Book Review: 47

47 by Walter Mosley

SUMMARY: In his first YA book, acclaimed mystery writer Mosley tells a stirring story of escape from slavery in which science fiction and African American myth blend with the realism of plantation brutality and the courage of resistance. A boy today remembers himself as a 14-year-old slave named 47, living in Georgia in 1832. He recalls being chained, branded, and whipped until the runaway Tall John inspires him to fulfill his destiny and lead his people to freedom. Like the mythical figure High John the Conqueror, the runaway comes from "beyond Africa," and he shows the boy the secrets of the universe. Above all, 47 takes in Tall John's repeated lesson ("Neither master nor n----- be"), which is finally what sets him free. Mosley brings the harsh facts and anguish very close, and the first-person narrative shows and tells how "slavery is the most unbelievable part of this whole story." (adapted from the Booklist review)

OPINION: I have read a lot of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about slavery. Toni Morrison's Beloved is an amazing example, dealing with the emotional impact of slavery on one mother. But 47 is the most unique book about slavery that I have ever come across. It combines historical fiction and science fiction into a magical realism that brings a whole new light to this dark part of American history. Sometimes, it feels like you always learn about the same people and events during Black History Month. The nontraditional style of this book goes beyond the facts that you learn in school. Get a fresh perspective by reading 47!


Bringing Down the House

Today, 12 teens attended our first Saturday afternoon DDR event. Surprisingly, there were 9 boys and only 3 girls. One of the girls was Rachel G., who we are glad to have back with us again!

Anyway, the dance pads were always full and everyone seemed to have a good time. In our tournament, Vincent walked away with the prize for best dancer, although Chris was a very close second. We will do another DDR event this summer, so look for the calendar!

FYI: We are signing up now for Donkey Konga and Karaoke Night on Friday, March 10, from 6:30 to 8:30. This is our last special teen event until the summer!


Break Up Letters

Some people have been asking me if I put the break-up letters from the Anti-Valentine's Day Party up on the blog. The answer is yes, but they are no longer on the front page. Look on the right side of your screen for the archives, and click on February 2006. When that page loads, scroll down to the entries for February 11 and 12. The break-up letters are there, along with some of the lists we made. Also, check out February 10 for photos of the Anti-Valentine's Day Party!


Book Reveiw: Maximum Ride

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

SUMMARY: A group of genetically enhanced kids who can fly and have other unique talents are on the run from part-human, part-wolf predators called Erasers in this exciting science fiction thriller. Max, 14, and her adopted family–Fang and Iggy, both 13, Nudge, 11, Gazzy, 8, and Angel, 6–were all created as experiments in a lab called the School. Jeb, a sympathetic scientist, helped them escape and, since then, they've been living on their own. The Erasers have orders to kill them so the world will never find out they exist. Max's old childhood friend, Ari, now an Eraser leader, tracks them down, kidnaps Angel, and transports her back to the School to live like a lab rat again. The kids are forced to use their special talents to rescue her as they attempt to learn about their pasts and their destinies. (adapted from the School Library Journal review)

OPINION: I have been hearing good things about this book for a while, but I just got around to reading it! This is adult author James Patterson's first YA book. It is science fiction that is light on the science and heavy on the fiction. There is action and adventure galore, and even some humorous moments. I couldn't put this book down because I wanted to find out what happened to the characters. It ended with one of those really evil cliffhangers, but there is a sequel coming very soon, so I think I can live. Definitely read this book!

NOTE: The sequel to this book, Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever, will be released on May 23. 2006


Book Review: Marly's Ghost

Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

SUMMARY: Ben is dealing with just about the hardest thing you can think of. His girlfriend Marly has died. A life that was once filled with love and vibrancy is now gray and meaningless. When Marly and several other ghosts come back to haunt him on Valentine’s Day, Ben takes a painful journey through Valentine’s Days past, present, and future, and is forced to acknowledge that his current state of agony is not only distancing him from his friends but dishonoring the memory of Marly. Two of children’s literature’s brightest stars have teamed up to provide both a compelling novel about loss and an exciting and modern twist on an enduring Dickens classic. (from the publisher)

OPINION: This book is a cross between Christmas and Valentine's Day...perfect for winter reading. By recasting the characters from A Christmas Carol, Levithan creates a whole new spin on a familiar story. The man definitely has an imagination. Who else would make Marly into a dead girlfriend, Fezziwig into a rambunctious art student, and Tiny and Tim into a gay couple!? You know the basic plot (and can probably figure out the ending), but this book is a fun read because of the Valentine's Day twist.


Anti-Valentine's Day Movies

Stay far, far away from romantic comedies! Here are some rental suggestions from the teens at the Anti-Valentine's Day party:
  1. Weekend At Bernie's (1989, PG-13)--A pair of losers try to pretend that their murdered employer is really alive, but the murderer is out to finish him off.
  2. Chicago (2002, PG-13)--Murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart find themselves on death row together and fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago.
  3. Mean Girls (2004, PG-13)--After a sheltered, home-schooled childhood in Africa, Cady Heron must learn to survive the jungle of "Girl World" at a public high school in suburban Chicago after being accepted by the Plastics, the 3 most popular girls in the junior class.
  4. Super Size Me (2004, PG-13)--An irreverent look at obesity in America and one of its sources, fast food corporations.
  5. The Stepford Wives (2004, PG-13)--What does it take to become a Stepford wife, a woman perfect beyond belief? Ask the Stepford husbands, who've created this high-tech terrifying little town, in a very modern comedy-thriller.
  6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, PG)--A young boy wins a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by the world's most unusual candy maker. Tim Burton + Johnny Depp = creepy!

Anti-Valentine's Day Websites

Anti-Valentine's Day sentiments are alive and well on the internet. Here are some choice websites for those opposed to the wuvvy-snookums atmosphere of the season.

Yup, these are candy hearts with negative messages on them, such as "Parole Is Up!" and "Reject Pile". Choose the "Dejected" set or the "Dysfunctional" set...or order both!

CafePress Anti-Valentine's Day Merch
There are pages and pages of products expressing hatred at CafePress! That's where I got my Anti-Valentine's shirt for the party, as well as the buttons we gave out for prizes. (Just a note of caution: some of the shirts may be offensive.)

Anti-Valentine's Day Cards from Yahoo
Anti-Valentine's Day Cards from MSN
Anti-Valentine's Day Cards from Yahoo Australia
Send a friend an ecard to celebrate your lack of celebrating!

Break Up Letter #3

Excerpts from a letter composed by Arwa and Arig at the Anti-Valentine's Day Party.

How could you!? You backstabbing piece of ugliness, may the world come crashing down on you. How dare you, you filthy wretch, talk about me and cheat on me behind my back. I hate you with all my heart. You are an annoying creep who should be rejected and thrown out of society. You are so superficial! You broke my heart, now I will break yours. You will hate your life so much that you will wish to die.

Break Up...Poem

Caitlin C.'s Break-Up Poem from the Anti-Valentine's Day Party:

I used to drown within your love,
But I've found a better way to die.
I used to heat up from your touch,
But I'd rather throw myself from the sky.
I hope your chocolates make you fat.
I hope those flowers make you sneeze,
And those fake rings give you gangrene,
and your bouquet is filled with bees!

Best Break-Up Lines

These are the best bits from break-up letters that didn't make the cut!

"Every time I hug you, it feels as if I am hugging Hagrid from Harry Potter."
--Sadiya and Ria

"It's not you, it's me. OK, it's you. I hope you enjoy rejection."
--Laura and Katie

"I'm sorry, but you are against my religion."
--No Name Paper

"All you did was misuse me and tear me apart from the things I love. I was the only person who would give you a chance. Don't even try to go out with my good-looking friends because they don't like you."
--Maria and Ritchie

"I could go on and on forever, but I don't want to waste the pencil lead."
--Kara and Judy


A Lonely Valentine's Day

At the Anti-Valentine's Day party, teens spent a lot of time adding names to our poster of celebrities who are most likely to spend Valentine's Day alone (or those who just deserve to). Here is a list of my favorites, in no particular order:
  1. All four members of The Wiggles
  2. Steve Urkel
  3. Flavor Flav (from the old-school rap group Public Enemy and more recently of VH1's reality show Flavor of Love, where he searches for the girl of his dreams)
  4. SpongeBob SquarePants
  5. Rick Moranis
  6. Michael Jackson
  7. Rowan Atkinson
  8. Anne Coulter (a conservative political commentator)
  9. Britney Spears (or Spear Britney!, as someone wrote)
  10. Barney and BabyBop
  11. Richard Simmons
  12. Roseanne
  13. Keith Richards
  14. Paris Hilton
  15. Edward Scissorhands
  16. The lady who hosts The Weakest Link
  17. Caligula (an insane Roman Emperor)
  18. Marilyn Manson
  19. Fez from That 70s Show
  20. Jerry Springer
  21. Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa
  22. The old guy from the Six Flags commercials
  23. Elvis
  24. Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
  25. Draco Malfoy

Break Up Letter #1

Excerpts from a letter composed by Julie and Katie at the Anti-Valentine's Day Party.

There are so many things to say that I don't know where to begin, so I guess I'll get right into it. Basically, I don't like you. I hate you. I loathe, detest, abhor, and despise you. You are the grimiest, skeziest piece of scum to ever stick to my shoe.

First of all, you need to learn the meaning of the word "hygiene," because frankly you're so slimy that slugs pour salt on you. That weird thing in your bathroom is called a shower, buddy, and you need to learn how to use it! To be honest, one time when we were out, I though we were near a sewage plant, but it turned out you had forgotten your deodorant.

Aside from the fact that you are disgustingly gross and horrifically ugly, you're also pathetically dimwitted. I'd give you a penny for your thoughts, but you wouldn't have change. What makes you even more pathetic is how full of yourself you are. Well, here's a newsflash for you: You are not God, the world does not revolve around you. You need to get over yourself.

Break Up Letter #2

Excerpts from a letter composed by Violeta, Elena, and Sana at the Anti-Valentine's Day Party.

I have many things to tell you and I'm not sure you will like them at all. First of all, why did you betray me, you loser? I want to tell you that you are an abomination and that my heart despises you a great deal. I will make sure that drpression lives within your black heart your entire life. Now you know how much you hurt me, you cheating, worthless little scumbag! You are ultimately a horrible, useless lowlife. I hope you suffer in this life and the afterlife.


Anti-Valentine's Day Party

Tonight was the TAB's Anti-Valentine's Day Party, and 19 teens attended. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. The room was decorated with black balloons and red crepe paper, and Kara contributed an angry/depressing mix tape to complete the atmosphere. We wrote break-up letters (to be posted to the blog soon), defaced photos of celebrity couples, and made catapults to shoot candy hearts at a target. For snacks, we had normal food, but with fun names, like Hershey's Kisses of Death, Dark and Stormy Night Chocolate, Bleeding Hearts, and A Punch in the Gut. We also had a cookie-decorating contest, where teens iced heart-shaped cookies with depressing messages and symbols. It was great! Check out the photos below.


Book Review: Like Sisters on the Homefront

Like Sisters on the Homefront by Rita Williams-Garcia

SUMMARY: At 14, Gayle is pregnant. Again. The first time she kept the baby. This time her mother drags Gayle to have an abortion and then sends her away from the projects in Jamaica, New York, on a one-way ticket to family in Georgia. For Gayle, it's like being "sold to slavery." She's never met her mother's family, and they don't particularly want her in their big mansion. Her uncle is a pastor; her sweet teenage cousin, Cookie, looks as if she's "straight out of Mommy-Made-Me magazine." Gayle shocks them with her street talk, her cussing, and her free and unrepentant talk of sex. Only her great-grandmother, a soul mate, loves Gayle's spirit, laughs at her irreverence, and tells Gayle the family history of slavery, protest, and faith. (from the Booklist review)

OPINION: When Gayle, street-smart and sassy teen, moves in with her uncle and his straight-laced family, you know sparks will fly. The book is a collision of culture and class issues, all taking place in the same African-American family. Wealth, religion, sexuality, geography, and education all work to separate the family members. Cousins Cookie and Gayle begin to cross the boundaries between them and form an uneasy relationship through the summer. My favorite character in this book, however, is Great, Gayle's great grandmother. She is definitely a spunky old person, and as much of a rebel as Gayle, even though she is physically helpless. She tells Gayle the family secrets that she has been withholding from the others for years! This book is excellent realistic fiction, and I wish there was a sequel.


SP Night!

Last night, we had our second Gameboy SP event. There were 18 teens there, with 14 participating in our Pokemon tournament, 2 just hanging out, and 2 judging. The best part? We had 4 girls there (a record!), and 2 made it to the semi-finals in the tournament. The final match, though, was between Greg and Shawn. It was close, but Shawn was victorious and won a $10 gift card to GameStop.

Huge thanks to Rachel for providing her GameCube and the new Pokemon XD game for arena battles in the semi-final and final rounds. It was so cool for everyone to see the battles on the big screen! Also, thanks to Will for managing the tournament and providing a Pokemon egg to the winner. Maria and Will both also deserve thanks for helping me set up.

We will probably do another Pokemon event this summer, so check the schedule!

Book Review: Shrimp

Shrimp by Rachel Cohn

SUMMARY: If Cyd Charisse knows one thing, it's that Shrimp is her true love. Shrimp, the hottest pint-size surfer-artist in San Francisco. That boy (as her mother called him) was the primary cause of Cyd being grounded to Alcatraz, formerly known as her room. Now it's the start of senior year. Cyd has changed, but maybe Shrimp has changed too--and maybe Cyd and Shrimp will need to get to know each other all over again to figure out if it's for real. Can Cyd get back together with Shrimp and keep the peace with her mom? (adapted from the inside flap)

OPINION: If you haven't read Gingerbread, you must read it because this book is a sequel to it. (I reviewed it on the blog back in December.) Shrimp is a great story, in which Shrimp and CC (her new nickname) struggle to figure out if they have a place in each other's lives anymore. Also, Shrimp's easy-going pot-smoking parents are back on the scene, which creates some very unique tension. The questions about CC and Shrimp's relationship continue to the last page. So, of course, I stayed up late to finish the book and find out what happened! It was definitely worth the time, and I totally recommend it to you. Thanks, Amy, for the suggesting it!