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My Favorite YA Books of All Time

I've been reading like a crazy woman for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden committee since January so I haven't been keeping up on my posts. It's been a lot of fun and I'm reading books that I would never have picked up otherwise. What an experience!

Because I have yet to process everything I've read since January (something like 35 books so far and about 30 more to go--and that's just Round 1!), I thought I'd make a list today of my all-time favorite YA books. These are books that I've read over and over again only to fall more in love with them with each reading; they are my "comfort food". In fact, just looking at this list gives me the warm-fuzzies and brings a smile to my face!

Here they are in reverse chronological order:

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger (2008) (This is the MUCH improved cover from the paberback edition)
I discovered this book thanks to the yalsa-bk listserve. Generally I would avoid a book with so many baseball references on the cover like the plague, but this one got so many good reviews that I just couldn't pass it up--and I'm glad I didn't. I'm re-reading this while my kids do SSR and I'm finding myself falling in love with the story and the characters all over again--the plot is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I blogged about this book on December 21, 2008, so you can read more there.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (2007)
While not normally a fan of science fiction, this book grabbed me by the throat and has never let go. I originally read it while preparing to introduce Neal Shusterman at the 2008 ALAN Workshop. It is thought provoking, timely, and just plain creepy & disturbing. I recently finished reading this aloud to my students (since it's not available in soft cover yet) and they were mesmerized by it. My favorite scene takes place in Chapter 61. As I read it out loud, I could look around the room and see my kids shivering; in fact just thinking about it right now gives me goosebumps.

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (2001)
I love everything about this book, including the swimming references (I was a swimmer in high school and a swim coach for years). This is the first Chris Crutcher book I ever read and it is still my favorite. I have a funny story about this one. First I read it. Then because I didn't remember if I'd read it, I got it on audio. As I was listening to it in my car, I realized that I'd already read it and remembered that the ending had made me extremely emotional. And, even though I thought it was a bad idea to try to listen to it AND drive, I just couldn't stop myself. Since then, I've read it numerous times, including with my Intro to Children's Lit classes. I love T.J.'s sarcastic sense of humor, the relationships he has with the adults in his life, and how he always sticks up for the underdog.

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci (2000)
This book is still the best YA mystery I've ever read. I've had a tough time selling it to my students, but the ones who have read it all the way through have loved it. One student, Mike (who didn't become a reader until he was 19), told me that he was reading it at home alone one night and when it started talking about ghosts, he had to stop reading because he got scared. What better testament for a book? I love, love, love the ending of it--in fact, it's what makes the whole story. I also love Plum-Ucci's The She.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate di Camillo (2000)
In my opinion, this is the perfect book. It is the simple, sweet, and endearing story about a girl, India Opal Buloni, and her dog, Winn-Dixie, who she finds at a grocery store and who helps her to find her place in the world. I even liked the movie (for the most part). The first time I finished this book, I smiled, hugged it to my chest and sighed, and turned back to the first page to read it again. Whenever I need a reminder of what I love in a book, I read this one.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)
This is the book that I would use if I ever had to give an example of the perfect use of "voice" in a book. Melinda's voice comes through loud and clear in this story. It is powerful and her silence through most of the book is gut-wrenching. I also love the way the story is told in Marking Periods with Melinda's "report card" at the end of each section, showing her grades in everything from Art and English to Lunch and Clothes. Whenever I get a new female student, I always ask her if she's read Speak. If she hasn't, it's the first book I hand her. Laurie's new book Wintergirls (2009) may take its place on this list once I get a chance to re-read it, but so far I haven't been able to wrench it away from my girls.

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck (1998)
I avoided this book for a long time because of the cover--even the fact that it won a Newbery couldn't suck me in. I can't remember why I finally gave it and read it, but it has been one of my favorite books ever since. This book and Because of Winn-Dixie are the two books I can recommend to anyone, regardless of age and can almost guarantee that they'll love them (I say "almost" because I had an Intro to Children's Lit class that proved to be an enigma--many of them hated it). Richard Peck is a master writer. Who else can pen the phrase, "'Never trust an ugly woman. She's got a grudge against the world,' said Grandma who is no oil painting herself." I've read this book so many times I'm surprised I can't tell you what page that line comes from. I'll just say this, Grandma Dowdel is my hero! I've read this aloud to my kids before and every day before we'd start they'd ask, "What is that crazy woman going to do today?" While I also liked A Year Down Yonder and Fair Weather, this is the one that I love the most.

Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer (1998)
One of my local librarians, Eve, handed me Backwater and told me that she thought I'd like it. That was the first Joan Bauer book I ever read...and now I've read every single book she's written. I love Bauer's characters--they are quirky, independent, and smart. And, while I've read all of Bauer's books, Rules of the Road is still my favorite. There's something about the road trip that Jenna Boller and Madeline Gladstone take that I can't resist. The relationship that they develop and the things they learn from one another make this book a can't miss. And if you just can't get enough of Jenna, there is also a sequel titled Best Foot Forward.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
When I first started teaching at alternative ed, it didn't take me long to figure out that I needed to find some really good YA books if I wanted to get my kids to read. One summer (probably 1995), I spent a lot of time perusing my local library's (very limited at that time) YA shelves. The Giver is one of the books I picked up and I have loved it ever since. I have read this book out loud to classes no fewer than 6 times and I am always amazed by Lowry's craftsmanship. The way she reveals the "secrets" in Jonas's society is masterful. I have used this book with my high school students and with college students. Even though it is an older book, I would definitely recommend it to any adult wondering just what YA lit has to offer.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson (1977)
Way back, many moons ago (the 1980-81 school year, in fact) my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Davis, read this book aloud to our class. Some people might argue that 3rd graders are way too young for this book and they might be right--I remember all of us sobbing while sitting on our carpet squares--but I have returned to this book almost every year since then. True, it is a sad story, but the friendship that Jess and Leslie form and their time spent in Terabithia is nothing short of magical. My dad used to have this on tape from the PBS show Wonderworks and I watched it again and again, crying my eyes out every time.
I finally decided how to spend the last of my Border's birthday gift card (for some reason I'm always pickier about how to spend a gift card than I am my own money--go figure!). I'm a huge fan of Kadir Nelson's artwork--his use of light is reminiscent of JMW Turner--so when I saw that he was doing a book on Barack Obama's election, there was no question that I had to have it. It arrived yesterday and is a beautiful little gem. Unlike his other books the illustrations are sparse, pencil sketches, but as usual they are stunning and hopeful. The words are Obama's. It is a PERFECT pairing. Take a look:

As Nelson has illustrated &/or written a number of books about subjects and people important to the African American community (Duke Ellington, Coretta Scott King, Abraham Lincoln, Henry "Box" Brown, Harriet Tubman, Michael Jordan, the Negro baseball league, ...) it is no surprise that he would want to commemorate the election of our first African American president. Here's a little bit from Nelson on the making of the book:

The second, big-time, fabulously exciting thing I get to do this year (for #1 see the January 21st entry) is that I have the HUGE honor of sitting on the award selection committee for the brand new Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award presented through ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE). For more information on this award and to view the award criteria, visit http://www.alan-ya.org/awards/ . This is my first time being involved with anything like this. It is absolutely amazing so far and the women who are serving on this committee with me are luminaries in the field of YA lit (if you think I'm kidding, check out this list http://www.alan-ya.org/page/2/ )! Starting in early January the books started rolling in from the publishers--it's like the ALAN workshop all over again except I don't have to cart these books all over creation...they come right to my front door! Needless to say, I've been reading my butt off and enjoying every minute of it. It's also been interesting as there are books on my list that I wouldn't normally pick up on my own and I am finding that I'm not as averse to Sci-Fi and Fantasy as I thought.

I did, however, give myself a break from the 2008 books to check out a brand new book that has been on my "to-read" list since last summer: the third book in Anna Godbersen's Luxe series, Envy. All of the librarian gals in my book group, newly christened "The Book Hook-ers", are in love with this series, so I had to be sure to read it in time for our next meeting.

Is there any question about what first drew me to these books? *sigh* Oh, to have dresses like these and someplace to wear them... *sigh*

As I've mentioned before, this series is just good, trashy fun (and I mean that in the best possible way). This is a turn-of-the century soap opera, complete with back-stabbing debutantes, handsome playboys, love triangles, and lies. Each book so far has ended with a twist that leaves me waiting for more. Unfortunately, it appears that there will be only one more book in the series. The website is gorgeous, as well, and you can even take an online quiz to find out which Luxe girl you are--I am the sweet and demure Elizabeth Holland (first book, pink dress)--and which Luxe Gentleman would be your true love--mine is the ever-suffering Henry Schoonmaker. Check it out for yourself: http://www.harperteen-theluxe.com/luxe.html .
I am safely home from D.C. where I was fortunate enough to bear witness to history. My mind, heart, and soul are still abuzz with all the excitement--can it be true that he's REALLY our president now?--so I will post some quick photos and edit in the gory details in a day or so once I've had time to process everything. (I am also waiting to see what kinds of pics others in our group managed to get.)

Overall, I can say that the air in D.C. was electrified with hope, pride, and excitement about our new Commander-in-Chief. It was so incredible to see people from all walks of life celebrating with one another. And, even with crazy crowd-control situations in some areas, we didn't hear one, single report of violence. Two quotes seemed to sum up the day: "Happy Obama Day!" and "Happy New Year!"

(I was sending text message updates to friends, co-workers, and the journalist who wrote the article about us. I've included the times and the text of the messages to give my real-time reactions to the events of the morning and to provide a timetable.)

8:00 a.m.: 1st & d streets waiting in line to get 2 security gates. We r human sardines but we r excited!
9:01 a.m.: Its chaos here! Not even the police know where we r supposed 2 go. We haven't moved yet & we have tickets!!!
10:37 a.m.: We heard our gate is not even open. We havent moved.

To say that the crowds were huge would be a terrific understatement. This was the crowd at 1st & D Streets at about 7:30 a.m. Three hours later we still hadn't moved, but the crowd was so tight I couldn't even raise my arm to get a picture. It was actually frightening and I was ready to give up and go back to the hotel, but we couldn't even get out.

10:48 a.m.: We just started moving-1 block! There may still b hope!
10:57 a.m.(To my sister, Alyson, who had a ticket in the Silver section): R u in? We r finally moving.
11:10 a.m.: We stil r not in. Our gate was closed until about 10 30. Dont know if we ll get in but we might atleast b able 2 hear.

For some reason (still unknown to us) our gate (the purple gate) was closed. We didn't think we would get in at all and we weren't even close enough to see or hear anything except the crowd cheering. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that this was as close as we were going to get--you can see dome of the Capitol in the distance. We were heartbroken.

12:05 p.m.: WE ARE IN - FINALLY!!

Then finally just before noon some purple ticket holders were allowed in and we raced through security and RAN towards the Capitol (if you know me at all, you know what it means that I ran). We arrived just as Barack Obama was taking the Oath of Office. We cheered and cried at the same time!

This was the view forward from the Purple Section. Tickets were only given to about 240,000 people, so we were closer than about 1.75 million people.

This was the view backwards from the Purple Section. The crowds, who watched and listened via jumbotron screens, extended BEYOND the Washington Monument (can you see it in the distance? Hint: Look under the street sign).

1:04 p.m.: ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE! There r no adequate words!

At the Midwest Inaugural Ball with my mom and my sister. That's me in the middle. Because it was one of the "official" balls and the President was scheduled to make an appearance, we had to pull out all the stops and look GOOD!

Cheryl Crow entertained the crowd. She said she couldn't remember the last time she played a gig in a dress and heels but that she was, "doing it for the new President. Just my way of serving my country." She also pulled a Marine out of the crowd for a song and a dance (especially touching for me, as my son is a Marine).

Cheryl Crow got the hook, however, when our new Vice President arrived.

Just before midnight, the President and First Lady arrived. The President addressed the crowd and then, "dance[ed] with the one who brung me. Who does everything that I do except backwards and in heels." It is thrilling to have such a graceful, classy, intelligent, first couple leading our country into the future!

Here's video of the Obamas at the Midwest Inaugural Ball:

Here's the link to our follow-up article in the Monroe Evening News:
I am totally jazzed to share the news that I am leaving on Monday to go to D.C. for the inaugural festivities! My mom (who is awesomer than awesome, as you will soon see) decided over the summer that when Barack Obama won the election, she was going to take my sister and me to D.C. for the inauguration. So, in August she booked hotel rooms and put her name on a list with our congressman to get tickets. Well, now it's official! Not only are we going to be in D.C., but we have 2 tickets to the ACTUAL inauguration, which means there will only be about 200,000 people between our new president and me (way better than 2 million, huh?). And, if you don't already think I have the BEST MOM IN THE WORLD, then check this out: If she has to use one of the tickets because her name was the one on the list, then she and I will go (because I campaigned for Obama--her call, not mine). If she doesn't have to be one of the ticket holders, then she'll give the other ticket to my sister so we can witness history up close and personal and she will watch the inauguration from the mall with some friends who are going with us.

We are also going to attend atleast one and possibly two inaugural balls--one of which is "official". That means that Mr. President and the first lady will actually be making an appearance!!!!!! I don't even know what to say about that (and it's rare that I am rendered speechless). I have only wanted to go to a ball since I first heard the story of Cinderella, so this is a really big deal. It is, however, going to be interesting to see how a cocktail dress looks with a Columbia parka and to see how I cram a party dress and all the accessories that go with it into a carry-on bag.

I'll be blogging about this more when I return and I will post some pictures. Below is the link to a story about our trip that our local paper, The Monroe Evening News, ran today:

Fave of '08--I GIVE UP!

I'm deciding to give up on the Fave of '08 list. Why? I just found out that the books that are currently at the top (Unwind) and bottom (Thirteen Reasons Why) of the list were both published in '07. Maybe not a big deal, and I definitely read them during '08 but that just screws thing up my whole thought process. FYI: I'm blaming this on the fact that I'm not a "numbers person"--my sister, the engineer, got ALL of those genes!

One book I forgot to blog about that I ABSOLUTELY loved was Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys!

I started this book while my students were doing sustained silent reading and I had to really fight to keep myself from laughing out loud--if they didn't already think I was a bit crazy, I'm afraid of what they would say! This book was light and funny and (thankfully) had a glossary in the back so I could look up the big words, like lugubrious. The cover makes you imagine a quaint, sweet book about an old-fashioned family, but the Willoughby family is anything but quaint and old-fashioned and that, of course, is the point. This book is a wink and a nod to children's books of the past like The Secret Garden, Little Women, Huckleberry Finn, Anne of Green Gables etc.--you know all of the books in which winsome and/or spunky orphans find a wealthy benefactor or are forced to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

The Willoughby parents certainly won't win any parenting awards; neither the mother or father can be bothered with the care of their four children: Tim, twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and Jane. After much discussion the children decide that their lives would be much better off if they were orphans, so they drop a travel brochure from The Reprehensible Travel Company (a company that specializes in trips to dangerous areas) through the mail slot. At about the same time the parents decide they would be better off if they were childless, so when the brochure arrives, they hire an "odious" nanny and take off without the children. They also attempt to sell the house out from under them and the children's clothing right off their backs, all the while sending home postcards about exciting trips down crocodile infested rivers and flying with untrained pilots over active volcanoes and disappointing the kids and Nanny with their survival. Many wonderful adventures ensue. I must say that I haven't read ALL of Lois Lowry's books, but this one was unlike any of the others that I've read and it was purely delightful!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Usually, I'm not a big fan of snow--it's cold and it makes it hard to drive--but since I didn't have to go anywhere today, the 8-10 inches of snow we've had in the last day and a half has provided me with the excuse I need to sit inside and read (as if I need an excuse?). Luckily, I have a gigantic bag of books from the library to keep me occupied--Im pretty sure I have enough food and books to hold me for at least 3 days. After Tuesday, check back here on a regular basis for desperate pleas to air-drop in more food and books. I think I was born to hibernate, so I'm good to just hang here 'til spring (OK, not really. I have some really fun stuff coming up in about a week that I'll share with you soon).

I have devised a new & ingenious way to choose which book I'm going to read next. Some people might resort to academic measures, like reading reviews or asking people they respect for recommendations, but if you've been following this blog for awhile, you KNOW that's not what I do. My previously preferred method was to line them up and look at the covers (see the "Hello, my name is Daria..." post), but I must say that my new method is MUCH less shallow and more objective--plus it gives me a good opportunity to post a really cute pic of my puppydog, Jake. I either hold two books in my hand or lay (is it lay or lie? Why can't I ever remember that rule?) three or more on the floor and then read the one Jake sniffs first.

BTW, Jake is one of the reasons that I cry whenever I read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (even though I love that book) and why I won't go see Marley and Me (probably ever). And, he's ten now which means that pretty soon I'm going to have to hunt down Jenna Fox's dad (if you don't get this reference, you must immediately read The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson).

I did choose this first book on my own yesterday. How did I choose it? I liked the fact that it looked like a quick read and it had an intriguing title and cover.

Me, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine is the story of Lucas Swain, a boy who becomes intrigued by the cremated ashes of a woman (known only as Violet) who has been waiting in a minicab office in London to be claimed. Lucas feels as if Violet has something to tell him and he devises a plan to get the ashes in the hopes that Violet can help him find out what happened to his dad, Peter, a man who disappeared without a trace five years earlier. I really liked this book, but it took about 6 chapters to really to pull me in. Trust me, though, it's worth the wait--once Lucas starts finding out stuff about Violet and his father it really picks up speed! This is a good, smart read about a boy who has to learn what it really means to be Lucas (not Lucas in Peter's image). He also begins to examine how his dad's disappearance has impacted ALL the members of his family. There were themes in this book that definitely reminded me of John Green's Paper Towns.

Jake's first pick today was Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway.

This was a fun and spirited book about a girl, Audrey, who dumps her musician boyfriend, Evan, only to have him write a hit song about it titled "Audrey, Wait!" Audrey becomes instantly famous for doing absolutely nothing (something we see a lot of in our society today) and it turns her entire world upside down. Suddenly this normal girl who really only wants to listen to music, go to concerts with her best friend Victoria (like the Queen), and possibly date the cute boy, James, that she works with at Scooper Dooper is being stalked by insane paparazzi and even more insane fans. I really loved the dialogue in this book--Audrey and Victoria are sarcastic, smart, and funny! I would warn that the cover makes this look like a book for a younger audience, but the f-bomb does get dropped pretty regularly. Give this to your fans of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. There is also a website www.audreywait.com with a page to generate your own tabloid cover and with links to i-tunes (where you can download the soundtrack) and Robin Benway's page.

Jake's second choice today had him deciding between 3 books. I haven't started it yet, but he picked (drumroll, please):

Who knows, maybe Jake chooses a book by its cover, too? Or maybe whoever had it before me was eating bacon while reading it? Hard to say.
We all know the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover." Well, I'm sorry, but I just can't help myself. I'm an extremely visual person and there are SO many books out there that I need a way to narrow them down. Some of you might suggest more "academic" ways of selecting books, like reading reviews or asking people I respect for recommendations, but even when I do those things, I still have trouble starting a book if I don't like the cover. I know I'm not the only one out there who does this; while strolling the publishers' booths at NCTE it was obvious that the people who sell and market books recognize the value of having a beautiful or intriguing or fun cover.

I've been thinking a lot about this subject lately because of the number of books I've read recently that have covers that I really don't like. Here are some of the books I LOVE and would have missed if I had only paid attention to the covers:

On the flip side, here are some books I read BECAUSE of the cover that I might not have read otherwise. And, with the exception of Twilight, I really liked all of them.

New #2

It's only a few days until Christmas and I should probably be shopping (HA!) or cleaning (HA! HA!) or baking (HA! HA! HA!), but it's cold and blowy outside and I don't feel like doing anything productive just yet.

Friday while enjoying our first snow day of the year I read two books. Two books? Yeah, I know it sounds like a lot, but one of them was Jon Scieszka's Knucklehead and it really wasn't very long (96 pages & it had pictures).

This was a really fun & fast read. Reminiscent of Chris Crutcher's King of the Mild Frontier and Gary Paulsen's How Angel Peterson Got His Name, Scieszka relates stories from his childhood for the audience of his Time Warp Trio books. Of course, right off the top of my head I can name at least 10 "grown-ups" who would relate to some part of this book--Catholic school, Boy Scouts, big families, station wagon car trips, and vacations by the lake--so I'd say this book has wide appeal. The fact that Knuckleheads has large type, photos, short chapters, and looks like a comic book will certainly boost its "boy appeal", something I'm sure Scieszka, founder of www.guysread.com, had in mind.

The second book I read was Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park. This is a book I wouldn't have picked up if not for the buzz it's been getting on the yalsa-bk listserve: the cover wouldn't have grabbed me; I don't always like epistolary novels; I'm not a baseball fan; and, while I love Mary Poppins, I know nothing about the Red Socks (& "Frankly, my dear..."). But, once I picked it up, I raced through it like a woman possessed.

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I laughed...I cried...and sometimes I even laughed while I was crying (a quote from Steel Magnolias captures my feelings perfectly, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."). This book has everything--it's laugh-out-loud funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and charming. Plus, it has musical theater references galore and I can never seem to resist those. Welcome to #2 on my Fave of '08 list (sorry, Dylan Fontaine).

As an assignment for their junior English class, three students, T.C., Augie, and Alejandra, relate the stories of their Most Excellent Year, which for all of them was their freshman year of high school. They share excerpts from the diaries they kept that year: T.C.'s written to his dead Mama, Augie's written to assorted movie & theater divas (like Liza and Natalie Wood), and Ale's written to Jackie Kennedy and later Mary Poppins. We also get to see e-mails between their parents and people who are almost family (like Phyllis, a worker at Augie's dad's bookstore, and Lori, T.C.'s advisor), as well as IM messages sent between the trio of friends. There's an awful lot going on in this book, but the way the stories overlap and interwine brings it all together beautifully.

I read some reviews of this on Goodreads, and while most were glowing in their praise (its average rating is a 4.24 out of 5), some criticized this book saying that was unrealistic; the teen characters were "too smart" and "too funny" and their families were "too perfect". I couldn't disagree more. Yes, these kids ARE smart and funny, but I found their intelligence refreshing and I think kids who enjoy books like Paper Towns and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks will too. As a teen I WANTED to sound like these characters, but I was a bit too shy and a bit too afraid to seem smart to actually talk that way and, though it sometimes seems like a hundred years ago (it was the 80's after all), I'm guessing there are still teens out there who feel the same way.

I also don't agree that their lives and families are perfect*. T.C.'s mother dies of cancer when he is six and Ale's diplomat parents expect her to live the life they want her to lead without ever asking what she wants. Yes, Augie's parents and friends accept the fact that he's gay, but why is it SO unrealistic that they would love him for who he is? And, I love the "nontraditional" family that T.C. and his dad, Ted, assemble around them to help them survive the loss of T.C.'s mom, Nikki.

*I think it's important to remember that, just as not every teen lives in the 'burbs with a lawyer mother and a doctor father, not every teen comes from a dysfunctional home with abusive, drug-addicted criminals as parents either. I'm all for gritty, realistic fiction--it's what most of my students want to read--but once in a while it's nice to read something that doesn't make me want to hurl myself off a bridge. And it makes me mad when people label a book that isn't all gloomy and tragic as unrealistic. Is there no middle ground? OK, my rant is over.

So the new & improved Fave of '08 list looks like this:
1) Unwind by Neal Shusterman (something is gonna really have to blow me away to move this one)
2) My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park
3) The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie
4) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
5) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
6) Paper Towns by John Green
7) The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
8) Savvy by Ingrid Law
9) The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
10) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Honorable mentions: Rumors by Anna Godbersen; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; Dramarama by E. Lockhart; & Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.

Updated Fave Books of '08

Updated Fave Books of '08 (still a work-in-progress)
1) Unwind by Neal Shusterman
2) The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie
3) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
4) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5) Paper Towns by John Green
6) The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
7) Savvy by Ingrid Law
8) The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
9) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
10) Rumors by Anna Godbersen

What got bumped? Unfortunately The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Maybe I Am a Sci-Fi Fan After All?

The Hunger Games is one of the books that has been getting great buzz this year from people I really respect. Despite that fact, I did NOT want to read it and I kept saying, "Yeah, yeah, I'll read it eventually" and moving it back to the bottom of my "to-read" pile. I mean, look at the cover--definitely not my style. Then add to that the fact that it's sci-fi (not usually my favorite genre) and a survival story (also not my fave genre) and I was resigned not to read it. So, what finally made me read it? One of my students, Hailey, said that if I didn't read it next, she'd quit school (not really, of course, but...). Since I've made her try books she didn't want to read, I figured it was only fair to give it a shot...

and, boy am I glad I did! The story is set in a futuristic North America that is divided into 12 districts where the people live hand-to-mouth. Each year to remind (and punish) the citizens for an uprising against the Capitol, the districts use a lottery process to select a boy and girl representative (between the ages of 12-18) to send the Capitol to compete in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is like Survivor meets the Ultimate Fighting Championships meets The Most Dangerous Game. The only way to win the completely televised and manipulated games and to bring honor (and more importantly, food) to your home district is to be the last person alive. Katniss, who has been the sole provider for her family since her father was killed in a mine explosion, volunteers to represent District 12 when her 12 year old sister's name is pulled during the selection process. She is taken to the Capitol along with Peeta, the male representative of her district, to be prepped, fed, and polished up for the games. She must then figure out how to use her skills as a hunter to survive against competitors much bigger and more well-trained than herself. This book was action-packed, dramatic, and gripping! If only the sequel would come out sooner.

The second sci-fi book that I've read in the past week is The Adoration of Jenna Fox, a book I have picked up repeatedly because I like the cover, but put back down after reading the plot synopsis thinking, "Oh no, this is science fiction, it's not for me." But, since I liked The Hunger Games so much, and because another of my girls recommended it, I decided to give it a try.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Seventeen year old Jenna Fox has just awoken from a coma only to find that she remembers nothing about her life. As she watches videos of her early life and snoops around the house, she begins to learn some very disturbing things about her accident and the events that followed. I don't want to give too much away, because I think the way in which the details are revealed in the book are perfect.

I loved the writing--it was lyrical and image-filled--and the plot line was gripping. The ending was not what I expected, but was very satisfying. All the way through this book, I kept thinking how nicely this book would complement (or dare I say replace?) Frankenstein in the high school curriculum.

Now I'm off to reconfigure my Fave of '08 list!