Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green & David Levithan

will_grayson_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

On a cold night in Chicago, two strangers cross paths. The two teens, living in different cities, suddenly find their lives going in new and surprising directions that culminate in a brave change of heart and an epic high school musical sure to steal the hearts of its audience. This amazing story, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, was written by award winning authors John Green and David Levithan. Green has won numerous awards for writing young people’s literature and has a blog, Brotherhood 2.0, in which he encourages his readers “to fight to increase the awesome and to decrease the suck!”

An enticing novel about a boy, Will Grayson, meeting another boy who is coincidentally named will grayson, this story is about friendship and love, and it is written in alternating points of view.  Will Grayson narrates the story on the odd numbered chapters, while will grayson, whose name is never capitalized, narrates the story on the even numbered chapters. While these two have the same name, their lives are nothing alike.

The theme of this book is that friendship happens because of fate or destiny. Will Grayson says, “But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are” (260). This quote demonstrates that forming friendships is not a choice, but an inevitable existence. It is fated so you cannot escape from the people who are put into your life to be your friends.

Although the Will Graysons have the same name and age, their personalities are completely different. Will Grayson cares about his family and friends, but his friends easily manipulate him. will grayson, however, has quite an attitude even though he is small. He doesn’t care much about life and he treats people with very little respect. Tiny, who is also one of the main characters, is Will Grayson’s best friend. Will describes Tiny as “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay and the world’s gayest person who is really, really large” (3). Tiny momentarily fosters a romantic relationship with will grayson, who is also gay. Their short fling further affirms the theme that romantic relationships may not last, but friendships last an eternity.

I thought this novel was very well written. It does contain some words that are inappropriate for younger readers, but I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a realistic drama. I especially like this book because of the way it was written. The alternating points of view of both of the Will Graysons add to the meaning of the story because these characters have different perspectives on the same events. I love the way that the two different authors of the book collaborated to write such a magnificent piece.

Full of drama, friendship, and love, Will Grayson, Will Grayson brings up many of life’s tough truths. In one of the scenes, Will Grayson says, “Caring doesn’t sometimes lead to misery. It always does” (19). This is very sad, but also very true. Will Grayson, Will Grayson will leave you introspective and pondering your own relationships.

-Sarah K., 7th grade

Book Review: The Wild Girls, by Pat Murphy

wild_girls_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

An insightful and erratic woman once stated, “Pay attention. Notice things and think about what you notice. Sometimes you’re writing about one thing and realize your actually writing about something else” (108). That contemplative and unusual woman is Verla Volante, one of the lesser-talked about, but very distinctive and important, characters, in the novel The Wild Girls, written by Pat Murphy.

The year is 1972. Joan and her average, mediocre four-person family have just traveled over 2000 miles across the United States, from the comfort of her cozy home in Connecticut to a new house in Danville, a small suburb just outside of San Francisco. Joan is almost sure she’ll disapprove of her new and ‘improved’ life, but soon finds makes a discovery that changes her mind.

The Queen of the Foxes, Fox, or just simply Sarah- Joan’s newfound friend is known by many names. When Joan encounters Fox, wearing war paint and ascending a tree in the forest behind her house, a friendship is formed immediately. Joan is fascinated by Fox’s ability to not care what other people think of her, and Fox supports Joan, or Newt, a nickname given to her by Fox, in helping her to find adventure- right in her own backyard. Fox lives near Joan- just her, and her writer father, Gus, who is just as strange as Fox, perhaps a bit stranger. When these two wild girls enter a writing competition at school- life takes them in directions they had no idea they could be taken. From a strange new writing camp to meeting with some old friends, these two wild girls are whisked away on the greatest journey that two friends could take.

The three main characters in this story- Joan, Fox and Verla- all have very interesting stories and opinions about certain things- but not all are dying to share. Fox is very opinionated- she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, as shown when she refused to dissect a frog in biology class. “I’m not sticking a needle into a frog” (60), she stated bluntly. But her opinion is usually only heard by her close friends, and family. Joan, on the other hand, is shy and quiet- at some times- but Fox really changes that as the story progresses. The characters also posses strengths, weaknesses, and fears. Fox isn’t good with people- especially people that want her to become something she is not. Joan is afraid of her father, more specifically her mother and father fighting. Which brings us to the conflict of the story.

A few conflicts are mentioned in this story- and not all are resolved. There are a few that are solved in the story. When Joan and Fox are straining to come up with an idea for the writing competition- BAM- it hits them. They then begin a magical story, starring the wild girls, with an evil prince, a kidnapped queen- you get the picture.  But a few conflicts do remain unresolved. Joan’s mother and father are constantly fighting at home. Her father is always arguing about money, and how everyone else is stupid, and claiming that he is smarter than every person. When Joan’s mother convinces him to try a marriage counselor, he is bitterly angry, saying, “I understand a lot of things. I understand that is cost me an arm and a leg to spend an hour talking with some quack about things we already know. I understand you’re spending money like it was water” (130).  Gus has some opinions on this topic- he believes that some people say they’re fighting about some things, when they’re really fighting about another.

I thought this story was very well written. I loved the way that the author, Mrs. Murphy, depicted the character’s emotions, and they were very real, and raw feelings. I also enjoyed the way that the story was written from Joan’s perspective. It probably would have made for a very different story written from Fox’s perspective, or even the third person’s perspective. I would recommend this book to all aspiring writers out there- even though it is a fairly easy read, is gives you some point of view about writing, and life in general. As Verla Volante once said, in order to broaden your perspective, and improve as a writer, “Drop a pebble in a pond. Watch the ripples spread. That’s what you want your writing to do” (288).

-Daisy S., 7th grade

Book Review: Vanishing Act, by John Feinstein

vanishing_act_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Vanishing Act, by John Feinstein, is a thrilling adventure at the U.S Open. Vanishing Act is the story of a group of teenage sports writing friends who plan to spend a vacation watching the grand slam in New York. They were having a great time at the Open, until the big event happens.

When they are planning to watch their favorite tennis player, Nadia Symanova, a news topping event occurs. Minutes before her showtime, she disappears, a vanishing act. This leaves millions with the question, “What happened to Symanova?” Once this group of friends discovers this event, they must use their friendship to solve this crime.

This book was written with a lot of suspense, and flowed very smoothly. The author had a great perspective in which he wrote it, with a lot of voice.  He made the characters seem real, and made it feel like you were in the story.

I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy an adventure, tennis, and love a great story. This story takes place at the grand train station in New York. Feinstein makes it so the station seems so real. Along with the thrilling adventure, he ties in the two themes of mystery, and friendship.

The three friends, Stevie, Bobby, and Susan, rely on each other to solve this crime. Also, there are many unexpected twists and turns in this book, “You’re right, she said. But I can’t imagine she would be involved in this.” (Feinstein 226) Vanishing Act is a great mix of friendship, mystery, and a great tennis match for all.

-Jared C., 7th grade

Book Review: Silhouetted by the Blue, by Traci L. Jones

silhouetted_blue_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

We all go through hard times, but it’s family that helps us through. Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones is a book about hard times, sadness, hard work, and family. Serena, a seventh grade girl, has her work cut out for her. Not only does she have to juggle grades, housework, and homework, but also two hours of play practice every day. All while taking care of her annoying 8 year old brother Henry without any help from her no good “blue” father, who does nothing but lay in bed crying all day.” You feeling blue still, Daddy?” Serena whispered. As an answer, her father rolled over again, pulled his pillow over his head, and began to cry softly (6).”All Serena wants is to have fun, be a kid, and live a normal life again.

Serena, the main character, is the reason I liked this book so much. Throughout Silhouetted by the Blue I really felt all of Serena’s emotions and her pain. All the work she has to do around the house and at school isn’t what a seventh grade girl should have to go through every day. Although this book had some sad and dark parts in the beginning, I was proud of how Serena handled the situation by trying to stay positive and believe in herself and finally took action to help her dad with his depression. She didn’t give up and was proactive in her situation, which brought her family back together. “Everything was finally back to normal, everyone Serena loved and cared about was right there- front row center, supporting her (200).”

Even though this book wasn’t a real or true story it still teaches you important life lessons. It taught me how important it is to be a helpful, loving sister, daughter, and teenage girl. It inspired me to never give up when life gets hard. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves acting, performing and not giving up on family.

The main themes of this book are: no matter how hard life gets, it will always get better with hard work and help from family and friends, and family is the top priority. These themes remind me of Elijah, Serena’s friend. Through everything Serena went through Elijah stuck by her side. He helped her with homework, chores, taking care of her little brother Henry, and helping with the play. Elijah was the greatest friend anyone could ask for, and he was just what Serena needed.

Silhouetted by the Blue is really a great book about bravery, hard work, and family. Again, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves acting, performing, and never giving up on family. If you want to see if Serena can get her father help, take care of her brother, and act in her school play, you will have to read the book and find out.

-Delanie K., 7th grade

Book Review: Rush for the Gold, by John Feinstein

rush_gold_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Have you ever had a dream you worked your whole life to achieve? John Feinstein, a fictional sports author, captures an amazing story of a small town swimmer who dreams of someday competing for Olympic gold. John has written over six other sports books, one of them being the New York Times best seller, The Last Shot. In Rush For The Gold, he tells the story of a girl named Susan Carol Anderson and how her life changed dramatically because of just one swim meet. I strongly recommend this book for any type of athlete looking for an inspirational story, as well as a compelling and captivating read. Athletes will love the competitive nature of the story line, and every reader will love the fast pace that keeps you guessing from beginning to end.

The story starts out with Susan Carol having a flashback to the World Championships in Shanghai nine months beforehand when she beat the world record holder, Liu Zige, from China by two hundredths of a second in the final round. From that point on, Susan Carol stunned the world. That win guaranteed her a spot in the Olympic trials and laid out an amazing financial future for her and her family.  “She had gone to China hoping to swim the meet of her life. She never dreamed that succeeding would completely change her life (pg. 2).” This just goes to show that even good things lead to different sorts of change; some good and some difficult.

“It had been at a Grand Prix meet in Charlotte [North Carolina] that she [Susan Carol Anderson referred to as Susan Carol] had gone from being a solid age-group swimmer to a national contender (pg. 5).” After that meet, her life would never be the same. From people at school treating her like a star, press meetings in her free time, to agents coming to her house pleading for her to become their client.  Susan Carol faced all the changes that come with a small town girl becoming an international celebrity.  A major theme projected throughout this novel is change – being able to accept change and adapt to change, both big and small, good and bad. Although it might seem simple, there are many different types of change. In Susan Carol’s case, accepting and adapting to all the changes in her life is no easy task. Part of her being able to adjust was having the support and loyalty of her boyfriend, Stevie.

After making the Olympic team, Susan Carol swims for her life in both the 100 meter and 200 meter butterfly. She can handle pressure well, but will it be different this time with millions of people watching? From here, you will have to read the book to experience all of the twists and turns of her shocking Olympic journey.  Does all of her hard work and extreme training finally pay off?  Do her Olympic dreams come true?

-Evan T., 7th grade

Book Review: Paralyzed, by Jeff Rud

paralyzed_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Accidents happen every day.  So when a tragic accident happens in a high school football game, is anyone to be blamed? In the book Paralyzed by Jeff Rud, he takes on this difficult question.  Mr. Rud has been a sports writer, columnist, and sports editor for over twenty years.  This is an entertaining book for individuals interested in novels with sports backgrounds.  It gives you a remarkable look into obstacles that players may face.

In this outstanding novel, linebacker Reggie Scott tells the story of his difficult journey as a high school football player facing the problem of being accused of “playing dirty” when an opposing player gets injured. Reggie is conflicted about his ability to use contact anymore.  While this is a legitimate feeling, it’s saddening to know that a great player like Reggie would be discouraged from showing off their talent.  Despite how it might appear, Reggie is not actually to blame for the tragic injury of Nate Brown, the opposing player.  Even the coach comments that “Despite how it might appear, this is not your fault.”

The rising action takes place when everyone realizes this, except Nate’s mom.  Reggie faces the wrath of Nate’s mom who blames this accident on Reggie.  “The woman’s face changed in an instant.  Gone was the mournful, confused look.  In its place was a flash of anger.  Her face grew red, and her eyelids twitched…Don’t come back ever! I don’t want you here.  Nate doesn’t want you here.  I saw you dancing around after that play.  I saw you celebrating.  Don’t think I didn’t notice.”

Ultimately, Reggie’s problem is resolved in a most exciting manner when Nate’s mom doesn’t give up on the idea that Reggie is to blame and takes things a step farther than just accusations.

-Justin W., 7th grade

Book Review: Football Champ, by Tim Green

football_champ_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

“Troy knew they were going to run the slant. He knew adults doubted 12 year olds anyway, but his calls had been good enough to last a three game winning streak. Troy stared hard into the eyes of the defensive coordinator, until he signaled Troy’s play. The center snapped the ball. The defense blitzed. The quarterback dropped back and threw the slant. Seth Halloway leaped in front of the receiver and caught the ball, securing the Falcons fourth win in a row.” (2) Tim Green’s book, Football Champ is a fiction story about how young Troy White makes his way into the NFL, but not by playing, but by calling the plays.

Football Champ is an incredible book that illustrates 12 year old Troy White’s life. Reading from Troy’s point of view, you will learn how he and his two friends, Nathan and Tate, overcome may obstacles to keep their dreams alive and never give up. Troy can predict the plays that other teams will call before they happen. That’s how he got his job in the NFL working for the Atlanta Falcons. “The executives jumped up, spilling their drinks, and began chanting and high-fiving Troy. The Falcons had just won their fifth game in a row, with a little help from Troy.” (93) All is going well for Troy, even his own football team, the Duluth Tigers, advance to the state championship, and the Atlanta Falcons look like they might make a play-off run of their own. But when Troy accepts an interview request with reporter Peele, his world gets flipped up-side down, and learns that some people don’t seem to be who they really are.

This book really interested me because of Tim Green’s writing style. He used many superb and interesting words that made the story much better. The book really flowed together nicely, and I couldn’t put it down. Along with the writing style, I loved the plot. Everything made perfect sense, and as I read on, it drew me in more. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in football, and loves an action packed story.

-Brenden W., 7th grade

Book Review: Box Out, by John Coy

0-439-87032-1This book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Have you ever read a book that inspired you so that you felt that the character was really doing well and making good choices? If you have never ever felt that feeling, the book Box Out should be your next reading destination. This book was very interesting –  it had many surprises and problems that were complex and fun to read about.

In the book the main character was a high schooler named Liam who is a sophomore at Horizon High School. He is very passionate about basketball and is recruited onto the varsity men’s basketball team because of the hard work and supremacy he showed in the JV division. His dad is proud and Liam is happy, but they won’t be for long. He later is bothered by something that the coach does before and after games. He is eventually kicked off the team. Read this book to find out why Liam gave up playing varsity during his sophomore year. Also, after Liam was kicked off the varsity team, he practiced with the girls’ team by his own decision – find out why by reading the book. I believe that this book has a lot of suspense and adds excitement with important choices the characters have to make. Also, John Coy put a lot of character and made each character different, which made the book more interesting in my opinion.

In the book Box Out some themes are courage, perseverance and hard work. Liam works very hard day in and day out  practicing his skills. He in the end succeeds. That is one of the biggest things I admire about him. Also, the author makes  Liam  look like a very  sad child. The author almost never gave any humor to him. Liam was always quiet, and I believe that is what helped him solve his problem with the coach, although the price was that he would be kicked of varsity. Although Liam was bullied and  ignored at times he never stopped  playing basketball. Even after varsity he shot around and honed his skills.

Here some quotes that clearly describe some characters in the book. On page 157, Darius Buckner a kid from Detroit who was a very skilled basketball player, also kicked off varsity said, “I’m glad  someone is finally able to do the right thing  and stand up to  coach.” I believe since that he was racially discriminated against, he was finally happy that someone would finally do the right thing and not listen to coach.  On page 145 Liam said, ” Although I am off the team I will not stop working.” I believe  that is inspiring and  shows  that he is the never give up kind of guy. That really describes Liam and his will to never quit. Overall, this book was worth reading, because of the suspense and decision making. If you are looking for a quick sports-drama, read Box Out – it would be a great pick for you.

-David C., 7th grade

Book Review: A Room with a Zoo, by Jules Feiffer

room_zoo_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Love is a very powerful emotion; whether the feeling is between humans or animals. A Room with a Zoo by Jules Feiffer is a story of a vet-aspiring little girl, Julie, who loves animals and wishes for a Chihuahua more than anything in the world. Her love for animals results with a zoo in her apartment room located in New York.

The start of Julie’s zoo was when she saw a dog food commercial. At that moment, Julie, despite her young age, established her strong love for animals and the desire to own a dog; specifically a Chihuahua. Of course, her parents refused to buy her a dog, much less a Chihuahua, using the excuse that she was not old enough to walk her own dog. Soon after, a debate between Julie and her parents took place resulting in the compromised age of ten-and-a-half when she would be able to get a dog. Julie, being her sneaky yet brilliantly minded self, asked if she would be allowed to have a cat because cats, after all, do not require walks. Her mom and dad had to give in because they had no valid excuses and Julie ended up with a kitten from the shelter named Timmy. At the time, Julie could not have even imagined that her bedroom would soon turn into a zoo with all her pets of various types: a hamster named Hammy, a “gangster” fish Oscar, few red fish universally called Reddy, a turtle known as Turtelini, and yet another cat named Jessie! As Julie expands her “zoo” one pet at a time, she encounters a most pleasant surprise towards the end of this book; one that she would have never guessed in her dreams.

For many reasons, A Room with a Zoo was a very enjoyable book. First of all, the voices of all the characters were vivid, although the main character’s voice was the most prominent. Another reason the book left such a positive image on my mind was because although the book was quick, it taught the valuable lesson that love is a remarkable thing. Lastly, this book by Jules Feiffer was very engaging; especially to an animal lover such as myself. Throughout the book, there were close calls of Julie’s pets’ lives and through all of them, I sighed in relief or sympathized with Julie. Except for some sentences which were confusing when it came to evaluating the flow of the words, this was a delightful yet quick piece of literature.

There were two main aspects of this book that were very pleasant: the character voices and developments. Julie’s voice was the most intriguing and memorable because of its clarity and trueness. Her voice was also the major factor which won me over in this book. Jules Feiffer did excellent job thinking like a little girl Julie’s age. In all honesty, Julie acted like a brat at times to her parents and sister but because of her childish ways, the book seemed more alive and in character. Another fabulous aspect of this book that set it apart from others was the developments of the characters. Julie, for example, grew more mature as the story progressed; having experienced more things and having learnt from those stepping stones of life. Although at the beginning of the book Julie demanded from her parents, towards the end, she became very thoughtful because she thought, “I wanted a kitten, but if I was going to have a dog, then I couldn’t” (110). Another character with a major character development throughout the story was Julie’s mother. Julie’s mother, despite hating animals, tried to change her way of thinking just to make her little girl happy and ended up showcasing acts of bravery that might not have been possible at the beginning of the story. Her extreme love for her daughter was displayed perfectly by the quote, “Julie, I wish I could love animals as much as you do. But I love you loving them” (84). Although Julie was an adopted child, her mother was willing to open her heart to animals more because her beloved daughter adored animals so much. Throughout the book, the main characters’ voices and developments really spoke out to me and made my experience of living the story more vivid and real.

As an extreme animal lover, this book was one that I appreciated very much. I could relate to Julie’s troubles and thoughts having had similar thoughts in the past. Also, I enjoyed Julie’s “true” voice; one that was pure and adorable. Love exists in the world; whether it is between humans and humans or humans and animals. A Room with a Zoo by Jules Feiffer was a book full of love; revealing what true love is like. I definitely recommend this book to animal enthusiasts, active readers searching for a quick, entertaining read, and for just anyone else.

-Alice N., 7th grade

Book Review: A Good Horse, by Jane Smiley

good_horse_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

It’s always been my dream to live on a ranch; to be able to just step outside into the open, rolling hills and hear the whinny of my very own horse.  Although this dream hasn’t yet become a true reality for me yet, in a way it has become a dream come true as I have jumped head-first into the lively world of fourteen year old Christian ranch girl, Abby Lovitt.  Pulitzer Prize winning Jane Smiley’s captivatingly simple writing style, as she embodies this junior higher, has kept me anxiously turning the pages of her classic equestrian masterpiece A Good Horse.

Oak Valley Ranch was a happening place in the mid-1900’s.  The Lovitt family, whom I am positive all readers will come to know and love, owns this ranch, and are comprised of the born horseman Mr. Lovitt, his wife, tender Mrs. Lovitt, and their daughter Abby.  The journey begins as Abby turns fourteen in the beginning of her second year of junior high and quickly learns that things are changing.  The bond between her and her gorgeous new colt Jack, is growing more indelible by the second, her obvious show jumping talent is more blatant than ever before on her marvelous horse Black George, and just as all of this joy and hope reaches its highest point, she receives a series of letters in the mail that threatens to take it all away.

After months of tiresome research and investigation, Howard W. Brandt of Brandt and Carson Agency has decided to contact the Lovitt residence with the troubling news that their beloved Jack might be one of the foals born of four valuable mares who had been stolen off of a racing stable in Texas a year earlier.  Jack is therefore a valued racehorse-to-be who might not even be rightfully belong the people who love him.  What will become of the joy of Abby’s life?  What extents will people take to get the treasured Thoroughbred in their possession?  Will Abby’s Christian faith keep her standing strong?  Fall in love and ride along with Abby as she embarks on her mission to take the world of show jumping by storm and keep her cherished colt while doing so, no matter what.

Abby is no doubt one of the sole reasons I loved this story.  She reminds me of myself, and that made this book so much easier for me to follow, especially through the slower parts.  She has a natural, raw talent as an exceptional rider, and her indelible love and passion for her horses, especially Jack is blatantly obvious throughout the book and in the following quote, “And even though I had fed him before going to school that morning and I saw him every single day and he always trotted over to the fence as soon as I approached and stretched his head out for a pat, and then followed me to the gate, and was in every way a kind and affectionate horse, there was something about this whinny and the way he tossed his head to say ‘Hey!  You’re home!  I missed you! Let’s do something!’ that brought tears to my eyes because I was so lucky” (4-5).   Her strong Christian values and simple, true ranch-girl spirit ring out strong and true as Jane Smiley perfects the art of capturing the opinionated character of a junior higher with the unique voice of Abby Lovitt.

The true, overarching theme of this book is directed mainly toward the Christian audience and is very true and important.  As we learn throughout this book and especially as a result of the conclusion, following after and submitting to the will of God is not always the easy thing to do, but it is always the right and prosperous thing to do.  This is made evident by the following quote in which Mr. Lovitt “kissed [Mrs. Lovitt] on the forehead and said, ‘The Lord will provide’” (120).  We also learn from Abby’s story and experiences that family needs to stick up for each other, and your bond with your family will ultimately make it or break it for you, especially in the face of competition and trials.

The author’s easy-to-follow and relatable writing style, lovable, absorbing characters, and complicated plot will be more than enough to get any horse person, any animal lover, and besides that, any girl who likes a great, but at times rather slow, read to keep turning this pages of this classic equestrian masterpiece.  If you are a boy or need a book that has no lack of suspenseful action, then this might not be the book for you.  I know this book will be a beloved classic of mine, and countless others for many years to come.

-Julia D., 7th grade