Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte

Lipsyte, Robert. (1977). One Fat Summer. HarperCollins Publishers. 232 pp.

· ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults

Misfits/Outcast, Growing up, Self-esteem

Fourteen year old Bobby Marks dreads summer every year. His family lives in New York, but they vacation every summer at their home on Rumson Lake. Bobby hates summer because he is overweight and can’t imagine being able to take his shirt off to swim or walk around. He is an emotional eater and has very low self-esteem.

During his summer vacation, Bobby’s friend, Joanie, goes back to the city and won’t tell him why. His sister is seeing a boy from Rumson Lake and doesn’t want their parent’s to know, and his parents are constantly fighting about Bobby’s mom becoming a teacher. Bobby soon finds that this summer is full of secrets. Eventually, Bobby finds out that Joanie had plastic surgery on her nose, which changes their relationship forever. His sister is caught with Pete and his parents continue to argue about work. Bobby finds a job mowing lawns at Dr. Kahn’s estate, a wealthy man who works Bobby to death five days a week. Bobby finds out that he has taken Willie Rumson’s job and is terrorized by Willie and his friends several times. By the end of the novel, Bobby finally stands up to the town bully and proves that he is becoming a man. He is finally proud of himself on the outside and is able to show what has always been on the inside.

I really and truly loved this novel. I’ve never personally experienced what it is like being overweight, but I know how challenging life can be when you are self-conscious about any part of yourself. I loved Bobby! This is a great novel for obese children and other students experiencing issues with being a misfit. The family dynamic is very real in this novel, even though I didn’t like his parents very much. Although this book was written several years ago, the family issues portrayed in the novel are still very current.

This is a great novel for young readers and I think it sends a great message to those who are struggling with bullies and image issues. Joanie’s character will bring about great discussions around her actions and motives. I wish that Lipsyte would have continued the dialogue with Bobby and Joanie when they were discussing her surgery. They were so close because they both understood what it was like to be different. I felt like she just left Bobby all alone in his secluded world, but maybe that is what he needed to step up and finally defend himself.

I was so proud of Bobby when he realized that Pete didn’t know anything about being a man, just like he didn’t. I also love that the story did not center around dieting or over exercising, especially in the world that we live in now. I think that would have sent the wrong message to students concerned about their weight. Although he was being worked to death, Bobby was being active for the first time in his life. He realized that he was an emotional eater and tried to overcome that. The novel did a great job of showing an external transformation due to an internal transformation. Bobby's summer was definitely more than 'one fat summer'.

I would use this book as a whole class novel, a read a-loud, and a book choice for a literature circle. This book would be wonderful for younger students, probably starting in 7th grade.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Satrapi, Marjane. (2007). Persepolis. Pantheon. 341 pp.

Graphic Novel/Autobiography/Memoir
War, Iranian Culture, Coming of Age, Politics

Persepolis is now sold in one volume, instead of being divided into two volumes. (The Complete Persepolis).

This graphic novel tells the story of Satrapi's life growing up in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The story centers around her large and loving family. No matter where she goes, Satrapi always ends up coming home. Her story is very touching and also very funny. Satrapi gives a lot of historical information throughout the novel, which helps readers understand the Iranian culture and her personal circumstances. Her story is very heart-wrenching, but she includes a lot of comic relief. Satrapi’s childhood was filled with warfare and death. Her family decided that it would be best if she moved to Vienna to escape the madness in Iran. During her very early teen years, Satrapi moved to Vienna only to face the many trials of adolescence on her own and without her family to comfort and guide her. After many horrifying experiences, she moved back to Tehran. She enrolled back in school and meet her future husband, Reza; She married when she was twenty-one years old, but they later divorced.

I was very surprised how much I actually loved reading this graphic novel. It was hard to get used to at first, but I loved the graphics. The pictures made Satrapi’s story all the more real. I loved reading about Satrapi’s family and their wonderful family dynamic, especially her relationship with her grandmother. The Iranian Revolution caused many heartaches in her family, but they never gave in to the political hierarchy. They lived how they wanted to live, but there was definitely a fine line between what they did in public and what they did in private. It was hard thinking about living through a war that was actually happening down the street from their house! The narrative really helped me sympathize with her story, even though I have never be in a situation close to hers.

Satrapi’s mother and father raised her to be a smart, confident woman who did not back down to authority. Satrapi’s temperament caused her a lot of problems, but she always spoke up for what she believed in. She was very headstrong, but she still struggled with the issues that most teenage girls face.

There are so many little principles placed throughout the novel. One big theme includes standing up for yourself and your beliefs, even if you are going against the grain. Satrapi and her grandmother have a wonderful relationship and her grandma gives her wonderful advice all throughout the story. For instance, her grandma always told her to “keep your dignity and be true you yourself” (195). My favorite part is at the end of the novel when Satrapi tells her father and mother that she is getting a divorce. Her father says, “I knew it all along… if she hadn’t gotten married, she would never have known that it wouldn’t work between the two of them- everyone has to have their own experience”(339). I think I love this so much because I subscribe to that same principle. Now, I’m not promoting divorce or anything, but I very much believe in learning through experience. This principle has gotten me in a lot of trouble growing up, but no one can take your experiences a way from you. (my parent’s just don’t understand this!)

I would recommend this to everyone! It is very easy to read and I think you will really enjoy the stories, history, and graphics. Satrapi also co-wrote and co-directed the animated film version of Persepolis.

This book deals with war, religion, defiance of authority, family, relationships, sex, drugs, and much more. I am really not sure about the age range, but I would say 9th graders and up. I think this book would be very beneficial to a student who is interested in learning about the Middle Eastern culture and its history. This book will definitely be in my class library and I would also use this novel as a book choice for a literature circle.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

Hooper, Mary. (2008). Newes from the Dead. Roaring Book Press. 241 pp.

Fiction, Based on a true story
Discrimination, Gender, Puritan religion, British history, True Love

The novel, Newes from the Dead, takes place in 1650 England during the civil war between King Charles and Parliament. The novel is based on the true story of Anne Green, a servant who survived her own hanging. This story is beautifully written and includes a large number of historical events. Hooper concludes the novel with an author’s note that shares more historical content and includes the actual facts behind the true story of Green’s medical miracle. She also includes a bibliography that references the documents she used to compose this story.

The novel is told by two people: Anne Green and a medical student named Robert. The novel begins with Anne Green waking up in total darkness, not knowing if she is in Heaven, Hell, or maybe Limbo. She also narrates the story that reveals the reasons for her hanging. Robert is a medical student assigned to Anne’s body for his first dissection and he tells the story of discovering that Anne is still alive. The novel is divided into chapters that rotate narrators.

If you do not want to know the plot of the story, STOP READING and begin again with the paragraph that begins "The novel started out a bit slow...". Sorry for the inconvenience, but I loved the details so much I wanted to include them in the blog.

John Taylor is Anne’s love interest until Geoffrey Reade, the heir to Sir Thomas’ fortune, lies to Anne by telling her that he loves her and will give her all the riches in the world if she will sleep with him. Sir Thomas is Anne’s master and has a tremendous amount of political support in the community. Anne falls for Geoffrey’s wonderful lies and quickly ends her relationship with John Taylor. While Geoffrey is away at school, Anne discovers that she is pregnant. Anne is left all alone with her secret until she tells her mother. After finding out who the father is, Anne’s mother suggests that Anne see a cunning woman to ‘end’ her pregnancy. This, however, does not work. Upon Geoffrey’s arrival home for a vacation, Anne realizes that he is engaged to a wealthy girl he meet at school. When she tells him of her pregnancy, Geoffrey denies sleeping with her and refuses to take responsibility for his actions. He says that if she tells anyone that he is the father, he will deny sleeping with her and tell everyone that she has slept with the whole serving staff at the mansion. All alone, Anne delivers a still-born baby prematurely. When she realizes that the baby is dead and gains the strength to walk, Anne returns to the mansion and leaves the baby in a field where she gave birth. Some of the other servants, including Mrs. Williams and Susan, who had suspected that she was pregnant, notice Anne’s dirty clothes and demand that she tell them what had happened. In the middle of the story, one of the servants runs out and fines the dead baby. Mrs. Williams and Susan summon Sir Thomas. After telling Sir Thomas that his grandson is the father, Anne realizes that her future is in danger. Sir Thomas calls the police and Anne is put in jail for fornication and the murder of her child, even though he was still-born. After two weeks in jail, Anne was hanged for infanticide. Her last words were, “May God convey me swiftly to paradise…” Her body was then taken to an apothecary’s home for medical dissection.

Robert is a very nervous young man and has a bad stuttering problem. His mother died when he was very young and after seeing Anne’s corpse, he remembers the details of his mother’s death and seeing her in her coffin. While waiting for the other doctors, including a character named Wren, Robert witnesses Anne’s eyelids fluttering. Anne is awake, but unable to move or speak. Robert finally speaks up and the other doctors witness the same miracle. They nurse Anne back to health and she becomes a medical phenomenon. Her first words after her “resurrection” were again, “May God convey me swiftly to paradise…” Her revival was seen as God’s recognition of her innocence. Three days later, Sir Thomas, the man who fought for her unjust death, was found dead. John Taylor comes to visit her during her recovery and Anne says, “And I look at him and know that my life story can begin again, as if I am newly born, and count myself as both the most cursed woman, and the most fortunate, that ever was on this Earth” (241). The storyline is so bone-chilling, but it also includes a love story for the girls.

In the author’s notes, we learn that Anne and John Taylor married and had three children. Anne died, again, in 1665. We also learn about the trial, and readers can see that the story was very much based on true facts. After Anne’s hanging, Geoffrey Reade was sent out of the country and was not heard of again. He did not receive the great inheritance that he expected. The four doctors present during Anne’s recovery became very well known in the medical field, but the involvement of Christopher Wren was discovered only a few years ago when a poem was discovered by an undergraduate from Oxford. Historians believe that the instrument used in Anne’s hanging was incorrectly placed which resulted in her becoming unconscious, but did not break her neck. Also, the day of her death, December 14, 1650, was severely cold and could have caused cryogenic preservation, which is when the brain is frozen and therefore prevents the brain from being starved of oxygen.

The novel started out a bit slow for me and it took awhile to get used to having two narrators and two separate plots. But after I adjusted, I found this book to be very interesting and fun to read. This is a great novel for a younger audience, maybe 7th or 8th grade and up. It does include premarital sex and abortion issues, but nothing is too overt.

I loved the fact that it tied in so many historical elements, including the atmosphere of England during this time and the interpretation of the different classes. I think that if students new the historical background before starting the book, they would not have the same problems I had. Gender also plays a big role in the plot, as does the Puritan’s religious views. Reading the author’s notes at the end made the story so real. The novel is very much based on the actual facts and it is chilling to think that this actually happened. This book covers many topics that would be great for discussions and paper topics, including the historicy of England, the history behind hangings, the class discrimination, the laws against fornicating before marriage and its consequences, and the ways in which this account changed the medical field forever. I also think it is important to point out that Anne had so much say when she woke up, but couldn't speak. Moreover, Robert was unable to express himself through words because of his speech impediment. Together, they found their voices.

I think that this novel would be great to read while students where studying European history during this time period. Students would really get a since of the social atmosphere of the time and I think students would really love reading something that is so closely based to actual facts, especially since the story is so creepy! The bibliography is also a get addition to the text because it gives students an example of a work of fiction that is based on actual facts. It also gives them an example of how to cite articles and court hearings. The book’s title comes from an article written about Anne in 1651 by Tho Robinson titled, Newes from the Dead, or a True and Exact Narration of the miraculous deliverance of Anne Green. Anne was interviewed for this article during her recovery. This article would be a wonderful tie in, along with learning the historical context.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Angelou, Maya. (1997). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Bantam Books. 290 pp.

Memoir/Autobiography; African American, Coming of Age, Discrimination, Identity

This is the first volume of an autobiographical series written by Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a coming of age story which describes Maya’s childhood in Arkansas and California during the 1930’s and 1940’s. This autobiography centers around her childhood after the divorce of her parents and concludes with her giving birth to her son at the age of sixteen.

Maya’s parents divorced when she was three years old. She was then sent with her brother, Bailey Jr., to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, in Stamps, Arkansas. Much of the story is based in Arkansas, which was particularly interesting to learn about the culture during those times. The children called their grandmother, Momma, and she quickly became the central moral figure in Maya’s life. Bailey and Maya had a wonderful brother/sister relationship. They laughed together and struggled through hard times together. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings portrays a clear picture of what it was like growing up around strong racism and segregation in the South. This novel also deals with struggles of isolation and displacement. Maya lived many different homes during this account: from California to Stamps to St. Louis to Stamps to Los Angeles to Oakland to San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Francisco. The poem Maya read on Easter which stated, “I didn’t come to stay”, foreshadowed her rootlessness. Maya struggles with finding her true identity throughout the novel, and this plays a major role in that struggle.

The story also conveys the struggles of becoming a strong black woman during this time period. She constantly struggles with self-esteem issues, mainly after being sexually molested by one of her mother’s boyfriends at the young age of eight years old. Later, she becomes pregnant at the age of sixteen. Literature plays a major role in this novel, as well. Maya says that her first love was William Shakespeare! Maya and Bailey both have a passion for reading, because it allowed them to escape into an imaginary world of fantasy. After her rape, Maya was helped by a woman named Mrs. Flowers to redefine her voice through the words of writers and poets. Her self confidence dramatically rose during this time. The novel also includes a great list of literature that Maya and Bailey read, including Jane Eyre and The Well of Loneliness. Naming was also a big theme in this novel. Maya’s real name is Marguerite, and most of her family in Arkansas called her Ritie. The nickname, Maya, was given to her by her brother. When she left Arkansas to live with her mother in St. Louis, her family told her the story of the nickname. Consequently, finding her family is connected with finding her identity. The fact that she goes by this name today, shows the deep admiration she holds for Bailey.

This novel is filled with many other issues, including violence, murder, resistance, self-esteem, religion, family, community, diversity, segregation, parental responsibility, alcoholism, and neglect. However, the novel is not overtly sexual and does not include overly violent details. I think this book can be used in 7th grade classrooms and up.

All in all, it was a great novel and I would definitely use this as a choice for an independent book read/ book choice or literature circle. I think this would be a great bridge to a history class if they were discussing African American history during the 30’s and 40’s or if they were talking about Arkansas history.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Cormier, Robert. (1974). The Chocolate War. Pantheon. 288 pp.

· New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year

· ALA Best Book for Young Adults

· School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Fiction, Trouble at School, Bullying

Literary Elements- Characterization

Jerry Renault is a New England Trinity prep-school student. After his mother’s recent death, Jerry begins questioning his father’s monotonous lifestyle and searches for the meaning behind the poster in the back of his locker which states, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” (from The Wasteland by T.S. Elliot ) As Trinity’s annual chocolate sale approaches, Jerry decides that he doesn’t want to participate. The fund-raiser is not mandatory, but no one has ever chosen to not participate. For a short time, Jerry becomes a hero by promoting independent thinking, but things quickly change when his teacher, Brother Leon, asks for help from The Vigils, the school’s own secret society. Archie Costello is one of the cruelest members of The Vigils and sees Jerry’s antics as a threat to him and his secret society. Jerry soon finds himself in a war with Brother Leon and Archie that leaves him broken-bodied and broken-spirited.

Everything is going normal for Jerry in his new school until Archie Costello notices him and wants to give him an “assignment”. The Vigil assignments are given so underclassmen can “prove themselves”. Jerry’s friend, Goober, is given an assignment to unscrew all the furniture in Brother Leon’s room one night. After this assignment, Goober feels so much shame for going through with the deed, and he is never the same. Jerry’s assignment is to refuse the fifty chocolate bars that each student is expected to sell for ten days. Jerry accepts his assignment, but after the ten days are over, he continues to reject the chocolate because he doesn’t want to sell them. This really upsets Brother Leon who is in charge of the fund-raiser. Leon desperately seeks out the help of the secret, but really not so secret, society of The Vigils to “inspire” Jerry to sell his portions no matter what it takes. Archie begins to see Jerry as a treat and starts his twisted mind games to try and break Jerry down. In one occasion, Jerry is beaten by several boys after a football practice. In the final scene, Jerry and another bully, Emile Janza, are pinned against each other in a boxing ring, while the whole student body screams for blood.

This novel is very detailed and descriptive. It also makes good use of its many characters. There are so many different characters that teenage boys can relate to, good and bad. This will also allow readers to see the perspectives of others. While Jerry is the main character, readers also see into the minds of the other characters, like Archie and Obie. When readers first meet Jerry, he is a normal high school kid trying to become a quarterback. He makes one seemingly tiny decision, to not participate in a fund-raiser, and his life is changed forever. As the main character of the novel, Jerry is very quiet. His actions speak much louder than his words. Jerry never backs down. Archie’s sharp mind and well-planned assignments make him a villain that many high school students can relate to on some level. His role is very significant because it shows the wicked nature of humans. His cruelty is definitely taken to an outrageous level. In my opinion, Brother Leon is more wicked than Archie. He has the power to stay behind the scenes and manipulate Archie, the self-described king of manipulation. His power in the school is scary, because he never has to dirty his own hands. Towards, the end of the novel, readers start to wonder if the assignments and the chocolates are worth all of the torture. This storyline shows how cruel some people can get over the smallest things.

I can see how some parents would not care for this novel’s descriptive details. However, Cormier does not sugar-coat these issues for his audience, because these are real issue that teenagers face. I believe that is why this book has stayed popular for so many years. The novel centers around themes of manipulation, psychological warfare, and fear.

For me, the ending was upsetting because Archie was never reprimanded, nothing ever bad happened to him. I wanted him to draw the black marble so bad! We don't even see Jerry prevail over Archie or Brother Leon. However, this shows readers that justice isn’t always served to the appropriate person. It is appropriate, though, to point out that Jerry was true to himself and his decisions. He never gave into the group no matter how hard things got, and he did find, for himself, the meaning behind the quotation on his poster.

I was particularly interested in the first sentence of the novel, “They murdered him”. I was confused at first, but the last couple of chapters really drove that statement in. We see many characters, including Jerry and Goober, metaphorically murdered. One might assume that they are being “murdered” by Brother Leon and Archie because of their evil natures, but you must also look at the mob mentality the student body displays in the boxing scene. Who is really to blame? Also, I think it is very important to point out Jerry’s realization of the meaning behind the quotation on his poster. “Jerry suddenly understood the poster- the solitary man on the beach standing upright and alone and unafraid, poised at the moment of making himself heard and know in the world, the universe” (Cormier, 186). This quotation is very important to Jerry as a character and it gives teachers a great chance to look at and analyze The Wasteland, if appropriate for their classroom.

Personally, I lost interest about half-way through the novel, but my curiosity was sparked again towards the end of the story. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t relate to the storyline or if it was because I had just read Deadline, which was AMAZING! I do, however, think this novel deals with great issues and would be perfectly suited for a school that has a high rate of bullying and teasing. In Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em, this novel was said to be a good pick for a whole-class reading. Since there are no female characters, I am not sure the girls in the class would really be interested. I do feel that some students would love this book, so I would use it for an independent reading/book choice. I am not sure of the age range of this novel because of its graphic depictions of the fight scenes. The ending seems hopeless to some, so I think that this book is better for a more mature audience. I would assume this book would be okay for 9th/10th graders and above.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lowry, Lois. (1993) The Giver. Random House . 192 pp.

Science Fiction

· Newberry Medal 1994

The Giver tells the story of a boy named Jonas. Jonas lives in a perfect world where everything is governed and fair. There are no emotions, no colors, no crime, only “sameness”. Everyone in his community is assigned a specific role to be trained in and perform for the community. On Jonas’ twelfth birthday, he is selected to be the new 'Receiver’. He will eventually become The Giver after he has received all the memories from the current Giver. These memories change Jonas’ life forever. Now, he can experience the pleasures of life, along with the many pains of life. As Jonas learns more and more about how society once was, he longs for everyone to know the pleasures and pains that he now knows. Jonas and The Giver struggle with the idea of giving the community these memories, and through a clearly thought-out plan, Jonas and The Giver change their community’s ways of thinking and ways of life forever.

The story centers around Jonas and his training to become The Giver. His parents are active in his life; as active as one can be in this community. Jonas and his younger sister, Lily, have a “normal” brother/sister type relationship. They tease each other and help each other. Lowry makes it clear that Jonas is different, but he gets along with the kids his age including his best friend, Asher, and his ‘crush’, Fiona. The Giver is very wise because of his memories. He acts as Jonas’ mentor and seems to really care for Jonas in an authentic way.

As readers, we learn about the ways of this perfect world. As we question the community’s rules, so do Jonas and Lily when we they interact with their parents. When Jonas is selected to become the new Giver, we are able to ride along with him as he discovers the new ideas and concepts that seem so simple to us. Jonas discovers the joys of snow and sunlight. Then, we also hurt for Jonas when he feels the pain of the old world. He feels the destruction of war and the pain of breaking a bone. Jonas struggles with gaining all of these memories and having access to things that no one else in the community can access. However, the turning point for Jonas is when he discovers that his father’s role as a ‘Nurturer’ isn’t so nurturing.

The Giver brings up many great issues, such as “sameness” and safety. Isolation is another key topic in this novel. Jonas has to deal with his disconnection from the community as he learns from The Giver. Some teenagers fight to be the same and fit in, while others fight to be totally and completely different. Would kids rather live in a perfect world or in our society? How important are our differences? How important are our feelings and emotions, especially love? The novels deals with authority and rules, and could be used as a great tool to stimulate ideas and discussions around those issues. It is also important to look at the importance that is placed on the individual, the community, and our memories.

I was truly touched by this novel. I even cried when I found out about the connection between Penelope and the Giver! I loved this novel and I think that students of all ages should read this book. Everyone can get something out of this novel. It will really allow students to think about their lives and communities as opposed to Jonas’. I would use this novel as a read aloud or class novel in middle school classes and up. I think a lot of great discussion would occur because of this novel. I also think that this novel would be a great bridge into 1984.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Myers, Walter D. (1999) Monster. HarperCollins Publishers. 281 pp.

Fiction, African American, Innovative Format/Radical Narrative
Literary Elements- Point of View

· Michael L. Printz Award

· Coretta Scott King Award

· National Book Award Finalist 1999

· Newberry honor-winning author

The novel, Monster, travels through the mind of 16 year old Steve Harmon during his incarceration in the Manhattan Juvenile Detention Center and during his trial for felony murder. Harmon is accused of being a “look out” for a drugstore robbery and murder in his neighborhood. In a matter of seconds, Steve feels like he is detached from his own life. The aspiring filmmaker documents the court proceedings in ‘movie script’ style. Harmon titles the screenplay “Monster” because the prosecutor of the trial calls him so. Was he really the “look out” or was he at the wrong place at the wrong time? During the court proceedings, Harmon begins to question his choices and thinks about his future through feelings of disconnection and self-refection. After the trial is over, Harmon and his family are relieved, but things will never be the same. Harmon’s family questions for the first time who their son really is. And likewise, Steve struggles to define himself and his choices. As readers, we are left to determine for ourselves how involved Harmon really was in the robbery/murder.

I would use Monster as a small group novel or a whole class read. This novel has many of the same themes found in A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest Gaines. Both novels deal with African American men being labeled “monsters” or “animals”. Both of the main characters are in jail, facing criminal charges, and having total strangers decide the rest of their lives. The novels are set in two different eras, which is great for connecting themes of the past and present. While both could be considered ‘coming of age’ novels, the novels truly deal with discrimination and defining one’s self. The characters in Monster definitely play on African American stereotypes. We see the boys on the streets who will do anything for money, even murder, and can go and have a meal after shooting someone. We also see the older African American woman who says that she thought about not testifying because she would be testifying against her own race. The boys on the street also make fun of Harmon because of his family and his schooling. A Lesson Before Dying also has many stereotypical characters, including the main character Jefferson. Jefferson cannot read and write well and speaks with a dialect that many cannot understand. Monster would act as a great bridge to A Lesson Before Dying.

Monster not only deals with adolescent issues, such as disconnection, self-reflection, creating your future and defining yourself, but it is also written in a way that appeals to teens. The novel is written in a font that simulates Steve Harmon’s writings during in the courtroom and in jail. It also incorporates a script of the court hearing. The text is very creative and allows readers to follow along very efficiently. Harmon’s personal writings and the script alternate back and forth, breaking the novel up into sections. Throughout the book, readers are constantly hearing testimonies of different characters and questioning Harmon’s participation in the murder/robbery. Readers are left in anticipation until the end of the novel when we finally find out Harmon’s fate. Harmon questions himself throughout the novel, which allows the reader to also self reflect and think about their decisions, acquaintances, and futures. Harmon often feels disconnected from his life throughout this whole process and wonders what he did to get himself in this situation. This could help adolescents deal with life changing decisions and illustrate the consequences of their actions. In the novel, Harmon writes, “it was her job to make me different in the eyes of the jury, different from Bobo and Osvaldo and King. It was me, I thought as I tried not to throw up, that wanted to be tough like them” (130). This quotation shows the desire to be like certain people, the want to be cool. Teens often struggle between right and wrong because of the desire to be like other people. Later in the novel, Harmon begins to take responsibility for his actions and desires to change. “Maybe we are here (jail) because we lie to ourselves” (203) This quote really stuck out to me because it shows the importance of being true to oneself, if any one at all. Also, “think about all the tomorrows of your life” (205). This shows the importance of knowing that there are consequences to different actions. This novel is a great for students struggling with life changing decisions. It also is a great illustration of people struggling to overcome obstacles and it gives hope to those who think they are alone in the search to define their lives.

Because this novel is so ambiguous and leaves readers questioning Harmon's actions and intentions, I feel that students should be old enough to deal with not having all of their questions answered in this ending. This novel is not suitable for classes lower than 7th grade and I feel like the material in this novel is better suited for students around 9th grade.