The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reason for Reading: This was one of my planned reads for the social justice theme read in February.

Review
When Arnold “Junior” Spirit accidentally breaks his rez-teacher’s nose, he gets a piece of unexpected advice: get off the rez before you lose your spirit. Junior decides to go to the all-white high school in a farm town 20 miles away from the reservation. He consequently deals with racism from the whites and hatred from his reservation friends, while fighting the usual teen problems of making friends, succeeding in sports, hiding his poverty, and impressing the girls. This book is hilarious and tragic at the same time. I loved the cartoons drawn by Junior…and I loved his dry, sarcastic humor. The characterization was fantastic – I really felt for Junior during his troubles. But you can’t read this book and expect some fuzzy-happy picture to be painted of reservation life. This book is gritty and realistic. Even rather depressing at times. I was really touched at Alexie’s honest portrayal of the life of a reservation kid. I look forward to reading more of Alexie’s books in the future. 

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

2012 Book 96: Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (6/28/2012)

Reason for Reading: This has been one of my top 5 LT recommendations for a while now, so I thought I’d try it out.

My Review 4/5 stars

Upon returning home from school one afternoon, Clay Jenkins discovers a box of cassette tapes in which his crush Hannah Baker explains the thirteen reasons why she committed suicide. Over the course of one night, Clay’s perception of life morphs as he reacts to Hannah’s tragic story. I was prepared to be annoyed at this book–I thought it would glorify vengeful suicide. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I was immediately drawn in to Hannah’s story. I could hardly put it down. I was impressed that there was very little bitter vengefulness expressed. Mostly, she just wanted to be understood. Her story shows the reader in horrifying detail how the little not-so-nice things we do might have a huge impact on others. It’s a story that tells us to look at the way we treat other people…and to pay attention to the signals that they’re sending. It is a heartrending story, and was emotionally difficult for me to get through, but I think it has the potential to change the way teenagers view their own actions. It’s also an amazing hard-to-put-down story.

Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine

2012 Book 61: Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine (4/11/2012)

Reason for Reading: Autism Awareness Month

My Review 5/5 stars
Caitlin Ann Smith is a 5th grade girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. When her brother dies in a school shooting, she must find closure. Her brother had been her one friend who could explain to her how she should say and do things without insulting them. Without her brother, she has difficulty comforting her grieving father. This is a heart-rending story but, though it starts out very sad, it comes to a warming conclusion. I know children’s books about grief abound, but this book is special because it also shows readers how children with Asperger’s might seem rude when they are really trying to be helpful. Definitely recommended.

Vampires Burial and Death, by Paul Barber


2012 Book 49: Vampires, Burial, and Death by Paul Barber (3/16/2012)

Reason for Reading: Interest in folklore and popular culture about vampires

My Review 3.5/5 stars
In Vampires, Burial, and Death, Barber differentiates between vampires of folklore and those of popular fiction (with a very strong emphasis on those of folklore). He proposes that the folklore of vampires arose due to people’s fear of dead bodies. He rigorously notes the common traits of folklore vampires (blood at the mouth, bloating, groaning when staked, red face, etc.) and points out that all of these things could occur naturally in a decaying body. The content of this book is very interesting, and Barber’s thesis is quite logical. However, the narrative was a little drier than necessary. I enjoyed learning, but wished it could have been a little more engaging!

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

2012 Book 40: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver (2/28/2012)

Reason for Reading: Was looking for a redemption theme

My Review: 3/5 stars
Sam Kingston is a mean-girl with everything she needs: popularity, the hunky boyfriend, and popular mean-girl friends. When she dies in a car accident, she is given the chance to live her final day 6 more times. She learns that nobody is exactly what they seem and that everyone is redeemable. I was eager to read this book because I thought it would be an interesting twist on the Groundhog Day theme. However, I didn’t realize that it would be a regurgitation of 80’s and 90’s movies to the point where there were very few truly original scenes. It’s basically Groundhog Day in a mish-mash of high school flicks with other movies worked in. I was actually to the point of looking for the “token black kid” it was so regurgitated (no appearance). So, I was a little disappointed in the author’s skill. On the other hand, many teens (for whom this book is intended) will not have grown up on 80’s and 90’s movies and might find the book quite interesting and original, though very sad. The theme of redemption and everyone’s-the-same-on-the-inside was applaudable. The writing was smooth and engaging, though the beginning was a little irritating because you had to choke through her mean-girl attitude. It’s good for a light read, but it’s not literature.

Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant


2012 Book 30: Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant (2/15/2012)

Reason for Reading: I enjoy reading Newbery Medal winners sometimes (and it was nice and short)

My Review 3.5/5 stars
After the death of her aunt May, Summer must deal with her own grief as well as the ensuing depression of her bereaved uncle. Short, cute book about dealing with death. Nothing amazing. I think Newbery judges just really like books about grief.

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch


2012 Book 3: The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch (1/4/2012)

When Randy Pausch found out that he had terminal cancer and only a few months to live, he decided to give a “last lecture” providing insightful life advice about achieving goals and remaining optimistic. Everyone I have spoken to about this book absolutely loved it. Indeed, I found it very inspirational. He seems to have achieved all of his childhood dreams and managed to remain optimistic when he only had a few months left to live. However, it fell a bit short for me because his goals were so very different than my own. He was a self-proclaimed workaholic—ALL of his achieved goals were career driven. Apparently despite the wishes of his wife, he decided to spend a lot of time during his final months preparing this final high-impact lecture. The lecture was indeed a success. Good for him—clearly it was something he needed to do. But I hope I am never so focused on my career that I would spend the final months of my life working instead of spending time with my family and loved ones. Perhaps I am just pessimistic, but I seem to be the only one who found his story outwardly inspiring, but for the wrong reasons. I gave this book 3.5/5 stars.