Tag Archives: realistic fiction

Review: Life As We Knew It

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Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1)Title: Life As We Knew It (The Last Survivors #1)

Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer — Twitter |  Website

Pages: 337

Released: October 1, 2006

Genre: Post-apocalyptic

Source: School library

 Goodreads SummaryMiranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

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In the middle of big life changes for Miranda — she’s growing apart from her two best friends, getting into swimming after a figure skating accident, and just found out her dad and step-mother are pregnant — and even bigger event looms. All the world is excitedly watching as a meteor is scheduled to collide with the moon. This event is predicted by astronomers across the country and is expected to pass with all the world watching but with little fanfare.

As soon as the meteor hits the moon, everyone knows something something is wrong. The moon is knocked harder than expected, tilting and moving it closer to Earth. Too close. In Miranda’s small town it’s the beginning of big change.

Cable is out. Phones are out. Tsunamis start across the world. Miranda’s mom goes into beast mode and takes out all the cash she can before taking her family try to secure any and all supplies they can from the stores. Miranda, her mom, her little brother Jon (future Yankee’s 2nd basemen), and older brother Matt try to settle in and live life as normally as possible…if normal means off-and-on electricity, no school, and rationed food supply. The sky becomes clouded with ash from volcanoes erupting across the U.S.

Winter sets in early, and life is anything but normal. Each day is harder than the last, and with food running low, Miranda doesn’t know how much more she can take.

What I Liked:

Between Ashfall and Life As We Knew It, I’m expecting the end of the world any minute now! This book was so realistic that I can definitely see it happening…and I can’t imagine what it will be like in real life.

I loved Miranda’s mom in this book. I hope that I’m as on top of things as she was when the world starts going downhill. She has a plan and is prepared to hit the supermarkets for anything they might need in the next days/weeks/months. She keeps her head throughout the book and has the perfect balance of hard love and being a softie.

I also loved the relationship between the family as a whole. The siblings obviously love and look out for each other. They all obviously love and respect their mom. Even though the parents are divorced, they get along wonderfully. It’s refreshing to see a family where there isn’t some awkward/awful family dynamic.

I thought the side story of Miranda and her best friends was very fitting. Before the disaster, Miranda and her two best friends are branching off in different directions: Sammi is chasing after boys, Megan is chasing religion, and Miranda is left not knowing exactly what to chase. The disaster seems to push Sammi and Megan even further along the roads they were headed down. Sammi turns to an older man to help her family survive while Megan follows her religious zealot reverend.

What I Didn’t Like:

I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like in this book! There could have been a little more action, but I’ve heard there is plenty in book two.

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I’m thinking of making an “It’s the end of the world as we know it…” display at school for post-apocalyptic books like this! I borrowed this book from my school library, but I don’t remember any of my students reading it this year. Since I hadn’t read it, I didn’t really book talk or push this book…but I will next year! I think my students will definitely like it. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series: The Dead and the Gone, which is told from the point of view of Alex who experiences the disaster in New York City, and This World We Live In, which brings together the survivors from the first two books.

When I was looking up information about the author, I found her blog and uncovered some great news…there will be a book 4! The Shade of the Moon just got picked up by a publisher and will hopefully be out next fall. You can read all about it (and even read the first chapter) in this blog post from Susan Beth Pfeffer.

I think I need to go watch The Day After Tomorrow now 🙂

 

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Review: Boy21

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Boy21Title: Boy21

Author: Matthew Quick

Pages: 250

Released: March 5, 2012

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Bought

Goodreads Summary: Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.
Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.
As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.

First off, I admired the dedication that Finley and Erin (his girlfriend) have towards becoming better basketball players. While Erin is a naturally talented basketball player who is the star of her Varsity team, Finley lacks the natural talent and works hard to be the best point guard that he can. Finley’s father tells him that he can always “outwork talent,” and that is exactly what he does, training with Erin before school even starts. I wish I had that kind of motivation in my body!

Finley lives with his dad and his Pop in a town pretty much ruled by the Irish Mob…a fact everyone knows and no one talks about. If you’ve ever seen the movie Gone Baby, Gone, that’s pretty much what I pictured when I pictured this town in my head. In a town where no one asks questions, Finley has learned that it’s best to just keep quiet…and that’s just what he does best.

When his coach asks him for a favor — to help basketball star Russ/Boy21, the son of a former friend — Finley does everything his Coach asks him to with no questions asked. Russ uses the persona Boy21 to hide from the real-world after experiencing a huge tragedy. Boy21 is a creature from outer space who is sent to “observe human emotions on Earth,” and he likes spending time with Finley since his quiet has a “calming presence.”  But Coach wants Finley to get Russ away from the Boy21 persona and back into life, especially basketball. I thought it was unfair of Coach to put so much pressure on Finley. I mean, it’s his senior year, he’s been training so hard, and he’s just supposed to step aside and let a stranger take his spot? That’s a difficult pill to swallow in the first place. Add to it that the person taking your place acts like he’s from crazy-town, and it’s that much harder.

Coach tells Finley that he chose him to help Russ because they have a lot in common, but it’s not really until the end (when both boys are ready to let go of the silence of their tragedies) that you find out not only what they have in common but why Finley holds so tightly to his cocoon of silence.

When tragedy strikes Erin, Finley is completely lost. I almost felt worse for Finley than Erin because of how helpless and hopeless he feels at first. It has been their goal all along to escape from Bellmont and start a fresh life together. But he is left wondering if they’ll ever make it out. And more importantly, if they will make it out together.

I was torn between liking/disliking Finley’s Coach. While I think he wanted Finley to truly be a friend to Russ and help him become grounded again, I couldn’t help but wonder if Coach was a little motivated by the selfishness of wanting such an amazing ball player to help his team. After Erin’s accident, it didn’t seem like Coach was there for Finley like he should have been, especially after putting such a large responsibility on him with Russ.

I would recommend that you have a tissue handy (just in case) for the last 20 pages or so. My heart just broke (even more!) for Finley, and I was rooting with all of my heart for him to be able to find some happiness!

I’ll be adding this to my classroom library, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of my students. I know this book will appeal to boys and girls, but it has a great cover and story to really draw in some of my more reluctant boy readers. I’ve added Matthew Quick’s Sorta Like A Rockstar to my summer TBR, and I’ll be anxiously looking forward to his next book!

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

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Freshman Year & Other Unnatural DisastersTitle: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Author: Meredith Zeitlin

Pages: 288

Released: March 1, 2012 (debut novel)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Public library

Goodreads SummaryKelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.
Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.
Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

This book is written in first-person from Kelsey’s point-of-view, and you can clearly and immediately hear her Typical Adolescent voice calling from the pages. Kelsey’s whole world is soooo unfair — her mother is always in her business (she feels), her little sister gets everything she wants (according to Kelsey), and everyone else has is so much better than her (she thinks).

I love the relationship that she has with her best friends. Even when times were difficult, and they didn’t see eye-to-eye, you could still tell that they all truly cared for and loved one another. Cassidy made me agitated for a while, but I was fine by the end of the novel 🙂

There were quite a few instances when I literally laughed out loud. Poor Kelsey couldn’t seem to catch a break sometimes, and her reactions were just priceless. With her wit and self-deprecating humor, she reminds me of Georgia Nicolson from the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Lousie Rennison.

I think the thing that I enjoyed most was that I could look back on my own high school experience and remember feeling all of the emotions that Kelsey felt. When some of my freshmen next school year read it, I’m hoping that they will see a little of themselves in Kelsey’s story and know that they’re not alone.

 I can’t wait to see more books from Meredith Zeitlin!