Category Archives: Realistic Fiction

Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap

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Tina's Mouth

Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, ISBN: 9780618945191

Overview: Tina is a shrewd observer of high school culture, with its cliques and fashion obsessed shallow people. She’s recently been dumped by her best friend, Alex, so she has plenty of time to compose a journal to Jean-Paul Sartre as an English class assignment. In it, she’ll muse about her older brother and sister’s troubles with love, her embarrassing extended family, and the boy she likes but can’t seem to figure out. Tina writes with wit and just enough angst to make this a fun and enlightening read.

Critical Evaluation: There is not much new territory covered in this graphic novel, but it is still an enjoyable story. Tina’s issues are familiar, though they are seen through the lens of an Indian American family. So her brother and sister experience dating woes, just like anyone else, but they are mostly caused by their parents’ attempts to arrange a marriage. Or there is Tina’s breakdown of all of her aunts, from the gossiping ones, to the drunken aunt who hands out advice like, “Marry a European.” Even with familiar tropes, I like the way Tina thinks about things and infuses every situation with the snark and eye rolls so characteristic of teens.

Some reviews on Goodreads have complained about the drawings of the book. I had no issues with them and found that I thought they matched the text quite well. They are more basic, but this is a style common in many other illustrated novels, like Persepolis or from the children’s section, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That the book is supposed to represent a teen’s journal lends even more credibility to the simplicity of the illustrations. That in itself is also very reminiscent of Daria, which I assume must be an influence on this novel.

Reader’s Annotation: Tina contemplates high school, her embarrassing family, and why she can’t understand boys in a journal addressed to Jean-Paul Sartre. This may be one of the funniest class assignment you’ll read.

Information about the author: Keshni was born to Indian parents and raised in the San Francisco area. She studied literature at Berkeley and film at UCLA. She now lives and works in New York City.

“Tina’s Mouth” is her first novel. She is primarily known as a filmmaker. She also contributes frequently to “The Daily Beast” website.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor, Realistic Fiction

Curriculum ties, if any: Tina creates this journal for his English honors class assignment on existentialism, so this could be a fun way to talk about existentialism and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Booktalking Ideas: Tina is very reminiscent of Daria, and even though Daria was current when I was in high school, I think she remains popular in a cult sense. For those who hadn’t heard of Daria, I would emphasize how funny and snarky she is.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Tina is a sophomore in high school and deals with issues common to high school students. The expressed purpose of the book from Tina’s perspective is for an existentialism assignment, which I think will resonate more with older teens.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Drug references
  • Sexual references

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with the book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This book meets the recreational needs of teens. I also think that the controversial elements included are commonplace in some teens’ lives, and deserve representation in the books that they read.

Why did you include this book? : It was recommended to me and seemed like it would provide another angle to my project. It also provides the perspective of a non-white teenager.

Reference Page:

Keshni Kashyap author biography (2013). Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2867364.Keshni_Kashyap

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Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

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Under the Mesquite

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall ISBN: 9781600604294

Plot Summary: When Lupita’s mother gets cancer, Lupita finds herself taking care of her seven younger siblings while her father cares for their mother. She juggles this with high school homework, her dreams to be an actress, and friends who don’t understand what’s changed. She finds quiet and time to reflect under a mesquite tree in the backyard. The poems that she writes help her to deal with all the responsibilities and her fears of losing her mother forever.

Critical Evaluation: In general, I love poetry, but I have a harder time with novels in verse. It is hard to write a beautiful and evocative poem that also gets across plot points and character development of a longer story. These poems are skillfully and sometimes artfully written, but their main purpose is really to get across the story. There are metaphors and vibrant images, like when Lupita compares herself to a dormant cicada, or babies to pennies from heaven. Like many other novels in verse, I find this one to simply be a more thoughtfully worded and differently structured novel. I don’t mean this to be an insult. I just mean that it doesn’t fit the idea I have of a poem in my head.

As for the story, it is a fascinating one and valuable topic for a teen. I think most are somewhat oblivious to the possibility that their parents could get sick and not be able to care for them. As teens get older, they do transition to having more responsibilities, and testing the waters of being an adult. So contemplating adding responsibilities to those you already have is scary, but good to contemplate. This story adeptly demonstrates the practical and emotional burdens added, and offers ideas of how to cope.

Lupita is remarkably good at adapting to her new responsibilities, even though she struggles with them. This is established to a certain extent when we learn that she frequently helps her parents with taking care of the household, even before her mother gets sick, but still feels surprising. With a novel in verse, and the shorter story usually inherent in this style, there is less room to provide details. The reader must take emotions on face value and assume that there is more lurking between the lines. I occasionally encourage reluctant readers to read novels in verse, but the more I consider them, the more I wonder if you need to be a little more skilled at inference when you undertake a book like this one.

Reader’s Annotation: Lupita has always helped her parents around the house. But now Lupita’s mother has cancer, and she finds herself juggling schoolwork, housework, and taking care of her seven younger brothers and sisters.

Information about the author (taken from book jacket and Goodreads): Guadalupe Garcia McCall was born in Coahuila, Mexico. Her family moved to Texas when she was a young girl. She attended Sul Rose State University to study theater arts, English and get a teacher’s certificate.

She now teaches English and Language Arts at a junior high school. She lives with her husband and three sons in the San Antonio, Texas area. This novel was inspired by the experiences of Guadalupe’s family during her teen years.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Novel in Verse

Curriculum ties, if any: I would associate this with a poetry unit, or perhaps conversation about responsibilities and family.

Booktalking Ideas: I would promote this book for readers of poetry and other verse novels, like Ellen Hopkins’ books. I would also appeal to reader’s empathetic sides by asking them to imagine what they would do if one of their parents got sick and they needed to take care of their siblings.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Lupita is in high school, and deals with things that most younger readers don’t have to think about, so I think in that sense it can appeal to an older reader. The lack of language or controversial elements make it appropriate for younger readers as well.  School Library Journal recommends this book for readers in grades 7 and up.

Challenge Issues: None

Why did you include this book? : I wanted to include a story in verse, since I think this is becoming a popular method of storytelling, and one that might appeal to reluctant readers. This book also incorporates the Mexican American immigrant story not present in any of my other selections.

Reference Page:

Biography for Guadalupe Garcia McCall (2013). Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2924895.Guadalupe_Garcia_McCall

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

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OCD, the Dude, and Me

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn, ISBN: 9780803738430

Plot Summary: Danielle and her mother get in a fight on the first day of school because of the mess in Danielle’s room. But what her mother doesn’t understand is that what she sees as mess is a carefully organized system for Danielle’s books. Many things in Danielle’s life are carefully handled, like her weight, her style of dress, and her lack of friends. As a result of her essays in class, her English teacher decides that Danielle should see a counselor and join a social skills class. Both seem like a waste of time, until Danielle meets Daniel. He introduces her to “The Big Lebowski” and friendship. This book is told in a quirky and funny style, with a lovably flawed narrator on a heartfelt journey.

Critical Evaluation: This book is told through a variety of formats. Danielle explains at the beginning that she is keeping a color coded binder to capture her life. This includes diary entries, letters to her aunt, and the essays that she writes for her English class, along with comments and grades from the teacher. This provides for an interesting look at her, and an interesting form of narration. Like “Notes,” this means that we see different sides of Danielle. However, the further we read, the more we see that she doesn’t really censor or change her language in her class essays, which also demonstrates something about Danielle’s character.

The other element of the book I find most interesting is the way important details are revealed to the reader as the story progresses. I had a feeling that there was more to the story, and more to Danielle’s neuroses than was established initially. I have to commend the author because I did not guess what her actual traumatic event would be beforehand. At the same time, the resolution of the story seems too neat and easy. I won’t spoil anything I haven’t already, but it seemed like all it took for most of Danielle’s issues to fade was one friend.

Reader’s Annotation: Danielle confines her whole life to her color coded binder. Can she make room for friends and all the unpredictable elements of life?

Information about the author (from book jacket): Lauren Roedy Vaughn is an award-winning educator who has spent twenty years teaching English to high school students with language-based learning disabilities. Lauren lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she is an avid yogini and Big Lebowski nut.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Humor

Curriculum ties, if any: This would have ties to a journal writing assignment in an English class, or possibly a look at mental health.

Booktalking Ideas: The second half of the book incorporates a lot of “Big Lebowski” references, so for teens who love that movie, I think the book would appeal as well. I would emphasize that it is funny but heartfelt, and enjoyable to read.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Danielle is a senior in high school. Because of the challenge issues listed below, it may be more appropriate for a high school student. Publisher’s Weekly recommends this for ages 14 and up, and School Library Journal for grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Drug Use
  • Mention of sexual situations

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with the book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

I think this is one of those books that you want to have on hand for teens that have experienced things like Danielle has. I imagine it will feel good to see someone in the pages of a book who has OCD, has experienced traumatic things, and who struggles to keep everything together. The language and other controversial elements just add to the authenticity of the book.

Why did you include this book? : It received a lot of positive reviews and sounded interesting. It also deals with mental health.

Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

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Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonneblick

Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick, ISBN: 9781611065862

Plot Summary: Alex is mad at his mother for going out on a date, but he’s mostly mad at his father for running off with his 3rd grade teacher. So he gets drunk and tries to drive his mother’s car to his father’s house to yell at him. But he doesn’t get very far. He is sentenced to community service, which turns out to be keeping an old cranky man company at a nursing home. Solomon Lewis doesn’t want him there, and he makes it very clear by berating and insulting Alex every chance he can get. But the letters to the judge asking her to switch his assignment don’t work. Gradually, Alex finds out that Solomon used to be a jazz musician. Conversations turn into guitar lessons, and concerts held at the nursing home. Alex isn’t so eager to finish his community service hours anymore, but Solomon’s health is getting worse.

Critical Evaluation: This book combines several styles of storytelling, which I particularly enjoyed. Most of the story is told from Alex’s perspective, but he also includes his repeated letters to the judge on his case asking for a community service reassignment. So we get Alex’s conversational, inner monologue, as well as his more formal and polite voice as he uses with authority. We also briefly see his drunken voice, which unfortunately for him is reserved for the cops who arrest him. And we see his halting conversation skills with girls that he likes, or has just realized that he likes.

I do not recall a specific setting for this book, which says to me that it is meant to be more universal, representing a friendship between sixteen year old and senior citizen in almost any town. I keep returning to the funnier elements of the book, like the funny way that Laurie berates Alex for his drunk driving or the pranks Solomon plays on the residents at the nursing home. But I don’t mean to suggest that there is no weight to the book. Our narrator may sound snarky most of the time, but when he thinks he has killed someone, he is devastated and feels the full weight of his actions. Of course it is only a garden gnome, but the moment speaks to the more serious elements of the book.

Reader’s Annotation: After crashing his mother’s car while driving drunk, Alex is sentenced to hang out with a grumpy old man at a nursing home. Alex can’t believe his bad luck, until he finds out that Solomon also plays guitar… and maybe he won’t be grumpy all the time.

Information about the author: Jordan Sonnenblick was born in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in 1969. He attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he majored in English. He also took numerous classes in Russian, history, and anthropology. He studied abroad in London, was involved in the marching band, played drums for a theater group, and performed as Santa Claus for cancer patients at a hospital.

After college Jordan joined Teach for America and taught 5th grade in Houston Texas. He then taught 11 years of 8th grade English in New Jersey. He lives with his wife and two children.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Humor, Audiobook

Curriculum ties, if any: I think this book could be used to talk about jazz history.

Booktalking Ideas: This is a very funny, but heartfelt story. I think girls will like hearing about Laurie, the tiny but tough best friend that can and does kick Alex’s butt. Musical students will like hearing about that there is a fair amount of music talk in the book. I think it would also be fun to mention that there are a lot of Yiddish insults in the book, and maybe during a booktalk I would point some of them out.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Alex is sixteen years old, and some of the story refers to things that older teens will understand better. School Library Journal finds this book appropriate for readers in 8th grade or higher, while Publisher’s Weekly suggests it for readers 12 years old and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Drunk Driving

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

The drunk driving in this story should serve more as a cautionary tale than encouragement for readers. After the initial drinking, Alex doesn’t drink again in the book.

Why did you include this book? : It is a funny and touching book by an author I have previously read and enjoyed.

Reference Page:

Bio (2013). Jordan Sonnenblick. Retrieved from http://www.jordansonnenblick.com/bio/

Game by Walter Dean Myers

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Game by Walter Dean Myers

Game by Walter Dean Myers ISBN: 9780060582944

Plot Summary: Drew lives in Harlem, and walks past all the washed out people in his neighborhood every morning on the way to school. He may not be a straight-A student, but he knows he could go pro in basketball if he gets enough attention from college scouts this year. But there are two new white guys on the team, and the coaches seem to be focusing much more on them than anyone else. When it starts to negatively affect the game, Drew decides to take things into his own hands. But then he gets pulled out of the game. This was not the season he had planned.

Critical Evaluation: The plot of this book is firmly centered on basketball. Most of the book takes place on the basketball court, or with Drew’s friends involved in basketball. There are brief interludes with his family, like when his father talks about joining a gym, or when Drew and his friend Ruffy go out with Ruffy’s brother, that don’t relate back to basketball. Drew’s sister, Jocelyn is the most fully developed person who is not on the basketball team, and she gets that way as the pesky sister stereotype we all know. But that does help to focus the book. I’d think that if Myers tried to spread the plot out to other aspects of Drew’s life, it would be difficult to get enough information about each. As it is, we see that basketball is the most important part of Drew’s life, and it influences everything else about him.

My biggest hurdle in reading this book was the language. That could be the reason I don’t read many sports books. I could barely grasp at what different basketball terminology and slang meant, and had trouble differentiating between basketball slang and normal street slang. But that seems to be more my issue than the authors. Like an adult who no longer knows what “all the cool kids are saying,” I did once find myself asking whether kids really say stuff like “goofing up” or “my game is money.” The book was published in 2008 so there is a possibility that some of the slang here has gone out of style, but I’m not really in a position to know. On the other hand, most of the book takes place in school or at Drew’s house, so the language is clean and there is no violence. This makes it a good book to give to teens whose parents might be sensitive about that.

Reader’s Annotation: While all the young black men in the neighborhood seem to have given up, Drew knows he can be an NBA star if he just gets the chance. But basketball is a team sport, and some new players on the team have changed the whole game.

Information about the author: Walter Dean Myers was born on August 12, 1937 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He received his bachelor’s degree from Empire State College. For three years he led a writing workshop for children at a school in Jersey City, New Jersey.

He currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with his wife. He has three grown children. His books have won numerous awards and he was given the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement in literature. Besides writing, he travels to schools to speak to children, teachers, librarians, and parents. He also contributes to educational and literary publications.

Genre: Sports, Urban Fiction

Curriculum ties, if any: None in particular.

Booktalking Ideas: I would emphasize the sports, which is the main theme of this book, but I think the way Drew and his sister Jocelyn talk to each other is also funny, so I might mention that as well.

Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is a senior in high school, and the sections about applying to schools will make the most sense to older readers. As mentioned earlier, there isn’t really any violence or coarse language, so it is appropriate for younger readers as well. School Library Journal suggests this book for grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues: None.

Why did you include this book? : I wanted to include a more contemporary sports novel, and read something by Walter Dean Myers because he is a YA standby.

Reference Page:

Walter Dean Myers author page (2013). Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13291.Walter_Dean_Myers

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin

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big girl small

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin ISBN: 9780374112578

Plot Summary: Judy Lohden has big dreams and a big, beautiful singing voice. She is also three feet, nine inches tall. At first, she can’t wait to start school at her local performing arts high school. At first, it seems great. She befriends Sarah, a goth girl, but also Ginger, a pretty and popular classmate. Then she meets Jeff, a handsome and popular senior and their friendship eventually turns into something more. So why is she hiding out in a seedy motel, afraid to turn on the TV or answer the knocks at her door? Judy achingly recounts the scandal that forced her to run away, and tries to plan for the next stage of her life, whatever that is.

Critical Evaluation: Judy is an easy character to like. She is smart, and funny, witty and sardonic. She starts out with an almost irrepressible confidence, and then your heart breaks to see how she has lost it. Perhaps most importantly, she really sounds like a teen to me. She feels coddled by her parents and intense emotions all of the time. Her attempt to climb the social ladder at Darcy Academy means that she trails along her truer friend, Sarah, while pursuing a friendship with Ginger, the popular girl Judy believes she is really meant to be friends with.   And when she runs away from home she does exactly what I think I would have done: eats junk food, avoids people, and stares at the walls of her room thinking about how everything could have been different.

Her voice and the book’s language ultimately ring authentic, although this is another instance where the main character is just a little too intelligent and witty. Right from the get-go, her narration of the story shows that she is smarter than me, funnier than me, and definitely knows her stuff better than me. I love her little rant about the Wizard of Oz and the munchkins that did not even get credited individually. But then when she talks to Jeff and Ginger, you can see how, no matter how funny and eloquent she is in her head, Judy is still a teenager who struggles to say just the right thing. In that way, her voice brings me closer to her as a character. And, as an audiobook, the narrator is fantastic. She captures all the sarcasm and wit of Judy, and still sounds mostly like a teenager.

Reader’s Annotation: Why would a girl with a beautiful singing voice and infectious spirit be hiding out in a dingy hotel room? Maybe it has something to do with the scandal that is rocking her high school, and the national media, and the fact that she is three feet, nine inches tall.

Information about the author: Rachel DeWoskin is the author of “Big Girl Small,” “Repeat after me,” and “Babes in Beijing.” She has also written essays and articles for Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times Magazine of London, Teachers and Writers, and Conde Nast Traveler. Her poetry has been published in journals including Ploughshares, Seneca Review, New Delta Review, Nerve Magazine and The New Orleans Review.

She currently teaches memoir and fiction at the University of Chicago. She divides her time between Chicago and Beijing, living with her husband and two daughters. “Big Girl Small” won an Alex Award. “Repeat after me” won a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award.

Genre: Adult Crossover, Realistic Fiction, Audiobook

Curriculum ties, if any: This book promotes understanding and compassion, and would also certainly spark some good discussion in a literature class.

Booktalking Ideas: Since leaked sex tapes and images from sexting are a hot topic right now, that might be a way to entice teens to read this book. I would also want to highlight how funny it is, and how relatable Judy is, despite how teens may initially feel very different from her.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  This title was originally written for adults, but with the 16 year old main character, it has obvious appeal for teens.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Sexual situations
  • Drug use

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

In a way, this book serves as sort of a cautionary tale about putting too much trust in others. In this age of sexting and videos going viral, this particular situation has certainly happened before, and it will probably happen again. This book can serve readers on multiple levels, in that it deals with a sex scandal, and a little person who has been ostracized for her size. People will identify with both of these characteristics, and better understand people in both situations for having read this book.

Why did you include this book? : This fits the bill for an adult crossover that will appeal to teens, and is a well written and entertaining book.

Reference Page:

DeWoskin, R. (2013). About page.  Rachel DeWoskin website. Retrieved from http://www.racheldewoskin.com/about.html

Rachel DeWoskin author page.  Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15274.Rachel_DeWoskin

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in our Stars by John Green ISBN: 9780525478812

Plot Summary: Hazel has terminal cancer of the lungs. She knows that her time is limited. But then she meets Gus, who is in remission, at the support group her parents make her go to. Gus is handsome and funny and, for some reason, thinks Hazel is really cute even though she has chipmunk cheeks. Hazel tries to resist liking Gus, but she can’t help it, and the two fall headfirst into a deep relationship. Gus even uses his “Genie Wish” to take Hazel to Amsterdam so she can meet the author of her favorite book and find out what happens at the end of his cancer book. This might sound like your standard cancer book, but it has wit and snark and an undeniable smartness.

Critical Evaluation: This is a hard book for me to evaluate, because I like it so much that I can be blinded to its faults. I will do my best to examine it more closely and not gush too much. I’d like to compare it to the movie Juno, which is also very witty, but almost to a fault. I found myself asking, both during reading “The Fault in Our Stars” and while watching Juno, are there really people who talk like this? (And how come I’m not one of them?) As characters, Gus and Hazel are very witty, funny, elegant, and unlike most teenagers I’ve met. But they are not totally improbable. I have known at least a couple people like that in high school, so I know it is possible, and I just need an author to prove to me that this person is possible in this exact manifestation. With John Green, I buy it. When Hazel first meets Gus, he makes several comments playing off his soon to be blind friend. And Hazel can recite “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It still felt plausible to me. Both still show that they are teens, with instances of both whining at and fighting with their parents, just like any other teen.

This book is not one I would call fast paced, but nor does it move slowly. We are given the details we need to establish Hazel’s background and world before Gus, and then the two can sort of leisurely begin to pursue one another. The trip to Amsterdam feels like a whirlwind, much like any vacation does. Gus’ relapse comes on far too quickly and drags just the right amount. In life these things drag, but, at least for me, it never felt indulgent.

Reader’s Annotation: Hazel has cancer and falls in love with Gus, not knowing how much time they have left together. But this is not your average cancer book, because as Hazel says, those books suck.

Information about the author: John Green was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 24, 1977. He attended Kenyon College and majored in English and Religious Studies. He has been a publishing assistant and production editor for Booklist as well.

Many of his books have been well received and honored over the years. “Looking for Alaska” won the Michael L. Printz Award. “An Abundance of Katherines” was also nominated for the same award. “Paper Towns” was awarded both the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel and the Corine Literature Prize. He is also well known for being one of the Vlog Brothers, whose video blog has quite a following.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Romance

Curriculum ties, if any: None in particular.

Booktalking Ideas: My classmates had fantastic booktalks for this during the presentation, but as far as my own booktalk, I would highlight how funny this book is. I would have to mention that it is a cancer book, but that it doesn’t act like other cancer books. Some will have heard of John Green and/or the Vlog Brothers, so I think this would also be good to highlight.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  The main character is 16. I would also say that the language and sexual scene make this slightly more appropriate for a high school reader. School Library Journal recommends this book for grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Sexual situation

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

There is a fair amount of coarse language in this book. However, that just makes it a more authentic read for a teenager. (My sister was called the truck driver on her high school soccer team, and it wasn’t because of her driving skills.) Though these teens have sex in the book, it is very subtly described, so there are no scenes that could be considered graphic. As I’ve said before, this book represents aspects of people’s lives that are not so pleasant or sanitized, but should still be available for the solace they can provide for anyone affected by cancer, or diversion for any other reader.

Why did you include this book? : This was a required title for class, but it is also a well written and unique story that is quite popular.

Reference Page:

Green, J. (2013). Bio page. John Green website. Retrieved from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-c