Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad for You: Exposing the War On Fun by Kevin C. Pyle & Scott Cunningham

Wow, a non-fiction book. This is a cool exploration of the many ways that adults have tried to take away fun from kids and teens. For example, the war on comic books went all the way to congressional hearings in the 1950s. Comics were thought by some to cause juvenile delinquency. It seems laughable now, but a comic code was created and enforced. William H. Gaines was a publisher of many comics at the time and a very vocal proponent of the publisher's rights to print what they wanted (can we say First Amendment). He did stop making comics, but (thankfully) kept publishing Mad Magazine.

So what else have adults tried to curtail or stop all together: skateboarding, fairy tales, role playing games (beware D&D enthusiasts), video games, telephones, cell phones (and all that other technology you love so much), long hair, playgrounds, recess and even chess. Don't worry, they know what is good for you: standardized tests and more homework.

As you can probably tell by the cover, this is not some dry examination of facts. It is a mix of text and illustrations (lots of them) that examines not just why adults have imposed these restriction, but the history of how we got to that point. Surveys and studies are cited to support the arguments.

Amazingly, restricting young people often resulted in the behaviors that were trying to be avoided in the first place. Not that all the adults were being cruel on purpose they were just ill-informed and misguided.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and one of the creator's sites: Kevin C. Pyle.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

It's incredible when you find yourself inside the pages of a book. So, I'm reading about this 16 year old girl named Elise (obviously, not like me). She splits her time between her divorced parents (mine are still married). Because she has no friends, she decides to remake herself to fit in with the popular crowd (I never did that). It doesn't work, so she tries to slit her wrist (I never came close to anything like that). See, Elise feels pathetic and worthless (OK, that one I've done). There is one particular paragraph in this book that so clearly summarizes my feelings for a good part of my life. It's amazing and a little scary at the same time.

Sometimes at night, Elise sneaks out of her mother's house and walks. One night, she meets Pippa and Vicky who take her to a warehouse club called Start (that's only open on Thursday nights). Because they are older and regulars, Vicky and Pippa get underage Elise in the door. Elise feels out of place - she doesn't dance or drink. It's just one more place where she feels like she doesn't belong. There is the music, though...

Elise loves music and she knows a lot of it. A chance to see the inside of the club's DJ booth is enough to get her interested in being a DJ herself. OK, so where is this all going. Well, Elise learns how to DJ and gets a chance to do it at Start. There are romantic complications and difficulties with her parents, usual teen stuff, but we get to experience it with Elise. If only life's issues were as easily dealt with as they are in books.

For more info, check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Two girls, one on each coast, are counting down the days until they start college where they will be each other's roommate. They e-mail each other to get acquainted and share more than just who is bringing the microwave.

Elizabeth lives in New Jersey, and even though all her friends are staying in state she cannot wait to leave for California. She wants to escape her beach town life and her mom and, who knows, maybe she will even get to know her dad who left years ago to live in San Francisco.

Lauren lives in San Francisco with her parents and her five younger siblings. Even though she is just going across the bay, she worries that her parents will not be able to deal with all the children without her. She has never had room to herself, so she was disappointed when she learned that she had been assigned a roommate.

A complication neither girl foresaw happening over the summer was boys. Yes, they each start dating - if that's what it is. Who wants to get serious over a guy when you only have a few months until you both go away? Just one of the many discussions that happen between Lauren and Elizabeth who find that sharing some topics through e-mail are easier than facing them in person and are sometimes more difficult when you really don't know the other person.

Each girl's story is told in alternating chapters, but is not entirely told through e-mails. We know what is going on with each girl including what they are not sharing with each other.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library Catalog and the authors' sites: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Harry hides his face to the audience when he is on stage. He tips his fedora down over his sunglass covered eyes and pulls his collar up. He knows the reaction he will get if he exposes his scarred face; he has seen it many times. Harry has always tried to keep himself hidden, to go unnoticed in the crowd, but there is a freedom in playing music. It is a freedom he gets nowhere else. And the whole band thing wasn't even his idea.

Harry was struck by lightning. Well, that is what people think. The truth is he was tied to a tree that was struck by lightning and the resulting fire burned his face and neck. He was young at the time, so most of his life has been a series of hospitals, surgeries and therapy. And keeping away from bullies and pretty much everyone else - until he met Johnny.

Johnny didn't seem to care about Harry's face and Harry was so grateful for a friend that he pretty much went along with every idea Johnny ever had. So even though neither had played an instrument before, Johnny suggested that they start a band - and the Scar Boys was born.

And in the music there is freedom for Harry, but not without a price. A friendship is tested - add a girl and a road trip to the mix and Harry learns a lot more than he planned.

For more info check out the Evergreen library catalog and the author's site.