Thursday, February 26, 2015

If I Ever Get Out of Here

Gansworth, Eric. 2013. IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE. New York: Arthur A. Levine.

I love music. I attribute that mainly to friends I've had throughout my life who shared their love of music with me. Music has such a way of connecting us, defining us, and reminding us that at the core we are all the same. If I Ever Get Out of Here is a novel that uses music as the backdrop for the story of two unlikely friends in 1975 upstate New York.

Lewis Blake is Native American and lives on a reservation. Until they enter middle school, the kids from the reservation attend a separate school. When entering middle school, Lewis is put into an advanced class. He is the only one from the reservation in his class, so he mainly feels invisible.

The school is also near an Air Force base, and students of Air Force families are constantly moving in and out. So, at the beginning of 7th grade, Lewis has a chance to make a friend with a new kid, George, who is also an outsider.

Lewis and George sit together in choir, and discover they both love the Beatles. But Lewis is hesitant about this new friendship. He doesn't think his mother, who cleans the houses of white people, would be so keen on his having a friend who didn't live on the reservation. He is also acutely aware that his house, with no bathroom inside and mismatched furnishings, is probably not as nice as the house that George lives in on the base.

George and Lewis become friends, spending all of their time at George's house. Lewis tells several lies to avoid having George over to his house. But soon, their friendship is complicated by girlfriends and bullies, and Lewis's realization that things are unfairly stacked against him. Not only does this prejudice come from the aforementioned bullies, but even teachers and administrators at the school.

Throughout the book, music plays a role. The boys are always listening to records, and even attend a Wings concert in Toronto with George's dad. Lewis's fondest wish is to have a guitar of his own and learn to play it. At different times in the book, a song plays a role, such as Someone to Love by Queen, and Two of Us by the Beatles.

I enjoyed this book, but it was a slow moving one. There isn't too much action, but lots of description. Things do get interesting towards the end when a huge blizzard hits New York in 1977. I hope that there are some students out there who are willing to give it a chance. It was a good reminder that although sometimes we might feel so different from everyone else, at heart, we all have more in common than we realize.
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

My last four reads...

I've gotten a little lax about posting!

Have you tried Goodreads? I love it. I had an account from a long time ago but I've started using it again, to rate books and get recommendations. From now on, I'll try to relay to you how many stars I rate a book.

I looked back over the list of books I've read and realized I didn't write about A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier. In 1918 Portland, Oregon, the Spanish Influenza has reached the city. The city finds itself unprepared to handle such a dangerous epidemic. Cleo Berry, a 17 year old student, decides not to stay at her boarding school dormitory during the quarantine and instead goes home. Her older brother and sister in law are traveling and can't return until the quarantine is over. Feeling useless and lonely, Cleo decides to answer an ad in the newspaper for Red Cross volunteers. Cleo is too young, but the Red Cross nurses are desparate, so they let her help. Soon she finds herself walking the streets of Portland, knocking on doors to distribute information and make sure the residents are OK. She makes some good friends at the makeshift hospital set up in Portland's theater, including a love interest. Overall, I thought it was very well researched, but I wish some of the characters had been more developed. And also, the author tended to do that thing where she tells us every single thing, instead of showing us. A quick read - 3 stars.

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia was next. Another book with a main character who is a 17 year old female, Kennedy. The book opens with Kennedy looking for her cat in a graveyard and seeing a strange apparition of a girl floating in midair. The next night, she comes home one night after going out with friends to find her mother dead. It turns out that the same ghost she saw in the graveyard is, indeed, the one that killed her mother, and as Kennedy is staying in the house for the last night, the same ghost tries to kill her. Luckily, she is rescued in time by twin brothers, Jared and Lukas. They explain to her that her mother must have been part of the Legion, a demon and spirit fighting group with a long history. There are only five members of the Legion at a a time, and it just so happens that all five died of mysterious causes on the same night as Kennedy's mother. Kennedy knew nothing about her mother's involvement in such a group, and so is very reluctant to believe the story these strangers are telling her. Before she knows it, she is a part of the new Legion and is on a chase to find the pieces to an old puzzle that will destroy the demon that wants all of them dead. Fast paced and action packed - so much so that at the end of the book I had a ton of questions unanswered. Of course there's a 2nd book! Will I read it? Maybe. - 3 stars.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before was my next read. Lara Jean is the middle sister of three girls. Their mother died when they were younger, and her older sister Margot was the organized one who helped Lara Jean and their youngest sister Kitty stay organized and the family running. Margot has just graduated from high school and is leaving to go to Scotland for college. The night before she leaves she breaks up with her boyfriend, Josh, who really has become a friend to the entire family. Lara Jean used to have a crush on him before he started dating her sister... Whenever she got over a crush, she'd write the boy a letter telling him why she was over him. She never intended anyone to see these letters. Well, soon at school one of her former crushes, Peter, comes up to her and wants to talk about the letter. Not long after, Peter and his uber-popular girlfriend Genevieve break up, and Peter wants Lara Jean to pretend to be his girlfriend. Ah, but Josh also receives his letter and confesses to Lara Jean that he liked her first, before he liked her sister. This was a really enjoyable read, but it felt empty. The main character is supposed to be a junior in high school, but she seems more like a 7th grader. Also, it ends in a cliffhanger - book 2 will come out sometime this spring. Hmpf, guess I'll read that one too! - 3 stars

And finally, my last read was Monster by Walter Dean Myers. It's the story of Steve Harmon, who is in jail and on trial for being an accomplice to a robbery and murder. The story is told from Steve's first person point of view, and also through the movie script he's writing to help him deal with the awful situation. It's just really different from anything else I've read this year, and a powerful story about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. - 4 stars.

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