The Bookweaver

Young Adult Fiction

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Haddix, Margaret Peterson
Running out of Time
This book centers on the experiences of a 13-year-old girl, Jessie, who believes she is living in 1840 when she is really living in the 1990's.  I read this book because it reminded me of a movie called The Village.  It slowly dawns on the viewer of the film what is going on, but what little Haddix leaves to the imagination, the book's publishers take by explaining it all on the cover of the book.
The first part of the book raises some interesting historical questions.  In the latter half of the book, these concerns radically veer to scientific ethics when it is discovered that Jessie's family and neighbors are being denied medications because they are unknowingly part of an experiment designed to develop a breeding group consisting of those with naturally strong immune systems.
I did not find this book particularly engaging, but I think it is a good choice for some readers.
Recommendation: For low-ability middle-school students for the questions it raises and for intermediate readers who like a bit of a thriller

Iverson, Jeremy


     I think Iverson wants his protagonist, Brett, to be yet another Holden Caulfield, but…he isn’t.  The story hinges on Brett’s voyage of discovery during a night at a fraternity party.  Well, I think he’s supposed to be on some sort of discovery, but he really just comes across as pretty empty-headed.  He doesn’t seem to have any interests beyond the most superficial: wearing certain clothes, being in a certain fraternity, etc.  Brett attempts to question these values, but he seems so vapid that he has nothing with which to replace them. The book doesn’t work at all when you realize that he has 21 drinks during the course of one night…mostly different things, too…beer, wine, gin, schnapps…the list goes on.  

Particularly annoying is a tradition of the fraternity in which people are issued different colored cups on the basis of how “cool” they are (guys) or “hot” they are (girls).  Through the first few chapters, Brett mentions the colors of the cups everytime he approaches a group of people at the party as if he is incapable of making his own decisions about people.  The joke is that the people who issue the cups are the same ones who work the bar…the pledges…the ones who to aspire to be what Brett is.

  I don’t remember college like this at all, and I was in a sorority.  The version of this type of party we had were “Ladies Nights.”  Instead of issuing cups, someone stood at the door and decided who to admit.  Truthfully, if you were female you got in because these parties had one main goal.  Only a certain type of person continued to go to them because there were plenty of other parties where there were guys who saw you as a person.  In case I was just out of touch, I e-mailed my niece, who is also in a sorority and has a boyfriend in a fraternity.  This is what she said:


I have never heard of the color coded cup thing before.  I know that
when people have a keg they charge $5 for a cup but everyone gets the
same cup and no one is guarding the keg to say who can have it.  At
Jess's fraternity's band parties all of the brothers get a "brothers"
wristband and then everyone 21 or over gets a different looking one.
Maybe it is just different here, or I just have never been somewhere
around here who actually does that.  I can see some of the bad
fraternities here doing that sort of thing to people because they are
jerks.  I don't know if that sort of book should be avaliable to kids
in high school because it would put bad ideas in their heads about college
and such, and for people who have never heard of such a thing.


There are plenty of bad things about Greek like, but there are positive things as well if the members keep in all in perspective.  I think people who had a good experience with it generally have little to say because it was just something fun they did; not a big deal. Iverson supposedly has the inside track because he wrote this book a year after he graduated from college…and served as VP of his fraternity…but his character is so thin and the book makes so little sense, I think it mostly reads like a how-to manual.

Myers, Walter Dean

     This book is one of Myers' few, if not the only, books with a female protagonist.  Crystal, the title character, is a 16-year-old teenager working as a model in New York City.  She is increasingly asked to do things with which she is uncomfortable, such as posing provocatively.  Nothing much happens to Crystal, but a model friend commits suicide for reasons at which Myers' only hints.  I'm sorry to say, however, that this book is simply not very good.  I had to force myself to read the entire book because none of the characters ever came off the page.  They were flat, and I felt nothing for any of them.  The only possible exception to this rule is a minor character, Sister Gibbs, who is an elderly woman who lives in Crystal's building and is really Crystal's sole voice of reason.  The only other vibrant aspect of this novel is Myers' description of Harlem in the opening chapters.  

     This book was first published in 1987.  Although there is nothing on the title page to indicate that the book has been revised, there are several pop-references that have been updated such as mentions of Tyra Banks and the television show Dawson's Creek.  "Black" and "White," when referring to African-Americans and Caucasians respectively are capitalized; however, which I found strange.  I am aware this convention was used in the 80's, but it's a little jarring in 2006.  One of the subplots also involves the limitations of Crystal's possiblities as a model because of her race, and I don't think that is nearly the issue now that it was in the 80's and, in fact, may be inaccurate.

Recommendation: Some girls might enjoy it because of its subject matter.  I would not permit allow students to read it for any type of project or report because it is so week a link in Myers' bilbliography. 

Robinson, Barbara
The Best Halloween Ever
This book features the same characters as the classic The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but it pales in comparison.  To keep the Herdman clan under control, the town decides to hold a Halloween celebration in the school and outlaw Trick-or-Treating.  The Herdmans get wind of the reason for the scheme, and they entice the other children into the basement, which they have filled with all the candy they have stolen over the years.  Pageant is one of my favorite Christmas stories, but I just don't think there's enough to Halloween to make this book meaningful.
Recommendation: Intermediates may enjoy it, but it's nothing to get excited about.  Nothing here for middle schoolers.

Ruditis, Paul

Rainbow Party

     Okay, I have to admit that I did not read this one all the way through.  The characters were just too wooden, and the plot was too stilted.  The cover of the book gives the impression that this book is going to be pretty wild, but it uses the concept of something that seems wild to suck the reader into what is a pretty thinly disguised indictment of “abstinence only” sex ed, including a scene where a teacher steers a class discussion away from topics in which the students are interested because of the school district’s policy.  Ultimately, the “rainbow party,” which is a party consisting of the girls giving the guys oral sex, does not happen.  The various characters resolve the sexual issues that tempt them to the party in various ways.  In a plot device from another era, the central character, Gin, is branded a slut when there is an outbreak of gonorrhea among the high-school students although it is not clear that she is the cause.  I am almost embarrassed to have a copy of this book in my house.  There is a tradition of the adolescent problem novel dealing with “real life” issues, but this book fails on all levels. 

Recommendation: Don’t bother. 

Waite, Judy


     This book is a basic young-adult problem novel.  Taylor is struggling to keep her life normal in the face of the recent death of her sister and her mother’s ensuing depression.  When she begins to feel neglected by her two best friends, she latches onto a older, popular-seeming girl she meets while shopping.  The older girl, Kat, convinces Taylor to do first unethical and then illegal things to help Kat feed her shopping habit.  The resolution is a little too quick and easy, and the stakes are low.  Kat is left owing her mother about 150 British pounds or about $225-250 US.

            I read the book in about 2 hours so for the most part it is a good choice for low ability readers; especially since the character in the book are in about 10th grade, I believe.  The copy I read is a U.S. edition of a British book.  What is strange about it is that British-isms are not changed: cigarettes are fags, prices are in pounds, students go to “tutor groups” etc.  Since there is no explanation at the beginning of the book, readers might get confused. 


Recommendations: middle school and low-ability high school students with reservations

Email me with your comments, suggestions, and experiences.
At this time, I am not posting any materials that I have not personally reviewed, but I can always use more ideas for my notebook.