Posts tagged ‘Family’

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

mrwOne of the enduring characters from YA fiction for 2009 is likely to be Marcello Sandoval, a seventeen year old whose Asperger’s-like condition is marked by his unique relationships to music, theology and horses.

He is happy and capable in his special-ed situation where he cares for horses and mentors others on their care.  His father, however, believes it is in Marcelo’s best interest to see what life is like in the ‘real world’ and arranges for Marcelo to work in the mail room of his law firm for the summer.  There he uncovers deceptions and secrets that reveal a world where not everything – or everyone – is as it seems.  Marcelo addresses the puzzles and people he encounters with admirable strength, intelligence and integrity so that in the course of growing more comfortable and assured with his place in his own life, he will surely win your heart.

John S.


June 29, 2009 at 6:25 pm Leave a comment

If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser

strasserViolent death in the projects is a fact of life – as real as poverty, teen pregnancy,  school drop outs, crime, hunger, gangs and hopelessness.   DeShawn knows the circumstances of his life – where he lives, where he goes to school, his family – stack the odds against him finishing school let alone living to see his 21st birthday .  As smart as he is and as determined as he can be, DeShawn’s choices eventually come down to what gives him the best chance of survival in his environment.

Strasser presents realistic characters struggling with bleak circumstances in which gangs and violence trump aspiration and independence.  A book that begins with a dead infant thrown from the 15th floor as an act of gang revenge is going to be an unsettling read, and IF I GROW UP delivers relentlessly.  DeShawn’s story is tragically familiar and despairingly sad.

Strasser was inspired to write IF I GROW UP after visiting a school in an impoverished urban neighborhood.  The students were disruptive and belligerent during his presentation.   Later he wrote:
And, perhaps they had a point. How much relevance do the messages “Keep trying and never give up,” and “be the best reader and writer you can be,” have in a world where more than half your classmates won’t even finish high school? Where a quarter of your friends will be dead by the age of 30, and another quarter will be in prison? Were the majority of kids not interested because they already knew that what I was saying would be utterly and completely irrelevant to their lives?

Like the HBO series, THE WIRE, this book is neither a cautionary tale nor a story that offers solutions.  It is a reflection of a reality that is impossible for youth to navigate with hope alone.
John S.    WLS

February 26, 2009 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas (pub. 4/09)

furnitureBecause I am Furninture is simply written in poetry/prose, in a stream of consciousness style.  Although it is not text-dense, the story of Anke, a freshman in high school and the relationships between her family and friends resonates loudly.  Anke is trapped in a family with an extremely abusive father and although the abuse is discussed in the text it is never graphically described in detail; but then it doesn’t need to be because Chaltas’ well chosen words suggest the pain of this family’s horrible secret.

This book is not however, a tale of victims.  Anke  speaks of her home life and school life and the juxtaposition of the two.  Basically, she is a ‘normal teen age girl’ experiencing all of the normal pangs of growing up,  except for the secret of abuse.  Anke is actually almost jealous of her older brother Darren and sister Yaicha, the main targets of her father’s abuse, because at least he acknowledges their existence, albeit in twisted ways.  Anke feels like nothing more than a piece of furniture in her own home, very often flying under the radar with little recognition from either of her parents.

As she develops into a young woman in this story, she finds her own voice and strength and finally stops her father.  She is no longer afraid of what her siblings and mother will think of her or whether they blame her for the loss.  She takes a stance and the secret comes out and the healing process begins and she realizes that her voice is exactly what her family needed.  At last she is more than just furniture in her own home.

Highly recommended for grades 7-12.  Ellen McTyre, Mamaroneck Library.

February 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel

scfMost people define a family as a unit consisting of a mother, father, and children. But what about a single parent? Or two parents of the same sex? Or, in the case of Leah Hoffman-Ross, a mother, a stepfather, a half brother, and a donor father. Thirteen years ago her unmarried mother had gone to a sperm bank and had selected donor 730. In her old house, she had fended off inquiries on the whereabouts of her “dad” by telling everyone that he was living somewhere in Europe. But she now moved to a new home and thought she was off the hook because there is a step dad. However, the mystery-surrounding donor 730 was never far from her consciousness. There came a day when she found a web site that listed the siblings from donor 730. Her mom and step dad wanted nothing to do with these unknown siblings, but Leah made it her mission to meet them. This is a simply told story of a normal, curious girl who needed to find where she belonged and who was her family. Recommended. Lillian Hecker (Pelham)

November 18, 2008 at 6:42 pm Leave a comment

Dough: A Memoir by Mort Zachter

What would you do if you discovered that your two work-a-holic uncles who you thought were poorer than dirt turned out to have stashed millions away in various money market accounts, in fruit cake boxes and the stock market? You’d scream then get really angry – especially if it happened to you later in life. Especially if it happened when it was almost too late and the government took most of it in taxes. Especially if it was a true story – it is – you must read this slim award winning memoir about dough, the kind you eat and the kind you wish you had lots of. Published as an adult book this wry tale of a dysfunctional family, without any scissors or knives in the closet, delightfully relates the impressions of a teen boy growing up in a Jewish household on the lower east side and working hard to get an education to escape working poverty. One of the other store owners on the block happen on the idea of selling fruit teas – Snapple anyone?  Non-Fiction, 13+ (AWP Award Series in Creative Non-Ficiton). (Review by Kate Colquitt, Greenburgh)

October 3, 2008 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

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