Wonder By R. J. Palacio

Title: Wonder

Author: R. J. Palacio

First Published: 10th January 2012

Publisher: Knopf

Blurb:

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances? (From Goodreads, 1st December 2013)

Review:

I was unsure about Wonder when I first heard about it. I was unsure for two reasons. Firstly, this is classed a children’s books, in America it would be aimed at ‘middle grade’ as far as I understand. I was skeptical because I thought that it would maybe be too childish for me. Secondly, despite a lot of people talking about this book on book tube and the book blogging world, and the numerous awards this novel has been given, I worried it was over-hyped. Hyped up books often end up being a let down for me. So I am often wary of such books.

However, Wonder was a wonder. It was simply fantastic. Well written, well planned, touching, breathtaking. Simply wonderful.

August is a boy with with a extreme facial deformity, and he is about to start School for the first time in his life, after being home schooled for the the first 4 grades. Starting school is tough. Starting school is hard when you are the new kid. But being the new kid who looks like August does, starting school is tougher. Will his classmates see past his face and accept him? Will they show kindness? Will they show fear? Anger? Friendship?

Wonder is a story about a journey, but written from multiple characters perspectives we begin to understand the journey much better. Wonder is a beautiful book, that would be fantastic in classrooms. There is so many topics that you could discuss with this novel, and it can teach all of us lessons no matter what age we are.

Wonder is a novel for everyone. It deals with a subject that I have never come across in the fiction world. The multiple narration throughout the novel keeps it fresh and allows us to understand different perspectives.

A book everyone should have on their shelves.

A book that is wonderful for discussion.

A book you must read.

5 out of 5

Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Puffin

First Published: 22nd October 1999

Blurb:

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country. (From Goodreads, 6th June 2013)

Review:

I have wanted to read this book ever since I watched the film a few years ago. I finally managed to swap a book for Speak on ReaditSwapit – a fantastic book swapping site! But it has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while. So part of my own ‘Dust that Book off Challenge‘ in which I picked a few books that have been on my shelf for a bit too long without being read and they must be read this year! Speak was one of these books.
To be honest, I was disappointed. This is not the first Laurie Halse Anderson book that I have read, but I just didn’t think it was great. I love that Laurie Halse Anderson tackles the issues that many shy away from. But I just found that this was a bit bland. She captured the feeling of isolation that Melinda felt. The difficulties she is dealing with are well thought out and expressed but there was something empty about this novel.

Maybe because this novel is aimed at younger readers I felt this void. But so many others love this book. I just can’t.

I wouldn’t say it is a must read. But is is a book that libraries and schools should have on their shelves to give that possible first line of support for others whom have gone through such difficulties.

3 out of 5

Rage By Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Rage

Author: Jackie Morse Kessler

Publisher: Harcourt Graphia

UK Publication Date: 4th April 2011

Blurb:

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different. That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.  (From Goodreads, 5th February 2013)

Review:

As with Hunger we see a teenager who is struggling with her life, to deal with the bullying and segregation she receives at school causing her to self harm. After going to a party and being horrifically humiliated she cuts too deep, but death comes and gives her a choice. Now wielding the sword of War Missy beings to release the anger she has been feeling. We are taken on a journey where Missy learns about herself and learns about destruction and war. This is a lesson in control. The one thing Missy has lost. Can she work through her pain without cutting? Can she learn to control her feeling and control the powers she now wields?

Another excellent novel from Jackie Morse Kessler. I read it almost back to back with Hunger (first novel in the series) and they both have similar themes, but both dealt with in a novel way. This series links the Horsemen of the Apocalypse with mental health issues and some of the pains many teenagers face today. It brings together myth and fantasy with today’s issues which I have never seen done before. It is a fresh breath into the world of mental health novels and a twist on some of the often similar novels focused on death and the horsemen of the apocalypse.

A series I recommend to all young adults and those interested in mental health.

4.5 out of 5

Send By Patty Blount

Title: Send

Author: Patty Blount

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

UK Publication Date: 1st November 2012

Blurb:

It’s been five years since I clicked Send.

Four years since I got out of Juvie.

Three months since I changed my name

Two minutes since I met Julie.

A second to change my life.

On his first day at his new high school, Dan stops a bully from beating up a kid half his size. He didn’t want to get involved. All he really wants out of his senior year is to fly under the radar. But Dan knows what it’s like to be terrorized by a bully-he used to be one. Now the whole school thinks he’s some kind of hero, except Julie Murphy, the prettiest girl on campus. She looks at him like she knows he has a secret. Like she knows his name isn’t really Daniel.

Review:

We are in a new age of bullying. No longer seen by teachers or parents. Technology has taken over our lives and this allows bullies to get to their victims any time via mobiles, internet, and gaming, thus increasing incidents of ‘gang bullying’ where attacks can come from many others – who previously would not say anything – publicly on social networking sites, for example. Many people can now comment, laugh and join in the taunting without necessarily feeling like the traditional bully. This novel tackles this new type of bulling and shows the true destruction it causes. It shows the destruction it can cause to both the victims, their families and the bully.

Our protagonist Dan has a dark secret that he tries to hide but is unable to stay out of trouble when he takes it upon himself to look out for Brandon. Brandon is bullied relentlessly and Dan cannot just watch. Not this time.

Patty Blount has taken an interesting take on this novel by casting Dan as the protagonist – compared to more traditional bullying books where the victim is the protagonist. This is a striking idea and helps show the pain Dan goes through knowing that his partaking in cyber bullying pushed one kid over the edge to kill himself. Dan suffered. Dan is still suffering. This is why he can’t watch Brandon continue to go through hell without at least one friend at his side.

Being British means I do not know much about American High Schools except from what I have learned from watching TV and previous books. This book will be easier to read for Americans but is still very relevant for others. A book that teachers and parents must read to understand how things have changed. One for teens to read to learn from, to relate too, and to understand. To understand that there is no easy answers but there are better options.

Send has discussion questions that would be perfect in the classroom. A novel we can all learn from, written at an accessible level with many issues built into one. It deals primarily with bullying but also deals with grief, loss, punishment, mental illness, growth, love and many more.

A novel capturing the truly destructive nature of humanity but the healing nature of time and hindsight.Yet without discounting the scars time cannot heal.

I will give this a 4 out of 5