Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Thank you Annie! While discussing books with my niece she said she had just finished Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. When I read the back cover I downloaded it immediately onto my iPad and read it all the way home.

Wild is a true story of a young woman worn down by life: in particular, the death of her mom and the end of a relationship. Cheryl is anxious to do something different, but was she does is truly hilarious, shocking, and pretty stupid. Without any training, any experience, and really without any support, Cheryl takes off on a journey to travel the Pacific Crest Trail on foot.

Unprepared and alone, Cheryl treks through the better part of California. It amazes me continually that she survives the journey. At times she has me laughing out loud, but more often she had me reading with my mouth wide open, aghast that anyone would dare to try this alone!

Yes, now the book has been made into a movie, and everyone will be saying wonderful things about the book - but I just want to be clear in saying that I loved it before I heard about the movie or saw it on a best seller list! If you haven't found it yet, get moving!

Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawls absolutely how you will feel when you finish this book.

Paige Rawls takes her true horrific middle school experience filled with bullying and pain and turns it into an uplifting lesson of overcoming the pain and becoming a leader.

Paige has been HIV positive from birth. After many normal and happy elementary school years, Paige tries to help a friend by telling her that everyone has disabilities to overcome. She then confides in her that she is HIV positive - and suddenly her friends are not what she thinks they are. In the first half of the book I am so saddened by the way that typical, seemingly nice middle school kids can treat others so terribly. I've worked in schools all of my life. As I read I began to think back on all of the situations where I've watched middle school students struggle. It truly amazes me that anyone can get through those years unscathed! But to face the kind of bullying that Paige faces is just heartbreaking.

The amazing thing about her true story, however, is the way that she overcomes! Where many would become overwhelmed with depression and pain, Paige is able to emerge as a confident young woman. It is a rare person who can take the suffering she faced and turn it into a way to help others. I am so impressed with her, and with all she has gone on to do.

Hear Paige tell a little bit of her own story below:

Paper Towns by John Green

As a huge John Green fan I knew Paper Towns was a "must read" (but you know, "so many books, so little time!) Well, I finally took the time to read it, and I am so glad I did!

Paper Towns grabbed me from the first page. I especially loved the beginning of the book - the wild scavenger hunt around town that Q and Margo go on as she seeks revenge on those who have hurt her.

I can't wait until the movie is released, and I've been seeing more students drawn to this book (and others by Green) because of the movie production. Some of my book club students felt that the rest of the book (where all Q can think about, worry about, talk about - is Margo and her disappearance) slowed down too much, but I was drawn into it. It is so true that people (and I think, especially young people) act according to how others believe they should act - and that much of our lives are spent taking on a fakey personality in order to be liked and accepted. Many of the teen books deal with this very issue - the way we have of hiding who we really are and what we really think - in order to find a place in the world.

Add Paper Towns to your list of "must reads". You will be glad you took the time! Enjoy this quick video clip with John Green below:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ruined by Paula Morris

Ruined, by Paula Morris, was one of our high school book club selections this winter. Overall the book was well-received by the students and most thoroughly enjoyed reading an discussing it.

Throughout the book, readers are introduced to the many customs and traditions of the people living in New Orleans. It was intriguing to read about the celebrations that make New Orleans special - and it lead us to a great discussion about our community customs and traditions, and what makes our area special.

Another large theme of Ruined is the understanding of  the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Since the hurricane took place almost ten years ago, when most of our book club members were in elementary school, the students really didn't remember much of the history of this huge catastrophe, and didn't realize the devastation and lasting damage it caused.

Our additional conversations revolved around the "class system" that was so clearly talked about in the book. The girls agreed that we have a similar class system in our high school - and they commented on how easy it is for people to judge others on their looks, their actions, their friends, and their activities rather than to get to know them individually. They had some great ideas for breaking down stereotypes, beginning at a very young age, but all felt that it's hard to overcome it if you live in a home that is very negative toward anyone perceived as being different.

Enjoy this trailer for Paula Morris' book, Ruined: