The Kite Runner

From Alexus  Haddad

Title:  The Kite Runner

 Author:  Khaled Hosseini

 This book tells of the hard life and history in Afghanistan. Amir is a wealthy Pashtun boy who has two servants, a father and son. The servant\’s son is named Hassan, and is a Hazara. There is ethnic diversity in Afghanistan. Those who are Hazaras are usually treated unfairly. Amir and his father escape Afghanistan and migrated to the US, where they made a new life there. Amir learns the hardships of life. Amir soon finds out, after his father’s death, that Hassan was really his brother and that his son, Sohrab is in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has conquered the government. Amir ends up saving Sohrab. The story ends in a full circle, where Amir is flying a kite, like he used to with Hassan in their youth, during an Afghan tradition.

Great Expectations

From Terry DelBalso

Title:  Great Expectations

Author:  Charles Dickens

This was such a beautiful coming of age book about relationships and a young boy named Pip growing up and experiencing the beauties and challenges of life. Throughout the entire book I could almost feel his emotions and became close with those he loved and disliked those characters I thought were bad. It truly felt as though I was in the moment with him watching him grow.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

From Terry  DelBalso

Title:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

Author:  Betty Smith

This is a classic American story of a girl growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. It gets to the heart of  childhood experiences and the family dynamics in that time and place. The story takes you through the family’s interaction in poverty and in better days. I had heard about this book and am so glad I finallty read it. I felt like I was actually seeing the characters.

Why we took the car

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  Wolfgang  Herrndorf
Title:  Why we took the car 
Destined to become a YA classic, this story features a 14 year-old boy, Mike Klingenberg, who could be Holden Caulfield?s German cousin. The book was translated from the German by Tim Mohr, and nothing was lost in the translation. Mike has a serious crush on pretty and popular Tatiana, and he’s awaiting an invitation to her birthday party that summer. Mike is just another disaffected Berlin youth, until he meets the mysterious Andre Tschichatschow (Tschick), a Russian immigrant, who comes to class drunk and disheveled.  When Tschick steals a car, Mike joins him without hesitation, to escape his unraveling family life. Mike considers himself boring, but Tshick disagrees, “You just have to do something to make yourself stand out.” Adults will like this book as much as teens. I still think about the characters, long after finishing the book. Enjoy the ride!

Commencement

From Marie K. Schulken
author: Sullivan, J. Courtney
Commencement
 This is the second book I have read by this author, the other, her recent book, Maine.  This is the story of four young women who begin their freshman year at Smith College.  They are from various parts of the country and have different lifestyles, however, they do become fast friends.  The story follows their lives well after graduation, through the wedding celebration of one of the four and ultimately the challenges they are facing five years after graduation.  A definite beach read, not real challenging, preferred her second book “Maine”.

The Diary of a Young Girl

From Catherine Costanzo
author: Frank, Anne
 The Diary of a Young Girl
A true story as you know — but a classic tale of a young girl and her family as they are “hidden” during world war II.  Anne keeps a diary about their day to day trials and events, and one can see the young girl that she is, as well as sometimes an adult insight into what is happening to the family.

Come to the edge : a memoir

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Haag, Christina
Come to the edge : a memoir
 This is a beautifully written memoir of the author’s 5-year romance with John F. Kennedy, Jr. in the late 1980’s. The tale is a little slow going in the beginning, as she details her family history and early years in Catholic school. But I think it is necessary, as we get a glimpse into her background (she is what I’d call “new money”). She and JFK Jr. travelled in the same social circles since their teen years on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They later became roommates and good friends at Brown University in Providence, R.I. They met up again when both were living in New York. JFK Jr. and she were both seeing other people when he asked her to go out with him.  He was very charming as he tried to romance her.  He buys a motorcycle and drives her home to Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge.  She doesn’t know where to put her hands, so at a stoplight, he turns around and wraps her arms around his chest.(What girl wouldn’t want to trade places with her?). He later tells her he bought the motorcycle because “I was trying to woo you” and that they had the longest courtship ever. They were in an off-Broadway play together, playing the leads. He was a very gifted actor, but of course, it’s a path he cannot take.  When she decides to become an actress, he tells her, “You’re lucky, you have a calling”.

We get a view into their lives of privilege. When Christine first meets his mother, Mrs. Onassis is very reserved and cordial. There were even rules, according to John, as to how and when to approach her. Later the women form a friendship. John calls her “Mummy” and often tries to appease this quiet though formidable woman.  Against Christina’s better judgment, she finds herself taking more risks and going along on his adventures, such as horseback riding, kayaking and skiing.  The point that stuck with me in light of how he died is that he seemed oblivious to the physical danger he put himself in on more than one occasion.  Overall, the tone of the book was restrained.  She does not offer any titillating revelations. She was very respectful of the Kennedy clan.  This is a touching memoir with insights into the man we all thought we knew.

Hothouse

From Eric, Teen Book Reviewer
author: Lynch, Chris
Hothouse
Hothouse is an emotional and unique story about the sharp and oftentimes unexpected change from being admired to being despised. The story is about seventeen-year-old Russell and his best friend D.J., who have shared similar childhoods. Both boys have grown up around the firehouse, because both of their fathers were firemen. Russell shared a special bond with his father, and knew his entire life that he wanted to grow up to be a firefighter just like his father. 

Unfortunately, both of their fathers died in a tragic accident while fighting a fire in town. Naturally, both the boys were devastated by the loss, but the story focuses more on how Russell copes. Initially, everyone in their town rallies around their families, because the boys’ fathers were regarded as heroes to the community. Everyone’s constant support helped the boys get through the tough situation.

However, the story takes a dark turn as the boys’ fathers get turned from heroes to zeros. Some secrets into his father’s actions concerning the accident shed some light on the fact that Russell’s father may not have been such a hero after all. Now, he must deal with the fact that the man he idolized his whole life had a darker side he knew nothing about, and the whole community that once embraced him wants no part of him anymore. The story is an emotional journey and examines the way teenagers handle death and adversity in general. I would recommend this to mature teen readers looking for a powerful, but not too long of a read.