A Bookish Beginning to the New Year…

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Last year, I gave you lots of book recs for Christmas gifts, and from the feedback I got it seemed like you guys really appreciated the help. I’m sorry my list is so late this year. Where did all the time go? How is it 2014 already?

Anyway, let’s consider these ideas for good ways to get your year started off with great stories.

For the upper HS/College aged student who would love to travel: Gayle Forman’s books, Just One Day and Just One Year, center around a girl traveling during the summer after her high school graduation and the guy she happens to meet while in England. That description doesn’t do it justice AT ALL, so just trust me. If you’re only getting one of them, get Just One Day.

For the high school/college girl who loves all things British: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. This series of books makes me laugh out loud constantly. It centers around Georgia Nicholson, a high school girl with a crazy sense of humor, a crazy family, a crazy cat named Angus, and a crazy crush on a very cool, very hot guy. This series goes on for ten books, and all ten are equally as hilarious. In fact, I love them so much that I once used every bit of my birthday money to buy them all in matching editions. True story.

For anybody who likes to think and be inspired: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was just made into a movie about  month ago. The movie was good. The book is infinitely better. People need to read the book. In a lot of ways, Ender reminded me of Jonas from The Giver – both boys are young when they take on the responsibility of changing their worlds for the better, and I’m a sucker for a story showing a young adult making a difference. What impresses me about Ender’s Game, too, is a completely unexpected and really beautiful display of compassion and empathy at the end.

For those who like a good dystopian trilogy: The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. There are lots of things I like about this. The whole dystopian, perfect society that’s actually completely horrible mostly because of the government thing is really well done in Roth’s trilogy. I also love the protagonist, Tris, because she’s smart and is beyond driven to do the right thing in all situations, causing you at times to want to yell at her through the pages of the book because you actually WANT her to think about herself a little bit. Tris’s love interest, Four, is incredible and totally book-crush worthy. And, without giving anything away, the ending of the trilogy solidified for me a few things about Veronica Roth: she’s super brave, she clearly has faith, and she’s one amazing writer. I put the last book down full of emotions from the book and full of respect for Roth.mpathy at the end. That’s all I can say without giving it away, but know that it’s good. Really good. And it’s not an easy read – I’d even say it’s not necessarily a YA book, but people would argue with me – so it’s good for readers aged 8th grade and up through adulthood, really.

For high school and college girls, period, because we live in crazy times: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. In Speak, the protagonist lives through the repercussions of breaking up a big summer party resulting in several upperclassmen getting busted. How did she break up the big party? By calling the police due to something horrible that happened, though we don’t find out what happened until the end of the book. It’s a powerful and important book about the power of your voice and the necessity of speaking out against awful actions.

For the teen (or adult for that matter) interested in classic rock and the Woodstock-era: Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick. I really, really loved this. I’ve been a fan of Sonnenblick for a long time, and this might just be my new favorite of his. In it, the main character is transported back in time to experience the Woodstock festival, where he learns crazy things about his family and befriends Jimi Hendrix. Really. It’s not at all cheesy, either, in the way it’s done… totally realistic historical fiction with a smudge of mysterious time-travel.

I’d love to hear what’s on your to-read list for 2014!

Ten Books That Had An Impact…

I got tagged in a bookish thing on Facebook. You know I can’t resist THAT! But then my response turned into far more than just a status update (my bad) so I’m putting it here, too.

So, here’s a list of ten books that have stayed with me in some way and had an impact on me, including a short description of the affect they had. If you’re looking for a new book to read over the holidays, check this out.

– Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak. – Hands down my favorite book ever; my kids can nearly quote it. I love it for it’s literal meaning, and for the figurative meanings my English degree has allowed me to squeeze from it. Also, I feel like, as a teacher of middle schoolers, I AM A TAMER OF WILD THINGS.

The Giver, Lois Lowry. – I don’t even know where to start with this one because I love it so much. This classic dystopian is the basis by which I judge all other dystopian novels, and Jonas is probably my favorite character in a book ever.

The Fault In Our Stars, John Green. – It’s an instant classic. I laughed, I cried, and I still have a giant book crush on Augustus Waters. It’s a really beautiful story that should be read by teens and adults alike.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, Jordan Sonnenblick. – Somehow I discovered this and instantly started making my 7th graders read it. Barnes and Noble now carries Jordan Sonnenblick’s books because I bullied them into it. Seriously. The characters and the story are unforgettable.

Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller. – This book shaped my views on my faith more than any other (except for the Bible, obviously, so calm down). The confession booth scene in this, along with the raw, honest language used to explore what it means to be a Christian, have made me a better thinker and a more intentional and purposeful human being. I also got to meet Donald Miller and it was super cool.

The Truth About Forever, Sarah Dessen. – I’m using this title, probably my favorite of Dessen’s, to represent the whole Dessen-esque genre of teen fiction books that are popular right now, including Jennifer Echols, Stephanie Perkins, Susane Colasanti, and more. They’ve had a big impact on me and my writing.

The Dollhouse Murders, Betty Wren Wright. – The first book I remember actually WANTING to read on my own, and it was super freaky. Really, really freaky. From here, I moved onto Christopher Pike and RL Stine and the Sweet Valley Twins and the Babysitter’s Club, all of which are probably responsible for my current ridiculous reading habit.

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton. – I actually didn’t read this until a few years ago, and I was surprised how much I liked it… and how much every single one of my students like it each year. It’s timeless; it has truly found a way to “stay gold.” Also, S.E. Hinton tweeted me last spring, which I’m still sort of fangirling over.

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison. – This is the beginning of a ten book series about a group of British teenage girls and their endless quest for boys to kiss. AND THEY ARE SO FUNNY. I’ve laughed to the point of snorts and tears while reading these again and again. They’re also surprisingly tame and appropriate – totally ok for teens to read even though the titles sound all crazy sexual.

How to Save A Life, Sara Zarr. – A really, really beautiful book that alternates between the story of a family adopting a baby and the story of a pregnant teenage girl about to give her baby up for adoption. It’s so very worth reading, and for very personal reasons touched me deeply.

You should most definitely read all the books.