Reflective Renewal

finding meaning and inspiration in children's literature

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New books and new perspectives for a new year

January 6th, 2010 by christine · 1 Comment · Creativity

A new year brings new everything, including new books.  For all you teens, parents, and educators out there ready to tackle the latest titles, here is a resource to help you get started.  In particular, as teachers, we are always searching for the up-to-the-minute books on the market to tempt our adolescent readers.  For those of you who may not already be familiar with it, each year a collection of debut authors assemble to create a website to promote their new books.  This year’s website is: http://www.classof2k10.com/

The website boasts that they are “the hottest debut authors of Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.”  Personally, I am sick of vampire books right now, but for those of you who may be seeking titles to whet the appetite of Twilight fanatics, there are plenty of titles on the Class of 2k10 website to satiate your tastes.  A non-vampire title that immediately caught my attention was Of all the stupid things by Alexandra Diaz.   OfAllStupid

One of the attributes of this book that I enjoyed the most was its narration style.  Of all the stupid things is written from the first-person perspectives of three best friends, so each of their voices and each of their views are clear to the reader.  Each chapter heading reveals which of the three friends—Tara, Whitney Blaire, or Pinkie, will be narrating the chapter. Tara is an athlete struggling with rumors about her boyfriend, as well as emerging, unfamiliar feelings she is experiencing for the mysterious new girl in town.  Whitney Blaire is the quintessential rich girl who seemingly has it all, yet lacks a true sense of self worth.  In navigating the loss of her own mother, Pinkie becomes the mother hen and worry wart to all of her friends.

I was touched by the raw vulnerability of each of the characters in Diaz’s well-crafted story.  One of the most compelling lessons in the book comes the complex relationship Pinkie maintains with her deceased mother.  By writing notes to and talking to her dead mother, Pinkie attempts to work through issues in her day-to-day life.  It is at the end of the book, when Pinkie finally says good-bye to and lets go of her mother that she can move forward into a new chapter of her life.  I was also struck by the astute persistence of Tara, the athlete.  Diaz carefully captured the attuned perception of an athlete, and how runners find solace and therapy in their exertion.  Tara was able to sift through difficult relationships in her life by training for a marathon.  Towards the end of the book, when Tara pursues an intimate relationship with the new girl in town, Diaz tenderly and respectfully allows the reader to experience all of the “firsts” that come with any new love.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

As I reflect on this book, I am not sure if I would use it in a classroom setting, although I would highly recommend it to adolescent girls for outside of school reading.  And let’s be honest—out-of-school literacies are often more influential and identity-shaping than in-school literacies, anyway.  That said, I would still encourage teachers to not shy away from these topics, either.  Girls need and deserve safe classroom spaces to discuss and explore topics such as gender, sexuality, mourning, friendships, and other sensitive issues.  Literature is one powerful pathway for those conversations.

Last, I would just like to re-emphasize what an asset Diaz’s book is simply because of its narration style. Since each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character, readers are able to get an up-close glimpse at each girls’ feelings and perspectives, which helps adolescents develop deeper comprehension skills and critical thinking strategies—a bonus in any book!  

Check out Of all the stupid things by Alexandra Diaz, as well as lots of other fascinating new titles on http://www.classof2k10.com/

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Margot Magowan // Jan 27, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Looks like a good book, thanks for the rec. I’m almost sick of vampires…

    Margot

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