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What We’re Reading {October 11 2010}

Apologies for not getting the What We’re Reading post up last Friday! Instead, we’re bringing you this special Monday edition of What We’re Reading. In light of the recent bullying tragedies that have made headlines across the U.S., I thought it appropriate to share some wonderfully written books that address the topic of bullying. Each of these books is recommended for grades 9 – 12.

Names Will Never Hurt Me by Jaime Adoff — Deftly interweaving the narratives of four unique, vivid teenagers, this powerful novel explores the enormous repercussions of daily school teasing, racism, and ostracism. Each of the teens reveal their deepest feelings and fears during a day in which the hurts and struggles of high school escalate dangerously. As tensions rise and emotions reach the breaking point, will they be able to reach out to one another in time to prevent a tragedy?

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood — “Cat’s Eye” presents the retrospective of Elaine Risley, a middle-aged acclaimed artist who discovers that she cannot move into the future as she is still trapped in the past, because of the childhood trauma caused by Cordelia, Elaine’s tormentor and soul-mate. Elaine was so deeply scarred by the sinister girly “power-games” of her childhood years that she lost herself, her memories, and “became” a cat’s eye: cool as cold marble, detached, and almost devoid of feeling.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson — Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it’s been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud. What could have caused Melinda to suddenly become so quiet? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors’ big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it’s because her parents’ only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs? As Melinda starts her freshman year of high school, no one will talk to her, not even her best friends. But they don’t know Melinda’s secret… the real reason the party ended badly for her. A stunning and sympathetic tribute to the teenage outcast.

Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco — In her poignant autobiographical work, Jodee Blanco tells how school became a frightening and painful place, where threats, humiliation, and assault were as much a part of her daily experience as bubblegum and lip-gloss were for others. It is an unflinching look at what it means to be an outcast, how even the most loving parents can get it wrong, why schools fail, and how bullying is both misunderstood and mishandled.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly — Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. She’s desperate for money, and takes a job at a local hotel where a guest entrusts her with a secret bundle of letters.  The story explores birth, illness and death, and reveals much about poverty, racism, and feminism at the turn of the twentieth century.

Project X: A Novel by Jim Shepard –In the wilderness of junior high, Edwin Hanratty is at the bottom of the food chain. His teachers find him a nuisance. His fellow students consider him prey. Shepard’s lean and stinging novel zeroes in on the conjunction of two troubling facets of American life: the tragic disaffection of middle-class teenage boys and guns in the home.

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