The One…WTH was that?

MAJOR Spoiler Alerts ahead (But like you didn’t know already)


This is my reaction after I finished the book. On Goodreads I gave the book 2 stars. My graduate brain loved the book because it was pure bubblegum for the mind, but the same graduate brain thought the writing was redonkulous.

Let me count the ways:

The group of rebels. Both of them. What was each group’s purpose? Can you tell me exactly who the bad guy was? This was a plot element that never developed past the drafting board.

America’s love of music is completely forgotten.

Cass throws in unnecessary and underdeveloped plot elements: America rescuing the girl from the streets and America’s father as  a rebel. None of these events spawn into anything else.

All the love crap that is going on in the book.  Maxon continuously tells America that she can have his heart and break it, and then when she does it, he throws a temper tantrum. Dude, make up your mind!

People disappear out of this book like there is a magician. Anne, the maid, is simply gone. How convenient for Lucy and Aspen.

What about Kriss? Let’s talk about Kriss. Kriss is America’s biggest contender for Maxon’s love. It is evident from book one that she really cares about Maxon. However, 3/4 of the way through The One we find out that Kriss is actually northern rebel. Where the heck did that come from. However, this big reveal goes absolutely nowhere. Kriss threatens America and then her character’s purpose is done.

Finally, the ring. Really, Kiera? Vines, gold, and purple? It sounds like a Mardi Gras prize.

Overall Thoughts

I was excited for the book, but I did not expect it to be earth shattering. I expected it to be bubble gum for the mind and it did fulfill that expectation, but I was disappointed in how Cass threw in so many unnecessary plot points.


Who Doesn’t Like Pictures?

Who doesn’t love pictures? Most of us were introduced into the world of reading through pictures book. While many of us eventually migrated to the full-text books, others of us refuse to relinquish our pictures. Graphic Novels are a fantastic alternative to those who want to enjoy more sophisticated themes, but still enjoy illustrations. However, graphic novels have had a rough history. Graphic novels have been around since Egyptian times, but the “modern” graphic was conceived in the 1930s with the introduction of the Superman comic books (Quick side note: there is a difference between graphic novels and comic books. Comic books tend to be a series about a particular character that is told through multiple issues. Graphic novels tend to be a single book that discusses and addresses more complex and sophisticated themes). Children soon were flocking to the stores for the newest copy of Superman. The immense popularity of this reading literature made comic books a 50 billion dollar industry by the 1950s. [1] However, its rise to fame was not an easy road. Some adults saw comic books as trash that polluted people’s minds. Even today, the fight to allow children and teens to read and enjoy graphic novels/comic books can be an uphill battle. This is unfortunate as graphic novels offer readers a different reading medium. It is also a fantastic alternative for reluctant readers.

From experience I have had little trouble convincing a reluctant reader to take a graphic novel. If a parent is hesitant and expresses concern about the book being valid reading material, I always bring up studies about reading and graphic novels. I mention that it actually takes a higher reading comprehension to read a graphic novel than a traditional book format. Readers can skim sentences and still grasp what is happening with the story. For a graphic novel, readers must connect the text with the image to decode the story (Sturm, 2013). Normally, the term “higher reading comprehension” reassures parents. My hope is that parents/educators/other librarians will understand how amazing graphic novels can be.

25179 Blankets by Craig Thompson

My boss who is a great lover of graphic novels recommended Blankets to me. Set in Wisconsin, Thompson illustrates and writes about his coming-of-age in his faith-based community.

I’m not sure if it is my exhaustion at the end of the semester or the book itself, but I was not blown away by Blankets. Almost all of my friends raved about this book. I enjoyed Thompson’s illustrations, but I thought the storyline was ok. One of the main central themes was Thompson’s faith and unfortunately, I thought it was underdeveloped. He praises himself to be a Jesus freak, but I did not get that vibe from the illustrations or text.

Thompson’s relationship with Raina was also lacking. They meet at bible camp and he spends two weeks at her house. I thought this would be the  ground-breaking moment, but the plot once again fell flat. I read this book about two weeks ago and this is what I remembered out of the romance:

1. Thompson’s religious parents allow him to go spend two weeks with a girl who he just met. I did not grow up in a fundamental household, but I can assure you that my mother would have laughed me out the door with this request.

2. Thompson and Raina snuggle a lot.

3. Raina wants space and Thompson gives up on her.

Overall, I thought this one was ok.


7941986 How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

Sarah Glidden is a 26-year-old political leftist Jew. Obsessed with the politics of Israel, Sarah decides to use her birthright trip to discover/uncover the situation in Israel.

Again, I thought this was an ok book. the illustrations are colorful and invite the reader’s eye, but I quickly became disinterested in the text. I know a smidgen about the birthright trip and the politics in Israel, but this book just did not do it for me. I think it was hard for me to connect with Sarah. Her attitude about the whole trip was off-putting. Other reviewers have also complained by Sarah’ attitude. I could probably go into other aspects of the text, but this one element just killed the book for me.

Other Recommendations

12959045 My Friend Dahmer by Derf BackDerf

I had the pleasure of meeting Derf Backderf at the 2013 YALSA Coffee Klatch. It was kind of surreal to know that he knew one of America’s most infamous serial killers. His book My Friend Dahmer looks at Dahmer before he committed his first murder. This book will make you sympathize and not sympathize for Dahmer at the same time.


The_cover_of_Raina_Telgemeier's_book,_Smile Smile by Raina Telgemeier

This might be a graphic novel geared towards juveniles, but adults will appreciate Raina’s memoir. In 6th grade Raina had to deal with a devastating injury to her two front teeth. In addition, she had to learn how to navigate the hierarchy of middle school, including crushes and “friends.” I have not yet met someone who has not liked this graphic novel. It was like reliving my 7th grade year.


15852522 Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown

This is a Star Wars satire. Brown has made Darth Vader into a single dad raising Princess Leia. I will admit that I have never seen Stars Wars, but I even got most of the references.  It will make you laugh.


1.The National Coalition Against Censorship The American Library Association & The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. “Graphic Novels: Suggestions for Librarians.” ALA. (accessed May 12, 2014).

What Doesn’t Kill You…

In every single one of us there is an instinct to fight or flight. Some of us are better at fighting, whereas the other half of us take off running at the first hint of trouble. Many times we do not have the luxury to contemplate how we will respond in a traumatic situation. We simply allow our brains and bodies to automatically react. If we survive, we may look back and reflect on why we responded the way we did. Luckily, for most of us, we will never have to fully address or witness a major catastrophe. However, we can always speculate on how we would respond in a particular situation. We ask questions such as, “Would I be hero or cowering in fear? Would I live to see another day, or would I die at the first hint of war?” We all like to think we would be the invincible hero, but the fact of reality is that we are never guaranteed the next year, month, day, or minute.


A_Long_Way_Gone A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

When Ishmael was twelve his country was attacked by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Trying to escape the violence and carnage, Ishmael is able to survive with a group of boys until he finds himself forcibly recruited into an army of children. He soon discover that he is capable of committing heinous crimes.

Ishmael’s story reveals how someone can witness, participate, and survive the hells of war and still regain entry back into the arms of humanity. His story is not for fainthearted and sometimes it is difficult to think that this young boy, now man, witnessed and committed unthinkable atrocities. His memoir will make readers question if they could have survived the same events.

My only complaint of this book was the audiobook. Read by Ishmael, the book’s format initially confused me. I only realized that Ishmael would talk about his experiences during the war and then switch to his recovery from being a child soldier. The switching back and forth would make me lose my concentration on the storyline. This was especially difficult when I stopped the CD.

I do have one recommendation. I would actually be intrigued to see how well this book would pair with Ender’s Game. Although Ender’s Game is a fictionalized account of children fighting adult wars, it’s pairing with A Long Way Gone will reveal a scary reality.

1845 Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

On September 6, 1996, a group of hunters discovered an emaciated body in an abandoned van in the Alaskan Wilderness. The body belonged to Christopher McCandless, who is speculated to have died just two weeks from being discovered. Known for his wanderlust, Chris, also known as Alex, sought adventure while abandoning worldly and  material possessions. Chris’ largest desire was to walk into the wild and live off the land. He successfully survived off the land for four months before succumbing to starvation.

There has been many theories if McCandless was smart or foolish to attempt this feat. Krakeauer has a very distinct opinion on the matter. I will let readers discover Krakeauer’s stance on McCandless. I personally thought McCandless was trying to understand life without all of its material influences. How many of us have ever questioned what it would be like to walk away from everything and just live off the land. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it before. However, Into the Wild shows that simply walking into the wild is not a walk in the park. Krakauer does an exemplary job (subtly) of showing how society has come to rely on our modern technologies to keep us alive

This book is the ultimate nature survival book.  Although it does not have a happy ending, the book will be appealing for both adults and teens.


8664353 Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini has lived a life of adventure (He is still alive at 97). As a young boy he looked for fights. By the time he was a teen, Zamperini discovered that he excelled at running and even made it to the Berlin Olympics. However, with the advent of World War II, Zamperini enlisted as an airman, but his life would take a drastic turn after a crash into the ocean and Zamperini became a castaway.

This book will grab you by the eyeballs (or ears if you are listening to it) and force you to discover Zamperini’s story. Do not start this at midnight, or you might be late to work.

13036369  Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived by Andrew Wilson

It seems that everyone has been obsessed with the Titanic at some point in their life. The unsinkable ship that  took 68% of its passengers when it sank continues to enthrall people 100 years later.

Andrew Wilson brings a refreshing approach to this popular topic. He discusses how the sinking of the ship impacted the lives of survivors, and how some suffered terrible consequences for surviving.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has ever had a fascination with the Titanic.

177187 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

On September 11, 2001, two planes flew into the twin towers in New York City. For 102 minutes, people trapped inside the towers fought to stay survive. Some knew it was the end of their lives, while others held onto their last shred of hope that they will be saved. Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn interviewed and researched how these individuals tried to make every last minute count.

Rez Life

In 2010, I met one of my greatest friends, Rebecca W. I had just enrolled into the history masters program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Rebecca was a new Ph.D. student in the program. Although we had talked briefly at the new student orientation, I only really got to talk to her after our first Women in the West class. It was apparent that during our first day in class that Rebecca had a wealth of knowledge about Native culture.

Intrigued, I semi-stalked her after class to ask her a few questions that I was hoping she could answer. This talk not only began a fantastic friendship, but I soon began to learn about a culture that I knew very little about. Rebecca’s insight and knowledge about the culture and my Women in the West class opened me to even more exploration. For my final paper I wrote an analysis paper entitled, “Savage Beast, Christian Love, Native Heart: The Portrayal of Native Americans in Historical Romance Novels.” I ended up choosing three novels to read and examined their portrayal of Native Americans.

Each portrayed the culture differently and never accurately. I remember a distinct scene in the harlequin romance where the tribe attacks a group of settlers. The male protagonist rapes one of the settlers as showing his “claim” over her. Disturbed, I asked Rebecca about the authenticity of the attack. Rebecca did a flip through of the book and then immediately started explaining what was wrong with the scene. She then pointed me towards some resources that would support her argument. I immediately realized how authors can and still are perpetrating false representation about a culture. This in turn leads to people making inaccurate assumptions about a group of people. It also can desensitize the public into believing that it is OK to disrespect the culture, as these North Dakota students did.

Young Adult

17071488 If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Lewis Blake is the only Native American in his class. Sure there are other kids from the Tuscarora Indian reservation in the school, but Lewis is the only one in the “bright” class. Used to not having any friends at school, Lewis becomes surprised when George, a military kid, befriends him and they bond over music.

There are so many great things about this book. I loved that Gansworth tackles multiple subjects. He places in the book in the 19070s, deals with a single-parent household, racism, and the dire situation of Lewis’s house on the reservation. And these are just a snippet of what he writes about.

I did have some issues with the book. There were times that that plot seemed disjointed. It flowed kind of funky at times and it would lose my attention. I also had a hard time placing the timeline. One minutes the boys are in one grade and next moment it is two years later.

The book really does excel in certain aspects, but the book itself is ripe with discussion points.


13602426 The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is a well-known author, especially in Native American literature. I read two books out of her Birchback House series, and I thought they were OK. However, The Round House demanded my attention.

On a summer day in 1988, Joe’s mother is brutally attacked. Joe and his family now struggle with the aftermath of this crime.

Similar to If I Ever Get Out of Here, The Round House also presents the struggles and difficulties of reservation life, but in a more intense tone. Rape is a common occurrence on reservations. It is reported that 1 in 3 Native American are raped in her lifetime. This could potentially be much higher, as many women do not report the crime when it happens. Erdrich addresses this issue head-on in The Round House. Her characters and the plot revolve around this element, but Erdrich masterfully shows how life continues, despite terrible crimes.

Pairing this book with If I Ever Get Out of Here will open readers to a colorful discussion about injustice.


693208 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Junior is bright kid. However, his reservation school is still using books from his mother’s era. Feud up with his education, Junior decides to attend the all white-school, where the mascot is an Indian. If you have not read this book yet, your reading soul is missing a component. Do yourself a favor and go pick this one up.

CodeTalker_2p.indd Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac

Ned Begay has been told his whole life that his native language, Navajo, is useless. However, with the start of World War II, Ned soon finds himself assisting the military with top-secret messages using his native tongue. Code Talker raises questions of how our governmental system doles out injustice to a group, only to request their assistance in a time of need.

treuerCoverFINALEverything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

Anton Treuer offers readers an insight into Native American culture by addressing over 120 questions about Native history, culture, politics, and religion. 

Get Your Weapons!

For most of the United States’s young history our country has participated in some type of war. From the American Revolution to our current affairs, the US’s future history without wars seems implausible. We can blame the romanticism of war. The ever whispering promise of heroism and invincibility continues to entice the young to serve their country (I am not saying this is the only reason for war, but it is one component). However, these two ideals are quickly destroyed and replaced with a variety of feelings and emotions. Sebastian Junger, author of War, discusses how war evokes excitement and offers its participants the opportunity to discover if they keep will keep living, whereas Tim O’Brien talks about how he learned to survive and understand the meaning behind moral behavior from his post-traumatic stress disorder. [1] As civilians, we can attempt to grasp the meaning and experience of war, but we won’t truly ever know. Literature and stories are our one tiny peephole into this subject.

Young Adult

0-590-40943-3 Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Perry was not supposed to end up in Vietnam, but with the Vietnam draft and the misplacement of his medical paperwork, he is now trying to survive the war.

I think I might need to give up on Walter Dean Myers. I completely respect him as an author, but I have the worst time connecting with his characters. This is not a fault of Myers. It is what it is.

I do appreciate what he tried to do with Fallen Angels. Myers succeeded in capturing the desperation and hopelessness in Vietnam. I do feel the hopelessness that Perry and his soldiers felt. However, this was the only thing I really connected with in the book. Want to feel even more desperation, watch the movie Apocalypse Now. I wanted to be committed to a mental asylum after that movie.

However, beyond this element of plot, my attention started to wane. I think it might be the fictional component. I have read enough war nonfiction that I appreciate the authentic voice. This might be a good introductory book to war, but I would recommend that readers/teachers/students actually pick up the real thing.

Adult Book

543103 Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of the American War by Evan Wright

On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. While the military bigwigs remained behind in the US, young men placed their lives in danger in the name of “freedom.” Evan Wright, a writer and journalist, accompanied these men. He witnessed how these men perceived their leaders, their team members, and the events surrounding them.

This is a brutal honest look at the war. Wright does not sugarcoat any event. He discusses how some of these young men entered the war under the belief of freedom, while others saw the invasion as America’s greed for oil. Wright even addressees the competence of troop and battalion leaders, and how these mens’ decisions endangered the lives of their men.

If you have an open mind, I would strongly recommend Generation Kill. Wright offers a small glimpse into the minds and actions of the men who helped spearhead the invasion into Iraq. He makes you question everything you heard or saw in the news.



0-545-13049-2 Truce by Jim Murphy

On December 25, 1914, in the midst of World War I, two groups of enemies sit freezing in their trenches. Trying to maintain the holiday spirit, the men on both sides begin to sing Christmas carols, only to hear their enemy also singing. Soon, the men are spilling out 0f the trenches and agreeing to a Christmas truce. This simple act soon sets forth a motion of events that will not only further complicate the war, but put a human face to the enemy.


2210366 Final Salute by Jim Sheeler

We have all seen the footage on the news. Another soldier dies in Afghanistan or Iraq. He/She leaves behind a family. However, rarely does the public learn how the loss of these soldiers impact their families.  Jim Sheeler visits and interviews people who were impacted by the death of a solider. From the first knock involving the notification of death to the birth of a baby after his father’s death, these stories will break your heart over and over again.


6413338 Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

McCormick reveals how complicated and emotional war is through the story of Matt, a soldier who is suffering from a Traumatic Brain Injury. As Matt deals with his injury, he attempts to piece together the incident that inflicted his injury. The one image he remembers is Ali, a young Iraqi boy being killed. As he slowly remembers what happened, the reader learns that war is not always black and white and that pulling the trigger is not always easy.

Other Recommendations

War by Sebastian Junger
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

1.Anderson, Donald. “‘Soldier-Artists: Preserving the World .'” Paper presented at the annual meeting for the American Literature Association Symposium, New Orleans, October 11, 2013).

On the Streets

This past week Twitter had a campaign about the diversity of books. People from around the globe tweeted about why we need diverse books. I, myself, participated in this campaign. I wrote:

because the world’s story cannot and should not be told through one race.

However, race was not the only discussion. People also tweeted about race, gender, and sex. There is need for all these books. Everyone needs to be afforded the chance to read about themselves in literature. The realization of how lacking our literature is of diversity is represented in statistics.

In 2013, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in Madison, Wisconsin completed a comprehensive survey of all published children’s literature for the year 2013. Out of 3,200 books, only 93 were about African/African-Americans. These 93 books included picture books, novels, and non-fiction. The statistics become even more depressing for other minority groups:

69 books for Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans
57 books for Latinos
34 Books for American Indians

These numbers demand to be addressed, and we must also not make the mistake of assuming one particular literature represents one specific race.  My library’s teen librarian tweeted:

because Black characters should be fairies and badass assassins too

I point this out because it seems that all literature that revolves around African-Americans is placed in a urban setting or should be about the Civil Rights movement. Yes, we need this type of literature, but we also need every-day characters of different races. This being said, I do believe that we need more urban literature for both young adults and adults.

I was afforded the opportunity to hear Jason Reynolds, author of When I Was the Greatest Speak. I was blown away by  his discussion. He talked about how people today do not always understand another culture. What one might perceive as”ghetto” is displaying an ignorance of a culture. This can be portrayed by people’s perceptions of urban literature.

Characterized as gritty, violent, and over-sexualized, urban literature can be considered quite controversial to the semi-protected minds of suburbia. However, these books can and are culturally relevant to those living in an urban area. They are also going to be more appealing to urban teens more than John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Wanting to understand the appeal of urban lit to both teens and adults, Allyssa Harris, a certified women’s health nurse practitioner and Connell School assistant professor, completed several interviews about women and their reading habits.

Harris, who attempted to read an urban book and was disturbed about she read, found that most of her patients could relate to the literature. Many of these woman were avid readers of urban lit and shared their books with their friends and families. When Harris asked these women why they read this genre, the women said that the books reflected true life and accurately portrayed what happens on the streets.

While Harris questioned how these books influenced girls and their sexual activity, some of the books did act as a warning. A teen who read The Coldest Winter realized how her life paralleled Winter’s life and decided to change her ways, as she didn’t “want to be like that.” These books might not be what some considered the most ideal reads, but for others, it is a way of life.

Young Adult

421338 Tyrell by Coe Booth

Tyrell and his family have been kicked out of their apartment and now are living in a homeless shelter. Trying to keep things together the best that he can, Tyrell tries to balance all aspects of his life.

This book grabbed me from page one. I was completely enthralled by Tyrell’s story and wanted to know how his story would end. Booth has weaved a plot line and characters that make you feel emotions. She actually fleshes out each character, so her reader can understand everyone’s viewpoint. You might not agree with where each person is coming from, but there is no questioning of each character’s actions and motives.

This is not a clean urban lit. This book contains sexual references, drug-use, and language. However, if a reader gives the book a try, they might discover the passion of a boy trying to handle a hard life.

Adult Novel

106393The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

Winter Santiaga is a princess in the urban world. With a drug lord father and dotting mother, Winter gets almost everything she wants. Until one day, Winter’s world comes crashing down. Winter must now learn to navigate the streets without her father’s influence.

This is a gritty book. When I think of urban fiction, I feel that The Coldest Winter is the quintessential example of the genre. I think within the first chapter I was completely hooked and amazed by the language and plot line, specifically when the mother talks about her twelve-year-old daughter getting her freak on. When I asked a co-worker who was familiar with the culture about this topic, he was not shocked at all. He said that Sister Souljah captured the community accurately. The plot only becomes more intense as the pages turn.

Besides the intense plot, I really enjoyed reading about the different characters. Winter drove me bonkers. Touting herself as a street-smart girl, Winter’s only love is money and material items. Her need for expensive items continually takes her on a vicious cycle until her ultimate downfall.

I actually loved this book. I am a firm believer that any genre that is well-written can take its reader into its world and this book accomplishes this feat. I would definitely recommend this book to a teen who wants to advance to the next level of urban lit.


17428880 When I was the Greatest by Jason Reyonlds

This is an amazing YA debut novel. Set in Bed Stuy, New York, When I was the Greatest follows Ali and his two friends, Noodles and Needles, as they navigate life and its hardships.

This book is vastly different from the other two books I read, as Ali has a strong and present mother and the language is kept to a minimal.

71332 Push by Sapphire

Precious Jones has known nothing but abuse in her life. Her mother belittles her and her father rapes her. Pregnant with her father’s second baby, Precious seems invisible to the larger world. Until one educator gives Precious and her life a new outlook.

18143768 Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland is currently the only African-American soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. Overcoming socioeconomic hardship and racial adversity, Copeland has risen from living on a motel room floor with five siblings in Los Angeles to a ballerina superstar in New York City.