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Things I'd Rather Do Than Die
by Christine Hurley Deriso

Pub Date: 18 Sep 2018

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I recently reviewed Christine Hurley Deriso's All the Wrong Chords, which I loved. I really wanted to like Things I'd Rather Do Than Die as much, but alas, I give it 4 instead of 5 ⭐. I also read Deriso's Acknowledgment section of this novel, and I'm glad she took the advice of her editor; having the main characters tell their tale in alternating scenarios made this story more thoughtful than if it had been a one-sided story. Stereotypes of jocks, brains, Jesus freaks, popularity, race and ethnicity, financial status, family structures, and illnesses became something about which I wanted to contemplate rather than be swayed. I can picture my teen readers discussing this story.

However, it was those amount of topics Deriso tried to squeeze into this one novel that caused my rating to lose a potential star. Maybe teens with slightly shorter attention spans won't mind the topic hopping, but I found it a bit distracting. I think it will affect my ability to discuss and recommend the book to my students. Other than being able to remember the basic plot, it's the nuances that might be lost to what I usually try to relate with enthusiasm.

On the other hand, Deriso handled all of the sensitive topics well. She allowed the characters to present their different points-of-view just like 'real' teens would. Kudos to that!!

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Book Review: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Book Review: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

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publish date: May 8, 2018

Sarah Crossan brought me into a world I don't think I'll ever encounter in my own life, but she brought me into it nonetheless. Great job helping me to be a part of someone else's life, especially when I'd have no understanding otherwise.

What it is like having your older brother on death row, having a family that can barely take care of itself, having the seesaw conviction of unconditional love with others telling you to forget about your brother... mix in a great [unexpected] plot twist... creates a story full of sympathy, doubt, and life.

I really enjoyed Crossan's writing style; it helped with the rhythm of the story and with the personalities of the characters. Not quite prose paragraphs and not quite verse novel, the format added motion and emotion to the narrative.

I read this right before I read, The Hate U Give, and Moonrise is it's own unique tale, not derivative or redundant, and it provides a great addition to the repertoire of life stories I never would encounter without the aide of Angie Thomas or Sarah Crossan

I can see this book working for a YA book club, especially because of the moral issues tackled: death sentence, race, poverty, family, and addiction.

I'm looking forward to having this book in my high school library.

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What You Left Me

by Bridget Morrissey

publication date June 5, 2018

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Magical realism.  As a result of a drunk driving accident during their high school graduation, friends get connected through dreams to the friend who "is stuck" in limbo from his injuries. I might have liked this better if the characters beyond the three main characters were more developed. The other 'friends' are not stereotypical; it's just that they're not described enough for me to empathize or connect with any of them. They are more like plot devices than participants.

My suspension of disbelief isn't working when someone with a class rank of 11 gets over a year to make up one exam in order to keep her class rank. The real pressures of high school report cards, class rank, and accountability required magical realism to make this work.

I'd like to think teens are smarter than to ditch in the middle of their high school graduation ceremony in order to go on a drunk joy ride all while expecting to return to the ceremony and have no one notice they'd been gone. The ditch, the drinking... as well as magically connecting to one's alphabetical neighbor for the first time at graduation? 

I did appreciate the humorous lightness Morrissey offered throughout the story, but it wasn't enough to undo the falseness of the ending, "Do you really think you had control over what was going to happen to you?" Yes, don't get into a car with your impetuous, impulsive drunk friend.

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