Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

The Pregnancy Project was an extremely interesting book to read, particularly considering the fact that Gaby is telling her own story. 

Gaby is an amazing young woman who is determined not to follow in the footsteps of her mother, siblings, and many other relatives who became pregnant at an early age, dropped out of school and gave up any dreams they had for their future. Gaby provides a new perspective on the pregnant teen, however, as with this project she is able to gain insight on how young pregnant teens are treated. As Gaby follows through on her senior project - faking a pregnancy - she sees how her teachers, friends, and family treat her differently. She recognizes the fact that she has a strong support system in her mother, numerous siblings, encouraging friends and boyfriend, and how so many pregnant girls have to deal with these same pressures without that support and guidance. There are voices all around the teen saying "I told you so" and "I knew this would happen" and "Now you've ruined your life".  So many people who act supportive, but in reality just tell the teen that she won't be able to graduate, go on to college, live a happy life. And often, then, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The entire book does a wonderful job of illustrating all of the research Gaby did. Her senior project really becomes a life lesson for students everywhere, and a book that should be read by all and I think would make a great text health classes. 

I found myself cheering as Gaby presented her project to the entire student body. Although I haven't seen the movie based on the book, I imagine it would be a very hopeful, uplifting movie. It gave me the strong sense that one can truly overcome any obstacles in one's life and reach their full potential, regardless of the circumstances in which they live.

I think of the word resilient, and how important it is for people to learn to be resilient: to be able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. This comes from believing in one's self and in not giving up even when all the odds are against you. But as Gaby points out, for many people it is easier to give in to the pressures and become what others are telling you to be. 

Below is one of the news stories from Gaby's project:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Serena by Ron Rash

Move over Paul Bunyan and make way for Serena!

I grew up with tall tales and, living in Minnesota, especially the tales featuring characters who could fight a rattlesnake, tame a wild ox, chop down a forest singlehandedly, and eat flapjacks by the dozens. (Paul Bunyan's statues are all over the north country, along with Babe, Lucinda, and more.)

Set in the late 1920s in the forests of North Carolina, Serena arrives in camp after marrying her new husband, George Pemberton. Although Pemberton is a ruthless man himself, she quickly emerges as the most powerful character and enters into her own climb to the top, leaving no one unscarred. When Serena sets her mind on something it is bound to happen, no matter what violent and heinous acts must occur. Pemberton was good at bribery and "accidental deaths" in his climb to the top, but Serena is openly willing to crush anything in their path.

I truly enjoyed the images of Serena, eagle on her arm, riding her white horse into the forest. Throughout the book I continually was reminded of the tales I'd heard so many times about Paul Bunyan, Davy Crockett and Pecos Bill. Actually this helped me enjoy the book more, since I don't usually enjoy reading the types of books where animals are tortured, innocent people are killed, and anything considered to be a threat is "taken care of", but it was pretty easy to chuckle over these, since I didn't take them that seriously.

I've been hearing rumors of a movie based on the books, with a release date of anywhere from 2012-2014. Although I understand the movie will star Jennifer Lawrence and Bradly Cooper, and much of it has been filmed, I still can't find anything solid regarding a release date in the United States. Perhaps it was released and I missed it? Not sure. Stay tuned on that one, I guess. But in the meantime, enjoy the book!

Here's a video with Ron Rash speaking about Serena.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin

A lovely Minnesota beach day calls for a fun summer novel, and Joanna Philbin's Rules of Summer doesn't disappoint. Although there are a few surprises you definitely don't have to think too deeply when reading this book.

The plot is simple: poor teenager (Rory) heads off to spend the summer at the beach with her aunt, running errands for a wealthy family. Of course, they have a handsome son, Connor, whom she immediately falls in love with. There is also a daughter her age, Isabel, and although they immediately dislike each other, the two become close friends. It comes as no surprise that Isabel's new boyfriend is a lowly surfer/musician: one who would not be accepted by Isabel's rich parents.

Oh - and their last name is "Rule" - which makes the title Rules of Summer very clever indeed.

Typical summer events occur - near drownings, the 4th of July, parties with friends, surfing, horseback riding, and time at the posh Georgica private club - all the things you expect to find in a fun summer romance. The story flows well, and the characters, although shallow, are likable enough.

If you're looking for a fun beach read, Rules of Summer is a great place to start. Pull up your lawn chair, smooth on a little sunscreen, and settle back for a pleasant journey.

Here's a great interview with Joanna Philbin. If you're not aware of this fun fact, Joanna is the daughter of Regis Philbin - which gives her a good understanding of growing up with a famous, wealthy parent. It's a rather long video, but well worth the time.