Module 10: Forever…

Book Summary: When Kath meets Michael, she finds herself slowly falling for him. They date for some time, and Michael wants things to move fast while Kath wants to take things slowly. Her parents and grandma are worried she will end up pregnant or with VD. Her friend Erica attempts to start dating Artie, Michael’s friend. Artie, on the other hand, is questioning his sexuality and looks to Erica for help in determining it. Sybil is used to “going all the way”, and finds herself facing the consequences of this. Forever… follows all of these characters and their journeys through senior year, but mostly focuses on Kath and Michael’s firsts. Kath and Michael take their relationship further and promise each other forever. As senior year ends, they are faced with the meaning of forever and if it is even a possibility between them.

APA Reference of Book: Blume, J. (1975). Forever…. Scarsdale, NY: Bradbury Press.

Impressions: Wow. I understand this book is a classic, but times have changed. I did not like this book at all. I cringed my way through it. There were some dated moments involving the men in Kath’s life feeling as though they had control of her that made me uncomfortable. When I got to the part when Michael named his penis ‘Ralph’ and said he did it for her, I wanted to throw the book across the room. It just felt so predatory and gross. In terms of plot, there were way too many “hot topics” happening in this story. There was teen sex, periods, attempted suicide, teen pregnancy,  talk of abortion, adoption, and recreational weed usage. It felt as though Blume was trying to check all of the typical young adult plot topic boxes. It was all too much in too short of time, and I’m certain I’ve left a few things out. I disliked the characters as they were one-dimensional. We don’t learn anything other than base level facts such as their likes and dislikes and physical appearance. Michael made me uncomfortable, particularly during the sex descriptions. Jamie, her sister, was not realistic. She is what fandom calls a “Mary Sue”. She’s 12, gifted artistically and mentally, and can cook like a Michelin star chef. It was laughable and ridiculous. Artie was handled well for the time that this book was written. I can understand why this book has been challenged. The descriptions of sex, hand jobs, gynecological exams, putting aftershave on one’s balls, and birth control methods, not to mention the language and use of the f-word, are just some of the many reasons why a parent would have issues with this book.

I found that this book was not well written. There was unnecessary inclusion of some things, which mimics the way young adults talk.  There were too many ellipses. Many sections went on with dialogue and no labels. Punctuation wise, this book was missing commas in places that rightfully deserved them. This, after some thought, is likely because this book was written in 1975, and writing rules have advanced exponentially since. I found the end of the book realistic, as high school sweethearts don’t last forever. I also appreciated the nod to Planned Parenthood as an ally and an excellent source for information and health check-ups. My favorite line in this book was by Jamie, “hate and war are bad words but fuck isn’t” (Blume, 2003, p. 39).

Professional Review: “Increasingly Judy Blume’s books center on single topics and the topic here, as pronounced in the first sentence, is getting laid. Cath and Michael fall in love when both are high school seniors, and Blume leads up to It date by date and almost inch by inch (hand over sweater, hand under skirt…) and then, after the breakthrough, describes each session until the kinks in timing and such are straightened out. (There’s also a word-for-word transcript of her Planned Parenthood interview and a letter from Grandma, who’s heard she is “going steady,” advising birth control.) For Cath though forever lasts only until her parents send her off to a summer camp job and she finds herself unwillingly attracted to the tennis counselor she’s assisting; Michael takes it without much grace but Cath will never regret one single thing because it was all very special. “I think it’s just that I’m not ready for forever.” As usual with this immensely popular author, Forever… has a lot of easy, empathic verity and very little heft. Cath like Blume’s other heroines is deliberately ordinary, which means here (despite friends, nice family, etc.) that outside of the love affair she’s pretty much a blank. In fact this could be a real magnet for all those girls who took to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret just a few years ago and haven’t changed all that much since. Another way of looking at Forever… is as an updated Seventeenth Summer.”– Kirkus Reviews

Forever [Review of the book Forever. (2011, October 15). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/judy-blume/forever-4/

Library Uses: I would use this book with high school students during Banned Book Week and have them do read outs of milder areas of the book.

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Module 9: A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl

Book Summary: Josie, a freshman, finds herself dating Tony, a senior. She goes back and forth with herself as Tony seems to be changing who she is and what she thinks she wants. After fooling around with him plenty of times, he wants more than she’s willing to give. He leaves her for another girl in school, leaving Josie heartbroken and wanting to warn other girls about him. Aviva and Nicolette also find themselves chewed up and spit out by Tony, and Josie has one way to help them find themselves again: Forever by Judy Blume.

APA Reference of Book: Stone,T. L. (2006). A bad boy can be good for a girl. New York, NY: Random House.

Impressions: I really enjoyed this book. The verse structure made this book a quick but powerful read. It took me back to high school when I was falling hopelessly in love despite the red flags everywhere. The author does a great job of not only getting into the mind of a teenage girl, but showing how falling in love can often end in self conflict. I liked the idea of the Tony burn book in the back of Forever. He was a awful guy and to have these  young women team up to arm themselves against the power he could hold over them was refreshing. I also enjoyed Aviva, Nicolette, and Josie. The author described each of these characters personalities and lives in such a short amount of time. Each character felt well-rounded, allowing me to feel more for each of them when Tony plowed through them. I was able to get a good sense of differences between the girls without it being overly cheesy. Particularly with Aviva, who is an Alanis-loving guitar player. She doesn’t seem stereotypical or made to be starkly different from Nicolette and Josie. Each of the girls, in their differences, had similarities, and that helped the reader understand why Tony went for them. The writing style was to the point but descriptive enough that it did not feel like the reader was being short changed. Similarly, it was not too descriptive that it made the reader feel dumb. This book is hands down my favorite of the semester.

Professional Review: “Three high-school girls take turns relating their separate experiences with the same bad boy, a senior jock who seems only interested in one thing: “nailing” them. There’s enough in this verse novel to make a grown woman cringe—remembering what it was like back then and that the more things change they stay the same. These narrators, despite their varied backgrounds and ambitions, are interested in, well, the physical realm of boy/girl relations and are willing to kiss and tell: They speak poetry of pedestrian language, which, at its most varied, describes erotic outings and, in one instance, oral sex. High school girls with uncomplicated reading agendas might find this brain candy gratifying. But those with SATs on their minds will find this shallow, repetitive and empty. (Fiction. YA)“– Kirkus Reviews

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl [Review of the book A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl. (2010, May 20). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tanya-lee-stone/a-bad-boy-can-be-good-for-a-girl/

Library Uses: This book would be good for discussion in a feminist book club hosted by the library. In a classroom setting, getting students to consider which book they believe would be a good one to post their own burn book in the back of.

Module 8: Breaking Beautiful

Book Summary: After a car accident, Allie narrowly survives and is stuck trying to figure out what happened that night and how she survived while her boyfriend, Trip died. She struggles with this fact but, after her parent’s suggestion, returns to school only to be suspended after a ‘fight’ that wasn’t exactly her fault. Rumors and suspicions about her part in the accident infect the small town. Matters worsen when a detective comes to town to reopen the case. Her relationship with her friend, Blake, grows stronger during this time, as he seems to be the only one on her side when everyone else is against her. Her twin brother, Andrew, and his girlfriend Caitlyn also play a part in her support system. The reader learns about Trip and how he treated Allie in flashbacks and recollections from the past. Allie experiences ups and downs, struggling with her will to live after the accident and in the face of such negativity. She manages to persevere until she finds the answers she needs and learns that she is worthy of love and happiness.

APA Reference of Book: Wolf, J. S. (2012). Breaking beautiful. New York, NY: Walker Publishing.

Impressions: I enjoyed Allie’s character and I liked the mystery of what happened the night of the accident. Trip was an awful boyfriend and the accident was justice for his abuse of Allie. Her relationship with her brother was interesting and I wish there were more moments between the two of them. The blooming romance between Allie and Blake was obvious, and I wish the author had left that friendship as a friendship, especially after everything she had gone through. As someone with a disability, I found it refreshing to read Andrew’s character. He was more than his cerebral palsy. I also appreciated the way the author showed the aftermath of abuse. Trip clearly had a lasting impact on Allie, who was clearly not okay and still affected by him after his passing. The descriptions of her facial expressions, her discomfort when people were upset with her, and the flinching and other fear-based movement when people moved a certain way around her were red flags that will hopefully allow readers to recognize them in their friends and family.

Professional Review: “On the night of Allie’s 18th birthday, she and her boyfriend, Trip, get into a horrible car accident. Trip drives over a cliff and dies, and although Allie survives, her memory of the night is patchy. She refuses counseling, but when a detective comes to her small Northwest town to reopen the investigation, her dark memories of Trip’s abuse and the fateful night resurface (“Everyone thinks I have survivor’s guilt. What would they say if they knew what was really inside?”). Allie feels attacked from all angles: at school she’s resented by Trip’s friends, and at home she’s smothered by her parents and her concerned twin brother, who has cerebral palsy. Her only ally is her childhood friend and crush Blake, whose troubled past makes him a suspect in the accident that killed Trip. When Allie receives threatening notes written in Trip’s handwriting, she is finally forced to confront her memories. Wolf’s debut impressively weaves Allie’s chilling memories with present-day drama. Part romance, part mystery, this solid outing offers a persuasive portrait of guilt and recovery.”– Publisher’s Weekly

Breaking Beautiful [Review of the book Breaking Beautiful]. (2012, March 5). Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8027-2352-9

Library Uses: This book would be good in a display of book featuring characters with disabilities.

If I Stay

Book Trailer for If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Book cover from If I Stay by Gayle Forman. All other images and video provided copyright free by pixabay. Music provided by Animoto. See paper for further citation.

Module 7: The President Has Been Shot

Book Summary: This informational book overviews the life of John F. Kennedy. It starts with his life in the military, then covers major moments in his presidency. Finally, the author settles the bulk of the story on his final day and the events surrounding his assassination. Background information is split between focusing on the Kennedy’s and Lee Harvey Oswald. The reader gets a third-person omniscient point of view that tells what is happening to JFK, Jackie, and Oswald throughout the tragic event and the following days.

APA Reference of Book: Swanson, J.L. (2013). “The president has been shot!”: The assassination of john f. kennedy. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

Impressions: This book was an interesting read. Jackie’s side of the story and quotes about her reaction aren’t often told, and this book provided an explanation. I would have liked this book more if it was rooted more in fact. It had factual evidence, but, in the way it was written, it seemed as though 40% of the book contained fiction. There’s no way of knowing what actually happened unless you were there. The different points of view from Oswald to Zapruder to JFK to Jackie and others were nice but I would rather it didn’t try to follow and guess what those people were doing and thinking. It seemed built up for the purpose of drama and sensationalism, which made the historical information aspects of this book less prominent. Some of the descriptions were incredibly vivid, particularly the one describing Kennedy post assassination, and I felt the writer could have done without that and left it to the imagination of the reader. In each section were photographs of the individuals, and the back had maps and diagrams of Dallas and the route, along with photographs, and a bibliography and places to go for more information.

Professional Review: Swanson brings the same immediacy and thrillerlike tension he achieved in Chasing Lincoln’s Killer to this harrowing account of the Kennedy assassination (an adult version, End of Days, will be published later this year). As the subtitle suggests, Swanson concentrates on the buildup to and aftermath of the Dallas shooting on November 22, 1963. After a quick overview of Kennedy’s ascent to and first years in office (including the Bay of Pigs and the Space Race), he shifts between Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald in the days before and after the assassination. Swanson doesn’t avoid the horrific details of the shooting, and he’s open about the failings of well-meaning officials and staffers in the wake of the shooting. There’s no danger of uncovering any sympathy for Oswald, painted by Swanson as “a complaining, self-pitying, attention-seeking, temperamental, impoverished idealogue.” The book’s meticulous design incorporates numerous diagrams and b&w period photographs, and extensive source notes back up Swanson’s work. Even the simple decision to title the book’s chapters by date emphasizes how, in the span of just a few days, America changed irrevocably.”– Publisher’s Weekly

“The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy [Review of the book “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy]. (2013, September 3). Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-545-49007-8

Library Uses: This book would be good in a library lesson about point of view, or comparing and contrasting novels based on historical events when putting this book against another informational about JFK.