Kirkus has a pdf version of its Top Picks for Reading Groups available online. The top picks include ones for teen reading groups towards the end. I have only read two of their recommendations: Ida B and Loud Silence of Francine Green. Good books, but I’m not sure they would have been my top picks for discussions.
Harmless by Dana Reinhardt.
Ever have a moment as a teen where you were caught in a situation and realized that lying was going to be much easier than telling the truth? That is exactly what this book is about. It is the second book by Dana Reinhardt, author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, which was a Cybils Award finalist in the teen category.
Three high school freshman friends, Emma, Anna and Mariah get caught in a situation that they should not have been in. So they make up a little lie, saying that Emma was attacked by a man and Anna and Mariah save her. But the lie spirals out of control. Anna and Mariah are seen as heroes, Emma sees herself as a victim, and the community goes on a manhunt for the perpetrator. Then a girl in a neighboring town goes missing and a vagrant who frequents both communities is accused of the crime. Now the three girls have very big decisions to make. Do they allow an innocent man to go to jail for a made-up crime or do they admit to family, friends and the entire community that they were lying from the beginning.
This book is far more complex than the brief storyline I have written above. It offers a glimpse into three unique girls who all struggle with their lies in different ways and from different perspectives. Additionally, all three families of the girls are unique and interesting; all reacting differently to the crisis of the attack and to their daughters.
Reinhardt is an author who is not afraid of truly delving into the psyches of her characters, revealing depths that otherwise could be left unexplored by other authors. She has a gift for showing emotions and not telling readers about them, making her characters all the more genuine.
There is sexuality in the novel, but nothing happens in front of the reader. Mariah is sexually active with her older boyfriend, which speaks directly to her character and her family situation. The topic is used deftly in the story itself and is not treated lightly.
Recommend this to readers who enjoyed Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. They make very interesting companion novels.
CNet has an interesting article about the possibility of schools using video games in classroom instruction. I hate the title of the piece, “More Video Games, Fewer Books at Schools?” because I see it pitting one form of communication against another. While I will always side with the power of books for education, I wouldn’t want to blindly and blithely assume that video games could not be used to reach children who shun books. This is certainly something that we as librarians as well as educators need to keep our eye on. Perhaps this is a way for more truly educational games to be created, especially for older children that we could then offer at public libraries? Sounds exciting to me!
Destiny’s Book Reviews is a book review site written by a ten year old! She reads the type of books that kids take out of the library by the armload, rather than the more literary works that the rest of us are discussing. She has a refreshing voice, a great writing style, and her blog is a joy. Nice to know that there are kids like Destiny out there reading, loving and sharing books.