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This Is Just to Say


It is a terrible thing to neglect a blog. I’m a firm believer that people make time for what matters. I am also a firm believer that there are only 24-hours in a day and love and laughter must always be the biggest part of the pie. Rest assured that it may be weeks, it may even be a month, but I’m always reading, and I’m always itching to write and return because this blog is something that matters. So, with that semi mea culpa out of the way let’s talk about books.

I have genuinely loved and adored so many YA books this year that the thought of even trying to craft a Top Ten list gives me the shakes because it is likely impossible. I don’t know how I’ll hold myself to just ten, but I’m getting ahead of myself – today isn’t the day for Top Ten lists. How could it be? I haven’t read the new Green or Meyer or Bray or . . . so many other books with promises of good and great storytelling. Today is the day I celebrate just a few of the titles that have been flying off the shelves of my classroom library.

Today is the day I celebrate students vibrating and rising out of their chairs when I open my backpack to pull out new books or just more copies of popular titles. Their excitement over books brings me almost as much joy as their voices joining together in a flash chorus of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. Those are just two reasons teaching middle school has such a firm hold on my heart and why I consider ignoring the whispered rumblings of “teach me, teach me” seeping from the pages of Gatsby. I think this entire paragraph counts as an aside, but wasn’t it a good aside? The type of aside that makes your cheeks rise?

Four Most Popular Titles in My Classroom Library:

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is the clear winner when it comes to my classroom library, and it deserves every pound of love it has been given, and one day soon it will be called a classic. I hope one day to have the privilege of teaching this novel to students. The Hate U Give is absolutely a powerful story on the state of race in America, but it is also an outstanding glimpse into feeling like you need to be different people in different places and at different times, and wondering when you’ll feel like the real you is the right you for every time and every place.

2. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue is a close second. Have I mentioned that this book is not only my favorite book of 2017, but it is one of my favorite books of forever and ever? I know I said that my Top Ten list was going to be a difficult chore, but this book being my number one was true before I finished Chapter 2. I won’t embarrass myself by mentioning how many times I’ve read it. And listened to it. And recommended it. And smiled about it. And maybe even hugged it to my chest like a fangirl. Is it sacrilege to say that this is my new Eleanor & Park? I’m going to say it, but more importantly my students are saying it too.

3. One of Us Is Lying should be a Netflix show. It just should be. The characters are here, the suspense is here, the twists and turns are here, the dark underbelly of high school is very much here. When I tell my students that it’s like an Agatha Christie locked room mystery meets The Breakfast Club meets the promise of Riverdale they are all in. One of Us Is Lying is what happens when the classics and pop culture have a baby— the perfect book for a binge read.

4. Turtles All the Way Down came on strong and dethroned Miles Morales: Spider-Man. This is the only title on the list that I haven’t read, but my students’ collective intake of breath when I held up my copies let me know that they rightfully deserved first read. John Green, or rather his books, is their quick talking shaman. They are still riding the high of Fault in Our Stars, which I didn’t love or like. They are still deep in love with the film adaptation of Paper Towns, which is a reflection of a shadow of the book—a book I liked very much. I’ll get my turn, but I think I’m #32 on the waitlist.

You must be wondering why a Top Four? Well, remember that love and laughter thing I mentioned? If you’re really wondering about number five, well I wrote an entire review about Miles Morales: Spiderman, which basically says Miles Morales is a Spider-Man for our troubled times, Jason Reynolds is amazing, Jason Reynolds is cooler than all of us, and poetry is everything.

Until next time . . .