Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review: As You Wish

As You Wish As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


**Thanks to @kidlitexchange for the advanced review copy of this book. Opinions are my own.**
As You Wish
by Chelsea Sedoti
Posted 12/17/18
4/4 stars
Grades 8+
Book Talk
"The trick is to be boring. No one likes being bored, yeah? If a place is boring, you're not gonna stick around. You're not gonna ask any questions. That's the way we like it."
Madison, Nevada is about as boring as it gets. It's a dusty, desert town, the "fastest way to get from nowhere to nothing". At least, that's the way the people of Madison want you to think. But hidden behind the run-down buildings and sleepy facade is a secret. A big one. Everyone in Madison gets to make a wish on their 18th birthday. Just one wish, but it changes EVERYTHING.
Eldon is about to turn 18, and he is struggling with his wish. Should he try and wish his ailing sister back to health? How about money to help his family? The ability to leave Madison behind in his rear-view mirror? As an assignment from his teacher, Eldon begins interviewing locals about their wishes and the impact of those wishes on their lives. He realizes quickly that wishes aren't always what they seem, and that you better be very careful about WHAT you wish for and HOW you wish for it.
My Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. It reminds me a lot of the book "This is Not the End", in that teens are forced to make huge decisions that impact not only their lives but the lives of everyone around them. One of my favorite parts of this book was the desert setting. I've always been intrigued by the desert southwest, so I loved reading about growing up in a tiny town, isolated and surrounded by sand. I found the characters in the book to be believable, flawed, and interesting. Eldon is a pretty typical teen boy, and we see him smack dab in the middle of typical teen struggles. Merrill is his geeky best friend. Norie is the odd but loveable sidekick who brings a touch of religion to the story.
There is quite a bit of language in this one, and typical teen fare (drinking, drugs, partying). But the content isn't too adult, and I would recommend it for grades 8+.

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Review: My Brigadista Year

My Brigadista Year My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


**Thanks to @kidlitexchange for the advanced review copy of this book. Opinions are my own.**
Grades 6+
Book Talk
It's 1961 in Havana, Cuba. Lora is a 13-year old girl doing normal, pre-teen girl things. She attends school, has a few friends, loves to read, and spends time with her family (including her 2 pesky brothers). Her life is turned upside down when Fidel Castro overthrows General Batista and takes over as premier of Cuba. He puts out a call to his country, to bring literacy to all of Cuba in under a year. Lora feels a stirring to serve her country by signing up to be a brigadista, serving as a maestra (or teacher) to a farming family in the mountains. She is sent to live with the Santana family in the Escambray mountains. No running water, no electricity, none of the comforts that Lora has grown up experiencing. With only a few textbooks and a lantern, Lora must figure out how to teach her campesino family how to read and write and pass the literacy exams.
My Thoughts
The story itself is rather beautiful. I learned a lot about the culture and traditions of Cuban families in the 1960s, as well as the history behind the Cuban Literacy Campaign. Lora is a strong, believable main character that I wanted to cheer for as she pushed past her fear to serve her campesino family. Still, I am torn about recommending this book fully. There are strong anti-American sentiments throughout. The story is told from a pro-Castro perspective. That is hard for this patriotic, military spouse to swallow. But then again, the mark of a really excellent book is that it makes you think, question, and consider. I was doing all of these things as I read Lora's story.
My Recommendation
There is some violence in the story (family attacked and killed by brigands, a pig and chickens stolen and killed), but it is not graphic. No language or adult situations. This book is appropriate for middle grades and up (6+). I think the history and content is too heavy for elementary.
Give to fans of historical fiction and adventure, especially those looking for a strong female lead.

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