Monday, May 23

Reading Changes Lives

Last semester, I took Advanced Reading. I was the only undergrad in the class, which was a bit intimidating at first, but I ended up really really enjoying it. This was the first class where I felt like English and Education merged together, when usually my majors are completely separated. It was also a great introduction to what kind of classes I would take if I decided to go into Library Science.

In this class, we read The Hunger Games, which I already reviewed here, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. Also, we had to pick a teen author for our midterm presentation, and I re-read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is such a fantastic resource for kids to learn about racism and segregation. This story takes place in the 1930's and focuses on the Logan's, an African American family who struggles to hold onto their family's land in a time of hate and poverty. Cassie Logan, the novel's protagonist, along with her three brothers, are exposed to this hatred for the first time, and learn about the social injustice surrounding them.

I had read this book back in Middle School, but did not really remember it when I picked it up again this spring. It's a perfect Middle School read, and an incredible introduction to this historical period, racism, and segregation. These topics are illuminated by the strong-willed Logan family and their story. I would highly recommend this book to be used in the classroom, English and History both.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

This is a story of two outcasts that form a life-altering friendship: Eric Calhoune, an obese teen who joins the swim team his senior year and tries not to lose weight to keep from abandoning his high school partner in crime, Sarah Byrnes. Sarah's disfigured facial scars from a childhood accident ostracize her from her peers, and her only defense is her sharp mind and quick comebacks. But when Sarah stops speaking and is committed to a mental ward, Eric becomes determined to help her, but quickly finds that this issue may be more complicated for a high school kid to handle. He asks for help from his peers and his swim coach, which is a great model for readers of who to turn to when a problem becomes bigger than you.

This book deals with countless teen issues: abuse, abortion, religion, suicide, etc. and has been banned in various school districts because of this. It is my opinion that these issues MUST be discussed. This book is a way for teens to explore morally confusing issues in a safe, educational way, and allows a starting point for these issues to be discussed with parents. We held a debate in my class about banning or not banning this book, and it got heated. These are difficult issues to talk about, which makes them that more important.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls is one of my all time favorite teen books. Anderson's language and writing style within this tumultuous whirlwind of eating disorders is incredible. The emotions drip from the pages, and Lia, the narrator, is a honest portrayal of a teen girl that has lost her way under the pressures of adolescent life. Lia and Cassie were best friends since elementary school and created their own dangerous eating disorder, promising each other to be the thinnest they can be. Years later, when Lia is eighteen, and her and Cassie are no longer friends. Cassie dies alone in a hotel room and calls Lia thirty-three times before her death, but Lia never picks up. The guilt and desire to be thin drags Lia back into her eating disorder in this poetic, stream of consciousness writing. This is honestly the most life-changing adolescent novel that I have ever read, and the writing is mesmerizing. I own the book, and it is filled with underlines and stars, marking the lines that are horribly beautiful.

Laurie Halse Anderson's books have been banned as well, and have caused much debate in the literary world. Her novel Speak was challenged vigorously. Laurie Halse Anderson responded by writing a poem, threading her readers' letters about how Speak changed their lives. This video is of her reading this poem, and it is amazing.

That's all for now! More reviews to come!

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