Thursday, February 18, 2010

UNWIND - Neal Shusterman

Adams Central HS students read 
Unwind - Neal Shusterman

Oh my what a read! A few of us read this book for February discussion and there was such a rave going on about it that we have decided that the whole group should read it and discuss it for March.

It takes place sometime in the not too distant future in America after another civil war basically between right-to-life and pro-choice factions. A treaty was signed that assured the protection of every "life" upon conception. However, now there are may unwanted children who grow up in state homes or foster homes. At age 13 any child may be signed over to be "unwound" which is to be taken to a facility where they are used as donors until every piece of them is used to help someone else. Thus they are never destroyed but live on in some form.

Connor has been a discipline problem and so his parents have signed him over to be an unwind. When he flees he ends up banding with other unwinds and a "tithe" which is a person who has been given up to unwinding as a religious devotional sacrifice. If they can live until they are 18 they will be considered as adults and can refuse to be unwound.  What a page turner this is! I am so looking forward to the students insight and what they think about this provocative book.

WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE - Shirley Jackson

Jay County Public Library Book Group discussed We have always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson

Only a handful of us were at group this month and probably it was due to the inclement weather. But, all attending were happy to have read this classic. If you haven't read it I would highly recommend it. The book is only 146 pages so it doesn't take long. All of us had read The Lottery in high school and I had read Haunting of Hill House also so I think we were all prepared for a dark tale. This novel of a brooding mansion, the scene of a multiple murder, and eccentric young girls living alone did not disappoint.  

The reader, knows right away that of an extended family of wealth only three have survived a poisoning. Merricat is 18 and the perpetrator of the crime. She is living with her older sister, Constance and an ailing uncle, Julius. They are reclusive and the people of their small village torment them. However, they perceive their life to be quite content and even happy. That is until a young male cousin shows up to change them.  There is much to ponder and to discuss. Alas, the questions I have go unanswered. Why did Merricat kill her famliy? Why do Constance and Uncle Julius not mind that she did so and why aren't they afraid of her? What is the reason that she is so childlike, is she mentally challenged? Why does Constance never leave the house? And does Merricat even exist or is she a phantom? Anyone care to comment?

Update – October 2010

Adams Central HS Student Literati had this as one of the choices to read for this month. Several balked as to them it looked too short and the cover appeared too juvenile. But, three took it and had a good discussion. Bridget simply loved it and intends to keep it in her personal collection. I believe she hopes to use it to refer to in her creative essays for class. I hope she does. They had concluded with the same questions the adults had. Did I remember to say I love my students? When I work with them I feel good about our future.
 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

LOST - Gregory Maguire

Adams Central HS students read Lost - Gregory Maguire

Ten students tried to read it but only a handful accomplished the task in time for discussion. Winifred is a writer who doesn't like her own work even though in the mass-market world she is a success. When the story begins she is working on a new book about Jack the Ripper. After a strange scene in the opening chapter at an adoption agency (it ties in later) she travels to London to research. She also co-owns a home in the White Chapel area with her cousin and they are distant relatives of the real person that Dickens used for Scrooge. Upon arriving in London her cousin is missing and people in their building are acting strangely. Drama ensues with haunts, specters, and much creepiness.

I liked it very much however, it bogged down a bit in the middle and we all got the irritated feeling that it should have moved along with the plot a bit faster. Maguire is a hard read for kids but I am proud of the ones who stuck with it. We had a great discussion about the literary references which are many (Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Flies, 101 Dalmations, Mary Poppins, Wind in the Willows, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings to name only a few) and we had the best discussion of a quote on page 23, "Who would you choose to be haunted by, if you could choose?"

The students and I talked about Briticisms and also the rich vocabulary such as emasculation, nepenthean, verisimilitude. Also I had a lot of quotes to talk about such as, "I'm not superstitious but I an suspicious." and "Beware your childhood reading ... There is no Narnia in the wardrobe, there is no monkey's paw with a third and damning wish to grant."

"B" my reader this year that gives everything the
most thought stayed with it - like the trooper that she is - and since then has commented several times about the book. So I know she got something out of it even if it wasn't her favorite for the year.

It is typical Maguire if you have read his books before - and I personally love them. But... I know they are probably for a limited few of us. I would very much like to re-read it with some adults though.