All four of the books I'll be reviewing in this post were assignments for my Adolescent Literature class.
Book #36 of 2012 was Chinese Handcuffs, by Chris Crutcher. This was my least favorite book I read for this course. Every student had to choose a different novel by Chris Crutcher, well known for writing "problem novels" that are often challenged and that come from his career as a therapist. I'm sure Crutcher has seen the worst, and this book includes all of it: suicide, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, a motorcycle gang, a barroom rape, cruelty to animals. It really seemed a bit much to me. I liked some elements, particularly the friendship between the main character and Jennifer, a basketball star to whom he's close but who has a secret that she won't tell him.
Book #37 was The Silence of Murder, by Dandi Daley Mackall, winner of the Edgar Award. There's murder, mystery, and courtroom drama here. The protagonist, Hope, is desperate to prove that her autistic brother, Jeremy, didn't commit the murder he's been accused of.
Book #38 was Baffling and Bizarre Inventions, by Jim Murphy. Don't buy the Kindle version - the formatting is all wonky and difficult to read. But the content itself is a lot of fun. Using pictures from ads or patent applications, Murphy shows us strange inventions and asks us to guess what they are for. After we guess, we can read a description of the invention and find out its purpose. The book ends with some information on the patent office and a chapter on creativity and what it takes to succeed (basically, never giving up). Every class member had to choose a Jim Murphy book to read; he's written loads of information-packed non-fiction like this one.
Book #39 was Jack Gantos' latest book, the winner of the 2012 Newbery Award, Dead End in Norvelt. Strange and funny and endearing, this is the story of young Jack, who lives in a planned community called Norvelt (named for Eleanor Roosevelt). Jack is grounded eternally for obeying his father against his mother's wishes, and is only allowed out to spend time with Miss Volker, the town medical examiner and obituary writer. Because of her arthritis, she needs Jack's help to type her obituaries, and in the process of helping her he is drawn into the drama of the town. And why are so many people dropping dead, anyhow?
Coming soon: books #40 - #43.
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