Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review of Scary Scene from BOOKLIST

A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie. Blackstone, Matt (Author) Jul 2011. 256 p. Farrar, hardcover, $16.99. (9780374364212).
Life is an endless high-wire act for 14-year-old obsessive-compulsive Rene. He can’t step on cracks. The coins he picks up must be lucky ones. He has got to wear the correct number of rubber bands around his wrists. Closing his locker is impossible without tapping it three times with his pinkie. Slipups result in any number of doomsday fantasies, from humiliation to disease to outright murder. Then he befriends Gio, an unconventional classmate who has his own vocabulary (“b’noodles” means awesome) and takes the nervous Rene on an unannounced seat-of-their-pants road trip to New York City. The feedback loops of worry—perhaps unavoidably—can be a bit maddening, but Blackstone keeps things fresh with insight and wit. He is also skilled at creating fully realized adult characters: both Rene’s loudmouthed father and depressed English teacher are achingly real and believably troubled. This debut might suffer from competition with other similarly themed titles, but it’s still pretty darn b’noodles. — Daniel Kraus

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review from School Library Journal

Thankful for this wonderful review from School Library Journal...
BLACKSTONE, Matt. A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie. 256p. CIP. Farrar. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-36421-2. LC 2010021743.  Gr 6-10- Rene has no friends, but his compulsive rituals keep him occupied, ensuring his prevention of all disasters for himself and the universe at large. At almost 14, his life at school is spent observing the Devilblackcoats, the Bigbulletholes, the Smartypants, Cutters, Likegirls, and the Angels. Fitting in with none of the groups and liking the Angels but invisible to them, Rene decides that Gio could be his first friend as he witnesses him being kind to the unfortunately named teacher, Richard Head. Rene reports that his own mother thinks he’s nuts since, “I washed my hands until they were red and raw, talked to myself in public, ran away from anything numbered thirteen, smelled my hands more than forty times per day, ate my animal crackers in a specific order, and made creepy smiley faces out of napkins–even when I didn’t want to. " As Rene connects with both Mr. Head and Gio, his life is turned upside down. His highly unusual, practically unique voice and character have charm and humor and yet are clearly not in the normal range. At one point, without consulting the girl, he decides in his own head to offer marriage, plans the wedding, and then finds himself tripped up by never getting an opportune moment to mention any hint to her. Quirky and surprisingly upbeat, it’s Rene’s voice laughing at himself and yet taking his needs seriously that will lure readers into his head and into his heart.    –Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bookanista Review: Something Like Hope

Something Like HopeSOMETHING LIKE HOPE isn't an ordinary book and it isn't about ordinary people.  The protagonist, Shavonne, isn't ordinary (a 17 year old mother in juvenille prison), neither is her newest shrink (crass, comedic, lonely) and neither is his name (Mr. Delpopolo).  Her guard is neither ordinary nor fair (Ms. Choi taunts Shavonne so she'll snap and Ms. Choi has reason to beat her).  Her baby doesn't belong to her, her face is battered and bloody, and her deranged roommate is now obsessed with geese.  Shavonne's future may be bleak, but she--like this book--is extraordinary.
Shawn Goodman's novel starts with Shavonne, trapped in her cell, after stealing her teacher's sandwich and then elbowing her in the face.  Shavonne is already in deep trouble, has been for awhile, when she's forced to explain her most recent crime.  Enter Mr. Delpopolo, a man with plenty of his own problems.
What follows is unflinching look at the flaws in a juvenile justice system that grants far too much power to guards and not enough support to its inmates.  Shavonne may be not perfect--often times, admittedly, she' s violent, selfish, and uncaring--but she's real and raw and forgiving and unforgettable.
As a high school teacher with more than a few former students locked up at some point in their teenage years, I found this to be a truly fascinating read.  I can't wait to share it with my students next year.