Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reading Update, Continued

It took me a week, but I'm back to finish the update I started last Sunday.

Book #15 of 2009 was Lucas, by Kevin Brooks, an intense novel about the way people treat each other and particularly the way they treat those they don't understand. This is a YA title.

Book #16 was The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta. As the title suggests, this novel tackles the issue of sex education. It also deals with religion and parenting. There's something here to offend everyone! Perrotta has created some complex characters who don't act predictably even when they are trying their hardest to stick to their beliefs; nobody looks very heroic. This book made me uncomfortable, which I would imagine was what the author had in mind. The portrayals of Christians put me on the defensive, and yet for the most part they seem to be straightforward, and not mocking.

Book #17 was Our Game, classic John Le Carré.

Book #18 was Rules of the Road, by Joan Bauer, another YA book. This is a road trip story, with a feisty heroine and lots of shoes. What's not to like?

Book #19 through book #23 were re-reads, the first five books of Susan Howatch's Church of England series: Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes, Scandalous Risks, and Mystical Paths. I love these books and have read the whole series more than once. They are highly entertaining page-turners, but with surprising depth, covering as they do the history of the Church of England for the past seventy years, various theological views, the exhaustingly eventful lives of a collection of complex characters (mostly members of the clergy), and many of the ways in which psychology and spiritual beliefs intersect. I particularly enjoy the masterful way Howatch shows us characters from different points of view; we see them from outside and from inside. Often someone is described with a sigh as being a person without problems, when we as readers know from a previous book about the harrowing crises this person has undergone.

Book #24 was Trouble, by Gary Schmidt. I enjoyed this book hugely, though I must say that my eighth graders found it rather slow going and got impatient with Schmidt's lyrical prose. However, they hung in there to the end to find out what would happen to the characters. There was one chapter, taking place entirely in a graveyard, that was among the most perfect I have ever read. This isn't as funny as The Wednesday Wars, but like that book it tackles all kinds of issues, this time including racism, privilege, and Cambodian history.

And, finally, book #25 was The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart. Frankie is a student at an exclusive prep school who decides that she wants to be taken seriously and who figures out how to achieve that. This book is funny and sad, with a heroine who is strong, sure of herself, vulnerable, not sure of herself, in love, wanting to be just what her boyfriend wants, realizing that being what her boyfriend wants isn't enough, smart, analytical...unforgettable. I'd recommend this to students slightly older than my eighth graders; there's a lot to talk about here.

1 comment:

Tricia said...

I enjoyed The Wednesday Wars, having read it on your recommendation, so I think I'll pick up Trouble. (I was reading TWW during the 40th anniversary of some of the events in the book - MLK assassination, RFK assassination - and thus hearing radio coverage of same, which made for interesting reading.)