-Star Wars: I promise It will surprise you!-
The book is about a man named Kanan who is trying to live an inconspicuous life in a very hectic world. In the outer rim of the galaxy, politics involving a new dark government threaten the safety of an entire world. Kanan gets caught up in all of the turmoil and faces many life changing decisions. Will he stand firm and help people? Will he be a hero? Or will he desert everyone for his own safety?
I was shocked at the depth of this story. Not very many people in our book club read it, which is unfortunate. It is interesting to think about why books like this one are so immediately judged by typical people in the literary world. When somebody hears the words, “Star Wars book,” many will typically scoff and disregard it as a viable option for an interesting read. This story delves into politics and relationships like no other book can. The creative setting that this story is written in allows for a new element of intrigue to be added, even when dealing with something typical such as a romance. I also wanted to touch on how the character Kanan developed emotionally after the fall of the Jedi order. He was clearly affected deeply, and those emotional scars went on to define his entire life. This is a subject that I find very mature. People need to know that books like this (not just Star Wars books) have the ability to make an emotional connection just as well as others. I feel that anybody that picks up this read would be pleasantly surprised like I was.
Guest post from Amanda Smith:
I woke up, the air was quiet and sounds grew still. Colors were faded and blurred like a wet painting someone tried to get clean. The colors swirled around me like a mocking dance, the colors moved quickly but I could not make out any thing. I didn’t know where I was. I tried to remember when I went to sleep; this must be a dream. I closed my eyes and focused, hard until a faint memory started to form. To my horror it was not of when and where I went to sleep but rather how I died. I opened my eyes to same swirling colors. I wanted to cry but didn’t. Instead I screamed; screamed until my voice went hoarse, until my throat can’t take it. That was when I realized my throat wouldn’t get tired or sore. I stopped screaming and once I did I was hit with another realization, that this whole time I never once took a breath. I opened my mouth to breath but instead rocks and dirt filled it. No, not filled it, but went through it. I had been sinking this whole time. Quickly I try to claw for the surface but that only made me sink faster. I yelled out but no one could hear. My whole head was submerged in the earth’s layer and I cried. I knew that I was not going to get where I was going, at least not yet.
To get where they are going is a term in Everlost which means one of two things, heaven or hell. Everlost is a place that children find themselves after they die. Everlost, in other words is limbo, in between life and death. That place is where Allie and Nick find themselves. They wake up in a forest that they can’t sink in; those places are called dead spots, with another kid waiting there (they call him Leif because he lives in the forest). Dead spots are created when someone died there. Anything can find its way into everlost, it just had to be loved enough. In the book, the twin towers in New York were a safe haven for children of all ages. The towers are ran by a girl named Mary who has many experiences with Everlost so she writes many books. Allie and Nick go there and find out that everything isn’t what it seems; Mary is keeping information to herself that could change their fate. Allie and Nick go on an adventure to discover those answers with Leif alongside, even if it means getting help from the McGill. The McGill is a scary creature who sails a scary ghostship and preys on spirit children or afterlights.
In our book club meeting, we spent a good portion of our time discussing what we would do if we found ourselves in Everlost. If it is true what they say in Everlost then I wouldn’t find myself there because I’m older than the required age for Everlost, but I answered. I said that I wouldn’t know how I would react, which is true. I wouldn’t. I never really know what I would do until it happens and then I said I would probably haunt people but do weird- not- so- scary-things or trying to injure myself (which is impossible to do since you are an afterlight, in other words a ghost). I would try my hardest not to get stuck in a rut. When I said that I would haunt, the room exploded with different ideas that all mixed with people trying to make their voice heard. It was great. We all came to the same conclusion, however. In order to do the things we wanted in Everlost we must have the ability that very few people have in Everlost, that only the Haunter and Allie (from what we know from the book) possess. The likeliness that any or all of us would have it is slim, but the likeliness that I would find myself in Everlost is even slimmer.
After reading The Maze Runner, the book club members attended a movie showing and for about half an hour, ranted about the differences between the two. Here are some of their thoughts:
About The Maze Runner.
The story surrounds a boy named Thomas, who mysteriously ends up in a place he never knew existed called the Glade. When he arrives after being transported in the box, he finds many other boys in the same situation as himself, with no idea why they ended up in this place. Most of the other boys had accepted that they had to stay in the place, surrounded by the walls that opened to a maze. But Thomas was more curious and stubborn than the others, and wouldn’t simply accept that. Thomas becomes a runner, so he could scope out the maze, and find an exit. The majority of the Gladers live in fear of what’s inside the maze. The grievers. If you get stung by one, it courses poison through you that makes recovering from it difficult. He finds a way out, and brings the other boys who were willing to come with him.
Book and Movie Differences
The appearance of the Grievers in the movie differs from the appearance described in the book. In the book they’re described as something like a slimeball, but in the movie they appear as something like an animatronic scorpion. Another difference is the poison antidote. In the book they had the vials of antidote all along, but in the film they only have two vials provided for them in the box, after Alby gets stung. All in all, I think the movie followed pretty closely to the film, even though there were some differences.
Student #2: Now I will share a little bit of of what we discussed about the book at our meeting. One of the topics we talked about was should they have let Ben live? The conclusion we came to was if there were girls in the Glade that they might have voted to let him live. We also discussed who our favorite characters were, how we thought the government was formed in the Glade, and if Newt was a motherly figure.
Today we have a guest post from Rachel Ohm, one of the teen book club members at our school. She read Hiroshima by John Hersey and here are her thoughts:
The Big Bang
No, this isn’t about the Big Bang Theory. This is about Hiroshima and the big atomic bomb. Little Boy (that was its name) was dropped August 6th, 1945 on Hiroshima, Japan. This was the first atomic bomb to have ever been dropped on a city. The book is titled Hiroshima and it tells the tale of 6 people that survived Little Boy. It flips back and forth between each person and tells what happened on the day of the blast. From then on it describes how each person “saw” the bomb hit and how they managed to survive. Truth is no one actually saw the bomb drop. The survivors describe it as a giant flash that came out of nowhere. It came like a thief in the night, silent.
The rest of the book is obviously about the aftermath of the bomb. It’s extremely grotesque and detailed about the wounds of thousands. All the people left barely alive piled in Asano Park, but then it began to overflow and people were pushed into a nearby river to drown. One of the survivors said he dragged as many people onto a small boat and rowed over to the other side to higher ground, but the next morning the water level was so high all the people he carried over had drowned anyway. Never-the-less he kept on trying to help as many people as he could. All the survivors (except for one, she had a broken leg) helped the citizens of Hiroshima as much as possible, but it still wasn’t enough. Thousands of people were dying every day due to unknown causes (at the time it was unknown) or severe injuries.
At our monthly book club meeting the topic of Hiroshima was welcomed with grim smiles and the room was nearly silent. What else was to be expected? As Americans we feel guilty that our older generation did this to Japan, but we also know that had we not done it we wouldn’t be in the position we are today. I could barely get the words out to describe the book, in fact the words I did say weren’t accurate enough. I have never read such a disturbing and ghastly book. Knowing it’s true and real made it all the more sickening. I can’t even talk about the things written in that book without feeling ill, and I don’t have a weak stomach! All I can say is if you want to read this book don’t eat before you do.
The Teen Book Club is underway once again! It is the start of the 2014-2015 school year, and the students have met, the votes have been tallied, and the list has been comprised. Here it is:
The Maze Runner (Bloggers: Caleb, Christina)
Hiroshima (Bloggers: Rachel, Emily)
Everlost (Bloggers: Amanda)
Star Wars: A New Dawn (Corban)
Paper Towns (Haley)
A Princess of Mars (Zander)
Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Rings (Aidan)
The Book Thief
So glad, too, that we will be having some guest bloggers in the shape of my students. Let's see what they have to say about the books in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned....
Interesting. Every month in our Teen Book Club, we have two book choices. The students nominate the book choices, we vote on them, and then we select two books so that the students have a variety of topics, reading levels, and controversial elements. We always have at least one safe choice so parents don't have to worry about the content.
This past month, one of our book choices was Emma by Jane Austen. I, as the instructor of book club, was the only person to actually read Emma. Once the students took a good look at the book, they realized it was longer than they'd anticipated, the language was challenging, and the action was a little slower than what they are accustomed to considering modern YA book choices.
Well. I read it none-the-less. My previous experiences with Jane Austen include only Pride and Prejudice so I had little experience with the author's works, and for about the first one hundred pages of Emma, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The book focuses on Emma, of course, a young woman who fancies herself a match maker and tries to get her friends paired up. She is quite choosy, though, concerning who should be with whom and soon talks her friend Harriet into turning down a young man who really would have been a good choice.
And that was when the book became interesting. Yes, it took me about a hundred pages to get interested in Emma. But when I realized that she was actually not a reliable narrator, that her point of view was skewed, that the author was giving the reader all sorts of clues belying Emma's understanding of situations around her, that was when I began to see the power and strength of the writing. The book is not simply about wealthy people making sure they do not marry below themselves; it is about the reader understanding the truth of the situation when even the main character is unable to.
So. I had this discussion with myself and then went on to discuss our other book choice for book club. Hopefully some of the students will pick it up in the future.
Some of the students in book club are very tired of reading dystopian literature. We have read Divergent, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and the list goes on and on. But when Ship Breaker was added to the list and tackled this past month, the students had a very different reaction. They loved it.
Why? What makes this book a little different from the others?
My students immediately took note of a language difference. Bacigalupi is a master craftsman of language and this comes out through the book. His descriptions are beautiful, lyrical, and eloquent. The writing is strong and certainly added to the power of the book.
Another element that Ship Breaker presented in powerful form was the consistency and strength of the world building. Even though the beginning of the book takes some time to adjust to since the main character is crawling around in the belly of a ship and lands in a pocket of oil, we soon orient ourselves as readers and can easily follow the events in this world because they are so grounded in detail. As readers, we believe this world.
A question that came up again and again, though, had to do with the half-men. These creatures are treated as less than men because they can not think for themselves, but are owned and loyal to their masters. What exactly do these men look like? We are given a vague description of a dog, a man, tiger DNA, a hyena, and tattoos, but we don't get the complete picture and this was something we all wanted to see more clearly. It just so happens that Bacigalupi has written another book and I wouldn't be surprised if it made it onto our book club list for next semester.
I'm always so happy when the teen book club is underway once again. I miss it! I miss the enthusiasm of the readers, I miss the new books they bring to the table, I miss the discussions and disagreements; and now we have selected our books for second semester so we can move forward once again.
And the book selections are:
Emma by Jane Austin
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Gone by Michael Grant
The Circle of Law by Lia London
Bound by Kira Saito
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Guardians of the Galaxy
Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Maze Runner by James Dashner
One of my book attendees has been with the club for three years now and he is a huge proponent of the classics. His suggestions this time were accepted in droves, which usually doesn't happen, so we've got a few classics in our list. Mixing up the classics with the contemporary YA texts is a really fascinating combination and brings about discussions that feel relevant and appropriate.
Examples: What makes something a classic? Why do classics stand the test of time when some YA books don't? Considering current popular YA fiction, which books might wind up as classics and which books will move toward obscurity?
Such great discussions...and may the new season of book club begin.
We had quite the disagreement in our Teen Book Club as to whether or not we should even read the book Unwind by Neal Shusterman. When the concept of unwinding was explained to the students, many of them decided that the idea was way too creepy and they didn't want to read a book about it.
To give a brief definition, "unwinding" in this book is the process of taking a person apart to use all of his/her body parts. In the society that Shusterman has created, parents or the state can decide to have their teenagers unwound between the ages of 13 and 18. The adolescents are told that they aren't actually dying because their body parts will continue to live on in other people who need those parts.
Yes, it's a strange concept and no, I don't believe our society will embrace this procedure. And yet, it's not completely bizarre. We immediately discussed the idea of abortion and if it is better or worse for the child to be conscious of the decisions to be terminated. Is it better for kids to know that they are being unwound or should it occur before consciousness does? I must say, some of the students became very incensed about the topic and soon we were wondering when a person is a person or when the soul is created.
“I agree that we don’t have a soul until someone loves us, just like the character said in the book.”
“No, we have souls as soon as we have bodies. We have souls before we’re born.”
“How do you know?”
“If the heart beats, that person is alive and has a soul.”
"Which would make abortion wrong."
"It is wrong."
Aiieee. And that is where the conversation went. I try very hard to not direct the conversation unless it is completely off task, and I really enjoy listening to the students develop arguments, take a stance, and get into a debate, but at some point, we had to agree to disagree on this particular topic.
The book is fantastic for triggering conversations and getting to societal issues that are relevant and real. The teenagers in book club loved the book and yet, found it unsettling. It made them think about current practices in our society, and it made them think about their own behaviors. That's why we love reading - it brings us closer to life.
I have had a few jobs in my life that I didn't enjoy: detassling corn, working in a small motor parts factory, framing pictures, serving food, and rejecting bad eggs in an egg factory. Today, I take part in a book club for teens and I love every minute of it.