Friday, March 11, 2011

By The Time You Read This, I'll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

I just finished reading

I was immediately enthralled by the cover of BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I'LL BE DEAD. It was a quick read at only 200 pages, yet it also was an uncomfortable read. I couldn't read it in one sitting because I wanted time to really analyze what I was reading. Julie Anne Peters does such a wonderful job diving into the head of teenager who feels hopeless. There were times I could feel Daelyn's pain jumping off of the pages at me. Daelyn is trapped in a life she cannot stand. She has tried numerous times to end her own life, and her resulting failures only add to her anguish that she shouldn't exist. The plot is centered on a message board that Daelyn stumbles across during an internet search. It turns out to be a message board of all individuals who are contemplating ending their own lives. Once she enters the website, she has only 23 days until the day of the deed. Each chapter counts back as the days tick away.

I read this book trying to incorporate two points of view. I wanted to consider the impact of bullying on the receiver. The similarities to what Daelyn lived through--her own private hell during her primary years--was eerily similar to some of the teasing I can recall as a young student. For this reason alone, the novel feels real. She hears so many negative comments from her peers, mostly directed towards her weight that she begins to believe them to be true. However, I also wanted to read this book from the point of view of a parent/educator. What were the warning signs Daelyn gave for her deep depression? She was so isolated, she never made eye contact with anyone, and her self-esteem had plummeted. How could the influential adults in her life not notice she is once again contemplating her own death? For this reason, also, the novel felt real. Every day suicide occurs among young adults and there are typically warning signs gone unnoticed.

For this novel, I would want to know more about the reader. It gives numerous ways to end one's life, and even goes as far as to tell how painful the deed would be. On one hand, I wouldn't want to put this book into the hands of a student who feels similar to Daelyn, completely hopeless. However, there are several useful resources listed in the back for bullying and suicide that would be helpful knowledge for most young adults.

I do love the way the author tries to portray Daelyn as a stronger person towards the end of the novel. I was certainly left with questions lingering, which educators will love. There is room to be creative. The discussion questions at the end are also really helpful to dive into the novel and examine your own predefined notions. More importantly though it will allow anyone who has noticed bullying, been bullied, or is a bully see how devastating and detrimental that teasing someone can be.

The only negative things I can say about BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I'LL BE DEAD are:
* Each participant of the message board is assigned a Jane Doe user name; it can become confusing at times when the writers are changing'
* This novel also uses quite a bit of profanity, but does not allude to any sexual connotations.
* I didn't like the ending; I wanted to know more.

You can buy the book here. You can visit Julie Anne Peter's website here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bayou (Volume One) by Jeremy Love

I just finished reading Bayou (Volume One) by Jeremy Love. This was my first encounter with a graphic novel, and I am impressed. It's not a book that you will stay awake all night reading. You can read it cover to cover in about an hour. A graphic novel uses artwork to replace most of its words, so there is very little writing. You will spend more time analyzing the artwork to follow the plot than you will spend actually reading the story. With this said, the artwork is very powerful. It conveys many emotions and deals with some of the "not so nice" parts of American history, specifically Southern racism.

Directly from the back of the text:
South of the Mason-Dixon Line lies a strange land of gods and monsters that only Lee Wagstaff is aware of. When a terrifying creature emerges from the swamp and snatches her white playmate, Lee's father is accused of the kidnapping. In order to save her father from neing lynched, Lee must rescue her friend from this fantastic and frightening world, born from centuries of slavery and civil war. Her only guide is the blues-singing swamp monster called Bayou. Together they treck across a hauntingly familiar Southern Neverland, on a journey that will drastically alter both their lives... Bayou (Volume 1) collects the first four chapters of the critically acclaimed webcomic series by Glyph Award nominee Jeremy Love (Chocolate Thunder, Fierce).

Love plays on the phenomenon of a fantasy-like world where Lee, a young African American girl, sets out to save her father by delivering the truth. Her daddy has been accused of a crime that he did not commit. In a "white world" he is destined to be lynched. Lee wants to prove his innocence. The world she ventures into mirrors the world she lives in." I believe that the Kansas City Star sums it best by saying this novel is "Spellbinding...powerful stuff, filled with hope and hate and trust and betrayal." The truth is, our world can be not so pleasant at times. This should not surprise anyone, but may leave younger readers full of questions and mixed emotions.

Lingering Thoughts:
Due to its content, I would recommend this novel to mature young adult readers. The artwork may appeal to a younger reader, but the theme of the story isn't to be taken lightly. Racism has been deeply rooted in the South, and that is not new to us. However, younger readers may be deeply affected by some of the graphics (including lynchings, a child being swallowed by a giant, "violence" in general, etc.). I only recall one instance where profanity was used.

It will leave you hanging, so I encourage you to purchase Volume Two with this book. There will be a Volume Three available in the future.

Click here to read more about the author, Jeremy Love. Click here to buy it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I just finished reading

This is from the back cover of the book:
Once I'm on my feet, I realize escape might not be so simple. Panic begins to set in. I can't stay here. Flight is essential. But I can't let my fear show.

Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. The Hunger Games have begun.

The book trailer should intrigue you to read this novel.

The Hunger Games - Book Trailer from Sara Pyle on Vimeo.

Lingering Thoughts:
Wow! This book was hard to put down. It is the first of the series by Suzanne Collins based on war and its affects on young adolescents. With every dramatic twist and turn of its plot, I found myself wanting to know more. I thought Collins was brilliant to incorporate a "reality tv show" theme. It was also quite refreshing to see a female protagonist which often is over looked. The nature of the book itself will make it appealing to male readers, while the playful relationship between Katniss and Peeta (two of its primary characters) will appeal to female readers. I would classify their relationship as a modern day "showmance" for the entertainment of the audience who are watching The Hunger Games.

Although this book eludes to violent scenes, I wouldn't say they were any more graphic than what many of us dare to watch on primetime television.

I can not wait to see the movie that is set to begin production in 2011:

Click here to buy the book.

Click here to learn more about Suzanne Collins.