Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

The book starts off with Valerie Leftman, a junior in high school, making a list with her boyfriend. The list has all the future targets on it; all the things and people they hate most. One day, at the of their junior year, Nick, her boyfriend, unexpectedly pulls a gun in the cafeteria leaving 6 students and a teacher dead, and many wounded. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved a life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the lise she helped create. Nick later pulls the gun on himself, and Valerie is left alone to try and make sense of this horrible tragedy. After a summer of complete seclusion she is forced to go back to school to finish up her senior year and face the guilt. Throughout the rest of the book she tries to come to terms with the tragedy, and her role in it. She relives that day over and over again, and ponders why it happened to her. She believes the teribble relationship she had with her father, and the fact that she was a little bit of an outcast played a part in it. But she eventually recovers and mends all the broken relationships with her family and friends, and begins to move on.

Discussion Questions
1. Do you think Valerie should feel that much guilt for just making the list but not actually shooting the students? Is it her fault or just her boyfriend's?
2. If you were Valerie how would you feel coming back to school after the shooting?
3. Do you think you can ever fully recover when something that tragic happens to you?

Friday, January 7, 2011

The End of Forever

The End of Forever, a book written by Lurlene McDaniel, actually has two novels in it. The first novel begins with two sisters, Erin and Amy, who are complete opposites of each other. Erin is very serious, always on time and in general she is a perfectionist. Amy on the other hand is very optimistic, outgoing and looks for the fun in life without thinking about the consequences. Erin and Amy are always fighting about something in which they can't see exactly eye to eye. They get into an argument over how late Amy was when they were supposed to be practicing their parts for the upcoming play. Despite the small dispute from the previous day both girls perform excellently in the drama club's performance. The cast has a party to celebrate the play's success. Unfortunately, they run out of pop at the party and Erin is asked to go pick up more. Amy talks Erin into letting her go run the errand instead of Erin because she had recently gotten her driver's license and can't wait to drive. Erin eventually agrees to let her little sister go and watches as she pulls out of the parking lot into the downpour of rain.
After awhile, Erin starts to worry that Amy still isn't back with the refreshments. So Erin and Travis (Amy's boyfriend) go out looking for her and when they don't find her, they decide to call home because Amy must have gone home instead. Panic truly sets in when she calls the home phone and no one answers. Back at the theater Erin hears the devastating words, " ... there's been an's Amy,Erin. Amy's been in a terrible wreck"(McDaniel 45).
Weeks pass at the hospital, and Amy never comes out of her coma and her brain activity slowly decreases. Erin and her family decide to donate Amy's organs because they feel that even though it is a horrible loss, at least someone might me able to benefit from the tragedy.
The second novel is called Time to Let Go, it begins with Erin talking to a therapist. Erin isn't exactly happy with going to the meetings but she feels that if she has any chance of leaving to go to her dream school in a few months she has to get rid of the horrible headaches that she is suffering from. Erin feels as though her parents should be forced to attend these meetings too because the entire family had fallen apart after Amy's death.
As Erin and the therapist search for answers to her mysterious headaches, Erin lands the lead role in a play and she meets David. Slowly Erin starts to like David because not only does he try to help her with her ongoing headaches but Erin begins to realize that David is like Amy in many ways. Erin finally allows herself to fully grieve and afterwards she realizes that her headaches are becoming less severe and less frequent. I won't ruin the ending for you, but I think that McDaniel ties the two novels together nicely.
I think that the major theme of this book is to enjoy everything in life and never take anything for granted because you don't know what the future holds.
1) In the novel, Amy and her parents have to make the hard decision of whether or not to turn off the machines that were keeping Amy alive. Would you ever be able to make a decision like that?
2) Do you feel that the family made the right decision, to turn off the machines, due to the fact that Amy was brain dead?
3) It takes Erin the entire novel to figure out the main cause to her headaches. Have you ever been so preoccupied with trying to keep other people happy that you end up causing yourself to suffer?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an unusual mystery novel written by an unusual narrator. The author of the story is fifteen year old Christopher John Francis from England. What makes him unusual is Christopher suffers from fairly intense autism. Christopher is easily frustrated when he encounters uncomfortable situations. Christopher cannot understand emotions, doesn’t relate well with people, and cannot stand being touched. In some areas though, Christopher is a genius. He knows facts like all of the countries of the world and their capitols, and he excels in the math and science subjects. Christopher wrote this story as an assignment for his special school. His story begins when one night he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled by a pitchfork. Christopher decides he will take it upon himself to find who is responsible. At first he is blamed for the murder by the dogs’ owner, Mrs. Shears, who quickly calls the police. When the police begin questioning Christopher he is unable to understand why and is angered by the policeman touching him. He hits the police officer and is arrested and taken to jail. He is later bailed out by his father who the reader learns is Christopher’s only guardian and loves him very much. Christopher believes his mother died from a heart attack at the hospital which the reader later learns is false. Christopher’s father, wanting to keep him out of trouble, tells him to stop playing his detective games and forget about the murder. Christopher who has a great love for animals doesn’t understand his father's reasoning and decides to continue his detective work in secret and behind his father's back. As he digs deeper into the case he uncovers secrets in his own family. One day while alone at his home he sneaks into his father’s room and found a drawer of letters addressed to him from his mother. The letters have post marked dates after the supposed death of his mother. After reading the letters in which his mother describes her new life he begins to realize that his mother truly isn’t dead. When his father finds him reading the letter he realizes he can no longer lie to Christopher. Christopher’s mother had more of a temper and was less understanding than his father and always had a hard time dealing with Christopher because of his disability. She said she still loved Christopher but she couldn’t take him anymore so she ran off to London with Mr. Shears. Mr. Shears is the former husband of Mrs. Shears and he and Christopher’s mother had an affair behind the backs of Christopher’s father and Mrs. Shears. She said in her letters even though she had left, she still wanted to keep in touch with Christopher. Christopher’s father mad at the betrayal of his mother to their family decided to cut Christopher off from her, telling him she had died. Christopher unable to understand that his mother left him out of choice was mad at his father for lying. Then his father told him that it was he who had killed Wellington out of anger. Christopher unable to understand why his father would kill a dog no longer felt safe in a house with a murderer and liar. That night Christopher ran away. Having no place to go, he decides to journey to England by himself to find his mother. Can Christopher travel all the way to London by himself and find his mother and can his relationship with his mother ever be repaired, read and find out.
1. This story is much different from most literature because it is written in the unique perspective of a person with severe autism. His insight and thinking is very different from most normal people. Do you believe that reading a story like this can teach us how to better deal with people with disabilities and show how their thinking may be very different from our own?
2. Christopher’s mother leaves because she is unable to deal with his disability any longer. Do you think there would ever be a point as a parent that you would not be able to deal with your child any longer and leave him or her?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen is about a high school girl named Macy whose father recently passed away. Since her father's death, she blames herself, but always pretends like she is fine. Macy tries to live a "perfect" life, with the perfect boyfriend, job, and grades. Before her father's death, she never cared about appearance, but now she must look the part of perfection. Macy says, "If I wanted people to see me as calm and collected, together, I had to look the part" (Dessen 17). She must play every role of being invincible. Macy's boyfriend, Jason, is a genius and away at Brain Camp for the summer. Since she is alone for the summer, Macy's days consist of the boring job at the library and her nights of SAT prep. Macy and her mother rarely see each other since her mom is always occupied with work. She is content with her life, but when she begins working for the catering company, Wish, everything changes. She meets a creative, edgy guy, named Wes, who she begins to fall for. Instead of her SAT prep every night, she goes out to parties with her work friends. In the midst of her summer, Jason decides he wants a break with Macy because she decided to say "I love you." Despite the "break" with Jason, she finally begins to reach happiness with Wes. She can tell him anything and even share her feelings about her father, something she has not been able to do since his death. Macy and Wes grow closer throughout the novel as he shows her that there is more to life than striving for perfection. However, "perfect" Jason is coming back at the end of the summer. Who will she choose, the smart, geeky Jason or the edgy, artistic Wes?
1. In the novel, Macy is conflicted between Jason and Wes. She cannot deny her attraction towards Wes, but Jason is the "ideal" boyfriend and in her comfort zone. What would you do if an edgy guy/girl came along? Would you take the risk of trying things out or remain in your comfort zone? Why?
2. Macy's mother does not apporve of Macy working at the catering company or hanging out with her work friends. However, these are the things that make Macy happy. Would you listen to your parents if they told you to stop doing what makes you happy? Would you be willing to break the rules?

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

In Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult, June Nealon has had a tragic life. Her first husband died in a car crash leaving her to care for their young daughter Elizabeth. The officer who had been on the scene of the crash would check in on June multiple times and support her during her grieving. Believing she found the man of her dreams, June married the officer Kurt Nealon. Everything had been turning around for June only to have another tragedy strike her life. While June was pregnant with Kurt's child, a handyman named Shay Bourne that worked for June was accused of killing Kurt and Elizabeth. June was now alone and pregnant and had to go through the trial of her child and husbands murderer. In the end the jury claimed that Shay was guilty and he was sent on death row which was one of the first in many years for that state.

The story then changes to the view of life inside of the prison through the eyes of an inmate named Lucius who had been convicted of killing his boyfriend when he found him cheating. Lucius had a cell next to Shay's and gave insight to their time in prison. Not long after Shay had moved to the tier, things seeming like miracles began to happen. A dead bird was revived, Lucius seemed cured of his AIDS and the plumbing in the system was suddenly filled with wine with all signs pointing to Shay's doing. Word gets out of these miracles and the public gathers outside the prison with their sick ones hoping that Shay would cure them. They believed that he was the Messiah.

While these miracles were occurring, a priest named Michael had visited Shay to give him comfort and guidance while he waited for his death sentence to be carried out. Michael had been on the jury that convicted and sentenced Shay Bourne to death and was starting to feel remorse for the conviction. He started to grow fond of Shay and through the book he began to question his faith. In court on day, the chains hanging from Shay simply dropped off without reason. Seeing such a thing makes Michael start to believe that maybe Shay was in fact the Messiah.

During the time of Shay Bourne's incarceration, June Nealon delivers the child she had been pregnant with and named her Claire. Claire is found to have a failing heart condition. To live, Claire needs a heart transplant. In the meantime she had been given a pace maker to restart her heart if it quit on her but the solution was only temporary. The clock is ticking on her chances at living but then an opportunity arises at gaining an available heart, the catch is the heart belongs to the killer of her father and sister. Shay Bourne had seen Claire on T.V. and knew she needed a heart and desperately wanted to give her his when he was put to death. For Shay, the method of his death was lethal injection which would not make his heart viable for a transplant. The story continues in a fight with the system to allow hanging so that the heart may be used and the fight of June Nealon to decide if she will accept to put a killer’s heart in her remaining daughter to keep her alive.

1. In Change of Heart, June Nealon must decide if she will accept a heart from the killer of her husband and first daughter in order to keep her second daughter Claire alive. Do you believe that it is possible to forgive a killer? What if forgiving them could save someone you loved?

2. During the novel Shay Bourne causes father Michael to begin wondering about his faith. What do you think you would do if you began to question one of your strongest beliefs?