’s mother has passed away, leaving him an orphan. Luckily, D is very intelligent from being home schooled as a child, so he is placed into foster care quickly. D and his foster-mother get along very well. He is on his best behavior, and he does enjoy being with her. However, his life changes slightly when a new baby comes into her care. D is left to his own devices a bit more and has more freedom. At school, D offers to help one of the basketball stars, Hakeem, in math at the library. After his initial tutoring session, there is a small kinship formed between the two of them. Then, the popular hot girl, Nyla, asks D to sit with her group at lunch. She finds out that D is interested in birds, so she invites herself along on a bird watching expedition. After such a busy day, D goes to the park on his way home. While there, he finds a bird that has been trapped. He sets her free and finds out that this is no ordinary bird. This bird speaks to him and says that she is from another universe and D is her host. The next day, Hakeem, Nyla, and D go on their bird watching excursion. This seemingly innocent adventure turns perilous when beings from another realm try to capture them and D’s bird.

My thoughts: This was interesting and had some historical aspects that were fun to read about. I enjoyed the budding friendship, and the general plot line of the book. I felt that it was lacking a lot of description though. The characters never really came alive to me because I didn’t have any real back story on any of them, including D. There is not a lot of development that makes you feel for his loss or gain of two friends. Even the adventure of otherworldly beings was glanced over. I kept wanting to know more. I was craving details and never really getting them. This may have been by design because the novel is meant for a young audience, but I’ve read several middle grade novels that did not leave me feeling this way. I gave the story to one of my reluctant readers because it is fairly short, but he did not read much past the first ten pages before he told me that it was boring and went to find another book. I love the premise, but wish that I didn’t leave feeling like I didn’t care one way or the other about the characters and situations. (3 stars)


The Wild Book by Margarita Engle (5 stars)

The Wild Book

by Margarita Engle

Publish date: March 20, 2012

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547581316
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/20/2012
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 398,540
  • Age range: 10 – 14 Years
This is based on the stories that Margarita Engle’s grandmother told of her childhood.  It is written in free verse form.
Fefa struggles in school because of reading and writing.  The words do not seem to make sense to her.  She says that they slip and jump away like frogs.  The doctor says that she has word-blindness and will never be able to read or write.  Fefa’s mother disagrees and gives Fefa a blank book to fill with her own words.  Fefa begins writing in it nearly everyday.  Through this, she begins to feel more confidence in her reading and writing.  Outside of her reading and writing, there are other dangers about Fefa.  Cuba is a lawless place where bandits are stealing children for ransom.  Everyone is scared of the possible danger.  When the family is threatened, they do not have enough money to pay for all of the ransoms, but Fefa’s book helps her solve the family’s troubles.  She becomes the heroine, even with her struggles in reading and writing.
My thoughts:
This is a very touching novel.  I happen to love novels written in verse, so I came into it biased.  The voice of the young girl comes through perfectly.  I can hear the struggles of developing words, sounding out syllables, and then the growing boldness of her choices.  I root for her when she has to read things out loud, and feel bad when she describes frustrations and loneliness.  This was a fairly predictable book, but it does not detract from the language and flow.  It’s also such a quick read that I don’t know why someone would put it down or not pick it up to begin with.  I’ve given it 5 stars because I really can’t think of a reason to not recommend this to my students.  I think the advanced readers will enjoy it just as much as the struggling ones.  Bravo Margarita Engle!


The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark (4 Stars)

The Edumacation of Jay Baker

by: Jay Clark

4 Stars

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805092561
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 174,139
  • Age range: 14 – 18 Years
  • Lexile: HL770L (what’s this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)
Jay Baker is a freshman in high school.  He is in love with his cheerleader best friend (at the moment), and in a constant battle with Mike, the football playing bully that insists on calling in Gay Baker.  Jay is no slouch on insults, so the two of them go at it throughout almost the entire book.  Ms. Lambert helps guide Jay at school, but his home life seems to be in ruins.  His parents are separating because his mother is having an affair.  This leads to heartache, confusion, and sarcasm dedicated to avoiding the situations that bombard Jay.  Throughout the novel, he has to grow up and start facing things.  As a reader, you get to go through all of these mixed emotions with him.
My thoughts:
I was literally laughing out loud constantly throughout this book.  The sarcasm is thick within this book.  It’s witty, snarky, and sometimes ridiculous, but almost always hilarious.  Unfortunately, the slang gets annoying.  I wonder if it rings better with an older generation than it will with a younger one.  A lot of the pop culture references, and cheesy slang terms that are used relate to an older audience than to current young adults.  I think that teenagers will understand the references, but don’t believe that they are as relevant any longer.  Also, occasionally Jay Clark makes up words.  This was cute for about seventy pages or so, but it became overwhelmingly obnoxious.   If you can get past the lingo, then this is a real fun read that will keep you laughing through the good times and the bad.

Drive Down Ruby Road by Swarts and Swarts (5 stars)


Drive Down Ruby Road by Swarts and Swarts

5 stars

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781937216221
  • Publisher: Prairie Muse Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/23/2011
  • Pages: 122
  • Sales rank: 818,557
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.29 (d)


Drive Down Ruby Road is about the unlikely relationship of Dallas O’ Donnell and “Bloody Bill” Hawkins. “Bloody Bill” has a reputation of once killing his younger brother, Charlie, so kids make a habit of tossing red paint on his porch. Dallas happens to be the first person to get caught in the act. What makes things worse is that his father is the county sheriff and in order to calm Bill down, he says that Dallas will spend his summer repainting Bill’s whole house. At first, Dallas is very upset about this new chore, but while he is exploring the property, he finds a classic GTO. Dallas slowly begins to understand that Bill is misunderstood and feels bad for all of the torment that he has had to go through. He begins to fix up the GTO and investigate the death of Bill’s younger brother. This leads to a town wide investigation to try to prove a cold case and clear an innocent man’s name.
My thoughts:
This was an extremely quick read for me. I enjoyed the mixture between mystery, coming of age, and gearhead aspects of the story. Dallas’s character shows a great deal of maturity as he helps Bill come out of his shell. It allows the young to benefit from some of the strengths of the old, and also gives Dallas a chance to see great changes in someone who was much older than himself. The descriptions of how Dallas fixes up all aspects of the GTO makes me feel like I have no idea how a car works. I understand that things have changed and our cars are more computers than they used to be, but I can see how someone who likes to tinker with things would get a kick out of this aspect of the book. Dallas describes the entire process of fixing the car, and all of the new things that he needs. When I was reading through these parts, I was picturing one of my best friends. He never liked reading, but he loved working on cars. I wonder if a book like this would have gathered his interest just like a car did. Finally, the mystery of figuring out who killed Charlie adds another high interest level to the reading. With all of these layers, and the fact that the book is only 117 pages, I would recommend this to all of my reluctant readers. I passed it straight over to our lowest reading group, and had a few gentlemen that took to it immediately. They are craving books that look like teenage books, with teenage topics, and still at a low enough level for them to read. This met all of their requirements and led me to search for more within the series.
5 stars!