YA Binge Reading

In addition to cleaning like a maniac as a form of procrastination before the school year starts (btw, I did finish a full-fledged top to bottom cleaning of our apartment!), I also binge read Young Adult (YA) literature. I used to read YA literature because I was a high school English teacher and I needed to know what level-appropriate books were out there for my students who were reading at a middle school level. Now, truth be told,  I read YA because it’s fun and easy and entertaining.

First books: Life as We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer: This trilogy is interesting in it’s concept, okay in its execution, and new (in my world of trilogy reading) in organization. The premise is that an asteroid hits the moon and all on Earth goes to hell in a handbag. The asteroid was supposed to be some cool once-in-a-lifetime event to witness, but it knocked the moon off orbit (like a game of pool) which greatly affected our planet = floods, volcanoes erupting, and pure chaos. Book one (Life as We Knew It) starts the series with a 15 year old girl in semi-suburban Pennsylvania. The second book (The Dead and the Gone) is the same story, but told by a Puerto Rican 11th grader in Spanish Harlem (NOTE: Latino male protagonist, guys!). It was both fascinating and a bit boring to read the same story from different geographic perspectives. In book three (This World We Live In) the characters from book one and book two meet.

Things that stood out to me from this series: the frantic food grabbing scenes, the importance of families, the cold weather and my desire for a wood burning stove, and the interesting set up of the trilogy.

Next book: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff: Oh, this was my favorite by far. A snotty, self-absorbed (although due to the untimely death of her mother, I’ll give her that) girl gets moved to the pastoral English countryside to live with her mother’s sister after she’s exhausted her father in NYC. Shortly after her arrival, England is occupied by a terrorist faction. Her and her cousins must survive living in a state of war which, of course, drastically reprograms her.

Things I’ll remember from this book: the palpable sense of terror in some parts, the quirky country family and house, the animals, the sense of confusion due to gossip when something goes drastically wrong, the sense that, “Wow–could this happen?” as I was reading.

Next book: Divergent by Veronica Roth: Touted as the next Hunger Games by the press (with a movie coming next spring), I must say I don’t agree (I’m a big Hunger Games fan, and I felt it was more interesting), but this book was a decent read and I’ll finish the series for sure.  Set in a future Chicago when the Great Lake is a marsh and something has gone largely wrong and created a new, messed up world, individuals are broken into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. You are raised in one faction, given an aptitude test at the age of 16, and then you chose your future faction. You must fit into one faction or you’re considered Divergent and a threat to society. Well–you guessed it–our protagonist is Divergent.

Things I’ll remember: The setting of what once was Chicago, the acts of the Dauntless, questioning myself the entire book on what faction I’d be in…I found it to be clumsily written from time to time, but that didn’t deter me from finishing the book.

Oh, and by the way, during the two weeks in which I read these five dystopian and disturbing books, I had total insomnia. I didn’t connect the two until I was talking about them to some friends at bookclub and then I was like, “Oh–that’s why I haven’t been sleeping!”

On a YA pause now, although I have the next in the Divergent series to read when I need my fix again. These books would all be great for classroom libraries. They are entertaining, decently written, and I think the students would read them. And, with the end-of-the-world theme proliferating TV and movies (“The Walking Dead” & “World War Z” to name a few), I think there would be buy in from the students into this YA dystopian genre that seems to be thriving like mad right now.

Happy classroom library restocking!