Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Part-Time Indian Book Trailer

While I was doing a little searching on YouTube, I came across this book trailer for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I love how this trailer provides a summary of a story while giving a glimpse into the cartoons and artwork featured in the book.

The Skin I'm In

The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake is about Maleeka, a seventh-grade girl at a rough middle school where she is teased daily about everything from the color of her skin to her homemade clothes. On top of the endless taunting, her "friends" take advantage of Maleeka's situation and intelligence and have a power over her that she just wants to break free from. Maleeka knows that she deserves to be treated better, but she has trouble coming out of the shadow's of her classmates and feeling comfortable in her own skin. That is, until a new teacher, Miss Saunders, comes to her school. Miss Saunders has a skin disorder and admits to her students that it has taken her a long time to love the skin she is in. It is her story and support that helps Maleeka start to love her skin, and herself, too. 

Even though I am not African-American, I could easily put myself in Maleeka's shoes. In middle school, I was always one of the kids who followed the rules and did their best at school. During lunch time and study halls, I enjoyed reading for pleasure. This was enough to bring upon the bullying. People would say rude things to me as they passed by or throw paper on my table as I read. Although I dressed pretty similar to my peers, I was not allowed to do a lot of what my peers were able to do. I was often mocked for being "sheltered" or "babied." As I read this book, and got to know Maleeka better, I wished that I had this book to read when I was going through middle school. It would have helped me to realize that I am not the only one out there that feels ashamed of who I am and may have helped me to gain some of the confidence I needed a little sooner. Furthermore, Caleb was another influential character because he shows that no matter what you look like, as long as you are a good person, there will always be someone who cares about you. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a semi-autobiographical
account about a teenage Native American boy, Arnold Spirit Jr., who struggles with numerous neurological and physical disorders. On top of these complications, he also deals with poverty in the reservation and the complicated decisions he must make in order to pursue his dreams. While reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I was impressed with how Alexie was able to discuss these real and painful issues that Arnold faces.

While reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I was amazed at how the author tackled painful and sensitive issues with humor. I knew that I was going to like this book when it simultaneously broke my heart and made me laugh. Alexie discusses  the challenges that Native American's face in a tone that is not intimidating. Rather, it allows the reader to process the information and reflect and question some of the harsh realities that Native American's deal with and why life on the reservation is the way that it is. Although I have learned about the brutal treatment of Native American's in high school and through some college courses, I have never had the opportunity to read about the issues that Native American's are facing today. The book being set in the year 2006 is powerful because it shows the reader that these issues still exist and are important. It does not allow them to rationalize these problems because they "happened a long time ago." Instead, it makes the confront the fact that the treatment of Native American's is still a problem and is something to be aware of. 
At the beginning of the book, Junior seemed to have a very black and white view of the world. He always felt like he had to choose sides and that the world of the reservation and the world of his white school could never coincide. I feel like this also reflects how many people believe that two different cultures can not live peacefully or co-exist with one another. One of my favorite quotes in the book is...
“I used to think the world was broken down by tribes,” I said. “By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn’t true. The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not”.
 I feel this quote speaks to this issue and really opens up the opportunity to discuss the sensitive issue of racism today. 
Although the narrative is filled with tragic events, the things that happen do not come across as overly dramatic or shocking. Instead, it feels natural and normal. Almost like you are in an intimate conversation with a best friend who is sharing their deepest secrets with you. This style hooks the reader into the story and allows it to flow with ease. It makes for an enjoyable, entertaining, and thought-provoking read. 

Alexie has received numerous awards for his book, including the National Book Award, and has gotten a ton of praise for his work. If you're looking for a book that will make you think, cry, and laugh all at once then this is the book for you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


When I finished reading Eleanor & Park  all I felt was heartbroken. My heart was breaking for Eleanor, who had to make the difficult (but brave) decision to endure a tremendous amount of pain by losing two of the things most precious to her; her family and Park. On top of that, she had to make the choice that would ultimately hurt the one she loved. Which led to my heart breaking for Park. Selfishly, my own heart was breaking because I did not want my relationship with the characters and books to end. By the end of the story, there were a whole lot of tears and tissues.

Not only did I fall in love with the characters and their story, but I fell in love with Rainbow Rowell's narrative technique and writing style. Written in third person (omniscient), Rowell lets us jump back and forth between the narrator's who are well in tuned to Eleanor and Park's experiences. In the beginning, they each get longer sections to share their part of the story. But as they begin to get to know each other better, the narratives swap more frequently. I think that this is a great way to reflect how the two character's are coming together. It lets the reader into the world that Eleanor and Park live in while providing us with the emotions, thoughts, and opinions of each other that they experience as they fall in love.

One thing that struck me about this alternation point-of-view was being able to see how Eleanor viewed herself versus how Park saw her. In Eleanor's point-of-view, she refers to herself as fat, ugly, and having terrible hair. I think this is important because every teenager feels this way at some point or another. But what's really remarkable is that while reading from Park's point-of-view, he never once uses these negative words to describe Eleanor. Although he admits that she looks weird or different, he describes her as pretty, beautiful, and cute.

Rowell's careful crafting of the narrative structure allowed her to share a subtle but very important message about self-image. Eleanor and Park both suffer from a lack of self-confidence, issues with body image and social status, and the nagging question every teenager faces, "Do I fit in?" This is something I could relate to, as I felt the same way throughout high school. It makes me think about some of the people in my high school graduating class. It makes me wonder how many of them felt the same exact way and if we had known that at the time, would we have been a little kinder to each other? Thinking about the answer to that question leaves me feeling one way. Heartbroken.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Eleanor & Park

When I was selecting the books I would read this week, I was having trouble deciding which ones I wanted to read from the list. A good friend, however, made my decision a little bit easier after she highly recommended the book Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Set in the late 1980's, this book follows two sixteen year old misfits and captures the highs and lows of first love. As my friend explained to me, this book is not your typical love story. But this honest and relatable story of high school love is exactly what drew me to this book. Unlike most teen love stories, Eleanor and Park are not perfect. They are not the most attractive, smart, or popular people in school (according to today's societal standards) but they are all of those things in their own way. This book shows that their perceived flaws are what make them beautiful and unique. I think that is an important and strong message for anyone.

From the book cover and what I have read so far, music is extremely important to Eleanor and Park. I can totally relate to that because I always have some sort of music on in the background no matter what I am doing. Rainbow Rowell also likes music and, fortunately for us, she created playlists based on her characters Eleanor and Park. I love how she created the playlists to be similar to the cassettes that were played in Eleanor and Park's walkmans! It's so creative! On her blog, she includes a very long post with music videos and her thoughts for all four playlists. But if you would rather just listen to the playlists, click on the links below...

"I just want to break that song into pieces and love them all to death.” - Eleanor (p.54)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Crank by Ellen Hopkins is about high school junior Kristina Georgia Snow. From the outside, she looks like the perfect girl. She lives in a beautiful home with a nice family, earns good grades, has quality friends, and always makes the right choice. But when she visits her father, Kristina disappears and is replaced by Bree. While visiting her father, Bree meets "the monster" and her life is changed forever

Due to the quick read on Thursday, I reread the beginning of Crank to refresh my memory. As I read, I realized that I had made a major mistake! I originally thought the main character's name was Bree. However, after rereading the beginning of the book, I realized that her real name is Kristina and Bree is who she becomes when she wants to escape her good-girl self. Rereading became a strategy I used while reading this book because it helped me to clarify any confusions (such as the main character's name) and to catch all of the small details in the book. 

Once this confusion was cleared up, I started to really get into the story and I found myself unable to put the book down. There were so many times I wanted to stop and blog about my reading, but I did not want to break away from the book. Instead, I covered the book in Post-it notes and pencil, marking up all the spots that evoked a feeling, reaction, prediction, or thought as I read. A few hours later and my book looked like this... 

If you read the book, you will understand this Post-it notes madness. 

Although I've never had experience with addiction or drugs, I found myself relating to Kristina. I understood those issues she had with her mom, the pressure she felt to maintain her grades, and so on. I think a lot of teenagers can relate to that as well. I think that they can also relate to the allure of Bree because sometimes that pressure can become too much and the desire to just let go overpowers all reasoning and logic. And despite how smart you may be, it can be hard to make the right choice with how to escape who you are. 

My professor, Dr. Jones, told me that a young girl at a conference she was attending described Crank as a vaccine. She said it was like a vaccine because you have to get a little bit of the disease in order to be able to defend yourself from it. So, reading Crank gives you a little bit of an understanding of what it is like to lose yourself in the world of addiction and the consequences that come from how one tries to lose themselves. I could not think of a better way to describe this book. It is honest and brutal. It really portrays the horrors of addiction and how it tears people and families apart. For those who may be feeling that tug of who they are and the person that they could become to escape that reality, Crank can be the vaccine for them so that they choose healthy coping methods rather than turning to drugs. 

I was beyond excited to learn that there are two more books in this series entitled Glass and Fallout. I am adding these to my reading list and look forward to completing the Crank trilogy. I have recently created a GoodReads account to keep track of the books I have read, would like to read, and to see what other books people are recommending. 
I'd love for you to also make an account, add me as a friend, and we can recommend books to one another! 

I also came across Ellen Hopkins' blog! Although she shares in her Author's Note that Crank is loosely based on her daughter's experience with "the monster," she provides more insight into her life and blogs about other projects she is working on. To get the latest news about her books, visit her young adult website.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Preview of Crank

As part of the first night of class, I was given the opportunity to preview one of the many young adult literature books that we will be reading this semester. After listening to the rave reviews from my peers, I chose to read a few pages from the book Crank by Ellen Hopkins. My first reaction to this book was that this was not going to be something I would enjoy. I am not a huge fan of poetry and the way the text was formatted was off-putting to me. Needless to say, I was cranky about the eight minutes of DEAR time I had to spend on this book. However, after an attitude check, I began to read and realized that my first reaction to the book was wrong. Although it was different from the books I typically choose to read, I found myself being drawn into the story. I wanted to know more about this girl Bree, her family, and the challenges she is facing in her life. I even found myself beginning to enjoy the stylistic elements of the book. On pages ten and eleven, I loved how the author structured the text and really showed off the comments and thoughts that Bree's mom had said to her. At one point, I even laughed out loud because it reminded me of my own mother and some of the crazy things that she occasionally shares with me. After this preview of Crank, I have been reminded of an old and important lesson; Never judge a book by it's cover.