A Reaction to Las Vegas

I’m just going to put this bluntly: I’ve snapped.  I’m tired and I’ve lost it.  I don’t normally use profanity on this site because my mama raised me better than that (and because I know that some of you are younger readers), so I try not to.  But today…I may make an exception.

Because I am so bloody tired.

I am tired of waking up in the morning and learning about mass shootings that took place the night before.  My radio station even teased the news, saying something vague about 50 dying and, “We’ll tell you the rest after this song!”  My first reaction was that it was some kind of accident, like a plane crash or a train derailment.  It wasn’t until they came back that I learned the truth.

I am tired of going through the day waiting for answers.  Being a teacher and at work all day, I didn’t have any time to follow the news to even figure out what was going on.  (I didn’t even know it was an outdoor concert until lunch.)

I am tired of waiting for answers that will never come, like why this person picked this place.  Or why he decided to do it.  Or why he believed this was a good path to take.  Or why he continued for so long.  So many questions that will never be satisfactorily answered.

I am tired of the absolute bullshit happening in the media about mental illness because this guy was white and nothing about terrorism because he was white.  Apparently there’s some kind of guideline involved in calling it terrorism vs. mass murder, but I’m finding that line seems to only exist when religion and race are involved.  If you’re firing a weapon into crowds of people intent on killing as many people as possible, it’s fucking terrorism.  Done.  Look how easy that was to call it terrorism!

I am tired of nonetheless spending hours in front of the TV to figure out what happened.

I am tired of hearing the sentiment that even though it’s a tragic time, it’s so uplifting to see people come together to help each other.  It bothers me so much.  Like, you think you’re being comforting, but you’re really not because this shouldn’t have happened.  Sure, say it after a hurricane or something where people are reaching out to help neighbors.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t recognize the heroes who stepped up in these situations.  Last I heard, there was at least one Las Vegas cop who was killed at the concert and he deserves recognition.  But in a situation like this, it’s panic and pandemonium.  There was no forewarning.  So I don’t blame the people who fled for their lives and maybe didn’t stop to help someone else.

I am tired of anticipating the gun control “debate” that will surely rise, which will include one side insisting that all guns should be banned and the other side going out and buying even more guns to thwart the other side.  This is idiotic.  I’m all for regulations.  There have been too many shootings, too many mass murders, too many acts of terrorism in the US involving guns to continue on this current path.  Do you realize how stupid we look to the rest of the world, especially the ones that have outlawed or restricted guns?  (Yes, I’m aware that we have a second amendment, but guns in the 1780s were one shot, front loading rifles with little to no accuracy.  A fully automatic rifle or even a fucking revolver would have been unthinkable to the Founding Fathers.)

I am tired of having little to no hope that our laws will change any time soon.  Especially not with this president.

I am tired of wondering when this will eventually impact my life.  Because how can it not?  The statistics are startling and as a teacher, it seems all the more likely that some day, there may be an attack on my school and I may be in the crossfire.  I have never, not once since Sandy Hook, felt 100% safe in my job (and I wasn’t even a college graduate at the time!).  As teachers, we are more or less taught to protect the kids at all costs, even if we have to give our lives.  And that is fucking terrifying.  On days like this, I have a hard time juggling my daily job with what could one day be my responsibility.  (And don’t tell me I’m overreacting; we had a bomb threat a couple of years ago that was thankfully a fake, but could have been devastatingly real.)

I am fucking tired of feeling helpless in these situations.

I am tired of everyone offering prayers but not solutions.

I am tired of the rhetoric.

I am tired of the speculation of where it could happen next.

I am tired of fearing going to large venues with friends.

I am tired of fear.

But I am also emboldened.  I am fired up and ready to make a change, because this cannot continue.  Many of my friends are struggling to come up with the words to explain to their children how and why things like this keep happening.  And why should we when regulations, when policy changes can protect our children in the same way that children in the UK, in Australia are protected?  In both of those countries, they had wake-up calls after a mass shooting and they took steps to fix the problem.  So why do we keep making excuses about this one?

Why do we keep allowing it to happen?

Much like the violence itself, continuing on this path is senseless and destructive.

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Stay Where You Are And Then Leave

First Lines: (Er…I forgot to look before I took this book to school…?)

I can just picture your reactions now: “Oh my…is she…is that a REVIEW?!”  Yes, yes, I know it’s been quite some time.  It’s not that I’ve stopped reading!  It’s just that I’ve recently been reading a lot of nonfiction rather than YA.  I’m finding my history addiction is growing rather than shrinking.  But I did manage to squeeze a YA historical fiction in there for you.

This is the story of Alfie and his father, a soldier in the Great War.  When war breaks out on his fifth birthday, Alfie knows things are changing, but he doesn’t expect his father to be gone for 4 years on the Continent.  And when Alfie learns that his father isn’t on the Continent but in a hospital in England being treated for shell shock, he’s determined to help him as best he can.  But the lies are thick in England and Alfie will need to learn the truth if he’s going to succeed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book for a couple of reasons. First, this author wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which I couldn’t seem to like. (And not because of the ending, but because I thought Bruno was an idiot, even for a young boy.) And secondly, I don’t happen to find many WWI fiction books, so I don’t actually know how they’re going to go.

But I thought this was an insightful look at the early days of shell shock, or PTSD as we now know it. People had no idea what it was and it wasn’t viewed as a real illness, even though hundreds and thousands of young men came home seriously messed up. And we get to see that through Alfie’s eyes as he struggles with understanding what’s happened to his father.

I liked that this focused on WWI, which isn’t as well known as WWII. No one had ever seen a war of that magnitude before and they had no real idea of what it would be like or how long it would last. And this all comes out through the story.

I found I did like Alfie, especially since even at 9 years old he wasn’t an idiot. He didn’t always make the smartest choices, but he did what he thought was best. And he actually is pretty clever.

The plot was a little slow at times, but I also read it over the span of almost a week, so that might have been part of it too.  I couldn’t (and didn’t exactly want to) read it all in one sitting.  But that was ok.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting read.  It was a bit unexpected but entertaining.

The Friend-Zone: A Word War

Hey guys!  I’m still alive, though my reading has dramatically slowed with the beginning of the school year (as it always does).  Don’t fret; I’ll be reviewing books again…eventually!  But until then, I thought I would talk about a topic that truly bothers me.  And since we’re just getting back into school (for many of you, high school and college), I thought this topic would be appropriate.

“The Friend-Zone”

Image result for friendzone

I’m an English teacher, so let’s start with a definition, shall we?  Oxford Dictionary defines the “friend zone” as “a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other.”  (It also gives the helpful example sentence of “I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys.”  We’ll come back to this.)

Some backstory.  Growing up, I was always friends with guys far more than I was girls.  I couldn’t relate to girls as easily as I could boys, so my best friends most of the time happened to be guys.  Usually nerdy and awkward guys because that was the group I fit into.  I even had one teacher who gave me the nickname “the flirt” because she only ever saw me with boys.

Now, from time to time, this did lead to instances of either me or one of those friends having feelings for each other.  Especially in high school.  And look, that happens.  Sometimes sparks just fly.  And the more you get to know a person, the more you start to think…maybe…something could happen between you two.  Totally normal.

What’s not normal is the sexism that ends up in the mix.  I’ll give you two scenarios to prove my point.

Scenario 1: Sophomore/Junior year of high school, I developed a massive crush on a guy in show choir with me (let’s call him Trevor).  Trevor and I had a lot in common, we had fun together, and he even took me to prom (as friends).  His parents were pushing for us to be a couple, and so was I.  He was one of the first boys I was actually attracted to and seemed to be attracted back.  But I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I hung the moon on Trevor for 2 years.  I poured my heart out once to him, finally asking why we weren’t a couple.  He replied that he “wasn’t in the right mindset” at the moment for a relationship, but he thought he would be soon.  So I hung on.  Right up to his graduation at the end of my junior year, when I realized nothing was going to happen.

Scenario 2: Senior year of high school.  In my calculus class, there was a boy (we’ll call him Richie) who had been a friend of mine early in high school but who I hadn’t really seen since freshman year.  I looked forward to Richie coming into class every day because he always asked me about what I was reading that day.  (It changed every other day.)  Come prom season, I told him about my dress and that I was excited to go; I love formal dances.  He told me he had to work that night, so he wasn’t sure if he could make it.  I told him he really should come because it was a lot of fun.  He ended up showing up by the end of the night and we danced the final slow dance together…which is also when he kissed me.  I was absolutely, completely, horrifically blindsided.  Never had it crossed my mind that he liked me.  I tried to distance myself from him at school the following week.

Guess which of these two scenarios got labeled as the “friend zone”?

You guessed it, scenario 2.

Why, you may ask?  Because in scenario 2, a female (me) was denying a male (in this case, Richie) a relationship.  It didn’t matter that I was completely uncomfortable with the situation.  It didn’t matter that I had been kissed against my wishes.  It didn’t matter I wasn’t attracted to him in the same way.  What mattered was that I had rejected him, a guy who had given me special attention.

And look, let’s be honest, I was not high enough on the social ladder for rumors to really circulate about me.  And I was happy with that.  There was talk, but not nearly what it was when one of the popular boys was caught dirty dancing with a girl who wasn’t his girlfriend at the same prom.  It also helped that I never took that talk too seriously.  I knew who I was and was comfortable in my own skin.  I knew I didn’t want to be in a relationship with Richie and I let him know that.

But even now, I can’t describe to you how afraid I was after prom, when we ended up at his place for a “party”.  (It ended up only being us and one of my friends with her date.  No one else showed.  We watched She’s Out of My League, which was 100% true and prophetic in this guy’s case.  More on that later.)  I was alone with him for a long time before my friend showed up.  (Not totally alone.  His mom was upstairs, but you get my point.)  When he sat on the couch next to me, I tucked my feet up between us to keep some distance.  I think he even tried to give me a foot rub at one point and that definitely freaked me out.  I didn’t even want him to walk me to my car later that night.  And I definitely didn’t want to see him in calculus the next school day.

So imagine my already confused state getting even more confused when people at school seemed to be blaming me for not liking him.  Because that’s essentially what “friend zoning” someone is–blaming you for not returning the same feelings.

And that’s where I have a problem with the term “friend zone”.  It’s even present in that example sentence from Oxford Dictionary where it says, “I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys.”  Granted, this is 2017 and gender is fluid, but be honest and tell me you didn’t immediately read that sentence and picture a man talking about a woman.

Not once, ever, while I pined over a guy for two years did someone accuse him of friend zoning me.  I rarely ever saw anyone give him grief about leading me on for that long.  (Honestly, I only remember his mother doing that…)  If anything, I felt the blame.  Like I couldn’t hold his attention long enough.  Or I wasn’t exactly who he wanted me to be and I needed to change.  Or even that I was being clingy for wanting a relationship.

I can tell you, wholeheartedly, that this is not true.  And if you ever feel like you’re being blamed for not feeling returning someone’s interest, don’t.  You deserve better than someone trying to guilt you into a relationship with them.

The whole connotation of the term “friend zone” is that someone (typically male) is showing someone else (typically female) affection and they are being denied/rejected, thus making that affectionate person a victim and the denier the villain.  This is absolutely not true.  If you don’t feel it, then you don’t feel it.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I cannot stress that enough.  You shouldn’t be forced into a relationship you don’t want to be in because someone is upset you aren’t returning their feelings.  And if they truly loved you, they’d understand.  Life is about timing and sometimes timing sucks.  You just have to put on your grown-up pants and deal with it.  No one is entitled to a relationship with you.

With distance comes wisdom, and I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot in these past few years about perspective.  And I’ll share with you the aftermath of both of these stories:

Aftermath of Scenario 1: After Trevor graduated, I never saw him again.  Seriously.  It’s been a little over 8 years and even in my small town, I’ve never run into him once.  I’m not even Facebook friends with him because it hurt too much in the beginning.  After that, I didn’t care as much.  But his life went in a very different direction than mine, including a DUI charge when he was 20.  So…frankly, I’m glad I got out of that before things got out of control.  He thrived on drama, and I like peace.  Eventually, if we’d gone out, we would have broken up anyway, I’m sure.

Aftermath of Scenario 2: I felt terrible about the way I treated Richie.  (This goes back to blame game…I’m speaking from experience.)  We stayed in contact for a couple of years sporadically on Facebook, finally dating our sophomore year of college.  We went to different colleges, but we tried to make it work.  It was awkward; too much time had passed since we were truly friends.  And eventually he broke up with me because I was, and I quote, “too smart”.  The guy who said I friend zoned him in high school–and who was studying to be a doctor of all things–dumped me because he was intimidated by my brain.  Let’s just say that the feelings I harbor toward Richie can be contained in one finger.  Maybe two.  It was with a certain amount of glee that I swiped left on his picture when I saw it on Tinder about a year ago.

And to be honest, this whole “friend zone” thing didn’t stop after I graduated high school.  At least one other guy accused me of doing the same thing in college.  Girls, it will happen. You’ll meet a boy who wants to be you friend (whether that’s his only initial goal or not) and will get mad when you don’t want more.  It’s ok to say no.  You have that right, and no one can take that away from you.  And if you get into a situation where he doesn’t want to take no for an answer, seek help.  From teachers, friends, adults, councilors, police, complete strangers, anyone.  You are a human being with hopes, dreams, values, and an identity all your own.  They are not entitled to you.  They don’t get a say in what you do with your life.  It’s your life.  Be who you want to be and make the hard decisions.  Because if you aren’t doing what’s right for you, you’ll eventually regret compromising yourself for someone who doesn’t actually care about you.  Been there, done that.

If you’ve taken anything away from this, I hope it’s that you know that you’re worth it.  Wait for the right person to come along.  Because when he/she does, you’ll easily see how those other guys weren’t treating you right at all.

~Holly

We Will Rise: A Reaction to Charlottesville and Barcelona

Believe it or not, I’m something of an optimist.  I like to see the silver lining in everything.  But I’m also a bit of a realist as well, keeping my expectations in check.  (For example, I’m optimistic that this school year will go well and I’ll have great students, but I’m realistic in knowing that there will be a few who will test my patience to the extreme.  It happens every year and I don’t see why this year will be different.)

But this latest blast of bad news is awful and so demoralizing that there is no silver lining.  We think that because we are civilized nations, nations of great technology, that we are somehow superior to our ancestors.  And then things like this happen.  Charlottesville.  Barcelona.

I’m having some trouble putting my thoughts into words eloquently, so please bear with me as I attempt to explain myself.

Barcelona is, unequivocally, a tragedy of international importance.  As of this writing, there is still little news making its way to the States, only the death tolls and that the van driver has not been caught.  The fact that this person could drive through the streets/sidewalks and just mow people down is horrifying and my heart goes out to everyone affected.  No one should have to deal with this.  And it’s so terrifying because it could literally happen anywhere.  And that’s the point of terrorism.  It can happen anywhere, at any time, to anyone.  They’re trying to instill fear because it gives them power.

And Charlottesville.  I spent most of Saturday unaware of what was happening as I was stuck in a car for a long road trip.  But what I’ve learned since then has sickened me greatly.  Because, like Barcelona, this is terrorism.

I’m not denying that people have the right to free speech.  Both sides had permits to march that day.  And because we have that free speech, we also have the right to disagree with each other.  But free speech ends where that speech threatens another person.  And I’m not necessarily talking about death threats or threats of violence (though they absolutely apply); I’m talking about any time another person legitimately feels threatened by what you’re saying.  By saying their race needs to go; that their religion makes them monsters; that their gender makes them a sinner bound for hell.  When you hear these things enough times from enough different people, you start to hear the threats behind them.

While I 100%, absolutely, whole-heartedly disagree with President Trump’s “many sides” comment about Charlottesville, I understand where he’s coming from, in that at some point both sides likely tried to start fights.  I’ve seen videos that imply one side or another started a fight.  I don’t know; I wasn’t there.  Maybe both sides played a role; maybe they didn’t.  This article on mob mentality shows how quickly things can spiral out of control in large group settings, so I can’t say for sure that either side is completely blameless.  But I absolutely do not think you can put both sides on the same playing field.  One ideology preaches hatred and exclusion, the other acceptance.  While I don’t think violence is the answer, I think sometimes there is a need to show an amount of force.  I just prefer it to be in the form of legal documents and numbers rather than fists and clubs.

I cannot stand by silently while someone will not condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  That’s not how I was raised.  I was raised that people are to be treated equally.  I was raised to put myself in the shoes of someone else I had a disagreement with to first see their side before I responded.  I was raised to believe that everyone has value.

That is not the rhetoric of those who marched at Charlottesville.  I’ve seen the videos where they march and scream about how the Jews will not replace them.  I’ve seen the Nazi swastikas they carry and the salutes.  It’s frightening, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like to see it in real life.  And the fact that is such a blatant repetition of German Nazi rhetoric and actions is all the more threatening and horrifying.

What kind of things have to happen to a person so that they believe the things they do?  What happens to make them think Jews are trying to replace them or that an African American woman is more of a threat than a man in camo pants and carrying a rifle across his back?  What kind of life does that person have?

I am in no way trying to trivialize the situation as I make the following comparison; I am merely trying to find a context to make everything make sense.  But to me, I see a startling number of similarities between what is happening now and the plots of the later Harry Potter books.  (Again, in no way am I trying to trivialize what’s happened in real life.)  This rise of hatred reminds me of the resurrection of Voldemort and his Death Eaters.  The resistance to them reminds me of Dumbledore’s Army and the original Order.  And, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Cornelius Fudge (maybe Rufus Scrimgeour?) refuse to do anything about Voldemort’s return?  (It’s been a while since I’ve read the later books.)

And it’s from those books that I have learned what happens in these situations: fear will triumph for a time.  For now, we have politicians who fear coming forward and being vocal in their condemnation.  For now, we have average citizens who fear the consequences of standing against them and attending rallies for fear of being attacked.  For now, there are a number of people thriving on the thrill they’re feeling from being in that power position and creating that fear.  For once in their lives, they feel powerful and it’s addicting.

But if Harry and Dumbeldore’s Army have taught me anything, it’s that evil cannot and will not reign forever, not when there are enough people ready to fight for what they believe in.  The roots of evil may not fully disappear for a time (like Voldemort and his Horcruxes), but it can be extinguished.  The Phoenix will rise from the ashes.  We will persevere.  But it will not be a simple journey.  It wasn’t easy for Harry, Ron, or Hermione in Deathly Hallows, and it won’t be easy for us.

I have much faith in humanity, that right will eventually overcome wrongs.  It has in the past.  Slavery was eventually abolished (though after much horrific history that should never be forgotten) and the Nazis were defeated (ditto about the history).  The Civil Rights Movement finally brought about much-needed equality in terms of the law, even if certain lawmakers still try to claw their way back to Jim Crow.  We have risen above it before and I believe we will again.

It’s just so heartbreaking that the cost of bringing change to the world are the deaths of so many innocents.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations for People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

Hey guys!  So, as of today, I am officially back in school.  I’m both a little excited (summers can get surprisingly boring after about a month and a half) and a little sad to see summer is over.  And since I am an English teacher with many students who don’t read, I thought this list might be helpful.  As you all probably know, every reader is different.  Some of my students love YA, some don’t.  And I wondered what YA books I could recommend to them that would be different but interesting.  So let’s see what I found!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Book Recommendations for People Who Don’t Normally Read YA

  1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

    This brilliant book is exciting, action-packed, and even has aliens.  I picture this as a book for some like Mission Impossible/James Bond fan.  Or maybe Independence Day.  Probably that one.  It’s a bit slow in the beginning, but it gets way better.  And not everything is predictable.

  2. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

    Already in its favor, it has won a Michael L. Pintz honor, so it’s basically critically acclaimed (some people are snobby about that stuff).  Anyway, it’s kind of a utopian story, but also a bit of a mystery and a political thriller.  It’s definitely weird, but I expected nothing less from Shusterman.

  3. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

    This is such a perfect life (er…afterlife…) story.  Beautifully written and emotional, it takes a look at what it means to have lived and moving on.  I think this is perfect for those philosophically minded folks who want some deeper meaning from their reading.

  4. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

    I like reading diverse books.  This is the story of a young Haitian girl living in Detroit and trying to learn how American culture is different from her own in a very dangerous neighborhood.  It’s real, and sometimes that makes it really hard to read.  But this definitely means something and I want to spread the word.  Oh, and if I remember right, it’s probably better for more mature audiences.

  5. Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat

    I adore this story.  It deals predominantly with class and money, which I think is an underrated topic in books, regardless of genre.  (Sometimes, they cover moving up in social classes, but this one discusses moving down, which is rarely written.)  It talks about stereotypes and other things we don’t care to admit we think.  And it’s cute.

  6. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

    Let’s enter the brief historical fiction section of this list.  This takes a look at the very real terrors that were committed in insane asylums in the past from “professionals” who were little more than sadists.  This book is alternately horrifying, emotional, and hopeful.  But it’s also definitely dark.

  7. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

    This one is amazingly written and I probably should have moved it up higher if this was an actual ranking.  A mystery set in the later 1800s, a young girl sets out to discover who murdered her father–and tried to make it look like an accident.  It takes her all over the darkest corners of New York City, to places that you can barely even imagine existed at one point.  Very historical, sometimes dark, and sometimes funny, I thought this mystery was one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

  8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

    Kind of a crossover hit already, Shatter Me seems perfect for more poetry minded people, since Juliette’s style is very lyrical already.  Yes, it plays into the dystopian style that has become so common in YA–let alone the romance–but it is so beautifully written that I couldn’t leave it off the list.

  9. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

    A fascinating look at mental illness, this story will continually surprise you.  I think this is great for people who don’t normally read YA because it seems to defy the genre in different ways–unreliable narration, shocking twists, maturity not always seen in main characters, etc.  It’s different and I love it.

  10. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

    This is by far the darkest book I have on this list, but it’s also the one that I think matters the most.  Following a girl of Middle Eastern descent, she tries to break with some of her parents’ traditions since she’s grown up in America and wants to act like an American.  It’s absolutely horrifying what happens to her, but it’s also something that is socially acceptable in places around the world.  Far from being written to shame a culture, it’s more written to explain the different culture and help us understand what girls like Naila are up against.  This is definitely for more mature audiences.  Like, this is one I would never ever recommend to middle schoolers.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Recently Added To My To-Read List

Hey guys!  This is really my last week of freedom before I have to go back to school (noooooooooo) so I thought I’d take advantage of it and write about books.  I don’t do that enough, right?  Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the books I’ve recently added to my to-read list and why.  Maybe you’ll find something new there too!

toptentuesdayBooks I’ve Recently Added To My To-Read List

  1. How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat

    I absolutely loved Roat’s debut novel Between the Notes, so I’m interested to see what this one does.  Vicki creates a perfect life online, only to discover that there are others like her, who feel alone and hopeless.  I have this as an ARC, so hopefully I can read it soon!

  2. Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

    Seriously, who doesn’t like Kenneally?  I just need to keep plugging away at this series.

  3. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

    I have this from the library!  I just need to read it.  I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, but it had a diverse main character (she’s Muslim) and there’s something about monsters (figuratively, I believe).  Guess we’ll see!

  4. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

    A story of two people whose timing is off, this feels a bit like Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares.  It involves two people working at a bookstore, notes, and a little bit of a tragic backstory.  I’m interested to see how this plays out.

  5. Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

    I only added this one after much deliberation because I’m very very afraid of how this relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler is going to be portrayed.  I’m interested…but hesitant.

  6. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

    I actually have this as an ARC and I think I’ll be reading it in the next week or so.  It’s a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing (which I love anyway), but it’s set in the 1920s with Prohibition and all that fun stuff.  I’m totally game.

  7. Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

    This one feels like a cool fantasy novel.  Basically, there are a bunch of illegitimate children who feel left out by their parents and they befriend each other and, I think, try to stop a rebellion since they’ve become targets.  Sounds full of action and probably some interesting characters.

  8. Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

    Now this looks cool and pretty funny while being deep.  Briefly: Will has always been blind and that doesn’t make high school easy, so he’s just happy when he’s made some friends.  Then he learns he qualifies for a surgery to give him sight, only he then finds out that the seeing world has been keeping secrets from him and his friends haven’t exactly been honest about a few things.  It looks funny and I’m truly interested in the insights he’s going to come away with.

  9. Every Little Thing by Jill Hathaway

    This book goes way dark side, far darker than I usually go.  Briefly: Lil is suicidal and self-destructive, but that changes when, after writing a suicide note and wrecking her car, she learns in the hospital that she killed someone.  Lil, depressed, says she did it on purpose and goes on trial for murder. But this is also supposed to be uplifting (somehow), and I’m interested in seeing how that plays out.

  10. The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

    This feels a lot like a Sarah Dessen/Morgan Matson story.  Briefly: Lucy and Ben are secretly crushing on each other, and just as they’re about to spill the beans, Ben’s sister drowns.  A year later, Lucy and Ben reconnect near the anniversary of the drowning and they have to decide if they can move past it.  It’s heartbreaking (which I’m always drawn to), but I think it will also be uplifting and cute.

Asylum (Asylum, #1)

First Lines: They built it out of stone–dark gray stone, pried loose from the unforgiving mountains.  It was a house for those who could not take care of themselves, for those who heard voices, who had strange thoughts and did strange things.  The house was meant to keep them in.  Once they came, they never left.

For a couple of years in my classroom, this book has had quite the following among a select group of students.  And for a long time, they tried to convince me to read it.  I’m not opposed to horror/scary stories, but I have a hard time reading them because I feel like I can’t read them late at night.  (I sometimes get nightmares; thanks, Stephen King.)  But having read another Roux book, I thought I’d give this a try.

Itching to get out and experience the world, Dan thinks the perfect start is to go to New Hampshire College Prep.  It’s a program on a college campus that gives students a taste of college, pulling students together from all over the country.  It’s perfect for Dan…except for the part where summer housing has been closed and they’re forced to stay in the Brookline dorm–a former sanitarium.  As Dan and his new friends Abby and Jordan begin exploring Brookline, they discover the horrible things that happened there, and the secrets that tie Dan and his friends to the asylum’s past.  Because Brookline wasn’t just a hospital, and sooner or later the truth will come out.

I can see why middle schoolers like it. The pictures (similar to the ones in the Miss Peregrine books) give a creepy feel to the book in a way that words alone don’t. The asylum setting is definitely creepy. The strange happenings at the asylum are also sufficiently creepy.

But that’s about all it was. It was low-level creepy, enough to be unsettling. And that was mostly because Dan starts to become a potentially unreliable narrator. But beyond that? It wasn’t the scary, nightmare inducing story I thought it was going to be.

I’m starting to notice this with Roux’s work, actually. The plots always sound incredibly interesting and creepy, but the follow-through just isn’t there. Suspense is not something she excels at. She really just seems to take things that are normally creepy and hopes that their creepy factor is enough to carry the story.  After trying two different series by her and being underwhelmed by them both, I think I’m just done with her writing.

The characters were interesting enough, if sometimes acting in unexplained ways. Like sometimes the characters fight and none of them know why. Or they talk in slightly bizarre ways (Felix comes to mind here). So I didn’t really connect with the characters as well as I would have liked.  I mean, they just didn’t feel like people.  Even the main characters felt like caricatures.  Actually, now that I think about it, that’s the way characters are in horror movies too, and it’s the exact reason why I can’t stand horror movies.

It’s not a bad read. It’s actually pretty quick. But I think a younger, less choosy audience (like my students) would like it better.