August 31, 2017

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 5:04 pm by suebe2

One of Us Is Lying
by Karen M. McManus
Delacorte Press

As the story opens, five students are serving detention. They are a varied group with one thing in common – they are all in detention because a tech-hating teacher found a cell phone in each of their packs.  He has a no phones in class rule and all of them observe it but each was caught with a cheap phone that didn’t belong to them. Who could have set them up and why bother?

Bronwyn is the school brain.  She’s heading straight for an early acceptance from Yale.

Cooper is a jock with an amazing fast ball. He’s already being scouted by a variety of schools.

Addy dates the school quarterback. She’s sweet and pretty enough to be on the homecoming court.

Nate is the outlier.  A known drug dealer, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks.  He’s focused on convincing his probation officer that he’s doing everything right.

This question seems all important at the beginning of detention but it is quickly driven from one of their minds.  Simon, the outcast of the group, begins to cough.  Soon he is on the ground, red-faced and choking.  Nate realizes Simon is having a severe allergic reaction to something but can’t find the other boy’s epipen.  Cooper, star pitcher on the school baseball team, sprints to the nurses office but the epipens she keeps there are gone.

Now the police are looking at this group and trying to figure out who wanted Simon dead.  The problem is that Simon had only one friend in school.  So it could have been just about anyone.  Simon ran a gossip ap that he used to “out” whoever did anything they wouldn’t want someone else to know about.  Cheating on a boyfriend, casual sex, drunken anarchy.  All could be punished by a post by Simon.

These four students are the prime suspects simply because they were in the room.  The mystery deepens as the posts continue even after Simon’s death.  A post goes lives that implicates everyone who had been in detention.  In spite of the fact that their lawyers have advised them to avoid each other, the four start working together to figure out who really did it and why.

If you’re over a certain age, this will immediately remind you of The Breakfast Club but it’s the BC with a serious edge.  One of the students doesn’t make it out alive.

Because the author switches points of view, allowing each character to speak for him or herself, the reader gets the experience of seeing things from each character’s perspective.  This is an engaging technique that helps the reader identify with the characters.  Not that they need a lot of help.  With this array of characters, there is a great variety.  But this does make it easy to get into their heads.

Readers will find themselves debating, who did it?  Is one of them lying?

Warning.  Here comes a big spoiler alert.

Seriously.  Don’t read on because I may give something away.

In some ways this book is a lot like 13 Reasons Why.  So now you know.  It deals with suicide and mental illness. Because of this, it can be a tough read as the characters figure out what happened and why.  They are to blame but not in the “they drove poor Simon to suicide” way.  “It is a lot more like Simon was a bit unhinged but didn’t use a gun.”

But I think it is a really important read.  It shows how one persons actions impact another.  But it also shows how students can cross boundaries and reach out to help each other.  There is definitely a lot to love about this book.  That said, it is definitely a read for teens, not tweens.

–SueBE

 

September 2, 2016

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:40 am by suebe2

some kind of happinessSome Kind of Happiness
by Claire Legrand
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

There are all kinds of things that Finley Hart doesn’t want to discuss. Fortunately, Finley is a compulsive list maker (hello, my friend!) so you don’t have to go too far to discover what these things are:

• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley can’t believe it is really happening.  She’s always known that somewhere her father had a family but she’s also known that they aren’t something you talk about.  Try and Dad shuts you down.  So she’s understandably a bit apprehensive when her parents announce that they have problems to work out and are taking her to spend the summer with her father’s family.

For a kid with undiagnosed depression and anxiety this is a big deal.  A huge deal. An earth shattering deal.

Finley deals with it the same way she deals with everything.  She retreats into her journal.  But where her parents were busy with their careers, her cousins try to be understanding but they want to get to know her.  Soon she connects with fellow 11-year-old Gretchen and pulls her into the world of the Everwood.

But is isn’t just Finley who changes.  As Finley notices some odd things and starts to ask questions, she pulls the cousins into this questioning mode.  Soon they are hanging out with the Bailey boys, a trio of brothers that the cousins know only as reputed trouble makers.  But Finley sees something else and starts to ask why the Bailey family has this reputation.

I’m not going to write any more about the plot because there is too much that I don’t want to give away.  This is an excellent book, unless you can’t stand it.  A writing buddy demanded that I read it.  It was, in her words, the ultimate bummer book with mental illness, cancer, divorce, hidden crimes and more.  It was just too much.

My take?  Wow.  Legrand has worked in mental illness, cancer, divorce, hidden crimes and more.  It is just too much but in an amazing way. This isn’t a book you are going to feel half way about.

What did I love?

Legrand has given young readers an accurate portrayal of a peer dealing with mental illness.  That’s a huge deal.

This is also an accurate portrayal of what happens when a family is divided by secrets.  Another huge deal.

But it is also a story of love and bravery and doing the right thing.  It is a hopeful take on the idea that even the most broken among us can make connections with others and find a way to move forward.  It is a powerful message for young readers who may need a bit of a hope in a world gone grey with depression, divorce or anxiety.

Wow.  Just wow.

–SueBE

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