Hard to believe we’re already halfway through 2014. It’s been a tremendous reading year for me, and I think that’s largely thanks to my PLN and all their wonderful book recommendations. I don’t really remember how I found books to read before blogs and Twitter. I’ve always read a lot and loved to read, so clearly I managed just fine, but there were a lot of abandoned books and a lot of meh books. Not any more.
Reading serendipitously is what I love best about my reading life, but I also find it useful to set specific reading goals. Often, these goals are about what’s good for me, the eating-your-spinach equivalent of reading, not necessarily what I most want to be reading.
But not #MustReadin2014. Carrie Gelson’s reading challenge is all about the books you really want to read but just haven’t gotten to yet.
Since there are thousands of books I really want to read but just haven’t gotten to yet, it was a challenge to keep this list small, but I decided to limited myself to just 15 titles to make sure I would reach my goal.
I’ve read two more books since the spring check-in.
There was so much that I loved about Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. The Nebraska setting. (I live in South Dakota but teach in Nebraska. I teach kids who grew up in Arnold, the town Levi and Regan are from.) The witty dialogue. The exploration of a really interesting transition time (the first year of college) that’s not explored often enough in fiction. The family dynamics. (I’m an only child, and sibling relationships are always interesting to me.) There’s a swoony boy, Levi, who might be the best fictional boyfriend ever. I also love fiction about writing fiction, and Rowell’s main character, Cath, is a very popular writer of online fan fiction who is now taking a college creative writing course where the professor considers fan fiction a form of plagiarism. Rowell clearly has a lot of fun creating the Harry Potteresque wizard series that Cath’s fan fiction is based on, and I was often amused by the things that happened in the “real” Simon Snow novels and in Cath’s fan fiction.
That said, I thought that Fangirl was about 75 pages too long, and the relationship between Cath and Levi strained credulity for me at times. Still, I thought that Fangirl was a better book than Eleanor & Park and one that I think a lot of my students would love to read.
Fangirl has the distinction of being the first book I’ve read partly on my phone! I have to say that I fully approve of a world in which books are available on my TELEPHONE of all things.
I had two books by Jo Knowles on my #MustReadin2014 list, Jumping Off Swings and its sequel, Living With Jackie Chan. Jumping Off Swings was a problematic read for me. Important topic, a book I’d love to book talk and share with teens, a book I can see a lot of teens loving and needing. The story is told from multiple points of view, and that was where the book fell flat for me: each character’s voice sounded too similar to me, and none felt quite well-rounded and fully developed enough. I really didn’t care to spend more time with any of the characters. But thankfully, the sequel was already on my #MustRead list, so I felt like I had to read it. And I’m glad I did, because it’s a good book.
Living with Jackie Chan is Josh’s story and focuses on the aftermath of the plot events in Jumping Off Swings. In an effort to avoid his friends, Ellie, his parents, and the person he has become, Josh moves to Los Angeles to live with his uncle Larry for his senior year. Larry is just a great character–he’s corny and painfully sincere and so full of life and love. He’s a karate instructor and talks Josh into taking classes and helping out with some of the little kids Larry teaches. Josh finds himself wanting more and more to be the “true karate man” Larry is always talking about. A big part of healing for him comes through finally being honest about what happened before he moved in with Larry and telling his story to a friend, Stacey, who has problems of her own (a jealous, controlling boyfriend and a mom who is more interested in finding a boyfriend than in being Stacey’s mom) but who is able to encourage Josh to forgive himself and make things right with Ellie.
A thought-provoking book, full of heart, as well as a quick, easy read. I can see a lot of my students really liking this book too.