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Tag Archives: Author: Maureen Johnson

TGIF! It’s All About Issues this week.

TGIF is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReads. Every Friday she posts a new question and it’s a really fun way to discover new blogs.

This weeks question is: Which books have you found to be very rewarding when it comes to tackling tougher issues? 

I think this is a fantastic topic as books can speak to us in ways that people sometimes can’t. I’ve often found it easier to discuss personal topics when relating them to a book or a story, it makes it easier for me to explain the emotion behind the events when I can borrow someone else’s words.

As Maureen Johnson said in her post on The Guardian’s website last summer, “Yes, teen fiction can be dark – but it shows teenagers they aren’t alone.”

Teens have always had plenty of difficult experience to navigate and books provide a source of comfort and a way for them to discover that they aren’t alone. Below are the books I’ve found to be the most rewarding when trying to handle an issue or figure out how to discuss it with the teen girls I used to work with.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Melinda calls the police after an end of summer party turns wild. Her classmates ostracize her for getting them into trouble, but they don’t know the terrible secret she hides. It tears me up to think that there are girls and women both out there who have experienced this same sort of brutal attack and are too afraid to speak out against their attacker. This book helps young women to realize that they do have a voice and they shouldn’t be afraid to use it in their own defense. This is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading.

 


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
As someone who has had more personal experience with suicide than I would wish upon anyone else, this book was particularly difficult to read. While heartbreaking and difficult to read at times, this book helps to show teens and young adults what happens to those left behind after a successful suicide. I know that at times it may seem that ending it all is the best option, but this book helps them to understand that their death will affect more people than they may even realize.

Suicide is never an easy topic to discuss with teens or young adults, but it’s something that most of them will face at some point. This book is the perfect way to start the discussion and hopefully frame suicide in way that will give them cause to stop and really think things through if they are ever in that situation.

 

Rules by Cynthia Lord.
In this Newbury Honor Book Catherine is a 12-years-old girl and her eight-year-old brother, David, has autism. The book is form Catherine’s point of view and she explains how David’s autism makes her life complicated and causes her to wish that her life was a bit more “normal”. It’s hard for anyone to have a sibling that’s “different” and this book is a great way to help kids understand what their what is happening with their sibling and how normal things can still be for them.

I grew up with a cousin with cerebal palsy and I wish that there had been a book like this for me to read when I was younger.

What books do you use for opening up a discussion on tough issues? Are there any issues in particular you have a harder time talking about? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this!

 
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Posted by on 1 June, 2012 in TGIF

 

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Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

Publication Date: September 29, 2011

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Penguin Group

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Barnes & Noble): The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Review: This is, by far, my FAVORITE Maureen Johnson book ever. It’s probably partly because the book is set in London and follows an American girl going to school there, so I can totally relate to that, but it was also an amazing story. There’s enough mystery and intrigue to keep you turning pages (far later than you intended to still be awake!), there just enough of a romance to make you slightly giddy and both the main and supporting characters are pretty kick ass.

I found myself getting super nostalgic in the first few chapters as Rory settled into school at Wexford. Most of reactions were the exact same ones I experienced as I settled into Newcastle. Including the being worried about finding the correct hair products in a new country, my hair is a pain to deal with! It was so easy to feel as if I was right there beside her as she navigated this new city and this new world. Through all of this Rory is an excellent narrator; she’s hardworking, funny, loyal, and adventurous, even if the circumstances absolutely terrify her.

Watching Rippermania and the panic spread across London was fascinating and you actually learn a lot about the original murders and the theories behind who committed them. While the citizens of London are being terrorized by someone copying Jack the Ripper’s murders, they don’t actually believe that Jack’s returned from the dead to commit them. Yet, that’s where the mystery is not as cut and dry as it would first appear. Hence the entrance of the “secret police” (the “Scotland Graveyard” if you will) and this is where things get interesting. I found myself flipping through pages as quickly as I could and the suspense of the story was absolutely killing me.

What kept this from being a five star review for me was that I felt that the romance felt slightly underdeveloped, yet I’m hoping that will be resolved in the next book. Being a series that does give her room to spread the romance out (and they are only teenagers) and let it grow a bit more naturally. The other thing that gave me pause was the lack of presence of her parents, they move across the country and they don’t once come to visit to see the school where their daughter is living? And when a murder happens right on campus and their daughter is a witness they are satisfied with just a phone call? That felt a bit far fetched, but then again I’m not sure I’d have loved to see the parents constantly poking their noses in either, so such is life.

Bottom line: Chockfull of interesting characters, intriguing and unexpected plot twists, and a little bit of history, The Name of the Star will keep you guessing and keep you reading straight through to the end. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next and I applaud Maureen Johnson’s first foray into the paranormal/fantasy realm.

 
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Posted by on 14 October, 2011 in Book Reviews

 

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