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  • Monthly Archives: February 2013

    Looking for Alaska


    by John Green
    275 pages
    Reviewed by Dr. Russ Yocum

    “That is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to do without” (Green, Kindle p.144 of 221).

    Looking for Alaska is the coming-of-age story of Pudge, the Colonel, and Alaska Young. These boarding school teens yearn to discover their sense of self, cigarettes, and sex against a back-drop of master-mind high school pranks. Miles Halter, humorously nicknamed “Pudge” due to his slim physique, has led a life that he feels has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him hunger for the “Great Perhaps” ( the words of François Rabelais, poet) even more.…

    The Edumacation of Jay Baker


    by Jay Clark
    275 pages
    Reviewed by Dr. Russ Yocum

    “I care about being happy. And the people I love being happy. It’shard to ask for anything more than that.” (Clark, Kindle, p. 77-78 of 275)

    The Edumacation of Jay Baker is a laugh-a-minute read that manages todeal with serious subject-matter for teens with witticism and humor.

    Jay’s teenage shoulders are yoked with strained family dynamics,parental infidelity, separation, and divorce (while he’s already dealing with the social awkwardness and convoluted relationship struggles of a high school freshman) the night before his big debate for freshman class president against his once-best-friend-turned-arch-nemesis, Mike.

    Jay attempts to deal with his family’s pain, his confusing love triangle with Cameo and Caroline, while enduring constant insults from Mike and also navigating his way through the normal trials of a high school freshman. In trying to find happiness amidst all this, he deals with things in his own way – - with a keen intellect and a side-splitting sense of sarcasm-laced humor.…

    My Book of Life by Angel


    My Book of Life by Angel by Martin Leavitt
    256 pages
    Reviewed by Jordan Lamar of Gulf Breeze High School

    My Book of Life by Angel is a novel written in free verse that depicts the gritty tale of a teen prostitute and her courageous pursuit towards a better life. Leavitt’s use of free verse in the novel allows the raw emotion of the terrible tribulations faced by a female prostitute to shine through, without allowing the graphic subject material to become unbearable for the reader.

    This novel is a compassionate story that not only puts the search for ones’ self on display, but also makes the reader consider the humanity of society as a whole. It strips away all of the safety of the reader by exposing them to the harsh realities of life.

    Ultimately, the reader will become more aware and sensitive towards the plight of so many teens that live this tumultuous lifestyle.…

    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children


    by Ransom Riggs
    352 pages

    Reviewed by Dr. Russ Yocum

    “To have endured all the horrors he did, to have seen the worst of humanity and have your life made unrecognizable by it, to come out of all that the honorable and good and brave person I knew him to be–that was magical.” (Riggs, Kindle p. 88 of 348)

    Jacob Portman’s quest to learn answers about his grandpa, Abe Portman,leads him from Florida to the Isle of Cairnholm. Jacob is hounded onhis journey by flesh-eating monsters and finally discovers the answers among the “peculiar” inhabitants of Cairnholm who were his grandpa’s childhood friends.


    A fantastic tale populated by monsters and “peculiar” time manipulators, shape-shifters, and children who are endowed with super-strength, are invisible, or who can create and control fire will leave readers asking themselves what their own life’s journeys are about. What monsters are hounding us? How can we find the strength to defeat those monsters?…

    Whale Talk

    304 pages by Chris Crutcher


    Reviewed by Dr. Russ Yocum


    Absent the element of hate, a person’s skin color is only an indication of his or her geographical ancestry. But with that element, it is a soul stealer.” (Crutcher, Kindle p. 102 of 289)


    Whale Talk is an excellent exploration of pain and prejudice from the perspectives of victims and abusers.

    T.J. Jones is an athletic high school student of mixed ethnicity who (Japanese, African American, and Caucasian) eschews the typical fraternity of jocks and the racist behavior they display at his school. Although he has learned to deal with a life of constant ridicule due to his differences, T.J. is infuriated when football star Mike Barbour bullies brain-damaged Chris Coughlin for wearing his dead brother’s letter jacket. T.J. hatches aplan for revenge when he recruits a band of social outcasts to populate the school’s new swim team.…