Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Mentions: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Release Date: February 23, 2016
Publisher & ARC: Harlequin Teen
ISBN: 9780373211579
Ages: 12


Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

  • Everlife: The only other time I remember reading a book involving the afterlife that gripped me so much I still remember it to this day is Dante's Inferno. So, the experience here is definitely rare. Firstlife is what we, as readers, would be living right now--our real lives, but to Ten and the characters in the book, the afterlife, or Everlife, is the ultimate destination for a "real life." While that could sound a little complicated, the piece-by-piece structure of the book puts the puzzle together cleverly and without confusion. While Ten grew up in Myriad, she doesn't want to be a part of that lavish world, so she has been imprisoned until she decides that's what's best for her.
  • Love & Independence: ​Is there a love triangle? Yes. Is it annoyingly cheesy? No. Myriad and Troika send two guards for Ten, and essentially soul. Troika sends Archer, who from very early in the book seems like a jerk, and Myriad sends Killian, the typical bad boy. Both have a very important task: to seduce Tenley into signing a contract for their side. Archer and Killian make it very difficult to choose (of course), but both seem to have Ten's best interest at heart. But beyond love, Tenley is pretty good at taken care of herself. At Prynne Asylum, where she is being held hostage, Tenley has created a tough reputation for herself. She's not the typical villain, and that is what's most interesting about her character.
  • Author Credibility: ​​Gena Showalter has definitely made a name for herself, and writing a new series (which the sequel can't come soon enough) is genius. Probably best known for her White Rabbit Chronicles (at least popular with my students), Showalter excels at dystopian fiction and out-of-the-box thinking.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Normal Norman Blog Tour

Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher & ARC: Sterling Children's
ISBN: 9781454913214
Ages: 4-8
"What is "normal?" That's the question an eager young scientist, narrating her very first book, hopes to answer. Unfortunately, her exceedingly "normal" subject—an orangutan named Norman—turns out to be exceptionally strange. He speaks English, sleeps in a bed, loves his stuffed toy, goes bananas over pizza, and even deep-sea dives! Oh, no: what's a "normal" scientist to do? A humorous look at the wackiness that makes us all special— and a gentle reminder that "normal" can't ever be defined!"
As a high school teacher, I don't have the opportunity to read very many children's books to my students. When I can, we are all excited for the chance to step inside a world of imagination that neither of us have visited since we were children. Normal Norman is one of those rare children's books that I can teach to my high school students while also being one that is appropriate for children. 

The narrator begins by telling us that this is her first book. In it, she is going to define "normal". As a teacher of teenagers who struggle with this idea every day, I can say that defining normal isn't easy for them or for the narrator. She investigates the definition and finds that Normal isn't Normal. Growing frustrated, the narrator begins to question her assignment and worries that she will fail. She cannot define normal. But can any of us? 

With expressive illustrations that depict both the narrator's frustration and Norman's endearing qualities, this book is one that will stay on my bookshelf at school, there for my students to pick up when they think they can get away with reading a children's book during SSR, only to realize that the moral of the story ("being abnormal is normal") applies to them as well. I can also see myself employing this book as a resource for a "definition" essay. That being said, there are endless applications of the universal theme of identity. 

Keep following Norman's blog tour by checking out the dates below!