Tag Archives: male lead

Last Night I Sang to the Monster

last night i sang to the monsterI picked up this book for a controversial lit course last term. It was on a VOYA booklist called, “booklist sure to raise eyebrows” and so I figured that it would be a good fit for my class.

18 year old Zach is an alcoholic in rehab, but he can’t remember why. Nor does he want to remember, remembering is scary and it hurts too bad to go back to the time before all this.

Zach believes that when people are born God writes things down on their hearts, on his own heart Zach believes God wrote sad. He spends a lot of time alone at rehab,  smoking cigarettes and keeping to himself, not interacting in group, and avoiding telling his story.

Eventually Zach gets a roommate, Rafael, and things slowly begin to change for him. Rafael is 50 year old alcoholic, another sad guy, and Zach is annoyed that his counselor assigned him a roommate. He doesn’t see what’s so bad about being alone. Sometimes it’s safer to be alone. Eventually he doesn’t seem to mind Rafael too much, he’s quite like Zach and they are able to enjoy a companionable silence as well as deeper conversation. Rafael is trying to stay sober, one day at a time, but Zach is less sure.

Not long after Rafael moves in the two are assigned another roommate: Sharkey. Sharkey is loud, he takes up space, and fills in all of the silence that Zach and Rafael have created in their room. He’s a perfect fit though, an unlikely strong member of their trio.

I was so moved by this book. I think that it will speak to anyone who has been affected by alcoholism, whether through a family member or a friend. It definitely will give readers a safe place to talk about what it is like living with or even being friends with an alcoholic.

I loved Last Night I Sang to the Monster way more than I anticipated I would. Saenz is an excellent writer and has a way of really getting into the heart of his characters and making them stick with the reader. He writes young men very well– giving them a full range of emotions, a refreshing break from the traditional sort of 2-dimensional male characters one often sees in YA-Fic.

Young Zach is a very real character and his process of self growth and realization was really beautiful, and often painful, to watch. This book is going to be a hit with young men and young women alike because Saenz is such a great writer that his work will draw even someone who doesn’t personally identify with the characters into the book.

This a great book for this year’s motto: keep reading! stay uncomfortable!

Advertisements

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

And now for something completely different!

I listened to Fallen Angels recently, in part because I did not think that I would be able to force myself to read it. I just don’t really like books about wars… well real war anyway.

This book is told from the view point of a young solider,Fallen Angels Perry, who enlisted in the Army after he realized that he would not be able to afford to continue his education. Perry is shipped to Vietnam, despite an injury from playing ball, where due to the delay in his papers arriving he is placed into a combat unit. The story follows Perry and his fellow soliders along as they begin to realize that the glory of war isn’t all that glorious.

What was good about this book is that is gave a ground level look at the War in Vietnam, as someone sort of in between gen-x and gen-y I have always known intellectually that the Vietnam War was horrendous, but I don’t feel like I ever received a proper schooling in its intricacies.  More than just being a look at Vietnam from the group up, it is a young African American man’s look at the war in Vietnam, with all of the sociological, economic, and racial tensions that were (and perhaps still are) prevalent in 1973 urban America.

What was not great, for me, was that this was a book about a topic I’m not terrifically interested in (please don’t tell anyone I studied political science with). I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, war, or urban america. I think that it would especially appeal to people who like to play violent video games.

Stay uncomfortable, keep reading.

Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

marbury lensMarbury Lens was another one of those books that totally reflects my penchant for reading in themes. I was on a mondo-grosso, fairly creepy kick when I read this series a couple weeks ago. Both books in 3 days. I thought they were excellent.

Here’s the skinny: Jack is 16, he lives with his grandparents, and his best friend in the whole world is Conner, a typical seeming teenage athlete (arrogant, sex crazed, etc). After Jack gets drunk at a weekend party he wanders away from the fray and falls asleep on a park bench. Still drunk, he is woken up by a doctor who wants to help him. The man ends up kidnapping and assaulting Jack, and  what’s worse is that no one is looking for him: Jack’s grandparents think he’s with Conner and Conner thinks he’s blowing off steam.

Jack manages to escape the man, and does his best at recovering from the trauma. He and Connor are headed to England to check out a boys school they’re considering attending the following Fall. While Jack is tooling around London waiting for Connor to show up he meets Henry Hewitt in a bar. Henry gives Jack a pair of strange glasses and when he puts them on he’s transported to the strange and terrifying alter-verse, Marbury.

Though the trips to Marbury are terrifying and leave him sick and disoriented in this verse, Jackpassenger can’t stop putting on the glasses. Like a junkie looking for his next fix, Jack becomes completely obsessed with Marbury and has an increasingly difficult time hiding his addiction from Connor. Eventually Jack and Connor make their way to Marbury together and what follows is a faced paced, dark and frightening adventure through the bowels of hell and toward redemption. Can Jack and Connor keep it together in the real world as they face unspeakable danger in Marbury? Can they find salvation after all they have done and everything they have faced?

This series is going to be a thrill ride for anyone who enjoys the dark and edgy, dystopian, or adventure stories. As I mentioned above, these books are intense, violent and gory. I do not recommend these books to any readers who are sensitive to these issues.

Keep reading! Stay uncomfortable!

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent #1)

I hunt killers books cover I guess I’m in a creepy phase right now. Some of my colleagues were talking about books they didn’t like on the YALSA listerv and this was one of the titles that came up. I really didn’t have any interest in it before, but after several people agreed it was super creepy and gross I had already purchased five copies of it. Just kidding, I only have the one.

Guess what? It’s super creepy and gross! I loved it though and pre-ordered that sequel. Jasper Dent is the only child of the super serial killer Billy Dent. His father safely behind bars Jasper, Jazz, is trying to live the normal life of any 17-year-old boy. Trouble is that his dad so supremely messed with his head that Jazz is constantly having to remind himself to act like a human being, rather than the perfect sociopath his dad raised him up to be.

Trouble is brewing in Jazz’s little town of Lobo’s Nod, there’s a new killer on the loose. Jazz is frantically trying to get the local police department to listen to his insights regarding the case, but even though he is a super smart dude with an insider’s view into the world of sociopathy, he’s still a kid in the eyes of the law… a kid with a past that would make anyone wary. Jasper is caught between his own knowledge of the mindset of a killer, his burning need to crack the case, and the sometimes crushing worry that he’s not any better than his father.

Jazz’s struggle with his own morals and humanity make him an excellent character. He is so very aware of not just everyone around him, but of himself and his own actions, I think that his behaviors and analytical awareness will be familiar to anyone who has grown up in a destructive family environment and is working toward healing.

I Hunt Killers is a super fast paced and compelling novel for readers who enjoy the morbid or gruesome. Be warned that there are some very detailed descriptions of disembowelment and such, so this novel may not be for you if you’ve got a weak stomach!

Y the Last Man

ythelastman

Vaughn, B.K. (2002). Y the last man. New York: DC Comics. Print.

Note: Y the Last Man is part of a series. The entire series is included in the collection.

Reader’s Annotation

When Yorick Brown woke up this morning he was one of millions of men on the planet. By noon he’s the only one. Follow along with Yorick, Amperstand and Agent 355 and they seek out the one woman who may be able to solve this mystery while everyone works to protect (or procreate with) the one man left on the planet.

Plot Summary

What would happen if tomorrow morning you woke up and you were the only male left on the earth? Say that tomorrow a mysterious disease has wiped out all y-chromosone carriers on the planet, and you were the only one left, what would you do? You might find that like Yorick Brown, and his pet monkey Ampersand that you’d be disguising yourself as a woman, defending yourself from your own gun toting sister and on a mad quest to find your girlfriend and figure out what the hell happened to the other half of the world’s population. Good luck with that.

Evaluation

Y the Last Man is a great comic. The main character, Yorick, is a total dork who fumbles his way into all kinds of troublesome situations. The story is good too, you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to find out if Yorick is going to find Beth; if 355 is going to have to save is ass again; and most importantly of what the hell wiped out all the y-chromosome carrying mammals on the planet.

Author Information

Brain K. Vaughn is critically acclaimed author of graphic novels. He did his undergraduate work at New York University and received his big break participating in Marvel’s Stanhattan Project, a workshop for comic book writers.

Vaugh’s first graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, was released in 2006 and follows the story of four lions that escaped from the Baghdad Zoo after the so called “shock and awe” bombing during the war. He has also authored the graphic novels Runaways, and Ex Machina. Vaughn currrently lives in LA with his wife while working the film adaptations of some of his novels.

Genre

post apocalyptic, biological adventure, graphic novel

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Booktalk Ideas

In the first book when Yorick proposes to Beth over the phone, do you think she says yes? Why or why not?

Why does Hero join the Amazons?

Reading Level/Interest Age 

Challenge Issues

Reason for inclusion

References

Ender’s Game

ender'sgame

Reader’s Annotation

When third son, Ender Wiggin, is chosen for elite training by the International Fleet it gets away from the torment of his evil older brother Peter, but it doesn’t guarantee his safety. Convinced that Ender is the only one who can rid the universe of Buggers, the alien race that threatens human existence, International Fleet commanders train Ender to become an elite super solider and defend the planet. Can IF control the weapon they’ve created?

Plot Summary

Ender is a third, and in a world where population is stringently controlled being a third is not a compliment. His parents had to get special permits to allow his birth, but that doesn’t give them anymore time to pay attention to him. When Ender gets chosen for training at the elite International Fleet (IF) Battle School in outer space he’s happy to get away from his evil older brother Peter, but leaving is sweet sister Valentine is harder.

The Battle School kids don’t make transition any less difficult. He’s going through grueling physical and mental training, and facing near constant, violent, torment by the likes of Bonzo de Madrid, a big bully who is outraged at Ender’s success in the classroom and in the mock battles between squads. Eventually Ender is forced to fight Bonzo, to the benefit of neither of them. Ender is terrified that he’s becoming as cruel as Peter and falls into a deep depression. Commander Graff promotes Ender to Command School to help distract him from his worries.

Though Command School is little different from Battle School, with mentally and physically exhausting demands, Ender throws himself into his work. He’s completing his trainings fast and with more ingenuity than ever before, wanting to show Commander Graff and his fellows that they can’t break him. Nearly too late Ender realizes that his been a pawn for the IF the whole time and makes a bold move to take control of his life and change the face of the universe.

Critical Evaluation

Author Information 

Orson Scott Card has written a ton of stories in the tradition of Ender’s Game. All told there are twenty stories and novels that make up the series. In addition to writing about Ender, Card also writes modern fantasy, novels inspired by the Bible, poetry, and American frontier fantasy.

He was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona and Utah. An active member of the LDS Church, Card did his mission in Brazil in the 70s. His most recent position is as a professor of writing and literature at Southern Virginia University. The film version of Ender’s Game is expected to release next year.

Genre

Science Fiction, War, Dystopia, Male Lead

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Booktalk Ideas

How is Ender like Peter? How is he different?

Reading Level/Interest Age 

13+

Challenge Issues

This is a violent book and that may make some users or their parents uncomfortable. We strongly encourage our users to choose books and items that are appropriate for them. As supporters of the ALA Library Bill of Rights we oppose censorship. We take requests for reconsideration very seriously and reserve the right to make the final decision after board review. Some alternate titles are: Foundation by Isaac Asimov or Spin by Robert Charles Wilson.

Reason for Inclusion

While many young women will enjoy this book I think it will also hold a strong appeal for young men and this collection needs more of that.