Christie Burke's Infinite Booklist

I Will Save You September 12, 2012

Filed under: fiction,guys,realistic fiction,YA — Christie @ 7:20 pm
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The jacket blurb for this book is a little mysterious: Kidd is running from everything and runs into a girl, Olivia, who’s different from him in every way (except maybe the important ways that might mean something). Devon is both Kidd’s best friend and his worst enemy, carrying around a death wish and a lot of spite. Kidd doesn’t even know how Devon found him, but now Devon’s staying until Kidd learns a lesson or two. It doesn’t give you a lot to go on, but it does build suspense before you turn a single page.

The plot twist at the beginning of I Will Save You (yes, the beginning) opens the door for the rest of the story to be told as flashbacks, flashforwards, and dreamy-yet-revealing interludes. Ordinarily this would drive me a little crazy, but de la Peña does it skillfully and reveals a little at a time… bringing us through daredevil stunts, particularly sweet Kidd/Olivia moments, and terrible understanding at just the right pace. And then… guess what? Another plot twist at the end, so perfect and fascinating that I had to read the book twice.

This book moves quickly enough that it’d be a good choice for a reluctant reader. It’s a good “guy book,” especially for guys who may feel like no one really gets them. Readers who enjoy suspense and psychology will like I Will Save You, as will those who just appreciate a good, realistic narrative.

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Cashay July 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,urban — Christie @ 7:09 am
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Cashay (cover)McMullan, Margaret.  Cashay. Houghton Mifflin, 2009.

I keep reading books that begin with the death of someone important – a lover, a sister – and it’s hard to get through them, because I’m living that grief and I don’t especially want to live someone else’s grief at the same time.  But there’s no denying that bereavement is a compelling story, and I haven’t yet put a book down because I couldn’t handle it.

Cashay is 14, and her sister’s been fatally shot while the two walk home to their apartment in Cabrini Green.  This book is the story of Cashay’s struggle to wade through her grief and overcome her circumstances.

While some story elements are predictable – a crucial after-school program and an unlikely mentor, for example – Cashay’s voice is fresh and true.  I believe what she says, and I care what happens to her (and not just because her little sister died).  This is a great urban novel for teenage readers, offering glimpses of life in Chicago’s slums without being overly gritty.  It’s realistic about poverty and drugs and danger, but it features a heroine who shows that hope can grow anywhere.

I like this book for grades 7-10 because of the narrator’s youth, but I think older readers would enjoy it as well if they could be convinced to pick it up.