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Best Books of September 2017

September 30th, 2017 (01:07 pm)
determined

Current Mood: determined
Current Song: Move You by Kelly Clarkson

September: 20 books and scripts read

This month, I got a kick out of Totally Crushed by Kristen Tracy, the sequel to Project (Un)Popular. If you're looking for fun books to put in the hands of pre-teen readers, snatch up those two titles. Social interaction can be tricky no matter how old you are, and it can definitely be tricky when you're in middle school. Check out the misadventures of Perry and her best friend Venice as they work on their school yearbook, and enjoy Kristen Tracy's signature sense of humor.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Storm by H.D.

September 29th, 2017 (06:00 am)
thoughtful

Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Song: New Rules by Dua Lipa

You crash over the trees,
you crack the live branch -
the branch is white,
the green crushed,
each leaf is rent like split wood.

You burden the trees
with black drops,
you swirl and crash -
you have broken off a weighted leaf
in the wind,
it is hurled out,
whirls up and sinks,
a green stone.

- Storm by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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Poetry Friday: Sea Iris by H.D.

September 22nd, 2017 (06:00 am)
awake

Current Mood: awake
Current Song: New Rules by Dua Lipa

I

Weed, moss-weed,
root tangled in sand,
sea-iris, brittle flower,
one petal like a shell
is broken,
and you print a shadow
like a thin twig.
Fortunate one,
scented and stinging,
rigid myrrh-bud,
camphor-flower,
sweet and salt - you are wind
in our nostrils.

II

Do the murex-fishers
drench you as they pass?
Do your roots drag up colour
from the sand?
Have they slipped gold under you -
rivets of gold?
Band of iris-flowers
above the waves,
you are painted blue,
painted like a fresh prow
stained among the salt weeds.

- Sea Iris by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Evening by H.D.

September 15th, 2017 (06:00 am)
contemplative

Current Mood: contemplative
Current Song: New Rules by Dua Lipa

The light passes
from ridge to ridge,
from flower to flower -
the hepaticas, wide-spread
under the light
grow faint -
the petals reach inward,
the blue tips bend
toward the bluer heart
and the flowers are lost.

The cornel-buds are still white,
but shadows dart
from the cornel-roots -
black creeps from root to root,
each leaf
cuts another leaf on the grass,
shadow seeks shadow,
then both leaf
and leaf-shadow are lost.

- Evening by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Not Here, Exactly by Joanna Fuhrman

September 8th, 2017 (06:34 am)
awake

Current Mood: awake
Current Song: Love Is A Battlefield by Pat Benatar

I found your letter
in the pocket

of a borrowed goat.

It showed me
the way-

small as an eye.

One mountain tried
to taste another,

then spit it out.

Your letter called
all the other letters

“friends.”

You too were
my friend,

soft as a melting
or melted nail.

Dear little cage,
dark plum.

- Not Here, Exactly by Joanna Fuhrman

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Little Willow [userpic]

Best Books of August 2017

September 1st, 2017 (06:52 pm)
sleepy

Current Mood: sleepy
Current Song: Absolutely (Story of a Girl) by Nine Days

August 2017: 10 books and scripts read

I read many brand-new stories this month, but the one that stood out to me was one I've read before, ten years ago: Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr.

The re-read was prompted by the film adaptation, which premiered on Lifetime at the end of July. The screenplay by Laurie Collyer and Emily Bickford Lansbury was pretty faithful to the book and, on multiple occasions, the script included exact lines of dialogue from the book, but I still felt the book was more powerful, thanks in part to the first-person narration which allowed readers to get into the protagonist's mindset and memories. I wish the film had included her journal; the story Deanna wrote was revealing and therapeutic, and I loved rediscovering that when I read the book again.

Read my review of the book.

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: Your Catfish Friend by Richard Brautigan

September 1st, 2017 (06:00 am)
sleepy

Current Mood: sleepy
Current Song: Feel Something by Jaymes Young

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
  one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
  of my affection
and think, "It's beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
  somebody loved me,"
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
  at peace,
and ask yourself, "I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them."

- Your Catfish Friend by Richard Brautigan

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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Poetry Friday: The Secret by Denise Levertov

August 25th, 2017 (06:00 am)
hopeful

Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: Dark Side by Kelly Clarkson

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

- The Secret by Denise Levertov

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

August 20th, 2017 (07:22 pm)
artistic
Tags: ,

Current Mood: artistic
Current Song: Declaration by David Cook

Louna, age 18, is about to graduate from high school. Before she heads off to college, she plans to spend the summer working with her mother, Natalie, an accomplished wedding planner. When Natalie takes on a new employee, the carefree younger brother of a client, Louna is caught off-guard - for more than one reason. Ambrose's effervescence and charm pulls most people in, but he rubs Louna the wrong way, and she is worried that he will be a liability for the company rather than an asset.

At first blush, this may sound like your typical "opposites attract" romantic storyline, but there's more to this book than meets the eye. Louna's backstory is layered, revealed slowly, and handled well. I won't spoil it in this review, as I want to readers to discover it on their own, but Sarah, if you're reading this: well done.

As in many Dessen stories, the protagonist has a best friend with an energy and story different from her own. Here, we have Jilly, the eldest of five, who burst into Louna's life years ago when they became neighbors. Jilly's household is chaotic but happy: her parents are very much in love and run a successful food truck business, and though Jilly often has to take care of her younger siblings, she rarely complains. Jilly wants Louna to live life.

Louna and her mother have a very good relationship. They like each other, and they like working together. It was nice to read a story with a happy family dynamic as well as a good work ethic. Natalie and her business partner, William, are very good at what they do. They are very professional and their business has a wonderful, well-earned reputation. They are also fun. Whether it's guessing how long the newly-married couple will stay together or simply chatting about life, their conversations are punctuated with laughter and gentle teasing, and it's clear that they are best friends, good friends, who care about and support one another.

I don't normally gravitate towards stories in which romance is the main storyline. I know that most books, TV shows, and movies that start with two characters disliking each other will probably end up with those characters getting together, and while I have plenty of friends who enjoy the "hate turns to love" type of story, that's not something I'm drawn to. I prefer stories/characters with balanced storylines, where romance might be part of the story, but not the sole focus, where friendships and hobbies and interests and abilities are just as important. I enjoy Sarah Dessen's writing, and I like the world she's created. So while others may like the fact that many a Dessen book ends with a kiss, I like the fact that they end with hope: her protagonists tend to land on their feet and emerge with a new and positive outlook on the world, and, in that final sentence, they are looking forward to the future.

If you liked Once and For All and would like to read more novels set the summer between high school and college, check out my Transition Times booklist.

To read my reviews of all of Sarah Dessen's novels to date, check out my Author Spotlight: Sarah Dessen.

Little Willow [userpic]

Booklist: Set in School and Transition Times

August 19th, 2017 (08:30 am)
nerdy

Current Mood: nerdy
Current Song: Four Years by Jon McLaughlin

My friend Claire asked for a list of YA books which focused on school life. After giving her some recommendations, I typed up this list, and kept adding more and more titles until I had a booklist populated with characters in various grade levels going through all sorts of transitions.

Elementary and middle school:

The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary - Follow Ramona from age 4 to age 10.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson - While Astrid spends the summer before junior high at roller derby camp, she can feel her best friend drifting away. Great graphic novel with a sporty punch!

Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar - Classic girls vs. boys story that also encourages honesty and inspires laughter.

Standing for Socks by Elissa Brent Weissman - Entering middle school, and searching for individualism.

... and, of course, The Baby-Sitters Club. Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey are in seventh grade when the series begins. After a handful of books, they are promoted to eighth grade, at which time they gain two additional members, Jessi and Mallory, who are sixth graders. The girls stay in middle school for the remainder of the series. The original four girls finally graduated from eighth grade at the end of the final series, Friends Forever.

Between middle school and high school:
Transitioning from middle school to high school can be exciting, scary, difficult, and overwhelming. The following stories include middle school graduations and/or the summer between middle school and high school.

The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Lucky by Rachel Vail (the first in a trilogy about sisters)

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith

Freshman year of high school:
I highly recommend all of the titles on this freshman list. They get it, they really do.

The True Meaning of Cleavage by Mariah Fredericks - The separation of two best friends. Highly recommended.

Nothing but the Truth by Avi - This documentary novel chronicles the life of a ninth grade boy whose minor disturbance in class leads to a major media story.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar - A fantastic story, a well-written book.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - School factors heavily into this incredibly memorable story.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson - In this case, the freshman is the protagonist's younger sister, Hannah.

So Not the Drama by Paula Chase - Four friends navigate the high school hallways. The first in a series.

Perfect Girl by Mary Hogan - A first crush, a worldly aunt, and so much more.

The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith - Grieving and healing, a girl and a boy, alone and together.

Looks by Madeleine George - One of the two main characters is a freshman, the other a sophomore.

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell - A freshman girl, still reeling from the loss of her older brother, must enter high school without him there to help her.

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas - The only member of her family to escape her father's abuse, a quiet girl enters high school, finds her place on the volleyball court, and finds her voice.

Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach - Three best friends - three very different girls who play different instruments in the school marching band and have totally different families - march through their freshman year of high school.

Boarding school and/or private school - for elementary and middle school readers:

The Ballet School Diaries by Alexandra Moss - This cute and fun series for kids is set at a ballet boarding school in the UK.

Accidentally Fabulous series by Lisa Papademetriou - The fashionable protagonist goes to a private middle school on scholarship.
- Accidentally Fabulous
- Accidentally Famous
- Accidentally Fooled
- Accidentally Friends

Boarding school and/or private school - for teen and adult readers:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Tracing the roots decades-old struggle for power between three types of kids - Jellicoe School (boarding school) students, local Townies, and Cadets from a school in Sydney - and climbing the family tree. Published as On the Jellicoe Road in Australia. Highly recommended.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta - An all-boys school goes co-ed. Recommended.

Looking for Alaska by John Green - Coming-of-age at a modern-day Alabama boarding school. Highly recommended.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart - A fresh take on secret societies, with a young girl thwarting some smirky boys. A great book set a modern day boarding school. Highly recommended.

Breathless by Jessica Warman - After something happens to her older brother, Katie's parents send her off to boarding school, and she is surprised by how much she loves it there. The book follows her from sophomore year through graduation.

The Poison Apples by Lily Archer - Three girls at boarding school bond over their family situations: each has recently acquired a stepmother. Though it uses the fairy tale metaphor, this book isn't a fantasy, nor is it magical realism. It is realistic fiction, and it is really good. Modern day.

A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy by Libba Bray - Historical fantasy set in a Victorian girls' boarding school. Incredibly imaginative and intriguing.
- A Great and Terrible Beauty
- Rebel Angels
- The Sweet Far Thing

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman - Two best friends consider Pride & Prejudice and get involved in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Modern day. Recommended.

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg - A modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, set in boarding school.

Headlong by Kathe Koja - When a new girl transfers to The Vaughn School, a private school for girls, a lifelong Vaughn student starts to see her school - and her life - differently.

The Gallagher Girls books by Ally Carter - A top-secret modern-day spy school for girls.

The Love series by Emily Franklin - Love starts going to New England boarding school when her dad becomes the principal. Modern day.

The end of senior year:

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando - One week before they graduate from high school, Mary and her friends take part in their school's official-unofficial scavenger hunt.

The summer following high school graduation:

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Return to Me by Justina Chen

Making it through your first year of college:

The Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala - In the first book, Body Bags, protagonist Jenna Blake is just about to enter college. The first line of the first chapter: "It was a beautiful day to grow up." There are ten books in this series, following Jenna through a good chunk of her college life.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour - Marin suffered a tremendous loss the summer before her freshman year of college. The book goes back and forth between one winter weekend three months into college and May/June before.

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn - An intelligent but technology-addicted young woman has a difficult time balancing school and fun during her freshman year at Columbia University.

Additional stories in which school is a supporting character:

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters - The main characters start seeing each other before school. Literally.

Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn - Oh, the scenes in the lunchroom! I love this book so much.

Swollen by Melissa Lion - Your perceptions of your classmates may differ from the truth. From their truths. From your truths.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - I wish all schools were this open and accepting. I wish all people were this open and accepting.

Follow a girl through elementary school, middle school, and high school in the Alice McKinley books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The series has over twenty titles. The Agony of Alice was the first book and is set in middle school. The author has since written prequels, making Starting With Alice (third grade) the earliest story on the timeline. The Grooming of Alice describes the summer between her eighth grade and ninth grade years. Alice Alone starts off her freshman year. For the full breakdown of titles and grades, please click here.

Barthe DeClements had fun with her grade-oriented dramadies for young readers:
- The Fourth Grade Wizards by Barthe DeClements
- Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements
- Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements
- How Do You Lose Those Ninth-Grade Blues? by Barthe DeClements

Classics:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Good-Bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

For even more stories set in school, please refer to the categories of academic cheating and teacher influence within my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

Also check out my After Graduation booklist.