Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt August 18, 2016

book cover2Ally knows she is different from the other kids. Reading is hard for her, almost impossible. She’s gotten good at hiding it from teachers, her mother, everyone. She’s become the master at creating a diversion, saying something funny, even getting sent to principal’s office if she has to, just to keep her secret. But her secret is draining to keep. It feels like she’s carrying a heavy weight that makes it hard to keep afloat. When she starts sixth grade, her teacher Mr. Daniels sees what’s really going on. It is a relief for Ally, like the weight has been taken from her shoulders. But can Mr. Daniels really help her? As far as she knows, there’s no cure for dumb.

This is a heartwarming story about a girl with dyslexia. It is both believable and unbelievable that her parents and previous teachers did not catch on to her struggles. I want to believe that someone would have noticed, but I’ve heard many stories about kids slipping through the cracks. I would recommend this story to upper elementary or younger middle schoolers who will be able to relate to Ally’s desperation to have her problems disappear and wanting to blend in with her classmates.

3 out of 5 stars

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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff February 9, 2016

Fates and FuriesFrom the outside, it seems young married couple Lotto and Mathilde are the perfect couple. They are madly in love, attractive, and intelligent. But marriage is never perfect, no matter how much we want it to be. The first half of the book focuses on Lotto, born Lancelot, the golden child. Beneath his charisma, good looks, and “life of the party” personality, he harbors a deep mourning for his childhood and the adoration of his mother. The second half of the book reveals the truth about Mathilde’s life pre-Lotto. The unshakably supportive wife of a genius is not without secrets of her own. This story reassures us, in its own dark way, that even the most picture-perfect are flawed and prone to cracking under the pressures of life.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was complex and well-written, but it had plenty of dark, uncomfortable moments. It dragged on in some scenes and didn’t give us enough in others. I didn’t care for the twist near the end and felt the story would have been fine, maybe even better, without it. Overall, though, I liked it and am still thinking about the characters days later. I would recommend this to adults who like drama and literary fiction.

3.5 out of 5 stars

 

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist December 17, 2015

We Should Hang OutJosh Sundquist’s story begins when he is 25 years old and realizes he has never had a girlfriend. Sure, he came close. In 8th grade, he went out with a girl from his youth group for 23 whole hours. In high school, he spent the whole summer hanging out with a girl that he never worked up the nerve to kiss. There was a disastrous prom date and a failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe. As he looks back through his love life, he doesn’t understand where things went wrong. In attempt to figure out the fatal flaw in his date-ablility, Josh tracks down the girls who got away and asked them what happened. Their answers lead to a surprising revelation.

Highlights of the book:

  • Josh’s discussion with his extremely conservative Christian parents about him transitioning from home school to public school. My favorite line in the book: “It was a well-known fact among Christian homeschoolers that public schools were bastions of gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, rap music, pop culture, secular humanism, witchcraft, and body piercings.”
  • A golf date that resulted in him trying to correct his prosthetic foot that had gotten turned in the wrong direction.
  • The aforementioned failed attempt to declare his intentions on a canoe in the middle of a lake.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read. I finished it within a few hours. I laughed out loud many times. Even though he struck out a lot, his confidence and his continuous efforts to get out and try again were admirable. I can see why he became a motivational speaker; he has the ability to turn a perceived failure into a story his audience can relate to or at least sympathize with and turn it into a learning experience.

I would recommend this book paired with Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw. Both touch on overcoming adversity using humorous and relatable life stories.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek By Maya Van Wagenen August 11, 2015

Filed under: nonfiction — Bethany @ 10:31 pm
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Popular_comp9.indd“School is the armpit of life.” This was how Maya’s friend Kenzie described it. Maya agreed. Her description of her school was something most of us can understand. There are jocks and popular people and not-so-popular people and cliques and gossip and drama. Maya thought there was no way to change your standing in the social structure of school. But one day she came across an old book from the thrift store. It was written in 1951 and called Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide. She decided to spend her 8th grade year following all of the advice in the book, no matter how embarrassing or complicated. She wrote this book about her experiences. Some things were pretty easy such as stand up straight to look taller and thinner. Some things were hard such as sitting at every table in the cafeteria and talking to everyone in school at least once. She learned a lot, not all of it good, but sometimes with surprising results. This a true story about Maya’s real life and how it changed from one old-fashioned self-help book and a lot of courage.

This was an absolutely charming book about a girl making the best of her situation. I felt like I could relate to Maya’s struggles and wished I would have been as brave and confident as she became by the end. As I read this, I thought of several teens who would enjoy it as much as I did.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay July 30, 2015

Everything That Makes YouFiona Doyle knows what it’s like to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When she was 6, an accident during a family outing left her face terribly scarred. Fi Doyle never had that accident. Fiona is a music buff; she has a guitar and notebook after notebook full of songs she’s written but will not sing or play for anyone. Fi is a star lacrosse player destined to play for Northwestern. But when Fi has an accident, her life is changed forever.

Fiona and Fi are two different stories for the same person, each with different joys and sorrows, talents and shortcomings. For anyone who has ever wondered, “What if…”

I liked the Choose Your Own Adventure series when I was a kid. I would read through it making one set of choices, then read it again and make the opposite choices. It is interesting to think how one event can change the course of your entire life. This book had some thought-provoking moments and some cheesy moments. I would recommend it to teens who like realistic fiction with a lighter touch.

3 out of 5 stars

 

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero July 19, 2015

Gabi a Girl in PiecesHave you ever wanted to read someone’s diary? Here’s your chance. Gabi is a senior in high school. Her life isn’t perfect. Her best friend got pregnant without even telling Gabi she was having sex. Her other best friend just came out to his parents and got kicked out of the house. Her father is addicted to meth and might or might not come home at night. And Gabi’s mom is always on her case about not being easy… even though Gabi’s never been past first base. Some things about life are good, though. She has her friends, she’s figuring out how to use poetry to express her feelings, and she has food… so much good food. Things just might turn out okay.

This was one of the best books I’ve read all year. It dealt with a number of controversial topics in a realistic way. Gabi’s voice seemed authentic and her reactions to difficult situations were unflinchingly honest. I have already recommended this book to a number of teen girls and mothers.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Winger by Andrew Smith April 24, 2014

WingerRyan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old high school junior at a fancy boarding school in Oregon. This year he’s been transferred to O-Hall, the residence hall for the troublemakers. If his roommate Chas doesn’t kill him, it will be a miracle. Ryan Dean just hopes he can make his smoking hot friend Annie realize he’s not a little boy first. Annie, his friend Joey, and rugby are best things about this year, the year he becomes his own man.

I can’t write a review that does this book justice. It’s that awesome. Sure, it’s filled with swear words and Ryan Dean spends almost all of his time talking about or thinking about sex with every female he sees. But it’s also so funny, endearing, and heart breaking. Read it and love it.

5 out of 5 stars

 

 
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