Category: Book

Airhead by Meg Cabot

Airhead by Meg Cabot
ISBN-13: 978-0545040549
Point, New York, 2008
352 p.

GENRE: Chick-lit

TEASER: Em Watts is dead, well not quite. Em has switched bodies with the most famous teen model in the world. Can she convince everyone that she’s Nikki Howard?

SUMMARY: Emerson (Em) Watts is far more interested in playing computer games with her best friend/secret crush Christopher than having anything to do with the vain popular crowd. All of this changes when a horrible accident causes her to switch bodies with Nikki Howard, famous teen supermodel for Stark. But Stark needs Nikki alive. Now Em is told she is legally dead and she must pretend to be Nikki Howard. But something’s not right with the people Nikki works for and it’s getting harder and harder to convince the world the she is Nikki Howard.

CRITIQUE: The book is written in first person perspective. The main character, Em, is very relatable. She is smart and happy with her life. She doesn’t like the same things as her appearance obsessed sister. She believes that a girl would be seen for her mind and not what jeans she wore yesterday. It was interesting to look at the shift of her character later on in the book. Once she becomes immersed in this superficial world, her opinions begin to change on some things. However, she’s still not happy with her situation and she wants her old life back. She likes being notices my attractive guys but she misses her family and her friend Christopher. I appreciated that even though she could see a deeper side of people like Nikki and Lulu she didn’t completely change her believes and values.

The romantic relationships in this book become quite complicated the instant Nikki is in the picture. I felt rather bad for Em when she though that Gabriel was there for her in the hospital. It’s quite depressing that she is lost in the shadow of Nikki Howard. The only ones who seem to be affected by her “death” are her family and her friend Christopher. There is also a sadness to Nikki’s best friend’s character, Lulu. She seems jaded by her lifestyle and doesn’t appreciate everything she has.

The story is the first in a trilogy so there is a lot that is left unclear. We see hints that the Stark corporation is up to something. There is also a hint at the end that Em might have been able to show Christopher some proof that she is still alive. I wouldn’t say it ended with a cliff-hanger but there are definitely plenty of unanswered questions to keep readers coming back for more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meg Cabot is the New York Times bestselling author of The Princess Diaries series. The Princess Diaries has sold over 16 million copies and has been translated into 38 languages. She is also the author of The Abandon Trilogy, the Avalon High series, the All-American Girl series.

Cabot worked for ten years as an assistant resident hall director for New York University. She is known to write some of her novels entirely through emails and text messages. She used to write under several pen names but now writes exclusively under her real name. She currently lives in Key West with her husband and two cats.






BOOKTALKING IDEAS: In the book, Em is nearly invisible to all boys except Christopher; however, when she is in Nikki’s body, she can’t seem to keep the boys off of her. What kind of message do you feel this is sending to the audience? Do you think Cabot is simply being realistic?

WHY INCLUDED: I initially read this book because my roommate suggested it. I knew Meg Cabot is a popular chick-lit author for young adults. I also knew from working at Borders that this series is heavily marketed to teens.


Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard
ISBN-13: 978-0689862687
Simon Pulse, Ne York, 2003
176 p.

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

TEASER: Can Seventeen-year-old San juggle school and parenthood on his own?

SUMMARY: Seventeen-year-old Sam should be thinking about graduation and college. Instead, he is changing diapers and worrying about midnight feedings. His former girlfriend Brittany decides that she can’t handle parenthood she leaves. But Sam doesn’t want to give up Max. He tries to juggle fatherhood with school. He struggles to find the balance between being a teenager and being a parent. In the end, he might have to make some difficult decisions for the sake of his son.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person point of view through Sam’s character. There are periodic flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces of the story. I appreciated the lack of judgement in this book. It takes an honest look at what it’s like to be a teen parent with little support. He does get financial support from his father; however, her is angry with Sam’s decision and does not provide any emotional support or help care for Max. Sam envies Claire’s relationship with her family. He does have some support from his aunt and uncle.

I was a bit disappointed by the ending but it fit with the realism of the book. It felt a bit rushed but in thinking back, Sam’s life was being rushing into a very important decision. He struggled between being a teenager and trying to be a father. When he leaves Max with his aunt he says he feels empty and lost. He struggles with his identity and his responsibilities as a father. In the end, he knows that the right decision is the hardest one. No matter how much he wanted to try and keep Max, he eventually had to let him go.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Bechard is a an author and a teacher of young adult and children’s novels. She is a teacher at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches Writing for Children and Young Adults. Some of her other titles are If it Doesn’t Kill You, Spacer the Rat, My Mom Married the Principal, and Really No Big Deal.

Bechard was born in Chico, California, and is the youngest of six childrenShe lives in the suburbs of Portland with her husband and Barney, a Shetland sheepdog. They have three frown sons.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some readers my have a problem with the topic of teen parenthood and mentions of sexual situations.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Possibly Sexual Education

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Do you feel like the ending worked well for the novel? Do you think Sam made the right choice?

WHY INCLUDED: I included the novel because I love the fact that it’s the father who wants to keep the child and is assuming responsibility. This point of view is not dealt with often enough. There are teen responsible teen fathers out there and it is important for teens to be able to read about them.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, New York, 2006
Format: PDF file
448 p.

GENRE: Science Fiction

TEASER: All Tally ever wanted was to be one of the privileged pretties. But is the cost of being perfect too high?

SUMMARY: Tally Youngblood is an ugly. As an ugly she is forced to live in a with all of the other uglies in Uglyville. But soon she will turn sixteen and become a pretty, the privileged upper-class that live in leisure. Before she becomes a pretty, she meets Shay who is scheduled to become a pretty on the same day as Tally. Only Shay doesn’t want to be a pretty. Shay is in league with rebels who are against the conformity of the pretty society. Shay invites Tally to come with her and join them. She refuses but promises not to reveal the location of the rebels. But something happens on the day that Tally is scheduled to become a pretty. Special Circumstances, the secret law enforcers, tell her she cannot become a pretty unless she gives away Shay and the other rebels location. Now they are forcing her to lead the way to the rebel’s hideout. Suddenly Tally’s not so sure she wants to be a pretty anymore. She soon learns the horrible cost of becoming a pretty. But can she stop the Special Circumstances for discovering their hideout, or is it too late?

CRITIQUE: This book was written in third person perspective, which seems to be not as common in young adult fiction as it is in adult fiction. Westerfeld did an excellent job at building the world for this story. I was reminded of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The pretties are the alphas and everything is supposedly perfect for them. However, this over-engeneered society will be its own demise. We can’t prevent war and conflict by taking away everyone’s free will. It will never work. A rebellion is brewing and the pretties society may come falling down on them.

There are many important issues that Westerfeld addresses in this book, such as: body image, conformity, individuality, social class, and social class. I felt like Westerfeld is making a lot of statements about how our society judges people by appearance and how cosmetic surgery is becoming a norm. When people like Tally are raised to think that this is the right way to be, how can we expect her to feel any differently than she did when Shay asks her to join Smoke?

The book was well written and most certainly thought-provoking. The author gives you relatable characters, unique plot twists, and makes you think about our own society and the importance on body image at the same time. This is a definite page-tuner. I couldn’t put this book down. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Westerfeld is a science fiction author and ghost writer. He compares ghost writing to being able to “driving someone else’s car really, really fast for lots of money.” He was born in Texas and splits his time between New York City and Sydney, Australia. He is married to Australian author Justine Larbalestier. He is also the author of the Leviathan, Midnighters series, Polymorph, and So Yesterday.






BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Even though this book is written in a futuristic dystopian world, what do you think this book says about how we perceive beauty? Do you think we are headed in this direction?

WHY INCLUDED: I have wanted to read this book for a long time. I find the idea of a futuristic world where people are segregated by appearance fascinating.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
ISBN: 1400052920
Harmony Books, New York, 1980
215 p.

GENRE: Science Fiction

TEASER: This is a journey through space that you will never forget.

SUMMARY: The story begins with Arthur Dent lying in front of a bulldozer that is going to rip down his house in order to build a new bypass. His friend Ford perfect comes along and convinces him to leave foe a bit. He also tricks the foreman into lying in front of Arthur’s house for him while he’s gone. Ford then tries to explain to Arthur that he is really an alien from the an area called Betelgeuse. He tells Arthur that they need to find a way off Earth because it will ironically soon be demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. They steal away on a Vogon ship but are later caught. They are then tortured with reading of Vogon poetry, the third worst in the entire Universe. After they are ejected into space, they are picked up by the Heart of Gold. The ship’s other passengers are Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin, Malvin, a chronically depressed robot, and Trillian, a mathematician and astrophysicist. They are in search of the legendary planet of Magrathea. But once they get there, they encounter more problems. Now Arthur is separated from the rest and must escape from mice that want to cut open his head. how will Arthur get out of this one?

CRITIQUE: The story is told in third person perspective, switching between Arthur and Ford’s characters. It’s easy to see why Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is considered a classic in its genre. In a time when many author’s were writing space operas, Douglas chose to do a parody of sci-fi adventure stories. His characters are unique and well though out. He is famous for his witty prose. many agree that this book exemplified his writing prowess. The world is intelligently written and though provoking. You are sure to get a laugh out of Douglas Adam’s classic tale of adventure and insanity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Douglas Adams was an English author and dramatist. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is most well-known work. Some of his other titles were Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, The Private Life of Genghis Khan, and many other novels and short stories. He was an advocate of environmental conservation. Douglas died of a heart attack at the age of 49 on May 2001. After his death, author Richard Dawkins said, “science has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender.”



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people may abject to the sexual situations in this novel and heavy drinking.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: There are many highly improbable scenes in this book. Which one was the hardest for you to accept?

WHY INCLUDED: I have always wanted to read this book and I kept coming across the title while looking for books for teen boys.

Private by Kate Brian
ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-1873-8
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, New York, June 2006
240 p.

GENRE: Chick-lit

TEASER: The Billing girls are vicious and powerful. They will do anything to keep their secrets. Reed will do anything it takes to become one of them.

SUMMARY: Reed Brennan has been dreaming of going to the ultra-exclusive Easton Academy for years. She’d give anything to get out of her boring town and away from her pill-popping mother. When she gets a scholarship to Easton she thinks it’s a dream come true. She soon realizes how different these people are, but she longs to be one of them. The people she wants acceptance from the most are the glamorous Billings girls. They are a highly exclusive group that is invitation only. But is it worth the constant bullying to become one of them? Reed thinks so, and she will do anything to become one of them.

CRITIQUE: This book was written in a first person perspective through Reed’s character. I found Reed to be very relatable. She is desperate to get away from her verbally abusive mother and start a new life. She is painfully vulnerable to the ridicule that the Billings girls dish out. We also see how easily manipulated she is with her boyfriend Thomas. She shows signs of violence and addiction and Reed just keeps forgiving him. He also pressures her into losing her virginity. Some of the characters are a little one dimensional in the first book. There are a lot of facades amongst Noelle and her crew that have yet to come down.

I was surprised how much I liked this book. I usually scoff at chick-lit novels that center around over privileged girls who are cruel and arrogant. I find it very fascinating how the adolescent psychology was handled. You can really see how teens are pressured by social structures in school. I fear that girls like Reed are more common than I would like to believe. Even if this book is dramatized, I can see a lot of reality in the way these girls behave.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Brian is the pen name of Kieran Scott. She has written more than twenty-five novels. The Private series has been made into a web series. Some of her other titles include: A Non-Blonde Cheerleader in Love, The Virginity Club, She’s So Dead to Us, and Brunettes Strike Back.

Kieran Scott was born and raised in New Jersey. She graduated from Rutgers University with a double major in English and Journalism. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and son.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people might object to the presences of drugs, sexual situations, alcohol and immoral behavior in this novel.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you think the Billings girls compare to normal high school bullies? Are they really that different?

WHY INCLUDED: Series that feature rich and powerful girls in scandalous situations are quite popular today. Even though I’m not a fan of this type of reading, I felt that I should include it because teens are reading these books. I wanted to see how good or how bad they really are. As far as this book goes, they are not nearly as bad as I expected. I think there are far worse television shows out there.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
ISBN-13: 978-0375832994
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2003
192 p.

GENRE: LGBT Fiction, Romance

TEASER: Paul is completely crazy about the new boy in school, Noah. But love is never easy when you have a crazy set of friends and an ex-boyfriend who wants to reconnect.

SUMMARY: This story is about Paul, a high school sophomore who has been out since kindergarten, is class president, and completely crazy about the new boy, Noah. The story also focuses on Paul’s friends. There’s Infinite Darlene, who is the star quarterback and the homecoming queen. There’s Jonie who is Paul’s best friend whose new boyfriend causes tension within their friends group. Tony is Paul’s friend whose parents won’t let him leave the house unless he tells them he’s going to Bible study or dating a girl. Then there’s Kyle, Paul’s ex-boyfriend, who hated Paul but now is not so sure.

CRITIQUE: The book is written in first person perspective through the main character Paul. The characters are well-written, unique, and memorable. Most importantly to note is that Boy Meets Boy is a love story not a coming out story. It focuses on the relationship between Paul and Noah. The conflicts they face are the same conflicts that are depicted in novels with heterosexual couples.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s written in an alternate reality world that is almost without hate or prejudice. One of my favorite quotes from this book is from Paul when he is discussing his past with his ex Kyle and how he feels Kyle hates him. He says, “It’s a very strange feeling. I’m not used to being hated.” This was such a beautiful thing to read. And it’s true. The main character has been out since kindergarten and experiences very little bullying. While it’s noted that there are homophobic people out there, it is never really addressed as an important issue at school. The only signs of prejudice we see are from Tony’s religious parents. Levithan often gives attention to the conflict between religion and sexuality in his novels. His portrayal of Tony’s parents is honest and thoughtful. They are afraid for their son and they don’t know how to deal with it. Tony eventually gains enough courage to face his parents and tell them that they will have to learn how to deal with his sexuality.

This novel also deals with growing up and staying true to oneself. Paul must deal with the fact that him and his best friend Joni are growing apart due to her new boyfriend. Kyle and Toni also mature in the story as well. Kyle is slowly trying to accept the fact that he is attracted to guys and that it’s not such a bad thing. Toni must gain the courage to stand up to his parents and hope that they learn to accept him. When Paul tells Tonie to move in with him and his family, Toni refuses because he says that won’t change anything. It might not be easy living with his family right now, but leaving them will only convince them that he is living in sin and needs saving. He choses to stay and endure their ridicule if it will help make them eventually see that there is nothing wrong with him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Levithan is a young adult author and editor. He says he loves editing just as much, if not more than writing. He has written numerous novels featuring strong gay male characters. He is also the co-author with Rachel Cohn of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which was adapted into a film in 2008.

He is also the founding editor for PUSH, an imprint of Scholastic Press that focuses on edgier materials for young adults.Boy Meets Boy is Levithan’s first novel. He is also the author of The Realm of Possibility, Are We There Yet?, Wide Awake, and Marly’s Ghost.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people may object to the portrayal of a homosexual relationship and transsexuality.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Levithan has created a world that is much more accepting of gay relationships except when it comes to religion. What do you think he's trying to say about the struggle between homosexuality and religion?

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to include this book not only because it has a gay couple but that it is more about the love story than the coming out story.

Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper
ISBN-13: 978-0689842092
Simon Pulse, New York, 1999
320 p.

GENRE: General Fiction, Romance

TEASER: Can Romi and Julio avoid ending up like Shakespeare’s tragic couple?

SUMMARY: Romiette (Romi) Cappelle has been having dreams of drowning in water and fire. She meets Julio Montague in a chat room and they instantly hit it off. Julio has just moved to Cincinnati from Corpus Christi, Texas because of gang problems. In these dreams, there is the voice of a young man she does not recognize calling her. The evildoer, a local gang, opposes the relationship between Romi and Julio. They threaten the couple to break it off. Now Romi, Julio, and their friends must find a way for them to not end up like the classic couple in Shakespeare’s tragedy.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in third-person perspective and it is switched off mainly between Romi and Julio. However, there are instances where the story is told from outside the couple’s perspective. Unsurprisingly, the main theme and conflict in this book deals with the problems faced by biracial couples. they face challenges from a local gang and even their parents. Julio’s father doesn’t approve of his son’s relationship with Romiette because his first lover was killed by African-American gang members.

i appreciated that the story was not a mirror image of the original tale. I liked that they were learning about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet while their own story unfolds. I am not a fan of sappy romances so some of the book felt a little too cheesy for me. However, regardless of my personal feelings towards it, I feel it the language wasn’t overly flowery or romantic considering that it is a romance about star-crossed lovers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon M. Draper is an African-American New York Times bestselling author and teacher. She began writing after a student asked her to submit an essay to a magazine contest. She was awarded $5000 and her story One Small Touch was published. She describes herself as a creator, visionary, and poet.

Draper has won numerous awards for her work. She is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scot King Literary Award. She has also been honored as the National Teacher of the Year.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people might object to the gang violence in this novel.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Shakespearian Literature

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you feel this retelling stands up to the original Shakespearian tragedy?

Do you feel that the ending was the right choice for a modern retelling given the outcome of the original tale?

WHY INCLUDED: I chose this book because I love redone classics. I feel that it is a great way for teachers and librarians to get teens to relate to the literature. I also admire that it is about the problems faced by biracial relationships.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordanby Rick Riordan
ISBN-13: 978-0786838653
Hyperion Books, New York, 2010
400 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Mythology

TEASER: Percy Jackson’s biggest concern used to be trying to not get kicked out of school. Now he had ten days to safe his mother and stop war between the gods that would devastate the earth.

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson can’t seem to stay out of trouble. To make matters worse, he keeps getting attacked by mythical creatures. WHile on the run from various Greek monsters, Percy’s mother is captured by a Minotaur and taken to become a prisoner of Hades. Soon Percy is revealed to be the son of Poseidon. But someone is accusing Percy of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt. Percy and his friends only have ten days to find and return Zeus’ lightning bolt and save Percy’s mother from being a permanent resident of the Underworld.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first-person perspective through the eyes of Percy Jackson. The characters are very lovable, even Ares bully daughter, Clarisse. The characters are very relatable and thoughtful. Percy deals with a lot of emotions in this first book, from the loss of his mother, the only parent he’s ever known, to the realization that his father is the infamous Greek sea-god. He goes through the expected feelings of anger and resentment towards his father and the other gods. This is something that a lot of the demigods go through. This resentment is part of the overall conflict of the series.

Riordan adds a modern twist to the drama of the Greek pantheon. He brings mythic creature like the satyr to life in characters like Percy’s best friend Grover. Grover is a young satyr with bad skin, and affinity for eating coke cans, and is determined to get permission to go in search of the great Pan. These books are fun to read for adults and kids alike. They are filled with humor and fun bits of Greek mythology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: He is also author of the adult Tres Navarre series. He has also written The Heroes of Olympus, another series in the percy Jackson Universe, series and the Kane Chronicles. The Kane Chronicles focuses on Egyptian mythology. He also has helped develop many books in The 39 Clue series. His book The Lightning Thief was made into a motion picture in 2007. He lives with his wife and two sons in San Antonio, Texas.





CURRICULUM TIES: This would be a fun series to read while learning about Greek mythology.

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the use of Greek mythology in this book. How do you feel Riordan did at modernizing the Greek pantheon?

WHY INCLUDED: Even though the reading level for this book is rather young, I would recommend this series to older teens and adults. The Percy Jackson series is fun and unique. I think anyone who is a fan of Greek mythology would appreciate this book.

Down to the Bone by Myra Lazara Dole
ISBN-13: 978-0060843106
HarperTeen, New York, 2008
384 p.


TEASER: When Lara gets kicked out of her Catholic school and gets kicked out of her home for loving a girl, she tries to deny her sexuality. But because Lara is free spirited and has wonderful, supportive friends, she just might find happiness and love.

SUMMARY: When Lara gets kicked out of her Catholic school because she’s dating a girl, the last thing she needs is for her strict Cuban mother to kick her out of her home unless she reveals who her girlfriend is. To make matters worse, Lara’s girlfriend is shipped off to Cuba and forced to marry a man. Fortunately, Lara has a great best friend who gives her a place to stay. Through love, friendship, and heartbreak Lara learns who her true family is and how to be herself.

CRITIQUE: The book is told in a first-person point of view through Lara. The language is very casual. Because this book is set in Miami’s Cuban community, there is a lot of broken English used in the novel. This adds to the authenticity of the setting. There is a translation section at the back of the book. I understood most of the spanish; however, if you do not know any Spanish, it might get a bit confusing. This might have been prevented by putting the translation section at the front. This is a problem I have seen with a few books I have read, both adult and young adult. This is a minor complaint, if that, and does not affect the overall quality of the book.

I really enjoyed the books positive spirit. The author gives a very positive light to this story. Even when Lara is kicked out of her home and forbidden from seeing her brother, the mood and language of the book still feel cheerful and upbeat. I also appreciated seeing an LGBT character who has so much love and support. Her mother is of course not supportive and refuses to understand her daughter. However, I was very moved by Soli and Viva’s characters. They opened up their hearts and their home to her without question. You see very early on that they are her true family.

You certainly see development from Lara’s character. Lara is in denial that she is a lesbian in the beginning. She can admit that she is in love with another girl but she doesn’t think that makes her gay. Once she realizes that she is only attracted to girls, she still tries to deny that she is a lesbian for fear that it will mean she never gets to see her little brother again. She dates a guy in order to convince her mother that she is not a lesbian. The pressure to be someone she is not becomes too much, and she must tell her mother that she will have to learn to accept her as she is.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Myra Lazara Dole is a Cuban American author who was born in Havana and grew up in Miami. Like her character Lara, she was kicked out of her school when she was thirteen for a confiscated note written by her girlfriend.

Aside from being an author, she has been a hairdresser, a dancer, a landscape designer, and library assistant. She has also been a Lambda Literary judge. Down to the Bone has made the ALA Best Books for YA 2009. It is also on Booklist’s Top Ten Novels, ALA Rainbow List, and CCBC Top Choices.



CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some might object to the portrayal of a homosexual relationship or transsexuality.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.


BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Parts of this novel were adapted from Dole’s real life. Do you think that made the writing more honest and touching?

WHY INCLUDED: I found this book while looking for LGBT novels with non-Caucasian characters. Dole’s novels is one of the few LGBT books with Latin-American characters.

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
ISBN-13: 978-0786838608
Hyperion Books, New York, 2009
304 p.

GENRE: General Fiction

TEASER: Leela is a twelve-year-old widow. As a widow she is an outcast. But changes is looming in early 1900s India. Will Leela be able to make a life for herself after all?

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Leela has been doted on by her family all her life. She pays little attention to her country’s growing unrest. There is no point for her to. Her future has been mapped out for her since her engagement to Ramanlal at the age of two. They have been married since she was nine and soon she will move into his house and start her new life as his wife. But all of that changes when Ramanlal is bitten by a snake and Leela is made a widow. As a widow she is an outcast and is not allowed to leave the house. She must only wear a black sari and shave her head. Leela goes from being the prize of her family to the seat of their shame. But the activist Ghandhi is trying to take back their country and change the rigid social system that has been in place for centuries. maybe Leela will have a chance to fight for her rights and her future after all.

CRITIQUE: This story is told through the eyes of Leela in first-person perspective. Leela’s character develops quite a bit in this novel. She starts off as a naive girl who only cares about pretty bangles and sari. She is in one of the higher castes and pays little attention the inequalities in her country. When her husband dies, she is forced to see what it is like at the bottom of the social structure. She learns how to open her eyes to the ill-treatment of widows and the rising tensions between the British and her countrymen. She is able to take control of her future and ask her father to let her take the exams that will allow her to be educated.

Sheth’s prose are rich with Indian culture. There are however a good deal of Hindi words used. There is a translation section in the back of the book. I mentioned similar problems with Down to the Bone. I feel if might have helped to be at the front of the book. This is probably just a personal preference. I do feel that the language adds a richness and sets the atmosphere for the novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kashmira Sheth was born in Bhavangar, India. She moved to the United States at the age of seventeen to attend college at Iowa State University. She majored in microbiology. After college she worked as a microbiologist at Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Some of her other titles include: Blue Jasmine, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, Monsoon Afternoon, and My Dadima Wears a Sari. The story of Keeping Corner is based on Kashmira’s aunt’s life.





CURRICULUM TIES: Women’s Studies, Indian Culture

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the changes Leela goes through as she is forced to take a look at the social structure when she finds herself at the bottom.

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included another cultural perspective in this database and I came across this book in my local library.