January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Would Make Great Book Club Picks

Caveat: I'm a YA Librarian. I made this list with teens in mind. That doesn't mean that every pick is technically a teen book. It simply means that I think a group of teens could have engaging and thought-provoking conversations about the books. Of course any group, regardless of age, could enjoy reading and have an excellent conversation about any of the ten books below. What's been your favorite book club book?

10. 1984 - George Orwell Terrifying. It seems like each day brings us a step closer to the kind of world in which Winston Smith lives.

9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie Funny and heartfelt, the story brings to light an existence that is not often explored in contemporary literature.

8. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak Am I right in thinking that every book club in the world has already discussed this book? If not, you're welcome.

7. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card This thought-provoking science fiction story isn't for everyone, but it's an excellent read. It's also currently being made into a film. What better time to have a book club tackle it?

6. Life as We Knew it - Susan Beth Pfeffer The book suggests a truly frightening prospect. I expect the book club would spend a lot of time discussing "What if?"

5. Feed - M.T. Anderson You're probably starting to notice that many of the titles on this list are dystopian in nature. It's a sub-genre that by far has been the most successful with our Library's teen book group. They're the inheritors of what we've created, so it's only fitting they explore the possibilities of what's to come.

4. Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson A fascinating and heartbreaking glimpse into the chaotic mind of a young girl struggling with an eating disorder.

3. American Born Chinese - Gene Luan Yang A graphic novel as a book club pick? Absolutely...especially a gem like this one. Three interrelated stories for the price of one.

2. Unwind - Neal Shusterman The teens not only found this one fascinating but exciting as well. Shusterman has that effect on people.

1. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins It's phenomenally popular and sure to spark discussion not just about the world of Panem but our own.

January 24, 2012

Book review: The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

Jay Baker’s got trouble, right here in River City. Trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with B, and that stands for—better luck next time? You got that pop culture reference, right Mr. Baker? After all, the ones you fling at your readers span decades beyond the referential zingers any typical high schooler would have in his arsenal of snark. They also, alas, get in the way of the story you’re trying to tell, making readers take time out of the narrative to figure out just exactly what you’re trying to say.

Having said that, The Edumacation of Jay Baker isn’t all bad. Amidst the overwhelming tide of female voices in teen literature today, it’s always refreshing to have a male protagonist—even if he is angsting over the women in his life in a voice that misses the mark of feeling authentic. His surprisingly strong bond with his older sister is a positive spot too. They snark at each other as most siblings are wont to do, but there’s still a deep love present, and it helps both of them deal with the situation of their parents’ marriage imploding.

The plot itself is nothing new, but nothing bad either. In more capable hands, the family drama and a shifting of affections from one girl to another while not groundbreaking, is not an unwelcome addition to the shelves. This particular book, however, is done in by a mismanagement of words.