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

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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

 

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

23453112.jpgDating life not going well? Tormented by the limitless romantic options out there? Never satisfied with your dates? Aziz Ansari explores the complex world of modern dating. Through humor, Aziz discusses topics from dating apps, dating trends, cheating, snooping and marriage with various research. He not only presents data from sociologists, but he talks to people from around the world to gather insight into what makes dating in 2017 complex and what are our new advantages.

I am really glad I picked up this book. Not only did Aziz have me laughing out loud, but there were so many topics that he covered beautifully. I even learned a little bit about my own dating life! I would definitely recommend this book to young men and women. The topics are presented from various points of views and allows the reader to form their own opinion. Overall, I give the book 4 out of 5 stars. I skimmed through a few pages because I lost interest or the information felt repetitive. But overall, I enjoyed this book.

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

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny_Beautiful-680.jpgThis book is a collection of the advice column responses called Dear Sugar written by Cheryl Strayed. At the time of publication, Strayed was known to her audience only as Sugar. Completely unqualified for the job, Strayed took it anyway and her advice captured the attention of many. From love to loss to sex, Strayed his wholesome advice and shares her own life stories.

I became a huge fan of Cheryl Strayed after reading Wild. It was a life changing book. Tiny Beautiful Things was no exception. This book is filled with sound advice, and it will leave you thinking, smiling, laughing, and even crying. Some of the columns I could deeply relate to while others I just enjoyed for their perspective. No matter what the issue, however, Strayed has a way of connecting to people and forming a loving bond. I give this book a 5 out of 5. If you ever looking to be influenced by literature, Strayed novels are a great place to start.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

purple.jpgCelie is an African-American woman living the life that was pre-determined for her. Forced marriage. Incest. Beatings. Separation from her family. Celie learned from a young age to close her mouth and take what was given to her – no matter how bad it was. Through letters to God, Celie tells the story of her life, the various people she meets, and how she changes through time.

It is very hard to describe this book without spoiling many of the events! This book easily became one of my favorites. There is a lot of sex and scenes some may consider graphic, but they are essential to making the story. I was rooting for Celie the entire book, and I was captivated by her story. This one is hard to put down. I would rate this book a 5 out of 5. There is a reason this is a well-known and vastly read novel!

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