Feed by M.T. Anderson

Book Info
Feed by M.T. Anderson
©2002 Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA
ISBN 978-0763617264

Plot Summary
In a future America, commercialism has been taken to new heights with the introduction of “feeds.” Hardwired into the brain, the feed is a constant stream of information, advertising, news, and the latest in fashion and events. For teens like Titus and his friends, feeds are essential for discovering where to party and what’s hot to wear. After a party on the moon (which apparently sucks), Titus meets the intriguing Violet. Unlike Titus and his friends who love and depend on the feed, Violet challenges it and asks important questions like “why?” But when Violet’s and Titus’ feeds get hacked, she does not recover as he does, likely due to its late installation many years after birth. Due to the feed’s connection to the brain, she begins to deteriorate as well as experience elements of clarity without the feed. Can she and Titus fight the feed and discover its secrets before the deterioration kills her completely?

Reader’s Annotation
Imagine having Twitter and Facebook hardwired directly into your brain, with the added element of nonstop advertising. This endless stream of information is a reality in the world of M.T. Anderson’s Feed. Follow Titus and his friends as they develop from feed-lovers to questioning its very existence and impact on their lives.

Critical Evaluation
Written years before the explosion of websites like Facebook or Twitter, Feed seems eerily prophetic. While it isn’t connected directly to our brains, most of us are glued to these websites through our computers and smart phones to share our thoughts, communicate with friends, find out about the latest party, and be bombarded by sidebar advertising. In Feed, this form of speechless communication was linked directly to the brain, inundating people with information. It is a thought-provoking social commentary that cleverly highlights current trends in society and culture and though it seems to be a slightly exaggerated future, Anderson makes it feel completely plausible and like something that could truly exist in a few years if things continue as they are. For a sense of realism, the feeds in the book use a great amount of teenage slang that was developed by this future generation. With any type of slang, it may be difficult to understand by people not familiar with it, but it adds a sense of being in the heads of the characters right along with them.

Information about the Author
Born November 4, 1968, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Anderson attended St. Mark’s School, Harvard, University of Cambridge, and Syracuse. He worked at Candlewick Press before Thirsty was accepted for publication. Anderson is a former instructor at Vermont College in Montpelier, Vermont, and former music critic for The Improper Bostonian.

Anderson is also a board member of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, a national non-profit organization that advocates for literacy, literature, and libraries. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of Vermont College of Fine Arts. After learning Anderson included the Governor’s official mailing address in Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware, Governor Jack Markell penned a tongue-in-cheek response, which State Librarian Annie Norman presented to M. T. Anderson in September 2009.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Science Fiction, Dystopian, Cyberpunk

Curriculum Ties
Sociology

Booktalking Ideas
Violet received her feed later in life. How does this make her different?

How does the feed compare to things we find in our everyday lives, such as television, Facebook, and Twitter?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Mild sexuality
  • Foul language

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
This book was recommended by the librarian at a library where I volunteer. I was worried that I had too many books geared towards girls, and wanted to add some more masculine books, and ended up with something smart and thought provoking that would appeal to both genders.

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The Fight (Drama High #1) by L. Divine

Book Info
Drama High #1: The Fight by L. Divine
©2006 Dafina, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0758216335

Plot Summary
Jayd Jackson is a sixteen-year-old, proud resident of the stereotypically gang affiliated and drive-by shooting ridden Compton, CA. Jayd and about 30 other black teens from her neighborhood are bussed into LA every day to the predominantly white and wealthy South Bay High, aka Drama High. Jayd was dating basketball hottie, KJ, until he dumped her because she refused to give it up to him. With higher hopes of scoring, KJ started dating Trecee, resulting in a situation to make Drama High live up to its name. Motivated by Jayd’s former best friend Misty, Trecee challenges Jayd to a fight in order to prove that KJ is out of bounds. Jayd certainly isn’t looking for a fight and could do without the drama, and now she will discover who’s got her back and finds comfort in some unlikely places, specifically her nice classmate, Jeremy.

Critical Evaluation
Urban lit is a genre that is growing in popularity. I personally want to be able to enjoy and appreciate all genres, and while I can appreciate urban lit as a genre, understand its appeal and the role it plays at getting certain demographics to read, I have a hard time actually enjoying it from the books I have encountered thus far. I hoped The Fight would shine some new light on this genre for me, but as I read the book, I found myself unable to take it at all seriously and it seemed more like a literary version of cheesy and overly dramatic reality television similar to “Jersey Shore.” The series is called “Drama High,” and there is absolutely no shortage of drama. In fact, I found the drama to be exaggerated and overdone. I can see how it might appeal to a teen, but as an adult reading this book, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I also tend to be very aware of blatant repetition and found myself distracted and annoyed by the author’s repeated use of the euphemism “give up the cookies” for having sex. It was admirable and moral for Jayd to be strong willed against sexual pressure before she is ready, but the slang made it feel kitschy and laughable.

Reader’s Annotation
As one of 30 black students bussed in to a predominantly white and wealthy high school, it’s no surprise that Jayd’s life is full of drama, and it gets even more so when basketball hottie, KJ, dumps her because she won’t give it up. KJ’s new girlfriend decides to challenge Jayd to a fight, to rightfully defend what’s now hers, but Jayd just wants things to be calm and drama-free. Can Jayd escape the drama of Drama High?

Information about the Author
In April of 2001, L. Divine began work on her series of books for young adults appropriately titled “Drama High.”  As a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, L. Divine noticed a rapid decline of literacy among youth.  Her motivation for writing for teenagers was to create material that would simply inspire them to read for pleasure.

When not writing, L. Divine guest lectures and holds workshops for writers and young adults. She is also involved in community activities and serves as a writing expert on various panels. L. Divine served as a Visiting Scholar in the Center for the Study of Women at UCLA and continues to be an active member of academia, researching issues in African Diaspora and Women’s Studies.

L. Divine was raised in Compton, California and has lived all over Los Angeles, as well as in Jamaica, West Indies. She now resides in Atlanta with her young daughter and son.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Urban Lit, Chick Lit, Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties
Sociology

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the impacts of sexual and peer pressure.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
I included this book to add variety to my selection and also to take another shot at the genre urban lit. This series was something I often had to order when I worked as a book buyer for a company that served public and school libraries nationwide.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Book Info
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
© 2010 Tom Doherty Associates, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0765322166

Plot Summary
People of all ages in countries all over the world band together to fight battles, complete quests and win virtual gold, items and treasure within the confines of virtual worlds in massively multiplayer online games. Each game develops an intricate virtual economy meant for the innocent enjoyment of its players, but as with real money greed and impatience can cause corruption and exploitation within these economies. Brutal sweatshops form in countries such as China and India packed with workers to “farm” virtual gold and special items from games for the purpose of selling them to greedy and impatient players in countries in Europe and the United States for real money.

Matthew Fong is a teenage, gold farming factory worker in China who longs to escape the clutches of Boss Wing to form an operation of his own with his friends, Ping and Lu. Mala, a fifteen year old in rural India with exceptional leadership skills is employed by a corrupt businessman to lead a virtual army. Leonard lives in Southern California, but is fascinated with Chinese culture and even learned to speak Mandarin so that he could communicate with his Chinese guild mates and adopted the name Wei-Dong. All of their stories intertwine as they get involved with a woman who calls herself Big Sister Nor. Nor wants a revolution to essentially unionize this corrupt underbelly of online gaming to gain protection, fair wages and reasonable working conditions for the workers, but the forces she is against won’t go down without a fight often resorting to real life blackmail, physical violence and even murder. With the odds against them, can they change things for the better?

Reader’s Annotation
For thousands in impoverished countries, multiplayer online games aren’t just a cherished pastime, but their source of income in corrupt factories with subhuman working conditions. Can a seemingly unrelated group of game workers be united to improve conditions for game workers everywhere?

Critical Evaluation
After reading Little Brother, I was very eager to check out some of Cory Doctorow’s other literary contributions, and I hate to say it, but I was disappointed in this book. As a former PC gamer of MMORPGs, I thought this book would be right up my alley. The book seemed to be slightly too advanced for people who have no online gaming experience in the terms of throwing around slang and gaming concepts, but also not quite realistic enough for an actual gamer to find the situations always believable. I also found issue with a blatant overuse of the description “waggled his/her chin.” I had no idea what exactly this was supposed to describe and noticed that it was sometimes used up to four times on one page alone. I would still recommend the book to people who are gamers or interested in gaming, assuming that they would be less critical and able to overlook some of the things I took issue with.

Information about the Author
Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net), and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He is a Visiting Senior Lecturer at Open University (UK) and Scholar in Virtual Residence at the University of Waterloo (Canada); in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

He co-founded the open source peer-to-peer software company OpenCola, sold to OpenText, Inc in 2003, and presently serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the MetaBrainz Foundation, Technorati, Inc, the Organization for Transformative Works, Areae, the Annenberg Center for the Study of Online Communities, and Onion Networks, Inc.

On February 3, 2008, he became a father. The little girl is called Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow, and is a marvel that puts all the works of technology and artifice to shame.

From the author’s website.

Genre
Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties
Economics, Labor Unions, International Relations

Booktalking Ideas
What can you learn from a game economy about our country’s economy?

Why do the Webblies want to unionize game workers?

How would your life be different if you were a teenager in China?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Occasional graphic violence against teenagers.
  • Sexual content.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • Is the violence gratuitous? Is it integral to the power of the story? How graphic/gratuitous is the sexual content?

Why Included?
I was eager to read more from Cory Doctorow after falling in love with his novel Little Brother that was assigned for the class to read.

Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi

Book Info
Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi
©2008 Dutton Children’s Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0525479956

Plot Summary
In the wake of her parents’ divorce, Maddy finds herself in a new town and a new school. All hopes of a fresh start are quickly thrown out the window when an unfortunate accident on the first day of school lands her the nickname “freak girl.” In the city, she had a tight group of friends, but now she has no one and feels like she’s destined to stay that way forever. She finds herself retreating into her drawing – manga art – until she receives the new online role playing game Fields of Fantasy. Here, Maddy can escape the horrors of her real life and finally be herself. She immerses herself into her character Allora who is not only powerful, strong and brave, but a beautiful Elfin princess as well. Through Allora, Maddy even manages to find virtual love when she meets fellow gamer and valiant champion, Sir Leo. Unfortunately everyone knows you can’t escape reality forever, and Maddy must eventually face the Haters. Can she use the confidence and strength she has developed in the game to overcome her problems in real life?

Reader’s Annotation
Video games can serve as magical escapes, and for Maddy who is recovering from her parents’ divorce and struggling in a new town, Fields of Fantasy is just that. Unfortunately, she can’t avoid her problems forever, but can she use the skills she has acquired in the game to help her combat her real life problems?

Critical Evaluation
The world of online gaming is largely male dominated, so as a female and former PC gamer I was really excited by the premise and female gamer point of view of this book. While I ultimately enjoyed the book, I was mostly unimpressed in its execution. On the plus side, I was able to relate to it pretty well, it was an easy read and the writing was well done. I enjoyed the rotation between the excerpts from the in-game chat and the first person narrated story. I found the dialog to be incredibly realistic. Mancusi really captured how gamers talk which made me feel nostalgic, but for someone not familiar with gamer-speak, it might seem slightly confusing or weird. My major complaint about the book is that the story felt very cliché which left me feeling slightly disappointed.

Information about the Author
Mari Mancusi used to wish she could become a vampire back in high school, but she ended up in another blood sucking profession –journalism — instead. Today she works as a freelance TV producer and author of books for teens and adults.

When not writing about creatures of the night, Mari enjoys traveling, cooking, goth clubbing, watching cheesy horror movies, and her favorite guilty pleasure–videogames. A graduate of Boston University and a two time Emmy Award winner, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Jacob and their dogs Mesquite and Bowie.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Nerd Lit

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the similarities and differences between online friends/relationships and those in real life. Can you really be friends with someone you’ve never met?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
12+

Challenge Issues

  • Occasional foul language

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I read Cory Doctorow’s For the Win and despite including female gaming characters, seemed mostly geared towards a male audience. I came across this book and was eager to see how gaming was portrayed from a female point of view.

Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs

Book Info
Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs
©1980, 2008 Drawn & Quarterly, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
ISBN 978-1897299364

Plot Summary
After years spent cleaning public toilets, Jim is realizing that he may have worked himself into a rut. Ready for a change, Jim begins spending his breaks browsing the local paper for new career opportunities, only to find that nearly everything requires applicants to have “the levels.” It would be so much easier, and not to mention exciting, if he could just become cowboy or a valiant highway man who robs from the rich and gives to the poor! Jim decides to follow his dream and find the excitement he seeks, but he rapidly learns that the excitement may not be everything he expected.

Reader’s Annotation
Jim is tired of cleaning toilets and longs for a career filled with excitement and adventure. He must learn the hard way that change isn’t easy and adventure isn’t always what you expect.

Critical Evaluation
Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs is credited as being one of the first graphic novels published in English. Not only is it written in English, it is actually from England. I felt the need to specify this because it features a decent amount of British Slang and references. Jim wants to get out of his dead end job as a janitor for a public toilet, but he doesn’t seem to be qualified for any of the jobs he is interested in because they require “the levels.” He is referring to an element of the British educational system where students take standardized exams in various subjects, and certain jobs require passing grades in specific subjects. This and other references may make it difficult for American teenagers to understand, though the overall story is still very clear. Jim longs for adventure, but is painfully ignorant which is illustrated both by his aloof dialog and visually through drawings where the authority figures who step in when Jim’s adventures go awry, are often sketchily drawn. In general, the book is a social commentary on societal structures that are still relevant 30 years later.

Information about the Author
Raymond Briggs was born in London in 1934, and studied at Wimbledon School of Art and the Slade School of Art, London.  His first work was in advertising, but he soon began to win acclaim as a children’s book illustrator as well as teaching illustration at Brighton College of Art.

He came to public attention when he illustrated a book of nursery rhymes, The Mother Goose Treasury, in 1966, winning a Kate Greenaway medal. Since then he has become one of the most innovative and popular author-illustrators.

Genre
Graphic Novel

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Do you feel Jim was fairly sentenced at the end of the book?

Jim seems to be content in prison and happy to be considered an expert at something, even if it was exactly the job he was trying to get out of. Knowing this, do you think Jim’s goal all along was really adventure?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
I stumbled upon this book while browsing through the YA graphic novels at my library and picked it up because I was drawn to the artwork. I later discovered that it was one of the first English graphic novels and would be a valuable resource.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Book Info
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
©2008 Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0060530921

Plot Summary
When Bod was a toddler, his entire family was murdered. Being too young to understand what happened, Bod crawled out of his crib and wound up in the graveyard near his house. It was then that he became the only living resident of the graveyard, to be raised by the ghosts, werewolves, and other occupants of the cemetery. When he is 14, it is discovered that the murderer is looking to find Bod and finish off the family he had set out to obliterate so many years before. Bod must use his courage, strength and the skills he’s learned from his ghostly teachers to face the terrors of both the living and the dead.

Reader’s Annotation
Orphaned as a toddler, Bod’s childhood was less than conventional, being raised as the only living resident of a cemetery by the ghosts, werewolves and other graveyard occupants. Now 14, Bod learns that the man who murdered his entire family wants to finish the job. Bod must use his courage, strength and the skills he’s learned from his ghostly teachers to face the terrors of both the living and the dead.

Critical Evaluation
Mostly specializing in adult literature and a love for the macabre, Gaiman has only taken a few forays into children’s and young adult literature. The Graveyard Book is one of his more recent contributions and probably the most well executed. The book is a dark coming of age tale of an orphaned boy who is raised by ghosts and other inhabitants of a cemetery. Through Bod’s somewhat morbid tale is a story that is rich in power and profundity with underlying lessons to be gleaned. I thoroughly enjoyed The Graveyard Book and found Gaiman’s writing to be impeccable. He combines the perfect mix of fantasy and magic, with vivid descriptions and valuable lessons and morals to be learned.

Information about the Author
Neil Gaiman is an English author, though he now calls the United States home. As a child, he was a voracious reader which paved the way to a career in writing. In his early 20s, he pursued journalism by conducting interviews and writing book reviews as a means of taking steps towards eventually getting published. His first published books were a couple of biographies before journeying into the world of comics and graphic novels. Starting in the early 90’s Gaiman began writing more novels and prose for adults, children and young adults.

Gaiman currently resides in Minnesota in close proximity to his first wife and their three children. Gaiman recently married Amanda Palmer of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, and is also well known for his ongoing friendship with singer/songwriter Tori Amos, who has mentioned him in a number of songs, and been written into a few of his stories. Gaiman is also very active and interactive with his fans through the mediums of Twitter and his blog.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Fantasy, Dark Fantasy

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss Bod’s graveyard family. Is it as unconventional as it may seem?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
10+

Challenge Issues

  • Violence
  • Murder

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
It is a magical and exceptional story that everyone should read. This was another book that I couldn’t imagine not including in the blog project.

Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

Book Info
Hope in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum
© 2010 WestSide Books, Lodi, NJ
ISBN 978-1934813416

Plot Summary
After coping with years of sexual abuse at the hand of her step-father while her mother turned a blind eye, 15 year old Ashley Asher is finally in a stable home. Though shame kept him away since Ashley’s birth, her father, along with his wife Bev, have rescued her and are both dedicated to helping Ashley rebuild her life in her new home of Patience, Texas. With the help of her new family and exceptional therapist, Ashley struggles to grow and overcome the post-traumatic stress disorder that plagues her and causes her to spend many sleepless nights hiding in her closet, and even cut herself. Follow Ashley along her road to recovery as she learns to come to terms with her past and to love herself and find her own value as a person, but that road never comes without a few bumps. Will Ashley be strong enough to overcome?

Reader’s Annotation
At 15, Ashley Asher is finally free from a childhood of sexual abuse, but the mental and emotional scars remain. Follow her in Hope in Patience as she journeys down the rocky road to recovery.

Critical Evaluation
I found this to be a very moving and emotional story. When discussing the book in class, some criticized the writing, but knowing that Beth is writing from the heart and personal experience, I really didn’t notice or mind anything less than stellar in her writing ability. I have no personal experience with abuse or PTSD, though I do have friends that have attempted suicide or were cutters, so it was very interesting to take a peek into the mind of someone who has been through something traumatic. Such a book is definitely a must read for anyone who wants to better empathize with someone in their life who has gone through a similar situation.

Information about the Author
Beth was born in Dallas, Texas, and has one brother, who is a police detective. She and her husband were high school sweethearts, and married young. Together they have three daughters: the oldest is getting her doctorate in Sociology; the middle daughter is headed West soon to start her MFA in Publishing and/or Creative Writing, and the youngest child is studying to be a neonatal nurse.

Beth is still a teacher, currently teaching 5th grade students in a bilingual education program in East Texas. She is fortunate to love both of her jobs, as teacher and author! She loves being surrounded by the birds and wildlife that live in the woods where she lives. She has a flower garden and enjoys to edit and revise while sitting on her porch swing and watching the hummingbirds swarm to the feeders.

From the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties
Psychology, English – Literature references

Booktalking Ideas
Ashley’s past may have been a troubled book, but the book seems to have an overall positive message. What do you feel are the overlying themes of the book?

Coach Griffin had a grudge against Bev, claiming that she took his son away from him. Do you think T.W.’s actions and behavior were her fault?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Sexual abuse.
  • Self mutilation.
  • LGBT acceptance.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • While these are heavy issues, many teens are victim to these kind of experiences, and such a book can be a great tool for coping, or empathizing with a peer who is troubled.

Why Included?
Hope in Patience is included because it was assigned reading for my Libr-265 class. It is not the type of book I would typically pick up so I am glad I was exposed to it, and feel like I have grown from reading it.

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