Since The Perks of Being a Wallflower is both a movie and a book (a mook), I’ll be doing a short review of both. If you are interested in more book-to-movie reviews, including another great review of this pair, you should check out the blog Mookology. And, as always, I hope you ALL pledge to always read the book before you see the movie for any mook.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
Review copy from publisher
Well this book is a throwback to my younger years! I read the book thirteen years ago, when I was the same age as Charlie. I actually bought it the day it came out after seeing a commercial for it on MTV. While I like it enough, I only read it once and it definitely never made any of my lists of favorite books. Charlie was a hard character for me to connect with, and I didn’t have enough life experience at the time to really appreciate everything going on behind the scenes in the characters’ lives.
My main criticism of the book was that it was trying too hard to be the Catcher in the Rye of the modern age, and I only sorta-kinda liked A Catcher in the Rye. The novel is popular because teenagers connect to the isolation Charlie feels. Charlie watches life from the outside. Every character in the novel is dealing with some really shitty stuff, while Charlie just describes what happens with a strange, detached, naive style. The story celebrates the weird kids: the gay kids, the former “sluts”, the Rocky Horror fanatics, and the Nobodies, to name a few. I guess that’s why it is adored, especially amongst actual teenagers and hipsters. Fact: hipsters love quotes from this book.
I saw the movie yesterday, and enjoyed it. Though I was expecting a more awesome soundtrack, I was generally pleased with how well the film stayed true to the tone of the novel. Parts of the story definitely came alive more on the big screen (such as the epic feel of riding in the tunnel), while others got lost (watching Charlie’s writing grow).
I think I liked the story better as a movie. I liked Logan Lerman’s portrayal of Charlie, and the way the movie captured both the darkness and optimism of the source material. And Emma Watson? I’ll watch her in anything. How is she so damn charming? I completely forgot about her British accent, too. Homegirl can play an American borderline-manic-pixie-dreamgirl like a boss.
So here’s the final lowdown: The book is okay, and the movie is good. If you are a YA fan, you are required to read the book and it is strongly suggested that you go watch the movie. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is basically canon YA lit, so it’s necessary to have read it if you are going to say you know/understand/love YA. Just please remember not to stand up in the back of any trucks while someone drives you through a tunnel. It just doesn’t sound/look very safe.
Have you read this book or seen this movie? What did you think?
Recommend A…is run by Chick Loves Lit, and it is like a practical test in reader’s advisory, which was my favorite part of being a librarian (and the reason why I run this blog). People come up to librarians all the time requesting some very unique or odd things. I also like the challenge of recommended unique or odd things for popular requests (romance, fantasy, “a book like The Hunger Games”).
Today we are recommending books that remind us of summer. Summer isn’t my favorite season, but it is certainly a carefree time of year. I love the change of pace. Today I recommend a few books that definitely have a lot in common:
The Baby-sitter’s Summer Vacation/Karen’s Campout
by Ann M. Martin
Plot in a nutshell: All of Stoneybrook is sent to Camp Mohawk, including all of the babysitters and many of the kids they babysit for. There’s racial drama, boy drama, evil camper drama, co-CIT drama, lead counselor drama, and tacky camp outfits galore.
The Baby-sitters At Shadow Lake/Karen, Hannie, and Nancy: The Three Musketeers
by Ann M. Martin
Plot in a nutshell: Does this whole town do everything together? Because now they’re all staying at Shadow Lake in Kristy’s dad’s cabin. That man already has, like six kids…and they’ve invited at least ten more. Who does that? Anyway, there’s lots of babysitting, a boat parade, a lake mystery, bug bites, romance, and a club house.
Why I recommend these books: I love, love, loved the Baby-sitter’s Club as a kid. I read my way through the Babysitter’s Little Sister books and then the main series. I thought it was really clever that Ann M. Martin wrote about Karen’s point of view on the events that happened in the main series — so the fact that these paired books offer different perspectives on the same events just thrilled me. Even though you have to suspend belief a bit about the charmed life these middle-class kids live, their adventures offer great wish-fulfillment. The idea of going everywhere with your best friends is awesome, and each girl finds her own adventure on each trip. The multiple-narration style makes readers feel like they get to do ALL THE THINGS on vacation. These stories are perfect for summer because they are tales of friendship, freedom, and the kind of adventures you can only have on vacation. Since my main summer activities always involved summer camp and staying at the family cabin on the lake, these four in particular were always my favorites.
Who I recommend it to: Kids 6-13, of course…but also anyone age 25-35 who loves the nostalgia of reading this series. It’s always a treat to sit down and read a BSC book (try to read them with a sense of humor — they are a little ridiculous).
Did you ever read the Baby-sitters Club series? How did you feel about the super specials? Which super special was your favorite?
by Megan McCafferty
E-book from Public Library
[#54 in my 75 book challenge]
(warning…this review contains spoilers for Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. If you haven’t read this series, hop over to this post to read my review of the first Jessica Darling novel!)
At this point in the series, Jessica is in college and things start to speed up. This book covers Jessica’s entire college career. She’s trying to study journalism at Columbia, and life is never dull. She tries to stay with Marcus while he attends a Buddhist college across the country, while juggling college finances and friendships with random amounts of success. The story doesn’t cover every semester and every moment, but we see enough of the major points in Jessica’s college career to understand what she’s going through and how she is developing as a confident, intelligent young woman.
I liked the first two books in the quintet, but this one started to feel like work. I like Jessica, but it was hard watching her do some of the things she does in this story. Sometimes I just don’t get or identify with her. I have more of a “roll with it” chill attitude about most things, but Jessica does not. She drove me nuts when she just walked away from her summer internship in particular. Since that scenario was at the beginning of the book, I guess I had a hard time getting over that one mistake.
I did enjoy watching Jessica experience different relationships with different guys for different reasons with different results. She needed to step away from Flutie for a minute in order to appreciate her chemistry with him. I really, really, really hope she ends up with him at the end of the day after they both do a little bit of growing up.
Quotes from Jessica Darling
“When I’m at school in the city, I don’t feel particularly worldly or wise. It’s only when I come back home that I remember exactly why I left.”
“High school parties exhausted me because I always felt like I was the only thinking person in a room mostly full of morons obliterating precious IQ points with every gulp of whatever booze they managed to steal out of their parents’ liquor cabinets. College parties are exhausting in a diametrically opposite way. They are full of smart, funny people who are all used to being the smartest, funniest person in the room, so they spend the whole party talking over one another, overlapping and overtaking the conversation to prove that they are the smartest, funniest person in the room, if not the entire planet.”
FINAL GRADE: C Giving this one a solid C. Remember, a C is still a good book and a book I enjoyed reading. As the middle book in the series, though, it just doesn’t stand on its own. The story is necessary, which is which I still recommend it to fans of the series. We want to know how Jessica ends up. We want to know where all of this Marcus Flutie business goes. I don’t think I’ll be able to truly appreciate Jessica and Marcus riding off into the sunset (if that even happens) if they don’t both deal with some bullshit in their younger years before settling down. Kudos to Megan McCafferty for writing a realistic character, flaws and all, and I will be reading the fourth book.
Do you think McCafferty should have quit after this book?
by Megan McCafferty
E-book from Public Library
[#54 in my 75 book challenge]
(warning…this reviews contains spoilers for Sloppy Firsts. If you haven’t read this series, hop over to this post to read my review of the first Jessica Darling novel!)
After the lip-nip heard round the world and the discussion that followed, Jessica Darling has eliminated Marcus Flutie from her life. He is now known as “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” In this second installment of the Jessica Darling Quintet, Jessica takes us through the summer after Jessica’s junior year to graduation, and Jessica is just as confused as ever. She starts out at SPECIAL, a summer program for gifted kids, and then navigates senior year with a smidge more maturity than she’s show in the past.
While she’s deciding which colleges to apply to (Columbia keeps calling her name…), trying to date boys who AREN’T Marcus Flutie, and hanging out with her grandmother at the retirement community, Jessica is also OBSESSING over her virginity. This girl is on a mission. To be honest, I kind of liked that. Yes, the obsession was a little weird, but it showcased an attitude of girls taking charge of their own sexuality. Jessica doesn’t fixate on the fantasy that some guy is going to whisk her away in a romantic cloud of beautiful love…she just wants to do it. It’s a take on teenage sexuality that isn’t present in a lot of teen chick-lit. Thumbs up to Megan McCafferty for that.
It should be noted that this quintet was originally supposed to end with this book, so things wrap up quite nicely in the final pages. I’ve already read Charmed Thirds, and I understand why some people would warn readers to stop with the second installment. You could definitely read books one and two, call it day, and move on with your life. But by the end of this book I found myself still wanting to know what life holds for the next chapter of Jessica Darling’s life. I’m invested in her, and I think I’ll see her story through to the end.
Quotes from Jessica Darling
“I don’t even like babies. I have a very low tolerance for people who sit in their own defecation.”
“I will not get obsessed with anyone who is less than perfect for me. This mandate pretty much guarantees that my hymen will continue to stay intact, so airtight that it could be used as a floatation device in case of emergency.”
FINAL GRADE: B Giving this one a solid B. It’s a great book, and part of a five-book arc that may be greater than the sum of its parts. I like watching characters mature, and sometimes the individual books are (necessary) stepping stones in that journey. Jessica Darling is the smart girl’s hero! Like Sloppy Firsts, I would recommend this book for a high school library rather than a middle school library, and would definitely recommend it to my friends looking for a smart, romantic summer read. It’s probably not going to end up on my top 10 at the end of the year (my criteria for giving an A), but it’s among the best books for sure.
Do you think McCafferty should have quit after this book?
by Megan McCafferty
E-book from Public Library
[#52 in my 75 book challenge]
I originally found this book when Ginger over at GReads! gushed about it in this post on her blog.
What’s amazing about it is that Jessica Darling and I are exactly the same age. This book starts when Jessica is a snarky sophomore in exactly the same year that I was a snarky sophomore (1999-2000). I probably would have been her casual acquaintance, because she probably would have been too cool or too snarky to really hang out with the likes of me. Jessica is a combination of the smartest girl in her high school class, and also one of the most popular, though she really doesn’t care for her classmates or her popularity.
Sloppy Firsts is the first in the Jessica Darling Quintet. The whole series takes Jessica from her sophomore year of high school to her late twenties. This book covers January 1st of her sophomore year though January 1st of her junior year, all in told through a diary format and letters to her BFF, Hope, who has recently moved to Tennessee. We are introduced to the following characters:
- Jessica’s Mom, who doesn’t understand why Jessica doesn’t like shopping and spa days
- Jessica’s Dad, who only talks to her about running
- Jessica’s much older sister, who like the superficial things in life
- Paul Parlapiano, a hot senior and Jessica’s crush
- Hope, Jessica’s BFF who had ruined her life by moving to Tennessee
- Heath, Hope’s brother who died of a herione overdoes
- Marcus Flutie, Heath’s friend who asks Jessica to pee in a cup for a drug test for him (Jessica’s sort-of love interest)
- Pepe/Pierre, aka “Black Elvis,” a boy who has a crush on Jessica
- The clueless crew: Bridget, Sara, and Manda, Jessica’s “friends” who she really hates
Essentially, this book serves as our introduction to Jessica, and to Marcus Flutie. Marcus Fluties appears to be everything Jessica should stay away from. He’s a “dreg,” or a pothead, who gets in trouble constantly, performs poorly in school, and sleeps around. But by the end of the book we start to see Jessica form a strange fascination with this boy…and we see that there is more to Marcus Flutie than meets the eye.
Quotes from Jessica Darling
“I am totally aware of how ridiculous I am. It would be a lot easier if I believed I was the center of the universe, because then I wouldn’t know any better not to make a big deal out of everything. I know how small my problems are, yet that doesn’t stop me from obsessing about them.”
“See, my idea of cute comes with an IQ requirement.”
FINAL GRADE: B+ Jessica Darling, I like you. You kind of annoy me sometimes, which is why you fall short of an A. But you’re realistic, smart, sassy, and not afraid of your sexuality, which is what I like to see in a main character. You bring some intelligence to the chick-lit genre, even if that intelligence sometimes comes with a “everyone else at my high school sucks because they aren’t as smart as me” attitude. I think that attitude is quite realistic for a teenager (don’t they always think they know everything?), so I like that Jessica is sometimes a little unlikeable. Though this series is labeled as YA, I would place it in a high school library and not a middle school library. I recommend it to anyone who likes chick lit or realistic fiction, or anyone who wants something light to read over the summer.
I loved Jessica Darling enough to want to read on, so I’ve already finished both Second Helpings and Charmed Thirds. Reviews will be posting in the next few weeks.
Have you read this series? What did you think of my assessment of Jessica as a character? What do you think of her? What do you think of the series?
Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline
Library Overdrive E-book
[#51 in my 75 Book Challenge]
In the year 2044, the world sucks. Most people live their lives in OASIS, an entire virtual world where players can do, buy, and play almost anything. When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he leaves behind all of his wealth and control of the company to the person who can locate three hidden keys and open three hidden gates with in the virtual world he created. Our hero, Wade Watts, may live a crappy life in an Oklahoma trailer park, but he’s up for the challenge. He just may be the one to finally win Halliday’s challenge, but quickly he realizes he up against more than casual competitors.
Let the games begin.
If you love the 80’s or video games, you’ll love this book. Since Halliday was a child of the 80’s and was completely obsessed with 80’s culture, there are 80’s culture references and video games galore. However, I’m not obsessed with video games or 80’s culture and I STILL loved the story. While Wade is everything I don’t want to be (obsessive, reckless, and reclusive), I still had to root for him through the non-stop action. I loved the world building, both within OASIS and outside of it.
Essentially, this is a classic quest novel, just inside a virtual world. You have your hero (Wade), your hunting group of companions (fellow “gunters” Aech, Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito), the enemy (Sorrento and the Sixers, from a corporation that wants to own OASIS at all costs), and the grail (the final Easter Egg). Add in some techy gadgets, giant robots, teleportation, magical talismans…basically anything goes in this world. The novel is kind of like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, in way, and I think it can be enjoyed by more than just video game enthusiasts.
FINAL GRADE: A I’m on a good book roll this summer. I don’t know if it’s that I have time to really enjoy my books or because I’m just having a lucky streak, but Ready Player One had me ignoring people around me just to find out what happened next. Wow, you guys. I also see why Ready Player One has been recommended as an adult book for teenagers, since the content would definitely appeal to this age group. I would by it for my library for my more mature middle school students, and recommend it to my friends who like fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian books.
Oh, and the book gets a GLBT tag, but I can’t tell you why. Just trust me that there is an awesome GLBT character and read the book to find out more.
I’d like to give a special shout-out to the bloggers and readers who reviewed and recommended this book, inspiring me to read it. Here are their reviews if you want to know more:
Lucy @ The Reading Date (she reviewed the audio book, narrated by Wil Wheaton)
Stephanie @ Misprinted Pages (she’s also a gamer)
April @ Good Books and Good Wine (she compared it to The Westing Game)
New teachers get a lot of teaching advice, and it can be very overwhelming. There are so many different “right” ways to teach. As a first year teacher, I felt like I had to do ALL the things I was told, even when specific pieces of advice clashed with other advice I’d gotten. Brain. Overload.
Over my time in middle schools, though, a few pieces of advice really stuck with me. I’ve worked in schools with difficult populations of students, so much of this advice relates to classroom management. But these following tidbits are the voices in my head when I’m trying to hold it together every day:
Every Kid Has Someone Who Loves Him (or Her)
This one is probably the most meaningful to me personally. We all have our difficult students. Those students who make us want to grab a stiff drink or hide under a table. The smart-alack, the under-achiever, the bully, the mean girl, the kleptomaniac, the clingy kid, the whiner… the list goes on and on. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have at least one kid that really drove us nuts. However, each of these kids has someone looking out for that child’s best interest. It might be mom, dad, big sibling, little sibling, another teacher, grandparent, or social worker, but there is someone.
This advice works for me in two ways. First, it reminds me that the kid is lovable. It reminds me to look for the good in the kid. As the teacher, it is my job to be on that list of people who love and care about the kid. Second, it reminds me to watch my actions and words. It’s easy to be snippy or get short with a kid, but I imagine what the parent would think of the situation and I hold my tongue.
Everyone Is Just Doing The Best They Can
Kids, teachers, administrators, and parents are all trying their best at life. If they aren’t trying their best to make my classroom run smoothly, it’s probably because they are trying to balance other things. Very few people walk around trying to be bad teachers, trying to fail, or trying to be mean for no reason. Some people may not know how to handle all the things on their plates. This article sums up this particular piece of advice: We’re All Doing The Best We Can.
This advice works for me when I am mad at someone or think they are lazy. I mostly turn to it when dealing with my fellow teachers. I don’t always understand the actions of kids, teachers, administrators, or parents, but I try to remember that I don’t know their whole story. I don’t know what strategies or resources they have for dealing with difficulties. I hope that other people extend the same courtesy to me when I’m struggling with something.
Don’t Smile Until Christmas
So the statement itself is an exaggeration. I smile a lot. But the general idea from this advice is that a teacher should start the school year out tough, and then ease up if the kids can handle it. It is far more difficult to get more strict as the year goes on.
I work with middle school kids, who are always trying to test rules (even the good ones) and learn boundaries, so this advice is crucial. Maybe teachers who work with different populations of kids feel differently about it, but I learned the hard way that I need to lay down the law early, and consistently, in order to create a safe environment for learning.
The Best Classroom Management Plan is a Good Lesson Plan
A good lesson plan isn’t a magic bullet, but it is hard to have a well-managed classroom without good planning. When I’m flying by the seat of my pants, there is far more room for things to get out of control. When I know what I’m doing, have it written down, and have the materials ready, I can focus on the details of my classroom. Every lesson plan is flexible, but having half a plan is not going to go over well.
My favorite part of being a school librarian was that I had more time to collaborate with teachers and create my lessons. Everything was always well-prepared, and it showed in the behavior of the kids and the learning that took place. That made it really clear to me how important this step is. I wish it were as clear to administrators and policy-makers, who keep taking away planning time and adding more face-to-face time with kids. A teacher who is responsible for face-to-face time with kids for 5-7 hours each day and is expect to teach actual lessons for the majority of that time simply doesn’t doesn’t have enough time during the scheduled work day to prepare, plan, create, assess, and do all of the other things we are prepared to do as professionals. That’s why teachers work 10-40 hours a week beyond their scheduled time — for free.
I feel very strongly about this particular topic, as you can see. I think it’s a key point to both improving professionalism and student learning.
Don’t Let ‘Em See You Cry
You will cry during your first year. And probably your second. That’s okay. Let it out. But unless it’s the very last day of school and you are going to miss your babies when they move on to the next grade, don’t let them see you cry. This isn’t always possible, but try to keep those emotions away from your students.
Teaching is like acting, and you are playing a character. When I’m at work, I’m playing the role of Miss Anderson, and Miss Anderson is somewhat different person from Tara. Tara was a struggling young teacher trying to learn the ropes of the professional world, balance relationships with work, and deal with some big reality checks. Miss Anderson was there to teach the kids.
I cried once in front of my students after a conversation with an administrator. I had just come out looking bad in a very big misunderstanding (he later apologized), and I was overwhelmed with the unfairness of it all. Once I start crying, I can’t stop…and I had to go back to my classroom. I think it would have been easier to force myself to not have cried in the first place than it was to deal with my students questioning the tears. I learned the hard way to avoid crying in front of my kids at all costs.
The crying rule also applies to other intense emotions: anger (no cursing!), jealousy, and stress. I’m sure there are teachers who can let it all hang out and be “real” with their kids, but it’s best to get firm grounding as a teacher before you try to do so.
This post is posting on my very last teacher workday of my very last year as a middle school teacher, so I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Though I would never go back to my first year (it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done), I have learned much as a public school teacher. I’ll miss being part of the school staff and working so closely with the kids, making an impact on their lives. What teaching advice has stuck with you over the years? What teaching advice did you ignore? What lessons have you learned?
It’s kind of sad, but this is my last week as a librarian. I’m packing up the boxes and moving out of my office. I’m still going to read, review YA books, and run this little blog. And I’ll still *technically* be a librarian, just not a practicing/employed librarian.
My blog will get a new name and a facelift over the summer once I figure out what to call it. I’ve got two months before I start the next chapter in my life, so I’ve got time. But I’m looking forward to starting my Ph.D, working my butt off, and doing great things. For the time being, I’ll be spending my time in the academic library as a patron instead of a staff member.
And I can’t wait.
The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us
by Tanya Lee Stone
Viking Juvenile, 2010
Library copy from Junior Library Guild
[#36 in my 75 book challenge]
I guess you could say I was a Barbie kid. I had maybe ten Barbies and multiple outfits for each. I had Skipper and Stacie and maybe even Kelly and Krissy (I don’t remember). I had a Barbie pool, little hangers for my Barbie clothes, and lots of shoes. While I enjoyed playing with my Barbies, I never really gave Barbie much thought. But by the time I was a teenager, I was well aware that there are many Barbie lovers and Barbie haters out there. Barbie causes a lot of controversy across America, it seems, which is what intrigued me to read this book.
Stone tries to cover all things Barbie in an objective way, and this book is written for the young adult audience. I thought it did both of those things quite well, while also providing an overview for adults. I’m sure there are books out there going into crazy detail about Barbie, but I was happy with the 124 page overview. Topics and sections include:
- History of Mattel
- Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie
- History of Barbie
- Barbie as sexist/unrealistic/harmful
- Barbie as a fashion icon
- Barbie as a career woman
- Multicultural Barbies
- Mutilating/destroying Barbies
- Sexual play with Barbies
- Barbie in art
What I realized from my reading was that what kids think of Barbie does not seem to be the problem — it’s what adults think. Moreover, it’s what adults perceive about children’s behaviors and beliefs. A good portion of the book includes personal stories and memories that real people sent in to the author about their time with Barbies. It was interesting to see how other girls and boys felt about the doll as kids and adults in these reflections.
FINAL GRADEL: B This is a fascinating little book, and I’m glad it’s in my library. It’s informative and interesting, with lots of great photographs and quotes through the pages. The sexual discussions are all very tame, mostly mentioning how Barbies have no genitalia and how kids wanted Barbie and Ken to sleeping the bed together. Real Barbie enthusiasts will probably want to skip it, as I’m sure there is nothing new for them to learn. But for everyone else, I’d highly recommend it.
Did you play with Barbie as a kid? How do you feel about her now — love her, or loathe her?