My favorite first: What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles
If you teach middle or high school, go ahead and make a spot for this one on your shelf! I picked up this book last month when I met the author at TLA. When I reviewed Right Behind You, I talked about her obsession with watching Court TV. This definitely shows in her writing and especially with this one!
Cass McBride is a wealthy, beautiful, and popular high school senior. As the story begins, she is quite upset by another classmates’ suicide. So that night when she gets home, she digs through her father’s briefcase until she finds what she believes is Xanax and takes one so that she can get away from her troubles. I’m being specific about this part because for me, this (and discussion of recreational prescription drug use) was the most questionable content in the book. After passing out, she wakes up disoriented and after a bit realizes that she’s been buried alive! Cass is determined to talk her way out of this one. This story is told in 3 alternating perspectives – Cass, the boy who kidnapped her and buried her alive, and the detective in charge of the case. It’s a psychological thriller but it isn’t over the top. The font is relatively big and the chapters are relatively short, making it perfect for reluctant readers who are easily bored. I highly recommend this one and enjoyed it myself!
Another book I read this week is Animal Farm by George Orwell.
Yep, bring on the classics. I have never had the desire to read this one, but I found out this week that it is the summer reading assignment for freshmen entering the high school that most of my 8th grade students will attend next year. With 8th grade finals (and their last class period with me) being last Friday, I had to hurry and cram in the book so I could discuss it with them and (try to) prepare them for this assignment.
My initial thought was why, why, WHY would they make incoming freshmen read THAT book!? It just seems like it’s the kind of book that lends itself so much better to class discussion of the novel as it unfolds. I worry that some of my 8th graders may read the entire book without understanding ANY of the allegory and thinking it’s just a ridiculous book about animals who live on a farm. I seriously hope that despite it being Friday and their last full day of 8th grade, they paid attention to what I tried to explain to them about the book and its meaning. I also recommended that they purchase the Cliff’s Notes for the book at the same time they purchase the book and read the two books together. Read a chapter of the novel, followed by that section of the Cliff’s Notes, next chapter, next section, etc. so that they can understand what they are reading and not MISS anything huge. I’m worried about them and this book. I was never a fan of the previous freshman summer reading assignment, To Kill a Mockingbird, but this choice has got me wishing they’d bring that one back!
As for how I liked the book.. I actually enjoyed it, surprisingly enough! It was easy to read and I really appreciated the author’s craft and the way the allegory unfolded. That being said, I’m a 30 year old who loves history and pays attention to politics – NOT a self absorbed 8th grader reading this book alone over the summer.
Well I also finished What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt, but I can’t get into that without discussing two of his other novels, so that will have to wait until next Monday. Wait a minute. Next Monday, I’ll be on SUMMER VACATION!