American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

225x225bb.jpgAmerican Born Chinese follows the lives of three different people who stories will collide in a way you never expected. Jin Wang, a middle school Chinese-American student, faces bullying and discrimination because of his race in school. Danny, a white high school student, tries to do damage control when his cousin Chin-Kee comes for his annual visit. Lastly, the Monkey King faces several hard life lessons about what it means to be a monkey.

I really enjoyed this book. This graphic novel has a lot to say about the experiences of Chinese-American students in America today. Not only does it makes great social commentary, but it is a quick and hilarious read. The images are easy to follow along with, and they will keep you entertained. I give this book a 5 out of 5. I would highly recommend this graphic novel to all my students.

Common Sense Media: 13+ years

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

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

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder-by-R.-J.-PalacioI am always reminded, after having not read for a while, how great it feels to escape in the pages of a great book. This one in particular was actually a reading assignment for a class and I’m so glad it was. It really enjoyed it and may have even shed a few tears.

August Pullman is about to enter fifth grade, but this year is going to be radically different. Having been born with a facial deformity, August has undergone several plastic surgeries over the years, but his face is still a sight to be seen. Because of the stares he usually receives and the care he has needed over the years, this will be August’s first year in a real school. R.J Palacio’s story, Wonder, is about Auggie’s amazing and brave journey through fifth grade. It will have you cringing, laughing and crying as your experience his journey.

I really loved this book for many reasons. First of all, I think Palacio did a great job of writing from different perspectives and really allowing the reader to step in their shoes. Second, the story is raw and powerful. The message isn’t just about those with disabilities, but about what it means to be a person in general. We can all relate to this story in some way. I give this book a 5 out of 5. If you are looking for a book that tells a story of bravery, kindness, hardship and friendship, then this is your next book.

Common Sense Media Rating: 11+ yrs

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

vanishinggirlsWhen I was in high school, I read Lauren Oliver’s book Before I Fall and it literally helped change me. At the time I struggled with a lot of anxiety and something about the book really spoke to me. Of course, when I came across another one of Oliver’s novels, I was hoping to be just as impressed and inspired. It was big shoes to fill but Oliver lived up to it.

Nick and Dara have lived their entire lives together and wouldn’t redo a single moment of it. They are sisters, after all, and they are best friends. That is until Dara falls for Parker. And before the accident. And before Madeline Snow went missing. Now, the sisters hardly speak. What would it take to reunite these sisters?

Ugh. That was painful. I have to be so cautious to not give anything away! First of all, this book reads really fast. You will be flipping endlessly. Not only is it engaging, but you can tell there is a mystery. If you really pay attention, you can even begin to catch when characters offer up hints. The ending is a twister, however, and you may not see it coming. Now, I’ll admit, the ending was surprising but it wasn’t like “OMG no author has ever done this before!!” Because been there, read that. BUT, I love Oliver’s insight. I would be lying if I said I didn’t tear up. Oliver does what she does best in this novel, which is connecting to real life situations. Making us really think and feel things that we’ve never thought/felt before. It is powerful. I give this book a 4 out of 5. These aren’t characters you will love but it is a story you can feel for and say, “yes, I understand you.” Your heart will ache with this story because Oliver places you right in their shoes.