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Jul 3 2015

The Spotlight Book Club Presents: The Read Between the Lines Showcase

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The Spotlight Book Club is one of the most exciting things we do on the blog! As avid teen readers, it’s hard to find a book online book club with readers like us all over the world. Each month we choose a book, and we will give you the entire month to read it. On the last Saturday of the month we will post a selection of mini-reviews (ranging from one of us to all of us) along with (we hope) an author interview, giveaway, or something else fun! Throughout the month, you can start threads on our Goodreads group to interact with other book club members. The only rule is you can’t spoil the book for everyone else!

June’s selection was Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles!

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Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? Jo Knowles’s revelatory novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.

Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy café, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines.

This Spotlight Book Club wrap-up is a bit late – shoutout to our insanely busy lives that have only gotten crazier since the start of summer break – but better late than never, right? Interested in our thoughts? Here are our mini reviews!

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Read Between the Lines is a light, quick, and refreshing read with plenty of substance. Told in several short stories from different points of view, this book originally appears to be merely a collection of engaging vignettes. But the story turns out to be so much more than that. Jo Knowles does a fantastic job of showing how the stories connect in both subtle and monumental ways, compelling readers to consider how their actions may affect other people. I thoroughly enjoyed this clever and thought-provoking novel, and you can read my full review here.

Jul 2 2015

Ten Illuminations {31}: Classics

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Ten Illuminations is a bi-weekly feature hosted by Lit Up Review where we recommend our ten favorite books that fit under one topic. Inspired by The Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, Ten Illuminations gives you five people’s recommendations in one!

All teens end up reading some classics, so we’re giving you a list of our favorites in case you’re searching for a new one to read.

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765811The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor | Goodreads

I read this book last year for sophomore English, and it completely changed me as a reader. Before encountering this classic, I had never truly felt “all the feels,” but reading it showed me exactly what I was missing. Despite leading a vastly different life, I was more emotionally invested in the characters’ stories than I ever had been before. Their tales tore me apart and pieced me back together, gibing me a new book to add to my favorites list in the process.

Animal Farm by George Orwell | Goodreads170448

This book may be a bit of a jump from my previous one, but I love it just the same. An allegory for communism re-enacted by animals on a farm, this clever novel makes the story of a corrupt government entertaining and accessible. I’ll also take this opportunity to include a bonus illumination, mentioning my love for another George Orwell book, 1984, one of the most though-provoking dystopians ever written.

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It’s actually a bit funny that this is our Ten Illuminations topic because I just scheduled a post on my favorite classics that I had to read for school. I’m going to stay away from the obvious ones (ahem TKaM, P+P, and Great Gatsby, some of my favorites) because most of you probably already know about those.

Slaughterhouse Five Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut | Goodreads

This was the very last book I read for high school, and I’m so glad I went with the option to read this book. It certainly is a crazy, strange book, but once you figure it out and figure out how the different, seemingly unrelated portions fit together, you realize how beautiful of a story this is. It’s so well crafted. It’s gritty and sends an interesting message. It made me think about life, death, fate/destiny, human nature, and more. The book is so thought-provoking and being able to discuss it with my peers and analyze the text was such a treat.

The Awakening
The Awakening by Kate Chopin | Goodreads

This book got very mixed reactions from my classmates, and for much of the book, I was caught somewhere in the middle. But after having some time away from it and after discussing it with a friend outside of class, I realized how much I enjoyed this. It’s short, and I could see why others wouldn’t enjoy it, but if you look at the feminist message and the symbolism and word choices in the book, it becomes so much more interesting and layered. This is one of those books where the more you reread portions, the more you get out of it. I loved the sometimes subtle, sometimes outright feminist message in the book, and it should be a book every feminist/person reads at some point.

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4708The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald | Goodreads

Everyone loves The Great Gatsby, but I love The Beautiful and Damned. (I actually ranted on why I don’t like TGG here.) TB&D is hilarious, heartwarming, and features equally dislikable characters as in TGG, but they are far more enjoyable to read about. Anthony and Gloria are a couple with infinite problems, a complicated love, and individually they are even more of a mess. But somehow, they wormed their way into my heart and I adore them.

1885Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen | Goodreads

I read Pride and Prejudice expecting something I could barely understand and was dreafully boring. But oh boy was I wrong. It’s freaking HILARIOUS and I was honest-to-god laughing out loud multiple times. Once you get into the language it’s easy to follow, and the characters are so well written. Austen is truly a mastermind, and Pride and Prejudice is a great way to get a foothold into her work.

Read about some more of my favorite classics here!

Willa
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Jun 30 2015

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

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18075234Novel: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman | Goodreads
Release Date: April 21st, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

Mental illness is a tough subject to talk about in life, much less in young adult literature. How can authors do justice to those that suffer daily from a mental condition or disability? Despite the challenge of the subject, I remain a fierce advocate for diverse reading, a movement that supports more representation of mental illnesses in books for all ages. Because of this, I admire the authors who write about mental illness – depression, OCD, and anxiety are common choices – in their work, but, furthermore, I hold the utmost respect for writers who bring the topic to the forefront. Neal Shusterman’s latest release, titled Challenger Deep, is among many of this year’s publications that caught my eye for doing so. Inspired by his own son’s battle with a schizoaffective disorder, Shusterman’s book is intertwined with threads of what is real and what is unreal, prompting readers to ask the same question as the main character, Caden: what is the divide between life and fantasy?

Caden leads what many consider a “normal” life: he does well in school, regularly meets with friends, and draws in his free time. Unbeknownst to his friends, his family, and even himself, however, is that Caden’s sanity is rapidly declining due to a form of schizophrenia. Unlike most contemporary novels, Challenger Deep doesn’t need a relatable protagonist to be successful. Caden’s hallucinations are so detached from reality that it is difficult to connect with him, but the journeys he takes in his mind and in life act as the captivating component. Age has a powerful impact in this story as well; it makes it all the more interesting, if upsetting, to read of someone my age caught in the endless cycle of paranoia.

Throughout the novel, the chapters alternate between Caden’s home, where he is helped by his doctors and loved ones, and Caden’s mind, where he is tormented by a ruthless captain and a devious parrot. The divide between the two “environments,” for the lack of a better term, is lost in the final chapters, as Shusterman effortlessly transitions from the terrifying ship to the mental hospital, revealing the similarities Caden finds and creates in his brain. Unfortunately, this narrative style may lose its appeal for some readers, and even those who enjoy it may find one section of the novel more entertaining than the other {I personally found the chapters centered on Caden’s home life more fascinating than those centered on his hallucinations}. Nevertheless, the writing itself is superb, and Shusterman’s literary talent stands out among other releases.

Much of Challenger Deep focuses on Caden, as it should, but the secondary characters also hold significant roles. Caden’s parents are incredibly supportive and do whatever it takes to help their son, while his little sister is curious without treating her sibling with pity. I think it would have been interesting to see the strain Caden’s diagnosis took on his parents, but that comment is more of an afterthought than a critique. The friends of Caden are present in the novel, but they are also forgettable; one visits him in the hospital, but I can’t even recall her name. Finally, the patients and doctors Caden meets in his recovery shape him as an individual, whether it be the friend he makes of his map-obsessed roommate or the girl who stares out the window who offers him comfort each day.

Novels like Challenger Deep are not light reads, but an audience does exist for them. At one point, Shusterman writes, “Dead kids are put on pedestals, but mentally ill kids get hidden under the rug.” This statement struck a chord with me, and from the looks of it, with many other readers too. Caden may have been talking about treatment of the mentally disabled in society, but the statement is just as applicable to literature. How many novels are published that glamorize death or use one’s mental illness as a mere plot device? How many books are not being shared that explore fully and fairly the struggle of a mental condition? Final question: What can we do to change that?

Bella
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Jun 24 2015

Waiting on Wednesday {64}

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Waiting On Wednesday is originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, but we just love this meme so much we had to tag along! Each Wednesday, one of the Lit Up Review writers will post a book she is looking forward to, along with the summary and cover. You can find all of these posts by clicking on the category button and selecting “Waiting on Wednesday, and fill up your Goodreads shelves with great books to get excited about!

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Never, Always, Sometimes by Adi Alsaid | Goodreads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: HarlequinTeen

Dave and Julia are best friends. On the brink of high school, they made a list of cliches they would never do. Now in their senior year, Dave and Julia decide to try every Never on the list. As they break out of their comfort zone and have many adventures- both together and apart- they learn a lot more about who they are and what their true feelings are for one another.

I adored Adi Alsaid’s debut, Let’s Get Lost – the narration was so invigorating and refreshing. This book sounds just as engaging as his first. Between the fun, list-driven concept and the promising friendship development, Never, Always, Sometimes is sure to be a win.

Jun 23 2015

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

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20829994Novel: Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan | Goodreads
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought

A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.

So begins Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic—and sarcastic asides—to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who’s who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. “If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.”

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a collection of mythology stories surrounding the major Greek gods that is narrated by none other than Percy Jackson himself. The size of the book surprised me when it arrived at my doorstep last October – don’t expect to fit this one on your bookshelves next to your other Rick Riordan gems. It’s the size of the classic D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, but is much heavier. The book can be read alongside or separate from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series as it is a companion to Riordan’s other works. It is illustrated beautifully by John Rocco, the illustrator of all of Riordan’s beloved novel covers.

I am a self-declared mythology buff. I’ve studied it independently for most of my albeit short life and my mom integrated it into my curriculum when I was homeschooled. So I began reading this book with mixed expectations: I thought it’d be a fun, easy read but didn’t think I’d learn anything new from it. BOY, was I wrong. Rick Riordan really did his research, because though he tells the basic creation story of each god, he also includes SO many obscure details that I had never picked up on before. Each chapter is dedicated to a god and tells all sorts of short narratives about the god’s life and encounters with mortals and other mythological beings. Percy’s narration is hilarious and sarcastic and really the reason I picked this book up to begin with. He references characters from Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus, and also throws in modern day references to technology, etc. that add humor to the stories. The book really feels like it was written by Percy, even more so than the PJO series did, and Percy never disappoints. If you love the PJO series you will adore this book, and if you read this one without ever having touched a Rick Riordan novel, I guarantee you’ll want to upon finishing.

Rick Riordan and John Rocco are releasing a second mythology book this August called Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes, a second PJO companion book chronicling famous Greek heroes and their tales. Like Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, it will probably teach me something new and have me rolling on the floor laughing from Percy’s snarky commentary. For all Rick Riordan lovers, Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a must-read, but I extend my recommendation to all mythology lovers and book lovers alike because the charm of the illustrations, the captivating narration, and the notable details of the stories make this mythology collection unlike any other.

Martha
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