Tag Archives: mental health

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!

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The Vanishing Game

Vanishing Game Book Cover

Myers, K. K.

Reader’s Annotation

Things just haven’t been quite right for Jocelyn since her twin, Jack, died. Once she begins receiving messages from him she finds she must follow the trail to the truth, regardless of the outcome.

Plot Summary

After everything that happened at Seale House Jocelyn and her twin Jack weren’t sure if they’d ever find a place to call home. After they were placed successfully with a nice home Jack died in a fatal car crash. Or did he? About a year after the car crash Jocelyn gets a mysterious letter signed only with the name, Jason December- exactly what Jack called himself at the Seale House. A name only known to Jocelyn and the twin’s close friend from Seale House, Noah.

As Jocelyn makes her way to Noah to ask his help unravelling the mystery of Jason December strange things begin to happen, she is certain someone is following her. When she sneaks into the Seale house to look for signs of her brother she discovers that the terror that the house held for her as a child hasn’t faded, indeed it seems as if the house remembers her and she struggles to get out in one piece.

One thing is clear, Jocelyn can’t go at this alone. With Noah’s reluctant help they follow the path that Jason December has laid out for them, fraught with intrigue and terrible dangers and horrors unimaginable. Jocelyn has no choice, she must find her twin before her past catches up with her.

Critical Evaluation

Vanishing Game is a good horror novel for folks who also like a bit of mystery thrown in. The story is told along two time lines, present day and in a series of flash backs from Jocelyn, Jack and Noah’s childhood. You get a clear picture of the terrible abuse they suffered in their foster house, as a mother that part was particularly unpleasant to read, and Myers does a good job of hooking her reader so that you’re compelled to finish, even reading through some of the requisite cheesy-intense-teen-romance. To top it off this book is genuinely scary! You’re never sure exactly what is going on, if the Seale House is haunted with angry spirits, or if there are hallucinogenic spores in the walls or somethin; you dont know if Jack is alive or dead; or to what lengths the men following Jocelyn and Noah will go to to get the information they seek. Recommended to anyone who likes a bit of a fright!

Author Information

By Myers own account her childhood was grueling and her teenager years were much the same. According to her bio she never wanted to be a writer as much as she has felt compelled to write, climbing inside her character’ s skin and creating their worlds. Vanishing Game is her first novel.

Genre

Horror, YA Fiction

Curriculum Ties

Grades 9-10 goal 3.6: Analyze and trace an author’s development of time and sequence, including the use of complex literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, flashbacks).

Booktalk Ideas

What do you think about the reality Jocelyn has created for herself? Has this reality been fool-proof? What are some of the weaknesses in her story?

Reading Level/Interest Age 

14+

Challenge Issues

This book discusses topics like death and mental illness, and some adults may object to their children’s exposure to those sensitive topics.

A collection policy that clearly states that the library strongly supports the ALA Bill of Rights and everyone’s freedom to read should offer some protection to the library. The use of flashbacks in The Vanishing Game supports the California Department of Education English Language Arts Content Standards for grades 9 and 10. Finally, alternate titles could be The Long Walk by Stephen King and What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen.

Reason for inclusion

This title is a good one for any fan of horror and mystery. It’s included in the collection to appeal to those readers.

References

Myers, K.K. (2012). Bio of Kate Kae Myers. Retrieved from: http://www.katekaemyers.com/