Posts Tagged 'violence'

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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Genre:  Science Fiction/Fantasy

# of Pages:  400

RAC:  Yes

Darrow is a “red” in a caste society where reds work below the surface of Mars trying to terraform the planet for other life forms to eventually come live on the surface.  The work is hard and thankless and they are compensated with hardly any food and poor living conditions.  Darrow’s wife, Eo, believes there is more than the “golds” are telling them and thinks they should revolt in order to get to the truth.  Darrow lost his father when he peacefully protested their work conditions and does not want to lose anyone else.  When Eo defies the golds anyway, she is publicly hanged and Darrow refuses to let this go.  He eventually gets a makeover to make him look like a gold so that he can infiltrate the golds to take them down from the inside.  He learns that the golds have been hiding a lot about the actual development of the planet Mars in order to keep them in a lowly position.  He vows revenge for his entire family who are starving and slaving so that others can grow fat and rich.  Will they discover he is not truly a gold?  Will he find any compassion for the golds he has come to despise?

Fans of futuristic fiction will enjoy this title because there is a lot of violence and colorful characters.  The story eventually evolves into a competition similar to the Hunger Games that will keep even reluctant readers’ attention.  Many questions are left unanswered and there is currently one sequel already.  While it is similar to other titles out there it is unique enough that it is finding an audience of supporters who desperately want to know what will happen to Darrow.

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The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

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Genre:  Realistic Fiction/Mystery

# of Pages:  344

RAC:  Yes

Cia Vale lives in a very small farming community on the outskirts of their civilization.  The civilization was once ravaged by the Seven Stages War and everyone left behind is simply trying to survive.  Every year when the local school graduates a class of students everyone secretly hopes that someone from the government will arrive to invite someone to the Testing.  The Testing is a super secret test that only the best and brightest are invited to.  No one really knows what it entails, but if you do well you get to go on to higher education.  Cia’s father underwent the testing in his youth and is a very accomplished scientist, but he does not remember much about the test and seems leery of wanting his children to have this same great opportunity.  No one from Cia’s community has been chosen for years, which is why it’s so surprising when four are invited, including Cia.  As Cia begins her journey she is warned to trust no one.  What has she gotten herself in to?  Will she ever return from the Testing?

This book is definitely similar to The Hunger Games and Divergent, but for readers who enjoy that type of novel it is still very engaging.  Despite some of the similarities to other stories out right now many readers will care about the characters in this book and wonder what will happen to them through the course of this testing.  The book does have a fair amount of violence, betrayal, and overall treachery so readers who prefer lighter novels should keep looking.  Recommended for reluctant readers.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

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Genre;  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  400

RAC:  Yes

Karl is living in Berlin in 1934 and although he does not look Jewish or practice any Jewish beliefs he has ancestors who were Jewish and because of this connection has started getting bullied by the Hitler Youth.  After one particularly bad beating he had to go serve at his father’s art gallery opening and he meets Max Schmeling, the famous German boxer.  Max offers Karl free boxing lessons in exchange for a painting and Karl takes this promise seriously.  He begins working out on his own while Max travels overseas and it’s almost a year before he actually joins the Berlin Boxing Club with Max as his coach.  He begins fighting in some junior competitions and slowly the men from the boxing club begin to support him.  Karl is always careful never to reveal details from his personal life, however.  At home, he has been expelled from his school and evicted from his house because of his heritage.  His parents fight all the time and do not know what to do.  Things finally come to a head on Kristallnacht and Karl knows they need to get out.  Is he strong enough to stand up and fight for his family?  Who can he rely on for help?

Fans of Between Shades of Gray, Night, and Sarah’s Key will enjoy this title.  It is very serious and realistic in how Karl and his entire life begin to unravel during WWII.  You also see many periphery characters and how they react to their own changing environments, some for the better and some for worse.  Karl is a very honest young man and often admits he wishes he wasn’t Jewish so that he wouldn’t have to worry about the abuse and prejudice.  He doesn’t hate his old friends for joining Hitler Youth because he is too jealous.  He has no connection to his Jewish faith which means he has no conviction to fight for it.  He does not handle every situation heroically, but he does respond the best way he knows how at the time.  The boxing aspect provides a unique spin on things because boxing was big during this time in Germany and although trained people could ensure a fair fight, the outside world is not so simple.  Highly recommended.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

Genre:  Realistic Fiction
# of Pages:  270

RAC Book:  Yes

Chiko and Tu Reh live very different lives in modern day Burma, but are forced to make tough decisions through circumstances beyond their control.  Chiko has always been raised to study and read and therefore does not have the strength or skills to fight in an army. He is forced to be a soldier by his government anyway, however.  He must learn quickly what it takes to survive in a far off camp away from everyone and everything he has ever known.  Tu Reh remembers when the Burmese soldiers burned down his family’s home and left their village in despair.  He is surprised when his father chooses to show an injured soldier mercy and must come to grips with the decision he ultimately decides to make.  Can either boy survive to reach adulthood in this war torn country?  Will they ever find the strength to make those tough decisions?

This book will feel like a historical fiction book to many students because it can be hard to believe that teenagers their age really live this way in the modern world.  That is why it is important for any student reading this book to know that this is what modern day Burma is like.  Teenagers are struggling to feed and protect their families and have had to change their ultimate goals in life accordingly.  These two characters accurately portray the different cultures that are currently at war in Burma and how young people are in a fight they do not understand.  Their motivations, frustrations, and individual feelings are truly illustrated for the reader and will leave the reader with a better understanding of what it is like to be a teenager in Burma at this time.  Recommended for class or individual reading assignments.  Teachers are encouraged to discuss Burma in some detail with any student who reads this so that he or she can properly understand the accuracy of the depiction.

We Beat the Street by The Three Doctors

Genre:  Nonfiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  183

RAC Book: Yes

Awards:  Iowa Teen Award Winner 2009-2010

This true story follows three young men as they grow up in tough neighborhoods and through sheer luck manage to escape big trouble with the law.  They find themselves at an informational meeting about a program that helps inner city kids become doctors.  The three make a pact to see it through to the end.  There are many times when one or another wants to quit and the other two have to remind him of why he wants to be a doctor.   The story tells of some of the trouble these boys got into as young kids and why it is so difficult to even go to college from where they come from.

This story does try to tell the story as accurately as possible.  The neighborhood friends and scrapes with the law are all mentioned in vivid detail, but in each instance they somehow manage to escape unscathed.  There are many young men out there who are not so lucky.  The pact was a good way to keep each other motivated and it is unlikely that all three would have succeeded without the other two.  Readers who liked Hole in My Life will like this one, but the writing is not as sophisticated as that one and often details are glossed over in order to move the story along faster.  An interesting story for those who like nonfiction.

Endgame by Nancy Garden

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 15 and up

# of Pages: 287 p.

RAC Book: NO

Gray Wilton and his family have just moved to a new town partially due to his behavior in the previous town. The book is set up so that Gray recounts the events of the past year to his attorney, but the reader does not know why he needs an attorney for a while. Gray began the school year with a positive attitude. He wanted to have good grades and play drums in the band, but despite his best efforts he becomes the target of some ruthless bullies. If that’s not bad enough, he fights with his father a lot because he does not feel he can be honest with anyone regarding the bullies and therefore gets into other kinds of trouble on his own. As the year goes on, things get worse and worse until Gray feels he must take drastic and disturbing measures.

This book focuses on violence in schools. While some scenes in this book may be a tad dramatic, there are probably many students out there who live life with daily fear of getting made fun of or physically injured at school. Gray’s reluctance to seek help starts to seem difficult to understand as things continue to get worse for him. In the end, it is clear that he has no idea what he has really done and what it means for the rest of his life. This is a powerful story that contains no easy answers, but many questions for adults and teens to consider about this difficult topic.


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