Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

cover-for-everything-everythingMaddy has spent all her life inside. After a medical emergency when she was younger, Maddy’s mother discovered that her immune system was volatile, and the only way Maddy would live is if she stayed inside…forever. However, after the new neighbors move in next door, Maddy makes friends with the new kid, Olly, and she begins to imagine life on the outside. Will she risk it all in the name of love? Or will she put her health first?

YAL romance is often repetitive and overdone, but Nicola Yoon surprises us all by throwing a curve ball in the story. I thought this story was cute, light-hearted, and full of surprises. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a traditional love story with a nontraditional plot line. The book also moves very quickly, making it easy to read and a great book for pleasure reading. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Common sense media rating: 13+ years

Content: mild sexual references

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

717Tx5+P+7L.jpgCraig Gilner may seem like he is handling life flawlessly on the outside, but mental illness is taking control of his life. After getting into an elite high school, the pressure of performance at school starts to take a toll on Craig. Over time, the weight of school makes suicide appear to be the only relief. Upon this realization, Craig decides to check himself into a psychiatric hospital. In It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Craig’s journey as a patient in a psychiatric hospital is told through hilarious and hard-hitting tales that anyone who has battled mental illness can find comfort in.

I really enjoyed this book. I think this is an excellent read for anyone who has every struggled with mental illnesses or anyone who seeks to gain more understanding about mental illness. The book does get a little slow in the middle; however, I am forgiving of this because I think this book serves a greater purpose than just entertainment. I am giving this book a 4 out of 5. The author, Ned Vizzini, tells this story in such a relatable yet humorous way. Unfortunately, the author himself battled depression, and he took his life a few years ago. While his departure is tragic, he leaves behind a story that can comfort and provide aid those who battle similar problems.

Common sense media rating: 14+ yrs

sexual references, drug use, language

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

61sidpXiAIL.jpgBruno is a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany. When Hitler begins targeting Jews and placing them in concentration camps, Bruno doesn’t have to worry because his family is a part of the SS. Told from Bruno’s perspective, there is a lot of confusion surrounding what is going on, and why his family is moving to a place called “Out-With”. An aspiring explorer, Bruno meets a young boy from the other side of the fence and forms a friendship. Will he be able to fight the prejudice his family supports? Will he be able to save his new friend?

I really don’t know how to feel about this book. In some ways, I really want to love it. I feel like there is some innocence in Bruno’s perspective that is valuable because as the reader we understand why things are how they are, however we see our main character lacking this knowledge. In other ways, however, Bruno’s ignorance is extremely annoying. Even at 9 years old, you would expect him to be able to catch on to things a lot quicker. I give this book a 3.5 out of 5. It’s something worth reading, but I think other holocaust books narrate this time in history much better.

Common Sense Media Rating: 12+ years old

 

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

used to be.jpgEden just started High School, and she is ready to make the most out of the four years. However, during her Freshman year, she is raped by her brother’s friend. Told over the next four years of her life, Eden deals with the pain and suffering her rapist left behind. Will she be able to speak up? Or will she stay crippled beneath the weight of her biggest secret?

This book is not for anyone who is triggered by accounts of rape. The rape scene is retold is fairly good detail, and much of the book focuses directly on what happened to Eden. However, I think this book houses an important story that needs to be told. Particularly, I think this book sheds light on why so many people do not speak up after being raped or how assault can affect a person many years after the fact. This book is really moving and had me flipping pages like crazy. I give it a 4 out of 5. I would highly recommend this book, and I think many people would benefit from it’s story.

Common Sense Rating: 14+ yrs

Rape scene, drugs, alcohol, language

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

raisin.jpgLorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a drama that tells the story of a working class African-American family in search of their dreams. Inspired by Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred”, Hansberry gives the reader an inside look at the struggles the Younger family: Walter, Ruth, Mama, Beneatha and Travis. With a life insurance check on its way, the family battles and fights over where the money should go. Mama wants to donate to the church. Ruth wants to move out of the crowded apartment. Beneatha wants to continue medical school. And Walter wants to became a Black man who follows is ambition. Who’s dream will they follow? And can money solve all their problems?

I absolutely loved this story! It was funny, heartwarming, sad, and eye-opening…all the great things you would expect from a drama. This book gives a great insight to the lives of struggling working class families, especially African-Americans during the civil rights era. This is a well told story that will have you rooting for the Youngers and praying it all works out in the end. I give this book a 5 out of 5. Quick yet fulfilling read.

Common sense media: 13+ yrs

El Deafo by Cece Bell

eldeafoI am a huge fan of graphic novels! Sometimes there is nothing better than reverting back to a child-like state and picking up a book filled with pictures. I think graphic novels are great for those looking for something different, kids that struggle with comprehension and informational texts that would ordinarily be boring. So as you might be able to tell, I was particularly excited about reading El Deafo.

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a graphic novel about her childhood. Being deaf, Cece faced many challenges when it came to friends, doing well in school, and feeling accepted by others. El Deafo is funny and filled with relatable moments about growing up and discovering oneself.

If you are looking a lighthearted novel for a lazy Sunday, I would definitely recommend this one. I love that Bell incorporates so many childhood moments that we can all relate to. I also love the unique perspective of what it is like growing up with a hearing impairment. I know that I personally had a lot of misconceptions about hearing impairments until I read this novel. I would give this book a 5 out of 5. Great, easy read!

Common Sense Media Rating: 9 yrs +

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl dreamingThis is probably going to be one of the most unfavorable reviews I write. I was really disappointed with this one. I have had brown girl dreaming on my booklist for quite some time. I started adding more multicultural literature to my bookshelf last year, and this one grabbed me from the moment I heard about. It has won so many awards! People love it! What could go wrong…

Brown girl dreaming is the memoir of Jacqueline Woodson written in verse. Jacqueline grew up during a changing time in America, especially the south. Segregation was still going strong and the south didn’t plan on changing anytime soon. Jacqueline’s family is from the south and she spends some of her time there, but mostly she lives in Brooklyn with her mother and siblings. This memoir recites the life of Jacqueline trying to find her place in life. She speaks about the troubles she faces in school, the differences in the north and south, sibling rivalry and everything in-between.

Okay, I honestly can’t write anything more in that summary. I hated this book! I really did. I keep thinking that there is probably something I am not seeing in Jacqueline’s verse, but I was bored to tears. This story could have been left sitting in a diary – I think it would fit better there. I love multicultural literature, and I love memoirs…but not this one. I give it 1 out of 5. Now, I need to start selecting better stories.

Common Sense Media Rating: 10+ yrs