When You Reach Me by rebecca Stead book review

When you reach me book

When You Reach Me

Rebecca Stead

Mystery/Science Fiction

197 Pages

 

I picked up this book after a recommendation from a friend of mine.  I had never heard of Rebecca Stead or the book itself previously.  I’ll be honest: it took me quite a while to get into.  The timeline of the book was somewhat choppy to follow at times and it seemed like not a whole lot was going on.  For a good portion of the book, I was wondering what the story was and where it was going, and it took me a while to start to care about the characters, which is something that is important to me when reading a book.  However, as I got to probably the halfway point or so, my interest was piqued and I was excited to see what happened.

 

This book is about a girl named Miranda who lives with her mom.  The book takes place in the late 1970’s in New York.  Miranda receives a mysterious note that begins with:

“I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.”

She doesn’t know who the letter is from or what it means.  The letter asks her to write a letter back, explaining everything from the beginning, which is what becomes the book.  She isn’t sure what to do or what the “beginning” even is, but it becomes clearer to her later on.  Miranda kind of loses her best friend at the beginning of the book, for reasons she doesn’t understand.  That leaves her alone for a while, until she starts making new friends, they even find a job to work together.  Plus, her mom is going to have the chance to compete on a game show, the $20,000 Pyramid, so, her life could be looking up.

The notes keep coming to Miranda, and things are getting weirder with their content.  As the book went on, and as I started to see what was happening, there were some good foreshadowing elements in the novel that I picked up on.  Although I didn’t see how everything would play out, I was able to make some accurate guesses about events and the ending.  As I reached the end and was able to look back on everything, it was actually a very good book.  It is set in the past, in normal life, but has elements of science fiction you don’t even notice right away.  It was unique from any book I’ve read, and although it took me a while to get into, I really enjoyed the conclusion.  Miranda is able to figure out where the notes are coming from, and some of the other things that come together in the novel are very thought-provoking and carry good messages as well.  This book is worth a read if you are looking for something different and interesting.

Milkweed book review

Milkweed

Jerry Spinelli

Historical Fiction/War/Coming-of-Age

230 Pages

 

My mom gave me this book and I had no idea what it was going to be like. I ended up really enjoying it! First of all, I usually enjoy books relating to Nazis, because I think it is usually a very interesting subject. This book takes place in Warsaw during WWII. The Nazis were steadily taking control of everything and and doing whatever they could to control and overrule the Jewish people.

 

The story begins with a young boy who thinks that his own name is “Stopthief,” as this is what he is used to people yelling at him. He has no memory of life other than being on his own and fending for himself, which he does, of course, by stealing to survive. Stopthief meets a group of misfits and other orphan boys who take him in so they can all survive toghether, and they rename him “Misha.” For a while, things are great, with new clothes to wear and plenty of food to eat, until the Nazis decide to force all the Jews to move into the Ghetto.

 

Misha and his friends continue to sneak out and smuggle food, trying to feed themselves and help others. Misha is taken in by another family and lives with them through their own hardships, while trying to help. They give Misha part of the family life he’s never known, and he does the best he can to sneak out and provide extra food for them. Then the Nazis begin the “relocation” of the Jewish people. His adopted family warns him to take his new “sister” and fun away from the Nazis and keep her safe. Misha struggles with issues of his own and the book follows his own coming-of-age and maturation. I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was very entertaining, while heartbreaking. If you are interested in books of this nature or during this time period, I think you will really like this novel.

Cut book review

Cut

Patricia McCormick

Realistic Fiction/Self-Image

157 pages

 

Callie is a young teenage girl who cuts herself. The story starts out in a rehabilitation center called Sea Pines, although the girls residing there have nicknamed it “Sick Minds.” She is staying there to get help, but not of her own free will and choice; her parents sent her there. It is not just a place for girls who are cutters like her, she is living with a group of girls with a variety of issues, such as eating disorders and other things.

 

Callie doesn’t talk – at all – for a large part of the book. It is interesting because with no spoken dialogue from her, we get to see a lot into her mind and see her point of view. When her therapist and other people are talking to her, you can see where her mind is drifting to and what she is thinking instead of outwardly vocalizing her thoughts. She is resisting treatment and seems to not want to get any help for her problem. Through therapy and her own growth, Callie finally comes to an understanding that her recovery is up to her, but entirely possible.

 

This novel helps the reader explore the mind of a troubled teen. We might not fully understand how she feels, yet some of the feelings are things that we can all relate to. You can’t help but emphasize with the character and hope that she finds her way and gets better. McCormick put a lot of work into this short novel. She talked to girls who are actually cutters to hear their stories, and make sure that the fictional story of Callie was told right. I think that this book could be a great inspiration to teens who are going through something similar, whether it be cutting or something else entirely. It has a message of hope, so that they will know that they are not alone and that there is always help for such problems and a way that they can escape and better themselves. Some of the content might be considered advanced for some readers, but I don’t see any reason why anyone who is a teen or older couldn’t enjoy reading and even learn something from this book.

The Secret Life of Bees book review

The Secret Life of Bees

Sue Monk Kidd

Race/Coming-of-Age

302 pages

 

I had to read this novel for a class, but I ended up liking I more than I thought I would. The novel is set to take place in 1964. I always think books based on this time period that deal with race relations are interesting to read and learn more about. There is a movie based on this book too, and I thought that it followed the book pretty well, but as all of you know, the movie is never as good as the book.

 

Lily Owens lives alone with her dad, her mother having died when Lily was still very young. She carries unhappiness, loneliness, and guilt with her through her 14 years. Her dad is terrible to live with and Lily doesn’t feel like her loves her or cares about her at all. She decides to run away from her dad and home with Rosaleen, a Black woman who works at her dad’s house and helps take care of her. Rosaleen gets into trouble with the law, simply because she is Black, and Lily fears for her life, so together they escape to what they hope will be freedom for both of them. They make their way to a place Lily believes her mother has been and Lily finds herself alone in a house full of Black sisters.

 

Lily is forced to grow up fast as she searches to find who she is and where she came from. She finds new friends and a new life living with August Boatwright and her two sisters. She learns about the secret life of bees and the art of beekeeping. There she encounters additional problems of race but sees them in a new light. Her dad is searching for her, and when he finds her, will she be forced to leave the life she is making for herself and return home, or be allowed to stay?

 

This wasn’t my favorite book I have ever read, but I thought that it carried with it a good message. I think that if you are interested in this time period or race relations you would enjoy this book. Or, if you have seen the movie and enjoyed it, I’m sure you would like the book better because they always are better.

The Kite Runner book review

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini

Historical Fiction/Coming-of-Age

371 Pages

 

I picked this book up because I had seen a lot of people reading it which made me curious. It was not what I expected. The book is largely about a boy growing up in Afghanistan shortly before the invasion by Russian forces. His name is Amir and he lives in a house with his father, as his mother has passed away. The novel gets its name from an activity very popular at this time, a kite tournament. Amir’s closest companion is a boy named Hassan, who is actually the son of his father’s servant, and thereby the younger servant of the family as well. Although Hassan considers Amir his best friend and would do anything for him, Amir doesn’t even consider them friends. He is very aware of him importance and “rank” above Hassan.

 

When Amir enters the kite tournament, he desires to win to hopefully make his dad proud so that the awkwardness between them can end. His loyal companion Hassan is running kites for him and promises to bring the last kite back. As he is running to find it, his path is intercepted by some old rivals who have vowed revenge. The boys are abusing Hassan, and Amir finds him just in time to be able to intercede and stop them, but he is frozen with fear and does nothing. When Hassan finally returns with the kite, Amir is so ashamed with himself that he cannot even look at Hassan, and things between them are never the same.

 

This novel then follows the course of Amir’s life as he grows up and his life changes in ways he never could have imagined. He comes to America and his father, who was once a successful businessman struggles to make ends meet. He finds some happiness, but Hassan in always there in the back of his mind. He can’t help but wonder how things could have been different if he had found the courage to stand up for the boy that would have done anything for him that day. This is a sad story filled with drama and despair, but it is a good book. In the end, Amir is presented with a dangerous opportunity to possibly redeem himself, and it will take all the courage he can muster to face it.

 

There are definitely some situations and content that might not be acceptable for younger readers. This novel is a sad tale of things that you hope aren’t true as you’re reading it. It addresses topics such as bullies, courage, and standing up for others, with an overall good message in a powerful book that you will remember.

Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25 book review

Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25

Richard Paul Evans

Science Fiction/Adventure

336 Pages

 

This book was awesome!  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it because I had never even heard of it, but I really enjoyed it.  Michael Vey is a high school kid with a secret.  He’s electric.  He has the power of electricity running through him, but he must keep it a secret to ensure nothing bad happens.  When he starts to get stronger though, it becomes harder to contain his power and those who have been searching for him since his birth finally discover him.  Michael is catapulted into a new world of danger and adventure as he must fight to protect the ones he loves.

 

This book had some similarities to other books where kids discover they have powers, such as Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, but it was certainly its own story.  Also, some of you reading might think, “electric kids, really?” and in some cases, I would be right there with you.  However, Evans has come up with a way to explain these powers that seems plausible enough, so that it makes sense that something like this could happen in a normal world, without the explanation of something supernatural, like magic.  There are very few kids similar to Michael, but they are out there, and Michael must discover who his allies are and who his enemies are.

 

Michael must confront those behind the organization looking for him and causing his family pain.  With the help of his friends, both new and old, Michael must get to the bottom of the organization and fight to get his life and freedom back.  Friends become enemies and enemies become friends in this thriller that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.  I got so excited when I finished this book to continue on with the adventure that I went out to search for the next one in the series.  I was sad to find out that it isn’t out yet.  However, it is coming out in August of this year, so it will shortly be here, and I will be anxiously awaiting its arrival.  This book is great.  It’s not too out there, like some books in this genre, and it is full of adventure and excitement.  It is a book that is suitable for any age, but in my opinion, even a very entertaining read for adults.  So pick it up and check out this new name in teenage adventurers!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian book review

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie

Comedy/Drama

230 Pages

 

If you’ve never read anything by Sherman Alexie, you’re missing out.  His writing style is so witty and refreshing; it makes for a really fun read.  This novel is motivated by Alexie’s own experiences growing up, although it is written as a novel and is fiction.  The main character in the story, Junior, tells about his troubles and drama growing up on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington.  He was born with and has always had medical problems, but seems to combat these shortcomings with humor and drawing.  There are several drawings throughout the book, most of which are extremely comical.  I could remember myself when I was younger, probably feeling the same way that he did many times.

 

Junior’s best friend Rowdy was tough, and always stood up for him, until Junior decided to leave the reservation to go to the white school.  Many of the Indians on the reservation felt like he was abandoning them, but none more so than Rowdy.  Junior didn’t want to get stuck on the reservation and fall into the same life all the other kids did, and the white school was his way out.  It was scary for him to go to a new place, with no friends, and a place where he was so different from everyone else.  His own people reject him for his decision, and he doesn’t feel like he fits in at the white school either, so Junior is alone.

 

The situation is a sacrifice for his family as well.  It is difficult for them to transport Junior to and from the school every day, and face persecution from their own people.  Junior is determined to rely on himself and make something out of himself.  He turns to basketball at the new school in hopes that he can find somewhere he belongs.  His new team has to face his old team, which brings Junior face-to-face on the court with his old best friend and new enemy Rowdy.  This witty journal follows him through his new life at a new school, and gives a window into the relationship he forms with both the white kids and his Indian tribe.  It is full of humor as well as drama, and points out some of the hardships that the Indian tribe has and some heartache that no one seems immune to.