Tag: high school

Mar 26

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Book Club, Coming of Age, Psychological 24

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

Remember last month when I got all philosophical about choosing a book for book club because last month’s selection in my neighborhood book club (cleverly named My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors) hit a sour note? You can click HERE if you’re interested. But you’ll be happy to know that this month’s selection worked out infinitely better for me. This month we read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, and WHOA.

ReconstructingAmelia hc c.JPGKate is a high powered lawyer living with her teenage daughter Amelia in Brooklyn. Kate has raised Amelia on her own since unexpectedly finding herself pregnant in law school. Kate has done her best to balance her career and single motherhood, though she feels guilty much of the time that her career has won out. When she’s called to Amelia’s hoity toity private school in the middle of an important meeting, she is frustrated. The situation that awaits her is more tragic than she ever imagined. Amelia fell to her death from the school’s roof.

Because dealing with the death of your child isn’t horrifying enough, Kate begins to get mysterious text messages saying that her daughter didn’t commit suicide. Kate embarks on a journey into investigating what was going on in her daughter’s life leading up to her untimely demise and what she uncovers is a whole lot more than she bargained for.

The hoity toity private school is a hotbed of elitism, secret societies, bullying, and all kinds of psychological warfare. Reading about this school, I have never been so grateful to have been raised thoroughly middle class. I went to high school where nobody gave a crap. Seriously. Heck, my school could barely even muster the energy for a traditional social hierarchy, never mind an elaborate set of secret social clubs.

As you probably know, psychological thrillers and murder mysteries aren’t typically my jam, but the addition of the scandalous school elements, really sucked me in. Two thumbs up, kiddos!

Alright Bookworms, I’ve got to know. Was your high school experience ANYTHING like what you’ve seen in pop culture?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 03

Classic and Contemporary: School Stuff (Top Ten Tuesday)

Classics, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction 34

Hola, Bookworms!

It’s Tuesday, but since yesterday was a holiday (at least in the US) it’s basically a Monday. To combat the blues, we’re gonna get a little listy. The ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have come up with a fantastic topic for today. We could take this two ways: pair contemporary books with classics OR list out 10 books that we think should be required reading in school. I’m going to take it half and half. Ready?

toptentuesday

Classic and Contemporary: The Perfect Pairings

1. The Odyssey by Homer with The Penelopiad by Margaret AtwoodThe Odyssey by Homer (or at the very least, excerpts of it) is required reading for tons of high school students. Everybody heard about Odysseus and his epic journey, but what about poor Penelope who is stuck on the homefront fighting off suitors? Margaret Atwood tackled the story from her perspective, and it’s very cool to see the retelling of a classic in such a way.

2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath with Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is a largely autobiographical novel about a young woman who despite her youth, talent, and beauty is suffering from a mental breakdown. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen is a memoir of a woman who spent time in a mental institution following her own suicide attempt and crippling depression. Two tales of mental illness with a very personal bent, one classic, one more contemporary. Both powerful.

bell jar

3. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson with World War Z by Max Brooks. You like monsters and end of the world scenarios? Try either of these! I am Legend deals with a vampire takeover, and World War Z is about the zombie apocalypse. Both are awesome and will probably give you nightmares (if you’re like me.)

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen with Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. This pairing is a lot of fun. Bridget Jones is a not so subtle homage to Jane Austen’s classic. It’s full of witty little asides and silly tributes. It’s also about finding love with people who initially annoy the crap out of you. Good times all around.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The non-fiction classic account of a Jewish girl and her family living in hiding from the Nazis during World War II pairs well with Markus Zusak’s fictionalized version of life for dissenting German citizens under the Nazi regime. Both heart wrenching and fantastic.

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Why Didnt’t They Assign Me This High School?

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is one of my all time favorite dystopias, and so enthralling I couldn’t put it down. It’s full of important lessons and stuff, I don’t see why spending a thousand pages on Moby Dick was so critical…

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. They may teach this in school, but they didn’t teach it in my school. Actually, I’m lying a little bit. The scene with the Christmas tree was in several of my English textbooks, but never the whole thing. And the whole thing rules!

3. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. This book was awesome, for starters. I think it would be good for kids to read for a couple of reasons. First, all the cranky for no good reason kids (like myself) might realize that their lives totally DON’T suck. Second, if the abuse that is presented in this book is discussed in the classroom, perhaps kids who are suffering would be encouraged to ask for help. At least, I’d hope for that.

glass castle

4. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This is a great book, and it discusses the difficulties of people of Asian decent living in the US during World War II. It focused on the Japanese internment camps, but ALL people of Asian decent suffered as a result. The Japanese internment camps have been swept under the rug, and it’s an important lesson for kids to learn that their government sometimes does stupid things. Maybe they’ll pay more attention to what goes on around them?

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I’m of the opinion that if a kid ends up actually enjoying assigned reading, they might decide to read more in their spare time. What better way to get kids to dig a book than dishing up some teen angst? Teen angst that, while at this point in time is still out of touch, is more accessible than The Catcher in the Rye. Even better, read them both!

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Apr 04

Eleanor & Park: It'll Take You Back Faster Than a Whiff of Unwashed Gym Suit.

Blogging, Family, Humor, Personal, Romance, Young Adult Fiction 64

Sup Bookworms?!

I say “sup” because that was the thing to say when I was in high school. During high school,  I absolutely refused to use the term on the grounds that contractions should use apostrophes. I also wrote song lyrics out on the backs of all the notes I passed between classes and pasted magazine photo collages of grunge rockers onto my notebooks. (A 16 year old girl is a 16 year old girl, no matter her taste in music.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Yes, Katie. We KNOW you were a cantankerous teenager. You wrote about it once, plus, you’re a blogger. An awkward adolescence is a prerequisite, right?” I swear I have a point. The point is, I just read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and it took me back to high school faster than whiff of unwashed gym suit.

eleanor & parkHere’s the deal. It’s 1986. Eleanor is the new girl in school. She’s on the curvy side and has wild red hair. Her first day of school, she is denied a seat on the bus by everyone (in a move of calculated cruelty that is innate to the teenage of the species) EXCEPT a half Korean kid named Park. Eleanor and Park don’t fall in love immediately. In fact, they don’t even speak. They only begin to break the ice when Park notices that Eleanor has been reading his comic books out of the corner of her eye.

Eleanor’s got a whole lot of crap going on in her home life. She and her 4 siblings live in squalor with their abusive stepfather and their once vibrant mother (who like many abused women has become a shell of her former self.) Eleanor is in no position to be starting a relationship, but as she and Park progress from friendship to hand holding, she knows she’s a goner.

THIS BOOK! It does for YA novels what Freaks and Geeks did for high school on television. My high school experience was not Gossip Girl or Friday Night Lights. My high school experience was a whirlwind of awkward encounters and intense relationships that never materialized. Where hand holding could be MAJOR. It was so refreshing to read about an imperfect heroine who wasn’t conventionally beautiful. Sure, Eleanor has her good features, but she’s not a girl who is drop-dead-gorgeous without realizing it (cough, cough, Bella Swan.) And Park? Park is a short Asian kid who experiments with guy-liner. I challenge you to find me another YA leading man who is 5’4. Even Harry Potter was tall!

No, I didn’t listen to The Cure on my walkman on the bus, mostly because I didn’t go to high school in 1986. (I listened to The Counting Crows on my discman. Very skippy, the discman.) Even though my gym suit was definitely less horrifying than Eleanor’s polyester onesie, I dreaded gym class. My junior year, I was hit in the head with EVERY SINGLE BALL we used. I only wish I were exaggerating. I was beaned with a soccer ball, basketball, volleyball, hockey puck, tennis ball, football, softball, and the absolute pinnacle of my humiliation? Badminton birdie. I wasn’t subject to intense bullying (although I still do not have good thoughts about that girl with the slicked back ponytail and sinister eyeliner who always laughed at magnetic melon…) I didn’t have a messy home life either, but this book isn’t about winning the screwed up teen experience award. This book is about capturing the essence of being 16. It’s about first love and identity crises and confusion and the occasional glimmer greatness beneath the awkward.

I chewed through this book in two days and had to let it marinate in my brain juices before I could form coherent thoughts. Katie + Eleanor & Park = Love. The soundtracks may change, but high school will always be the same. Rainbow Rowell gets that, and for that, I salute her. (Insert well timed slow clap.)

Alright bookworms. Please tell me I’m not alone here. Let’s take this opportunity to share our most horrifying gym class experiences. It’ll be like group therapy. Ready? Go!

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