Book reviews of YA lit and more

As a middle school librarian and hopeful reader of Missouri's high school award books (Gateway nominees), I am reading and reviewing as many young adult and middle grade novels as I can while working on my own writing for this age group.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Almost Perfect- Brian Katcher

This second book by Brian Katcher is so far my favorite; however, I do not think I will be putting it back on my middle school library shelves.  Sage is a transgender high school student who moves to rural Missouri to make a new start for herself as a girl.  Logan, just coming off a broken relationship, quickly falls for Sage.  His world is completely rocked when Sage is honest with him and tells Logan that she is actually a girl trapped in a boy's body.  Most of the book is Logan dealing with this information and the feelings his still has for Sage inspite of the knowledge that she isn't truly a girl.  Again I think Brian Katcher captures the voice of a high school boy so well, which is why I have a hard time putting this book in a middle school library.  The language and obviously sex discussion (hard to have a book about a boy falling in love with a transgender girl) makes it fine for high school, but not middle school.  I do think this topic is handled well and needs to be addressed as there are teenagers dealing with this issue, but not always out in the open.  Katcher lists some organizations and places teenagers can go to for help and support with transgender issues.  This book is very honest and does a great job with a sensitive topic.

Dead End in Norvelt- Jack Gantos

This book won the 2012 Newbery medal, and as usual I hadn't read it yet, but had to put it on hold at the library as soon as I heard it won.  I'm so glad I did!  This book is the mostly true, but probably some fictional, story of Jack Gantos during a summer of his life where he gets grounded and as punishment has to help an elderly neighbor write obituaries of the dying original members of the town.  Being a person that find obituaries themselves fascinating, I was intrigued by this "punishment".  Through these obituary writings Jack is lead on one adventure after another in this small, somewhat dying town.  Everything from the Hell's Angels to a possible murder colors his odd, but interesting, summer.  The young teenage boy voice is dead on in this book (I guess I can say that although I have never been a young teenage boy).  I read an excerpt where he goes deer hunting with his dad to my own son and we both laughed so hard we had tears.  I would highly recommend this book to any upper elementary/middle school kid.  The boys will love the main character, but I also think girls would get a kick out of it.  Great choice for the Newbery this year!