Archives for posts with tag: race

I’m not sure if Tom Leveen’s Party is even still readily available (Random House, $8.99), which is too bad because this book really impressed me. Each of the 11 chapters is narrated by one high school student, who is either going or perhaps avoiding going to an end of the year party. I’ve said this before, but I’m always a fan of these types of merry-go-round narrative books, when they are done well, and Leveen’s is. Reading various perspectives about the same events is a reminder of how differently we see the world, even when we’re standing right next to each other. Despite it’s seemingly innocuous theme, Party deals with a lot of complex issues: Islamaphobia, losing a parent to cancer, race, and depression. I definitely cried several times, especially in the first and last chapters. But don’t think that this book is all depressing either. There are a few funny moment, a bit of romance, and a reminder that best friends are always there for you, even if they haven’t been there lately. Furthermore, Leveen really magnifies the variety and multiplicity of teen voices. I’d love to see this book get more attention.

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YA books comprise one of my favorite genres. There are a number of interesting options now, and many authors are engaging creatively with narrative styles. I plan to return to this category often as there are a wide-range of sub-genres and so many excellent reads. Although cross-over books are pretty widely recognized, thanks to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, YA books still remain an elusive genre and one not easily defined. Are they defined by reading level or content? Authorial intention or marketing plans?  Readers or teachers/parents/and librarians?

In honor of this ambiguity, my first YA recommendation also poses a number of unanswerable questions, by challenging our conceived notions of fixed boundaries. David Levithan’s Every Day (Knopf, $16.99) is a unique inquiry into the relationship between body and soul. Is ‘who we are’ distinct from ‘what we look like’? Is love really blind or do we fall for the ‘package’ as much as the ‘person’ inside? What makes us human anyway? Readers will start asking these and other philosophical questions when they read A’s fascinating story.

A wakes up every day in a new body, crossing gender, race, ability, and sexuality. Creating a personal code of ethics, A discovers what can (and cannot), should (and should not) be done when you’re living in someone else’s life. One day A wakes up as Justin, meets Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon, and on that day A’s own life finally begins.

Every Day was just released in August 2012, but it’s already showing up on Picks of the Year lists. It’s edgy, thought-provoking, and has enough respect for teenagers to not force any conclusions on them. I’d love to see it on school reading lists, but because of it’s gender and sexual fluidity I wouldn’t be surprised if instead it’s frequently challenged. Families with teenagers should read it as a family. I’m sure it will spark lively discussions at dinner.


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