Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Underland Chronicles

The Underland Chronicles are another example of a series that I wish I had read years ago. I loved The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and that finally convinced me to give them a try.

These books tell the story of Gregor, a boy who has a tough life. Growing up in poverty, Gregor's dad disappeared suddenly, leaving his mother in constant worry and stress to take care of the family. Gregor does his best to help, and one day is assisting with the laundry while watching his baby sister Boots. Suddenly, Boots is gone. Gregor desperatly searches for her, and falls down a very curious tunnel that was hidden behind one of the machines in the laundry room. This tunnel takes him to The Underland, a place deep in the earth where people exist in complete darkness. They live with an uncomfortable truce with giant cockroaches, spiders, and rats. When Gregor and Boots arrive, there is a war brewing. Gregor just wants to get home, but the people in Underland believe that he is the warrior that their prophecies told about, he is forced to stay. Gregor then realizes there are secrets rampant, and some could involve his father's disappearance. He decides to embark on the adventure of a lifetime to save the people he just met.

And so begins Gregor's journies an life in the Underland. Collins does an excellent job creating an alternate world that at first seems creepy, but then grows on the reader. One can only marvel at how Gregor keeps his life together, but he still seems like a very "real" kid. There is action, adventure, and suspense abound in these stories that are very addicting.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sarah Dessen

I admit, I judge books based on their covers. I know that I am not supposed to, in theory, but I think everyone does to a certain degree. That is why it took so long for me to read any of Sarah Dessen's books. They just seemed so...girly. And I am not a girly girl. So I just bought them for my students who loved them, and didn't really think they were worth my time. Then, I had a student finally talk me into giving one a try- The Truth About Forever. While it isn't my favorite Dessen book, I really enjoyed it. Dessen keeps common themes through her stories, but makes them different enough that each is enjoyable. Each has a romance element, but the focus is more about the main character- a teenage female girl- who is struggling with a problem. The problems are often ones that many of us can identify with: divorce, body images, friends. Check out some of my favorite Dessen books below, and give one a try. I have read them all, and would reccommend most to lovers of realistic fiction.

Just Listen- My absolute favorite Dessen book because it combines a story with music. Annabel was "the girl who has everything; at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf 's Department Store. This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

Keeping the Moon- A close second to Just Listen, this is my least favorite book cover. I like the story of individuality and weight issues. Probably some of Dessen's strongest characters are contained in this book...Fifteen-year-old Colie is spending the summer with her eccentric Aunt Mira while her mother travels. Formerly chubby and still insecure, Colie has built a shell around herself. But her summer with her aunt, her aunt's tenant Norman, and her friends at the Last Chance Diner & teaches her some important lessons about friendship and learning to love yourself.

Someone Like You-Maybe the most far-fetched of her stories, this is still a good read. Sad, but the focus on friendship is definitely a plus. Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she's devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Though their friendship may be tested by the strain, like a true friendship, it will endure.