I'm about to bid farewell to the lazy days of summer where I can get up late, stay in my pajamas until noon if I want, and read for hours on end without feeling guilty that I should be doing something more productive. Now, don't get me wrong...I LOVE teaching and I'm actually excited to go back to work this week, but OH, the joys of summer!
Before I jump back into full time lesson planning, grading essays, and wrestling with teenagers, I thought I'd share some (not all 18!) of the books I've read during my free time this summer. Some of you might not care about my literary ramblings, but if you're looking for a good read and you like young adult literature, "check out" (Ha...library puns...gotta love them!) these books.
Have you read any of the following? What did you think?
Do you have any other great recommendations for me or for my students?
Chronicles of Prydain - Graham and I listened to all five books in this series on our way through Utah, Nevada, California, Idaho, Montana, and back home again! It was Graham's suggestion, and I found I loved these books! The second book is the basis for the Disney flop The Black Cauldron, but don't blame Lloyd Alexander (author) for Disney's failure to recognize that these books aren't geared toward the six-and-under crowd. However, for a young adult or adult crowd, the books offer a classic fantasy story complete with sweeping mythical landscape, an assistant pig-keeper turned hero, and a smorgasbord of other hilarious characters with witty dialogue (My favorite is Princess Eilonwy).
Divergent - Newbie author Veronica Roth has created the new "must-read" novel in the dystopian genre. At least according to many critics. I'm suspending judgement on this book until I read the rest of the trilogy (which unfortunately means I'll be waiting quite awhile for books two and three). I found the story enthralling and well-developed, but some of the underlying ideas really bothered me. I'm hoping, however, that I'm supposed to be bothered by these ideas and that the author will address the false ideology of the main character in the end. We'll see.
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street - This book is the sequel to a book entitled simply The Penderwicks. It chronicles the adventures of four sisters: Rosalind, Jane, Skye, and Batty. The first book follows them on their summer vacation to a quaint cottage in New England. In the second, they are back home and trying to save their widowed father from ruining his life (and theirs) by dating again. Both stories are a little predictable, but I don't care because they possess an irresistible, old-fashioned charm. Who could resist four-year-old Batty's obsession with wearing butterfly wings everywhere? I can't.
The False Princess - I love fairy tales. Princesses, magic, romance...what more could a girl want? How about a surprisingly complex plot with some unexpected twists, a multi-dimensional female protagonist with morals, and a happy (but not too perfect) ending? That's what The False Princess delivers. It's the story of a girl raised as a princess, but who is told just after her sixteenth birthday that she's just a decoy for the real thing. She is turned out of the castle and sent to live with her only living relative, a harsh woman who neither knows how nor wants to relate to the cast-away princess. How she comes to terms with her life and rebuilds her identity is a great lesson for anyone, especially the teenage girls to whom the book is written.
The Missing series - Margaret Petersen Haddix is one of the most prolific modern YA writers I know of. She is known for her Shadow Children series (another interesting dystopian journey) and for various retellings of fairy tales. In this series, she sets up an interesting premise that lacks sufficient explanation to make it believable, but it's a fun read nevertheless. I liked the second book of the series more; it walked a strange line between science fiction and historical fiction. I know, weird. And yet, I still found myself turning pages to find out what would happen next. I'm currently reading the third of four (so far).
Matched - Matched is another dystopian book, but it's less action-oriented and more introspective. The cover reveals the core conflict in the story. Cassia, the main character is naively confined within her beautiful, "perfect" world. But as she begins to yearn for a voice in her society and the ability to choose her own path, she begins to push against the forces that have encompassed her and everything she knows in life. Author Ally Condie is a Utah native and BYU grad, but don't compare her work to Twilight. This isn't her first novel, but it IS her first that has been nationally marketed (she previously published some LDS fiction with Deseret Book). P.S. - The book is squeaky clean (yay!), which our young adults could use more of, I think.
The Golden Spiral (book 2 in the Hourglass Door series) - A teenage girl becomes intrigued with a mysterious boy who is different from all the other high-schoolers around her. The closer she gets to him, the more complicated, and dangerous, her own world becomes. Sounds like a Twilight copy-cat, right? And, yes, there are some strong similarities (but no vampires here, I promise). The writing is not overly impressive, but the plot is interesting and Lisa Magnum keeps her story considerably less scandalous than Stefanie Meyer's stories. So, if you like the idea of dangerous romance, good vs. evil, and a few surprising twists and turns along the way, it's a good read and definitely a winner with it's target audience.