Friday Favorite: I really thought I’d hate it, but…

It’s no secret among my students and anyone that has to listen to me talk about books that Lois Lowry’s The Giver is one of my absolute favorites. There’s just SO MUCH to love about it that I couldn’t process the changes I knew would be necessary for it to be translated from novel to film. As snippets of information rolled in about the movie, from Jeff Bridges being cast as the Giver (Perfect!) to Brenton Thwaites being cast as Jonas (What?! He’s cute and all, but in his mid-20’s and Jonas is supposed to be 12?) to Taylor Swift playing the role of Rosemary (Baffling.), my apprehension about the movie version grew. Even knowing that Lois Lowry herself was involved in the process couldn’t save it for me. And so, though I’m usually first in line at the midnight premier of a good book movie, I couldn’t even bring myself to go see The Giver in theaters.

I was wrong. I wish I’d gone.

There are changes… significant ones. And, if I’m being honest, they DO bother me a little. Overall, though, this movie does a wonderful job of taking The Giver and maintaining the integrity of its themes and the heroism of Jonas as a character. I thought I would hate it, but I don’t. In fact, I kind of love it.

Find the movie here on Amazon or wherever you get your movies from!

giver movie poster

The Book Thief, the book and the movie

book thief

 

I’m usually fascinated by and really connect with Holocaust literature, but when I tried to read The Book Thief a while back I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t know why, and many people would think that’s insane, but I just didn’t like it.

When the movie came out, though, I was intrigued… and just got around to watching it recently. And, while the book didn’t hold my interest, I found that the movie really did. It was well done, and the casting/acting was superb. If you didn’t get into the book, like me, you should definitely check out this movie!

 

book_thief movie

The Maze Runner Official Trailer

I love Dylan O’Brien as Thomas… What are your casting thoughts for this one?

 

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

maze runner

 

With the movie version of The Maze Runner coming out in September, which looks amazing based on all I’ve seen so far, I wanted to get started with actually reading the series.

In The Maze Runner, a teenaged boy named Thomas suddenly wakes up in a sort of elevator. He has amnesia – he doesn’t remember anything about who he is or how he got there, but he remembers basic things about how to live, the names of things, and feels like he recognizes stuff but doesn’t know why. At the end of the lift, the doors open to reveal a group of other teenaged boys stuck in a maze. Just as Thomas starts to figure out how the maze society works, another unexpected thing happens: a girl is delivered in the box the very next day, the first girl ever to be sent to the maze, and she has a scary message to deliver. Throughout the course of the book, Thomas tries to remember anything that would explain why they’re there and how they could possibly make it out of the maze.

I don’t even really know how to classify this book – it’s not dystopian as there’s nothing seemingly “perfect” about the society Thomas suddenly finds himself in, and Dashner doesn’t reveal much to us about life outside of the maze until the very end so I hesitate to call it a post-apocolytic novel, but it’s pretty clear that something big is happening. As the reader tries to figure it out along with Thomas and the other kids trapped in the maze, we’re a part of and adventure that is definitely thrilling.

Fans of books like the Divergent and Hunger Games series’ will find The Maze Runner interesting, though it doesn’t have the romantic element found in those. I’ll definitely be adding this title to my 8th grade summer reading list – it’s a great option for students probably 7th grade and up.

New Extended TFiOS Trailer… I just love it.

 

I’m so looking forward to this! Anyone else? What do you think of the casting?

Catch A Falling Star by Kim Culbertson

catch a falling star

Kim Culbertson’s Catch a Falling Star is one of the best contemporary YA romances I’ve read so far this year. It has everything I want to see: a strong, relatable, intelligent protagonist, a swoon-worthy boy, great supporting characters (including good parents – YAY!),  a setting I’d like to spend time in, and a cute, cleverly written plot sprinkled with some humor and sweetness.

Carter Moon is happy with her life – she helps out in her parents’ deli, she’s about to graduate high school with some great friends, and she loves the small town of Little, CA. The problem? Well, there are a few. One, she’s so content with her current life that she hasn’t made any plans for beyond high school. Two, she takes on too much responsibility for her brother’s gambling addiction. And three, she’s completely unprepared for the impact the filming of a Hollywood movie in Little will have on her nice, quiet little life.

When Adam Jakes, current teen heartthrob and object of almost every teenage girl’s obsession, comes to Little for his next Hollywood movie, he’s in need of some positive PR. When Adam’s manager sees Carter and her small-town sweetness, he hires her to “date” Adam while he’s in town to build up his public image (Carter only agrees so she can use the money to help her brother).

Adam is not prepared for a girl who speaks her mind and seems immune to his celebrity status, and Carter is not prepared to actually find some depth and humanity behind Adam’s public persona. The result? A really, really cute story reminiscent of Jen E. Smith’s This Is What Happy Looks Like. I devoured this is a day and instantly wanted more of Carter and Adam’s story. I’d love to see these characters reappear in future Culbertson titles.

Also, though these characters are upper high school age, I was really pleased to see that the book was totally clean and appropriate even for my middle schoolers to read. It was also pleasantly surprising to see that Carter’s parents are really good parents, models for the kinds of parents I wish we saw more in YA titles. Culbertson is a refreshing new voice in the YA world – I’d love to see this book on a bestseller list (and it would be perfect for a movie, too).

Catch a Falling Star releases today, so grab your copy now! Find it here on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller.

From She Reads: The Divergent Trilogy

Divergent

This review originally posted on www.shereads.org last month.

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Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT series has taken the YA literary world by storm, comparable to the popularity of TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES in previous years. Some readers are eager to jump on the bandwagon and experience the latest all-the-rage series, while others are left with questions:

  • Does it really stand up to the hype?
  • Could it really be as good as The Hunger Games?
  • Is it worth reading the book if I already saw the movie?
  • Can I go see the movie with young adults without feeling awkward?
  • Is the movie more than just a reason to go watch Theo James on the big screen for a few hours?

The answer is a whole-hearted YES on all counts.

DIVERGENT is a dystopian trilogy taking place in a far-future Chicago. War has left the city in disrepair, and in an effort to keep peace people are divided between five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), and Dauntless (the brave). When the story opens, the main character, Beatrice (Tris) Prior is preparing for the test that will help her choose which faction she’ll enter for her adulthood: Abnegation, which she was born into, or one of the other four. The drama begins, though, when Tris’s test results are inconclusive and she has to navigate society as one who doesn’t fit with just one faction; she is what they call Divergent, and that makes her a target of society leaders.

As a writer, Veronica Roth is incredibly talented. She has created a future world that is fascinating and believable, yet far-fetched enough that it feels not like home. There are references to known Chicago landmarks, making the setting recognizable and relatable. Her characters, while futuristic, are also completely relatable – it only takes a few pages to get drawn into Tris’s story, which starts in DIVERGENT, continues in INSURGENT, and resolves in ALLEGIANT. I’m also intrigued by the fact that she started writing this in college and, even now, with three books out, a major motion picture, and a fourth book coming soon, is only twenty-five years old. That’s crazy!

I saw the movie on opening night, and it was great. Really. But, it didn’t get anywhere near the level of detail that you find in the books. I know that’s a common complaint with movies based on books, but in this case it’s not just a casual observation about the movie; it’s a compliment to the depth of Roth’s writing. I love the way she has broken people down into factions to describe personality types and how that forces you think about human nature as you read. I love that there’s plenty of romantic appeal in Tris’s relationship with Four (played by Theo James, as seen in the movie poster) and that their relationship is supportive and exciting without being sexual. I love the suspense and intrigue that keep you reading without being able to stop – I blew through all three books in a week and just couldn’t get enough.

Basically, I just love this trilogy. This is one case where, whether you see the movie before or after reading the books, you really need to read the books. I won’t say they’re an easy, lighthearted read – the emotional rollercoaster is a wild one, and the characters and storyline will dominate your thoughts even while you’re not reading – but I will promise that they’re worth your time!