Sunday, February 26, 2012

Life as We Knew It & The Dead and the Gone

Do you ever read something and think, oh heck, what if that really happened?  That is what my brain does every time I think about Life as We Knew It (watch a fan-made trailer here) and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  These are the first two installments of the series and are companion books instead of sequential.

The premise for both books is that an asteroid is going to hit the moon.  In Life as We Knew It this event has been really publicised and many folks are looking forward to watching the event.  In The Dead and the Gone, this is not the case.  Busy life in New York City was not really interrupted by this like it was in rural Northern Pennsylvania.  However, instead of the hit being the cool spectacle astronomers predicted, the asteroid actually changed the orbit of the moon causing it to come much closer to the earth than its original position.  And, as you might have guessed it chaos ensues.

Life as We Knew It is told by a sixteen year old named Miranda.  She struggles to maintain some kind of normalcy in her life after all the changes happen.  She lives with her mother and two brothers.  They are lucky in many ways.  Some of this luck comes from the fact that they live in Miranda's great-grandparents old house in Northern Pennsylvania.  Because of this, many old fashioned conveniences have been tucked away over the years and are now hugely helpful. 

On the other hand, The Dead and the Gone shows the view of Alex Morales is seventeen and lives in New York City with his mother, father, and two younger sisters.  At the time of the hit, his father had traveled to Puerto Rico for Alex's grandmother's funeral, and his mother had been called into work.  This left Alex to make plans and begin caring for the family as if he were the head of the family.

I really like these two because of how many themes Pfeffer includes.  There is not only the science aspect, but there are also moral dilemmas to explore.  Also, being able to read about the same event from different perspectives makes it even more interesting.  There is also a little something for everyone here.  Miranda, amidst all her other worries, manages to become involved in a semi-love story.  For those who love the gruesome, Alex learns how to "body shop" (take valuables from dead bodies to trade for food.).  Yes, indeed.  Good stuff.  I even got a little misty eyed near the end of The Dead and the Gone

The final book of the series, This World We Live In, promises that some characters from the first two books will meet up and continue the tale.  I've got to say that I hope things get better for these people.  And, I will also make an embarrassing admission.  Sometimes, I look at the moon now and warn it.  You know, I think "You better stay right there, buddy."  Yep, that's right.  I hope it's listening.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Prophecy of the Sisters

I've always found twins pretty cool.  Especially if there are lots of twins in a family.  But, for Lia and Alice Milthorpe being a set of twin girls in their family is downright dangerous.  In Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters (watch the trailer here), readers follow these twins on a dangerous journey.

The book begins with the twins and their younger brother Henry unexpectedly losing their beloved father.  This tragic event comes several years after the equally unanticipated death of their mother.  Now, their Aunt Virgina, their mother's twin, comes to live with the children and help them put the pieces of their lives together.

At about this time, Lia begins to notice an intricate mark appearing along her wrist.  If this weren't enough to freak her out, she is also shown a mysterious book from her father's library.  This book seems to indicate that the ladies in her family have a unique role in a prophecy responsible for binding the evil spirits existing the "Otherworlds" away from the human world.

Lia has always been the kindhearted twin, while Alice has always been a bit darker.  This led Lia to believe that she was certainly the guardian of the prophecy, or the protector, and Alice was surely the gate, or passage for the spirits.  However, the prophecy states the first-born twin will be the gate and the second the guardian.  Lia was the first-born.  The tricky part is that Aunt Virginia confides in Lia that the girls were born via C-section.  Alice was positioned to be born first, but Lia was lifted from their mother first.  Thus, their roles in the prophecy reversed.

Lia must struggle against her twin, who seems determine not to fulfil her role as guardian and decode the sparing details of the prophecy her father left behind and to be the enemy of Lia.  This story continues in Guardian of the Gate (watch the trailer here), where we are promised the showdown between Alice and Lia that will leave only one sister standing!  Yikes!

Creepy!  Give this one a try!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hunger Games Trilogy

I've fought the urge to write about The Hunger Games trilogy for quite some time.  With most of my posts I'm really hoping to persuade someone to read the books, but, honestly, if you haven't read The Hunger Games by now no one could make you.  However, I can't resist telling my Hunger Games story any longer.

A few years ago, our school made drastic changes to its schedule, which aligned me with some wonderful ladies who had read The Hunger Games and were convinced we could teach almost every standard in our curriculum with this book.  Not having read it at the time, I will admit that I was a bit skeptical, but I went with it.  Then, I read the book, and I nearly lost my mind.  I couldn't wait to share this with my students; I couldn't wait for the next installment (that's right people, we loved Katniss and Peeta before they were cool!), and I couldn't wait to tell everyone I knew to read this book.

Then the time came to share the book with the students.  And, they felt the same way I did.  I had never had this experience.  They begged to read.  They snuck and read in their science class.  They made comic strips of how they thought things should look.  They made Facebook pages for the tributes.  By the way, these were not their assignments, just ways they expressed their love.  And so, we've kept the unit going three years strong.  Because the book is so popular, we accommodate for those who have read it by offering other dystopia for them to read as we go.  This year we incorporated Matched, Divergent, Awaken, and Enclave.  Next year, we'll try for more.

But, my point is with the right text nearly everyone is a reader.  Each time we've used this book with our classes, I have had a student tell me this is the first book he/she has ever read.  Usually, that admission is followed by asking to be on the waiting list for Catching Fire.  I've seen this book capture the heart of the kid who reads well above grade level as well as those who read far below.  It's the content and the delivery that make this so special.

The poster; be jealous!
Now with the movie 39 days away, the excitement in my classroom continues (even though we finished reading it in November).  Not a day goes by that someone doesn't come into the room and announce how many days until the big event.  A sweet student brought me a movie poster to hang in our room.  One of the biggest "thugs" in the school begs to watch the trailer because he can't contain his love for Katniss.  Obviously, a field trip to the movie is in the works.  So, if you've been holding out, give yourself the gift of these books, then share them with someone.

If you would like a real review instead of testimony, click here.  And may the odds be ever in your favor!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I've wanted to read Delirium by Lauren Oliver for a while.  It's been in my stack of "to read" for a few months.  But, recently I overheard a conversation about it that made it jump to the top.  It went something like this:
Girl 1-"Did you finish it?"
Girl 2- "Obviously!"
Girl 1- "Did you get all, like, I can't breathe?"
Girl 2- "Obviously!"
Me (interrupting, because that's what I do when I hear something this interesting)-"What?"
Girl 1 &2 (one decibel below scream)- "DELIRIUM!!!!!!!!"
Me- "Oh, cool.  I want to read that.  Maybe I will read it next."
Girl 1 & 2 (1/2 a decibel below scream)- "You have to!"
Me- "You know there will be a sequel soon, right?"
Girl 1 & 2 (full on scream)- "Shut up!"
So, as you can see, having heard girls say this book made them short of breath, I had to skip it to the top of the stack.  And, I am so glad I did!

In Delirium (watch the interactive trailer here), the wise future government of the United States has deemed love and its symptoms to be a disease, "deliria".  Of course they have found a cure for this sickness, which is administered shortly after one turns 18.  People must wait until 18 to be cured because the cure has been known to have tragic effects on people who have had it administered early.

Lena is 95 days from her procedure as the book opens.  She lives with her aunt and uncle and looks forward to having the cure.  Unfortunately, Lena's family has been tainted by the deliria.  The procedure never worked for her mother, which is quite rare.  Uncureds are not welcome in this society.  They must live in the Wilds and are referred to as Invalids.  This hardship makes Lena confident she wants the cure.

But, one day that all changes.  During Lena's pre-procedure evaluation, she catches a glimpse of a boy with a twinkle in his eye.  Later she runs into him again and discovers that Alex has known her from afar for quite some time.  And, as you might have guessed it, Lena does the unthinkable and falls in love with Alex, and he her.  But, love is not welcome in this society.  It's a crime.  It's punishable by death in some situations.  Now Lena is faced with the choice of going through with her procedure and living the life she always thought she wanted or turning her back on all that is familiar for love.

Honestly, I do not understand how the girls I overheard lived through the night without knowing there would be a sequel.  The end of the book is phenomenal and a colossal cliffhanger.  If I thought for one minute that we would never know the rest of the story, I might have requested the cure myself so I could forget the pain of not knowing!  If you have been bitten by the dystopia bug and also adore a story of forbidden love, pick this one up, jump it to the top of your stack, do whatever it takes, people.

The sequel, Pandemonium (watch Oliver discuss, SPOILER alert for those who haven't read Delirium), will be available February 28, 2012.  I for one, cannot wait!  The final installment in this trilogy, Requiem will be out in February of next year.  Lauren Oliver also wrote Before I Fall, which I also enjoyed.