Monday, November 30, 2015

Thoughts on high school book club

We're into our second book for the high school book club that I run and I'd say it's going pretty well. We've doubled in size from last year (so much so that the tiny room with no windows that we meet in might need an upgrade) and have students ranging from juniors to freshmen. Half the time is spent just picking a book, but the half that's spent discussing shows a lot of insight into what real young adults want to read.

We just finished reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. While it was not my favorite, and some of the students agreed with me, many of my students really liked it. They aren't able to completely explain why they liked it or kept reading, so sometimes I think it's just pure will-power or perseverance. But of the students who stopped reading, many of them said it was slow or nothing happened. Once they got to page 100 it really picked up and they were into it, but many didn't make it that far. Others have already started reading the second book in the series and are loving it.

That tells me that pacing is super important. We all know teenagers have short attention spans (and so do I, which is why I like YA so much), but it was so apparent while discussing this book, since they all commented on the pacing. A few had started reading the sequel and said that Hollow City was much better and a lot more stuff happened in it. I haven't read it, so I can't weigh in on it at all.

Some commented on the main character being boring, (until page 100) and that he was slightly whiny, though they understood why. Some liked the photographs in the book, while others didn't really get it. Many of them seemed excited about the movie though, and want to take a field trip when it comes out next year. We'll see if I'm able to swing that... But overall, a lot of varied comments on such a popular book. It just shows the vast range of teenagers interests and that there is someone out there for every book.

While trying to decide what book to read next, there seemed to be two camps: contemporary and fantasy/sci-fi. I think this depicts the market of YA pretty accurately, as there is always room for contemporary and fantasy. This time, contemporary edged out the fantasy readers, and we picked Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

I'll let you know what they think during our next book club meeting.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review of The Martian (book and movie)

I teach kids science, so reading THE MARTIAN was almost required reading. My other colleague liked it so much that he wanted to take our students to see it, saying it was an awesome depiction of why science is awesome.

And I agree.

The main character, Mark, has a billion problems in front of him, after getting left behind on Mars, and he has to use science in order to stay alive. A lot of science. A lot of trial and error. A lot of testing equipment.

The book is a bit on the clinical side. Mark has a quirky sense of humor, and that shines through now and then, but for the most part it's a report of what he's had to do to stay alive. As a teacher of science, I appreciated it. There were so many passages that I wanted to excerpt and make my students read because it was exactly what we are or will be learning in class. There was definitely tension when things went wrong, and I wanted to see how he would get out of it, but it was pretty straight-forward. I was waiting for them to pull a "The Mexican" and have there be actual martians or something, but no such luck.

The movie I really enjoyed (until one bit at the end). It had tension, the scenery was awesome, and in some parts had better characters than the book (Donald Glover as Rich Purnell was better than I imagined him). They didn't go into the science as much, and of course they had to skip some parts otherwise it'd be too long (though I really wanted to see all his trial and errors).

As for the end, they obviously Hollywood-ified it. The part about Iron Man is in the book, but it just felt sooo fake to me in the movie. So I enjoyed it up until that very end part.

So if you like science and suspense, definitely give it a try. But obvi read the book before you see the movie :)