Archive for the ‘Read 180’ Category


Shooter by Walter Dean Myers

Myers does his usual good job with a tough topic. The book opens as an investigation of a school shooting ‘last April.’ Various adults (psychologist, police personnel) interview the two best friends of the shooter, Leonard Gray, to see whether they are connected to the ‘incident’ and to try to find out where all responsibility lies, including that of the school.

Through the interviews, the reader gets into the minds of Cameron and Carla, both of whom are reserved about their victimization by bullies, particularly Brad and his jock friends. In details of the interviews, it becomes clear that both Carla and Cameron have lousy home lives although for entirely different reasons. They are each victims of different forms of abuse, and the needs of both are neglected. The reader understands through these interviews how they might befriend a guy like Leonard. And how both of them are just trying to get through being pegged as losers in the social milieu of high school.

But what about the shooter? After killing his nemesis, Brad, and wounding others, Len commits suicide. He can’t be interviewed, but it is through Leonard’s own words, in the form of a hand-written journal, that the reader comes to some insight. His words are sometimes windows to his distorted ego and into his mental problems, but they also show that he, like his friends, has been abused. He has watched his father physically torment his mother while she just tries to forget and survive.

So who is to blame in all this? The bully Brad? Len—did he act alone or did Cameron and Carla know what he was up to and agree to help him?

As usual, Myers leaves it to you to sort the details. He won’t let you get away without thinking.

Short, on-point in every moment—a can’t-put-it-down for all teens, including reluctant readers.

Note: I’m going to feature bullying books (fiction and nonfiction) and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, books on inspirational people (biographies, memoir and fiction) for the 2013-14 school year. Shooter is on my list for next year’s book talks.


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Just a quick note on Death Sentence: Book Three of Escape from Furnace. death sentence

I read it.

It still has the appeal of the first two books, but it does have that middle of the series lag, at least at the beginning of the book. It’s not so much that Smith is trying to go over what’s in the first two books–thankfully, he doesn’t fall into that trap. (Start at the beginning of the series if you want to know, right?) But he does begin with lots of gory details about Alex becoming a ‘Black Suit.’ The depth of this description will have appeal to many readers–it may hook some guys who don’t often choose, of their own free will, to read (teens whom libraries and schools call ‘reluctant readers’).

I’m not a reluctant reader, so I was getting agitated–where had the storyline gone off to? Whatever was going to happen in the novel was left to wander the desert for–what seemed to me–forty years, while I was bogged down in page after page of Alex’s surgeries, hallucinations, bloody towels and intravenous drips. To be fair, the hallucinations are later connected to the story. (It’s hard to understand how the ‘nectar’ that the warden is having pumped into Alex can make him see historical events while sedated, but there is an explanation, and it’s worth just rolling with it.)

The story does get moving along, and we reunite with Simon and Zee, have a great jailbreak scene, and more. So, if you enjoy the long descriptions of effluvia, stretched skin, painful procedures and an immoderate number of hallucinations, great. If not, it’s OK to give the first third of the book a cursory (quick, fast) read, skimming the pages. And then get down to the story.

I continue to recommend this series, particularly for ‘reluctant readers.’

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Summer Reading

One of my reading goals this summer is to read and select some books about bullying—both the cyber sort and the in-person attacks. I hope to recommend two bully-themed books per month in the 2013-14 school year.

This is going to be my “Ontario Teens Read” for 2013-14.

If you want to read some of the bullying books this summer before we start the “Ontario Teens Read 2013-14,” below are titles I’m considering.

We’ll begin the school year with a few that we’ve already been talking up for a while—they have become popular on my campuses, but if you haven’t read them, you might start here:

Want to Go Private

(Mature teens only—read the review!—cyberbullying by a sexual predator—the horrible, lasting effects of having the wrong things posted online!)

Thirteen Reasons Why

A new book I want to pair with Thirteen Reasons is:

I Swear by Lane Davis

It’s similar, but the students who pushed the girl too far are trying to cover up their responsibility.

Other bullying books we’ve talked up in the past:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci

The Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Others I’m considering–some new, some tested and loved, some intense reads, some for reluctant readers–all got good reviews.

There are more than I can feature in a year. If you want to read a few and let me know what you think, I’d appreciate it very much!

The List by Siobhan Vivian

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Shooter by Walter Dean Myers

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

Promises to Keep by Paul Langan

Playground by 50 Cent

The Beckoners by Carri Mac

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

Brutal by Michael B. Harmon, Michael B.

Burn : A Novel  by Suzanne Phillips

By the Time You Read This, I’ll be Dead by Julie Ann Peters

Cracked by K. M. Walton

Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi

Dough Boy by Peter Marino

Dumped by Meredith Costain

Egghead: A Novel by Caroline Pignat

Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner

Names will Never Hurt Me by Jaime Adoff

Poison Ivy by Amy Goldman Koss

Teen Queens and Has-beens by Cathy Hopkins

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles

Who I Am by M. L. Rice

Send by Patty Blount

Playground by 50 Cent

Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King

Beaten by Suzanne Weyn

I’ll decide on titles as the school year progresses, but I’m still in the selection stage. Any of these would make a great summer read.

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On March 26, we were lucky to have a visit from popular YA author Sharon Draper, sponsored by Mrs. Nelson’s Toys and Books (located in La Verne).

About 100 students were able to hear Draper speak. She discussed her new novel, Panic, took questions from the students, and signed copies of her books.

After hearing Draper, many students checked out copies of her books. We have multiple copies of each of 15 titles by Draper. Tears of a Tiger is traditionally the most popular, but right now her last two books, Panic and Out of My Mind are tops.

Thanks very much to the students–who were so GREAT that both Draper and her media escort commented on how impressed they were with Chaffey Tigers. Thanks to the teachers who came–Mr. Sanchez, Ms. Edgar, Ms. Johnstone, Ms. Pruett, Ms. Castillo, and Ms. Sweet.

Thanks to Mrs. Nelson’s Toys and Books for hooking us up! And thanks to Sharon Draper for being a wonderful writer and getting us interested in her characters’ lives!


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Solitary: Book Two of the Escape from Furnace series

by Alexander Gordon Smith

Just a quick heads up on this series. I reviewed the first book, Lockdown here. I thought it was great entertainment and a perfect choice for guys who have a hard time finding a book they like. I wanted to continue the series and see if the same quick-paced action/adventure continued. It does.

This time Alex is locked up in solitary confinement after his escape attempt. The cell is more like a coffin standing upright. His buddy Zee is also locked in a solitary cell nearby and the two figure out a communication system that helps them stay sane. Still, Alex has many hallucinations, particularly of his old cellmate Donovan, who was taken by the men in black suits and the Wheezers in book one.

The Wheezers are back as are the mutant rat boys, only this time they are out for Alex’s blood. In Solitary we also get a good look of the horror of the infirmary—we figured Donovan had been taken there to be transformed into some sort of creature at the end of book one. Now we know for sure.

This book, like the first, certainly has lots of disturbing images and description. It’s hard for me to say why it doesn’t bother me in the same way that it bothers me in many books. I think, for me, it all plays pretty well into the nightmare of Furnace, so it doesn’t have the same gratuitous feel that I’ve experienced with other science fiction for reluctant guy readers. However, I’ll give you an idea of what some professional reviewers thought:

“The gross-out factor is high in many sections” (School Library Journal)

“Readers who relish lurid imagery and melodramatic prose will continue to be riveted and left eager for the next disgust-o-rama episode” (Booklist)

So, that’s the caveat (warning)—meanwhile, I’m on to book three, Death Sentence.

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Lockdown: Escape from Furnace: Book 1

by Alexander Gordon Smith

Beneath heaven is hell.

Beneath hell is Furnace.

So begins the Escape from Furnace series, now complete at five books.

Lockdown is a great ‘guy read,’ full of injustice, desire for revenge, courage, and survival. It’s also full of weird creatures like hell hounds—dogs of muscle and sinew, but no skin—and tormentors with gas masks sewn into the skin of their faces and bandoleers full of dirty hypodermic needles.

Alex lands deep underground in Furnace Penitentiary after he’s convicted of killing his best friend, something he didn’t do. Not that Alex is a good guy. He’s a bully and a thief. But he’s no murderer. Yet in the group of boys who land in Furnace on the same day, the others that Alex meets are also framed. Later, when Alex meets his cellmate, Donovan, he finds that he was convicted of murder because he killed his mother’s boyfriend after he had beaten her one too many times.

Why is this suddenly happening to all these boys?

Furnace is a private company that contracts with the government to house juvenile murderers. It just so happens that after the Summer of Slaughter, people are afraid. They want harsh punishments for teen killers, and they consider those killers as good as dead once they are locked up in Furnace. You, reader, start thinking that there just may be some extra money to be made for the Furnace owners when they can add more guys to the number locked up. But there’s something more, too.

When Lockdown is announced with siren blasts, the skinless dogs are on the loose, and guys are hauled away in the middle of the night. What happens to them? Why are there so many bizarre creatures in Furnace and such nasty food in ‘the Trough?’

Despite all the terrors of Furnace, Alex is a thoughtful guy, one who reflects on how his bullying behavior out in the world is mirrored in Furnace by the roving gangs who torment inmates. This is a can’t-put-it-down page-turner that ends on a cliff hanger. You’ve got to go for this series.

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Juice by Eric Walters  juice

When Coach Reeves retires and Coach Barnes comes to coach football at Michael ‘Moose’s’ high school, optimism is high. Barnes has coached at Division One Central High and tells his new team that they can become Division One as well—with all the perks, including chances at college scholarships.

Coach Barnes has brought lots of sponsorship with him. There’s new equipment including a whirlpool, big screen TVs in the weight room, a massage therapist and new uniforms.

But a new attitude is expected too—one of winning at any cost. And Moose is the new team captain who is challenged to do whatever it takes in order to have a chance at an NFL future.

Another good one from Orca Soundings. Looking forward to seeing the READ 180 classes tomorrow at Chaffey!

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