Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In The Shadows

In The Shadows

Text Story by Kiersten White/Art & Art Story by Jim di Bartolo


If you could live forever, what price would you pay?

Two sisters living in a sleepy Maine town hope for very different things. Sixteen-year-old Cora wants nothing more than to move past the wild emotions of her youth, while fifteen-year-old Minnie wishes everything in her life felt as magical as the Gothic novels she devours. Both girls are intrigued by Arthur, the boy with no past but an abundance of mysteries, living in their boarding house.
When two new boarders, brothers the girls'' own age, arrive unexpectedly, the beckoning night pulls the teens out of the house and into a mystery. But as the new friends grow closer, their adventure takes a turn for the worse. Something sinister is happening in their sleepy town, and the teens must uncover the truth about its shadowy history — before the menacing past of one of their own catches up to them.

My thoughts:

In The Shadows is a wonderful collaboration between Kiersten White who provides a beautifully written gothic narrative and Jim di Bartolo who supplies a dark and mysterious wordless graphic novel adventure.  In White's story Minnie and Cora, whose mother owns a boarding house in a quiet coastal town, are surprised when a mysterious boy name Arthur shows up on their doorstep with nowhere else to go.  Arthur, who is quiet and keeps to himself, ends up staying at the boardinghouse longer than planned having been mesmerized by the sisters especially Minnie.  With the arrival of Thomas and his severely ill brother, Charles, Minnie introduces the teens to the local folklore starting with a trip to the witch's house which sets the teens on a path to discover that not all is as it seems in the quaint little seaside town and causes Arthur to take on a quest that he never wanted. Di Bartolo's graphic novel takes place over a span of a hundred years and follows one man as he tracks a group of men that hold a little blond boy in chains with in an iron cage.  Readers will be unable to put down this compelling read as they try to figure out how these two stories are related which is not at all obvious at the start.  By the end of the book as the two stories connect to become one complete tale readers will be amazed and want to go back through the story to see if there was any clues that were overlooked.  In The Shadows is a unique and wonderfully maddening hybrid novel that readers and non-readers will enjoy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

100 Sideways Miles

100 Sideways Miles

by Andrew Smith


Destiny takes a detour in this heartbreakingly hilarious novel from the acclaimed author of Winger, which Kirkus Reviews called “smart” and “wickedly funny.”

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

My thoughts:

After a bizarre accident that involved a dead horse falling off a bridge which killed his mother and let Finn with epileptic episodes and a weird scar pattern on his back Finn Easton's father wrote a science fiction book that became a cult classic.  One of his father's characters has Finn's name, his heterochromatic eyes, his epilepsy, his weird back scar, and his odd habit of measuring time in miles traveled by the earth instead of minutes and hours making Finn feel like he is trapped in his father's book unable to move forward. To make matters worse he lives in a California canyon that was the site of a major dam-break disaster (he is a bit obsessed about it) and his best friend Cade, who has never treated Finn like he is a character in his father's book (mainly because he has never read said book) is the King of the school which means Finn is always in his shadow. All this adds up to Finn having a fairly negative look on life and feeling rather stuck in place.  Things change when Finn meets Julia, a new student from Chicago, who finds Finn's oddness endearing instead of just plain weird. When Julia tells him that she is moving back home Finn is crushed and seems to return to the same bleak place he was in before meeting Julia. Deciding to ahead with what is supposed to be a simple road trip with Cade to visit an Oklahoma University ends up being an adventure that involves a torrential downpour, a heroic water rescue, mistaken identities and a detour to Chicago that finally allows Finn to feel like he has broken free of his father's book and can life his own life.  Andrew Smith has written another stunning masterpiece of fiction in 100 Sideways Mile which following the success of his novels Grasshopper Jungle and Winger is no surprise.  This is a story about first loves and friendship, about high school antics and how teenagers worry about sex (it involves one of the funniest scenes about buying condoms which having been written by Smith you would expect nothing less). But Finn's way of measuring distance instead of time and his ideas about recycled atoms will make the reader stop and thinking about the "big picture" and how in reality humans are only a small speck in the universe. This novel is truly original and readers won't be able to put it down till the very last page.

Thursday, March 5, 2015



by Paige Rawl


Paige Rawl was an ordinary girl.

Cheerleader, soccer player, honor roll student. One of the good kids at her middle school.

Then, on an unremarkable day, Paige disclosed the one thing that made her "different": her HIV-positive status.
It didn't matter that she was born with the disease or that her illness posed no danger to her classmates.

Within hours, the bullying began.

They called her PAIDS. Left cruel notes on her locker. Talked in whispers about her and mocked her openly.
She turned to school administrators for help. Instead of assisting her, they ignored her urgent pleas . . . and told her to stop the drama.

She had never felt more alone.

One night, desperate for escape, Paige found herself in front of the medicine cabinet, staring at a bottle of sleeping pills.

That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning.

Finding comfort in steadfast friends and a community of other kids touched by HIV, Paige discovered the strength inside of her, and she embarked on a mission to change things for the bullied kids who would follow in her footsteps.

In this astonishing memoir, Paige immerses the reader in her experience and tells a story that is both deeply personal and completely universal: a story of one girl overcoming relentless bullying by choosing to be Positive.

My Thoughts:

An honest memoir of one girl who overcomes relentless bullying by choosing to be Positive and becomes an inspiration for those who experience bullying.

Born in Indianapolis on 1994, Paige Rawl was an ordinary girl: cheerleader, soccer player and honour roll student. No one knew she was born HIV positive.  Some kids had acne, some had diabetes; she had HIV. That’s what she told her best friend, Yasmine, when they were eleven. Within hours the bullying began. Ignorance, close-mindedness and fear of anything that’s different make the world a cruel place. They called her PAIDS, left cruel notes on her locker and mocked her openly while the adults who should have protected her stood by and told her to stop the drama.  In a desperate attempt to escape the cruelty, Paige finds herself in front of the medicine cabinet contemplating suicide.  But the story doesn’t end here. Paige finds the strength to fight back. She embarks on a mission to change things for the bullied kids who would follow in her footsteps.

This astonishing memoir is highly recommended for middle and high school students as well as teachers and parents.  Paige’s voice is authentic and will engage even the reluctant reader.  The additional resources at the end of the book provide a great starting place for those wanting more information on bullying, what's being done to stop it, facts on HIV and AIDS, as well as where to go for support groups and crisis hotlines.