Posts Tagged 'Cancer'

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 360 p.

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends who attend a very liberal arts minded school where every student must join an after school club.  Jasmine is in the theater club, but quickly realizes that she will only be considered for certain parts due to her race and body type.  Chelsea, meanwhile, is in the poetry club but quits after it becomes clear that the teacher moderator is only interested in the classics, which in her opinion are old white men.  They end up deciding to create their own club called Write Like a Girl, which begins with a blog where they can write poems, post artwork, and feature women artists of all backgrounds.  There are some who object to the content early on and believe they are being too sensitive, but they push on to get their point across that they are at a daily disadvantage due to gender, race, body type, age, etc.  As they continue to find projects to express themselves they realize that there are plenty of women out there who also want their voices to be heard.  Unfortunately, the school administration does not want there to be any “incidents” that “instigate” trouble at school and threaten to ban their club.  How will Jasmine and Chelsea react to yet another group trying to silence their voices?  How do their families feel about their activist (or artivist) movements?  How do they balance all of these feelings and actions with the very real struggles that face them in their day to day lives?

This story is inspiring from the very beginning.  The way it is written the reader can easily see why the best friends would be so frustrated in their situation while at the same time the people who have all the power in their lives believe they are overreacting.  This book is very timely as there are many events that have happened this year that have really shown us all how certain people do not have the same voice in society due to race, gender, socioeconomic status, age, and so on.  Many people have been operating under the assumption that everyone in society has equal rights and that those rights have come a long way from where we were 50 years ago, but it’s apparent now that we still have a long way to go.  I also really liked how the characters stressed the importance of art in a variety of formats for truly making change and for helping them cope with their feelings and life events.  So often, writing, poetry, theater, and art are overlooked in schools and these forms of expression can be invaluable to students who need ways to share their voices and experiences.  There’s a lot to absorb in this story and many readers will find that it is wroth a second or third read. Highly recommended.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  318

RAC Book:  Yes

Augustus “Gus” and Hazel meet at a Cancer support group.  Hazel has thyroid cancer that forces her to use oxygen 24/7 and despite a new miracle drug, has always been given a short life expectancy.  She has adjusted to her relatively simple life, but that changes when she meets Gus, who lost a leg to Cancer, but has been Cancer free ever since.  They begin talking and exchanging favorite books.  Gus makes a huge gesture for Hazel so that a dream of hers can come true.  It isn’t until afterward that Hazel realizes how much he really gave to give her that experience.  As these two begin to fall in love they cannot help but wonder how long they really have and what they should do to make every day count.

This story is well-written and engaging.  Hazel and Gus’s story will resonate with young readers because of their sheer honesty and willingness to never give up.  The issues they have to deal with seem so heavy compared with other love stories, but it comes across as uplifting and life affirming instead of depressing.  Highly recommended.

Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  276

RAC:  Yes

Iowa Teen Award Winner

     Rosemary has struggled with her weight for a long time, but whenever she gets upset she turns to food.  Her aunt constantly reminds her to lose weight, which doesn’t seem to help inspire her either.  One New Year’s she decides she is ready to take control of her life and begins dieting and exercising, not always in the best manner.  As she begins to lose weight she finds more confidence than she ever knew she had before.  It isn’t long before she has a new best friend, a boyfriend, and overall happiness.  That all comes crashing down when she learns that her mother is battling Cancer.  Her mother is not the best at opening up and sharing her feelings, which makes it all the more difficult for Rosemary to discuss the matter with her.  Can she help her mother cope with this devastating disease?  Can she do it without falling back into her bad eating habits?

     Rosemary’s story is something any teenager could relate to because she has many insecurities and things she would like to change about herself.  She reaches the point where she is mature enough to realize she has the power to take control and make changes to her life if she wishes, but is not ready to deal with truly tough issues yet.  Rosemary’s romance is sweet because her boyfriend likes her for herself and not what size she wears.  There are references to his family that shed light on his endearing personality.  Rosemary goes from wishing she could stop eating sweets to finding ways to help her mother during this difficult time.  It is a coming of age story that readers will enjoy.

Princess of Las Pulgas by C.Lee McKenzie

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  348

RAC:  Yes

Carlie, her mother, and her brother must move from their home after the death of their father/husband due to the mounting medical bills.  Not only must they leave their home, school, friends, and neighborhood, but they must move to a rough part of town that is the rival of their old school.  When they begin their new life they are all still dealing with the loss of their father/husband and therefore appear disengaged from their daily activities.  Carlie in particular is targeted as being standoffish and is criticized for believing she is better than everyone else.  Can she ever find a place for herself in this new school?  Will she ever find a way to cope with the loss of her father?

This story shows how the death of a loved one can and often does affect every aspect of a teenager’s life.  Carlie’s mother is clearly struggling with the loss of her husband, but at the same time is having a difficult time helping her children come to terms with the loss of their father.  Carlie’s brother, Keith, and herself handle their new surroundings differently, but the reasons behind their actions are very much the same.  Carlie’s perception at her new school clouds her experience and makes her easy fodder for bullies.  All in all, a good story about a family coping with death and transition after death.

Waiting For Normal by Leslie Connor

 

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  290

2010 Iowa Teen Award Winner

RAC Book:  No

Addison and her mother have just moved into a trailer because her mother divorced Addie’s stepdad and he got custody of her two little sisters.  Dwight, her stepdad, promises to check up on her and bring the girls to visit, but Addie is not convinced that this will happen.  She misses them so much because she knows that life with her mother is unpredictable and hard.  As time goes on, Addie befriends the two people who work in the mini-mart across the parking lot.  Her mother disapproves, but Addie enjoys hanging out with them and knows she can always count on them.  Addie’s mom starts spending more and more time away from the trailer working on a new “business” and Addie begins to wonders when she’ll ever have a normal life and a normal family.  She begins to think she should stop thinking about it in case it never happens. 

Addie’s story is very believable as there are many young people out there who live in unstable homes with unreliable parental figures.  Due to the fact that Addie is very responsible, her mother takes advantage of her and treats her like another adult instead of like a child.  The characters are compelling and interesting.  Addie’s problems continue to get worse and it’s easy to see how she might begin to feel hopeless, but there is always a glimmer of hope and the story has a satisfying ending that will leave young readers happy.   Highly recommended for late elementary and junior high readers.

Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of Pages:  143 p.

RAC Book:  Yes

Award:  Iowa Teen Award Winner 2009-2010

Izzy is a fifteen year old girl telling the story about when she was diagnosed with Lymphoma and how her life changed because of it.  This is a story about a girl who survived Cancer, but that does not mean it was easy.  Izzy had to struggle with terrible side effects from the Chemo, being treated differently at school, and even watching her family suffer as they watched her become weaker.  Izzy was surprised at how different people reacted to the news that she had Cancer.  Some people believed she must have done something bad in a past life, others kept telling stories of people they knew who had Cancer and died, and still others left her alone because they did not know what to say.  She missed the days when all she worried about was school and tests, but Izzy makes it very clear that her story is important because not all people die from Cancer.

This is an honest story about a young person with Cancer.  It depicts the many difficult aspects of having Cancer, both physical and mental.  Amy Goldman Koss wanted a book out there that did not end with a person dying because there are too many books and movies that end that way.  She wanted a book about a person who fought it and lived.  The reactions of Izzy’s friends and family were also interesting and might help any young people who know someone who is very sick.  It can be difficult to know how to react in a situation like this.  An interesting and quick read.


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