Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Summary: In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Kim's Review: I went into this book not expecting much. It seemed like more of a comedy to me, which isn't really my thing. But after passing it by over and over again whenever I went to the bookstore, I finally decided to give it a chance...and I absolutely loved it.

On the outside, this book may look like a light-hearted comedy, and a lot of parts did make me laugh. However, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is also really heartbreaking. Sherman Alexie does a great job at mixing funny and sad at the same time, which fills up about 85% of this book, and I loved every part of it.

I also found this book to be surprisingly philosophical. It really made me think about racism and society and life as a whole. I loved seeing Junior's progression from an outcast at his Reservation to star basketball player at his new high school.

I enjoyed seeing Junior's drawings as well. Not only did they give a little more perspective to the minor characters, but they also gave insight into Junior himself.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. I think this may be one of my top ten favorite books. Give it a chance, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

Summary: Hunter, Autumn, and Summer—three of Kristina Snow’s five children—live in different homes, with different guardians and different last names. They share only a predisposition for addiction and a host of troubled feelings toward the mother who barely knows them, a mother who has been riding with the monster, crank, for twenty years. As each searches for real love and true family, they find themselves pulled toward the one person who links them together—Kristina, Bree, mother, addict. But it is in each other, and in themselves, that they find the trust, the courage, the hope to break the cycle.

(Sorry for the short review. It was typed on my phone in school, and I had little patience for the tiny touch screen keyboard. :) )

Kim's Review: Man, oh man. I'm so sad to have finished this trilogy! Kristina's story is honestly one of the most interesting and captivating ones I have ever read in YA fiction. It was so interesting to see how her children were doing in this book (written from their point of view). Ellen Hopkins has a way of creating believable, amazing, and intriguing characters - I wish I knew her secret. My favorite character was Hunter, probably because he's the one I've read about most in previous books. However, I truly loved all the characters, and reading the last two pages brought tears to my eyes (in the middle of Spanish class, might I add). I'm so sad to have to let these characters go, never to read any more about them. Read this trilogy, and all of Hopkins's books. As one of my all-time favorite authors, she definitely does not disappoint.

(Also, while this is the last book of a trilogy, I suppose you could read it by itself. The previous two books just add a lot more backstory.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Summary: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

Kim's Review: I know I'm a year or two late to the party, but I finally decided to read this book, and now that I've finished it I'm wondering what took me so long. This book is simply extraordinary. These three women's stories are amazing, and I loved following them on their journey throughout the book. It took me a few chapters to adjust to Minny and Aibileen's sections being written in Southern dialect, but once I got used to it I got really attached to the characters.

I don't know how accurate this book really is, but it was painful to read about the various punishments the African-American citizens of Jackson, Mississippi had to go through. Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter had to live in fear during and after the writing and publication of their book. A few times, they even speculated what would happen to them if they were caught; would they get sent to jail? Beaten? Or worse? 

It was so touching to see how much the Help really loved and cared for the children of their bosses. This is mostly and especially seen through Aibileen's interactions with Mae Mobley, a little girl who is just four years old at the end of the novel. While her racist mother neglects her, Aibileen takes care of her and makes sure she does not grow up to believe the prejudices shown in the world around her. There are a lot sweet moments between the two of them, and it was nice to see how Mae Mobley grew during the three years in which The Help takes place. There are a lot of bittersweet moments in this book, as well as some sad ones (have a box of tissues handy at all times).

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. During the last hundred pages or so, I did not want to stop reading for a minute. I even endured a bit of motion sickness to read it in the car. So, if I was somehow not the last person on Earth to read this book, I totally recommend it!

(P.S. When you're done reading the book, watch the movie. While a few of the minor storylines and characters were omitted, nothing was really changed and it is very true to the book. Quite a few of the lines are taken word-for-word from the novel, which I enjoyed as well.)