AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green

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Most people have a “type.”  “Types” are often superficial, based on a few physical characteristics, or a particular type of personality.  Former child prodigy Colin Singleton’s type is linguistic: girls with the name “Katherine.”  He has dated and been dumped by nineteen of them.  And Katherine XIX truly broke his heart.

Colin and his friend Hassan decide that a roadtrip is just what Colin needs to forget his troubles and his Katherines.  They wind up in a rural town which is like a different world from their Chicago homes.  They also meet Lindsay, a girl their age who challenges all of Colin’s preconceived notions about the type of person who reads “Celebrity Living” magazine.  As Colin and Hassan join Lindsay in interviewing the locals about their personal histories and participating in local cultural activities (like hunting wild Satanic pigs), Colin tries to analyze his love life the only way he knows how: mathematically.  Who knows; if he gets this particular Theorem right, he might be able to predict the future, or maybe find a way to get K-19 back.

(If you like John Green, check out the vlog he keeps with his brother, Hank:  http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers.)

UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld

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Every since she was a Littlie, Tally Youngblood has dreamed of her sixteenth birthday–the day she will become Pretty.  Since the government started providing the Operation to everyone at age sixteen, the social hierarchies surrounding physical attractiveness have dissolved–everyone is equally Pretty.  But until she turns sixteen, Tally is an Ugly, and so long as she’s Ugly, she’s going to have fun riding her hoverboard, playing pranks, dodging the government Wardens, and sneaking into forbidden places, like the Rusty Ruins, the remnants of civilization from before.

But on her sixteenth birthday, everything changes.  Tally’s friend Shay runs away to join an underground community of Ugly rebels in a hidden city called the Smoke.  The agents at Special Circumstances want to catch Shay and destroy the Smoke, and they need Tally.  The Specials give Tally an ultimatum: help them find the Smoke, or stay Ugly forever. Unwilling to face a life of Ugliness, Tally takes the tracking device from Special Circumstances and embarks on a dangerous journey across the wilderness, following a set of cryptic clues that Shay left behind.

Uglies is the first book in a trilogy.  It was a lot of fun to read, especially if you like dystopian/sci-fi books (as I do).  The other two books in the trilogy fell a little flat for me, but they’re still worth reading.  Or you could just read the first one.  (It kind of reminds me of The Matrix: it might be better just to watch the first one because it’s excellent, and assume that the following two involve some serious action and a major overhaul of society. . . . )

If you liked Uglies, you might also like The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn.

THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID by Jeff Kinney

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Greg’s parents always have brilliant ideas about how to make him a better person.  Like his dad making him play outside instead (forcing him to sneak over to Rowley’s house in order to play his video games!) and like his mom buying him this diary (it even says diary on the front of it).  But don’t worry.  He’s not going to get all mushy gushy and talk about his feelings or anything like that.  He’s just going to tell you what it’s like to be in sixth grade, dodging bullies and boredom and trying very hard to move up on the popularity scale.  Or at least, not to move down. . . .

The Wimpy Kid books are favorites among upper elementary schoolers (as well as certain librarians . . . ) and book six will be coming out this fall!

If you liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you may also be interested in How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida CowellThe Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, and the Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce.

THE FIGHTER (2010)

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Director: David O. Russell
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 116 min.

As tends to be my habit, I missed seeing this film in theaters.  But I’m glad I finally got to see it.  I really enjoyed it!

Micky Ward has always looked up to his older brother, Dicky.  Dicky was a very talented boxer, but his glory days have passed and now he, along with his mother and a mess of other relatives and pseudo-relatives, is determined to train Micky as the next great fighter.  But soon, a cocaine addiction leads Dicky into jail and Micky must decide whether loyalty to his family is getting in the way of his career.  With the help of his girlfriend, Charlene, Micky begins to win fights and make a name for himself.  But can he really succeed without Dicky’s help?

This film is based on a the lives of Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. It is rated R mostly for language and violence, as well as some “adult situations,” as they say.

EDGAR AND ELLEN: RARE BEASTS by Charles Ogden

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If you enjoyed the Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events books or “The Addams Family,” the Edgar and Ellen series may interest you.  Personally, I would have enjoyed these books very much as a kid; they have a creepy gothic sense of humor to them.

Edgar and Ellen are twins.  Their parents left one day and never came back, and the twins have devoted their lives to playing pranks on each other and the people of their town.  They live in a tall, dark, dilapidated mansion and spend most of their days playing hide and seek–which for Edgar and Ellen involves ropes, gags, and psychological torture.

Bored with hide-and-seek, they decide to earn money by stealing the pets of everyone in their town, disguising them as exotic animals, and selling them for thousands of dollars.  But things don’t go exactly as they planned. . . .

There are six books in the series so far and more coming out soon.  The intended audience is grades 3-4.

THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA by Tom Angleberger

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This book is a casefile compiled by sixth grader, Tommy, as he struggles to figure out the truth:  does Origami Yoda have magical powers?  Dwight, who created Origami Yoda and wears him on his finger, is the weirdest kid in school, and it seems like he never does anything right.  So how is it possible that when Dwight is speaking as Origami Yoda, he gives the best possible advice and even sees into the future?  It is vitally important to determine whether or not Origami Yoda is really magic or just a hoax, because Tommy needs to decide whether to take Origami Yoda’s latest advice in a matter of life-changing proportion.

This book is incredibly funny and great for upper elementary and middle school students; it is especially popular among boys.  It includes instructions for creating your own personal Origami Yoda (magic powers not included).

If you liked The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, you might also be interested in How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida CowellDiary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, and the Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce.

REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly

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The death of Andi’s little brother Truman has torn her family apart.  With her father in Paris with his new girlfriend and her mother slowly losing her grip on reality, all Andi has to comfort her is her music.  But when her father unexpectedly returns and discovers the state of his ex-wife’s mental health and Andi’s grades, he checks Andi’s mom into a mental hospital and whisks Andi away to Paris where she can work on her senior thesis “without distraction.”

Andi does not want to go to Paris, but once she arrives, she discovers new distractions she didn’t anticipate.   First she stumbles upon the diary of a young girl from the French Revolution who had a personal connection with the lost prince Louis-Charles.  She also meets another musician, an attractive man named Virgil who quickly becomes a friend–or perhaps something more.  As Andi gets deeper into the diary and deeper into Paris’ underground music scene, her life begins to become intertwined with the girl from the diary and the subject of her thesis, almost to the point that they become one.

This story is written for teenagers and would be of interest to anyone who enjoys books about dysfunctional families, overcoming grief, or the French Revolution.