Great Stories CLUB

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( Connecting Libraries, Underserved teens and Books)

The following titles have been selected for Round IV of the Great Stories CLUB: "Second Chances."  Excerpts from BookList reviews are provided here to give a feel for the material.

Hate List, by Jennifer Brown
2010 Best Books for Young Adults

Grades 9-12.  Review from Booklist, 9/1/2009:
It is September, and senior Valerie Leftman is heading back to school. Five months earlier, her boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in the school cafeteria, killing six and wounding others before committing suicide. Despite being wounded herself while trying to stop Nick and save classmates, Val has been the focus of police investigations and rumors due to the Hate List, composed of classmates’ names, which she created to vent her frustration about bullies. Struggling with guilt and grief, Val begins school as the ultimate outcast, but she finds one unexpected ally. Most books about school shootings focus on the horrifying event itself, but this debut novel breaks ground by examining the aftermath. Brown uses a creative structure of alternating narratives that incorporate excerpts from newspapers. The characters, including the many adults, are well drawn and become more nuanced as Val heals and gains perspective. Filled with unanswered questions, this compelling novel will leave teens pondering the slippery nature of perception and guilt.
-Lynn Rutan

Dope Sick, by Walter Dean Myers
2010 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

Grades 9-12.  Review from Booklist, 11/15/2008:
Pursued by police after a drug deal goes disastrously wrong, 17-year-old Lil J hides out in an abandoned building where he encounters a strange, solitary man named Kelly, who is watching television. Stranger still is what Kelly is watching: scenes from Lil J’s past and his prospective future! How can this be? And how to answer the question that Kelly then asks: “If you could do it all over again and change something, what would it be?” As Lil J ponders his answer, Kelly screens more scenes from the teen’s unfortunate life, including his growing heroin habit. Is this a drug-induced hallucination? A ghostly visitation à la Dickens’ Scrooge? A metaphysical fantasy? A cautionary tale? All of the above? Wisely, Myers provides no easy answers to these difficult questions, trusting his readers to find their own truths and lessons in Lil J’s life. Yes, “lessons,” for there is definitely a didactic element here. But, happily, Myers’ narrative strategy is so inherently dramatic that it captures his readers’ attentions and imaginations, inviting not only empathy but also thoughtful discussion.
-Michael Cart

The Brothers Torres, by Coert Voorheers
2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults

Grades 9 and up.  Review from School Library Journal, 7/1/2008
Frankie Torres Towers knows his older brother, Steve, is endangering his college scholarship by staying out all night with the local cholos and picking fights with his soccer teammates. Accepting of his sibling's good looks and macho charm, Frankie figures Steve is just looking for respect and covers for him, deflecting his parents' questions and picking up the slack at Los Torres, the family's New Mexican restaurant. Frankie's primary obsession is getting a date with Rebecca Sanchez for the Homecoming dance. When he exhibits some bravado against rich kid and soccer jock John Dalton, he only hopes to win her attention, but he unintentionally incites a series of incidents that forces his brother to defend him. Adding insult to injury, Frankie's working-class parents begin secretly negotiating the sale of Los Torres to the Daltons. Protected by his brother's squad of toughs, Frankie seeks revenge but soon learns what these warring factions of older boys are willing to risk. Frankie is as memorable a character as Sherman Alexie's Junior Spirit in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007). He exhibits a resiliency that is hopeful, and his colorful language and humor both confirm and dispel ethnic stereotypes. Flecked with Spanish phrases and authentic street slang and colloquialisms, Frankie's story is as poignant as it is hip and funny and will be a welcome addition to collections serving teens.
-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY  (© Copyright 2010.  Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.  No redistribution permitted.)

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