Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen
ISBN 978-0-14-241472-9
Penguin, 2008
Grades 9 to 12
Realistic Fiction

Will Ruby be able to open up to her new life, or will she keep everything under lock and key?

Summary:

Ruby was abandoned first by her older sister and then by her mother. When Child Protective Services steps in and makes her move in with her older sister, Cora, Ruby feels like her whole world has been turned upside down. In a stable home for the first time Ruby feels lost and alone. The neighbor boy quickly tries to befriend Ruby, who is reluctant to start a relationship. Naturally, Ruby does begin to make friends with the neighbor and others. She slowly lets her walls down; she finds a job, bonds with her sister, and discovers some truths about her family. Her first year with a real family and friends is a tough learning experience, but Ruby flourishes by the end of the book.

Critique:

I liked this title much more than anticipated, the plot was entertaining and I found most of the characters interesting. Ruby’s personal growth was exciting to witness.

Curriculum Ties:

Examine the use of metaphor in Lock and Key.

Challenge Issues:

None.

Selection Rationale:

I found this a pretty solid contribution to chick lit and Sarah Dessen is incredibly popular.

ALA Ultimate YA Bookshelf

“Despite the uneven narrative, Dessen’s writing can be beautiful, and her story is involving.” – Booklist

“The narrative’s tendency to skate past key events, detailing the buildup and aftermath but skipping the thing itself, may frustrate those who want every juicy detail. Still, the in-depth exploration of issues of family, trust, and responsibility gives readers plenty to chew on, and the complex, deeply sympathetic characters are pure pleasure to spend time with.” – The Horn Book Magazine

Booktalking:

Describe family from Ruby’s point of view.

Author Information:

Sarah Dessen is the author of nine young adult books. Her most recent release is Along for the Ride.

The Chosen One
Carol Lynch Williams
ISBN 0-312-55511-3
St. Martin’s Press, 2009
Grade 7 and up
Realistic Fiction

Kyra, fourteen, loves to read and developed a surprising crush on her friend Joshua. Unfortunately, as one of the Chosen, Kyra is betrothed to a man five times her age and could face severe punishment for reading and kissing Joshua if one of the Apostles were to find out.

Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Kyra has a lot of guilt. She has been sneaking kisses with her friend Joshua, she sneaks out to visit the bookmobile, and she has thoughts about killing the Prophet. Kyra’s family lives in a community formed by a polygamous sect, the Chosen. Selected to marry her sixty-year-old uncle, Kyra loses it. She knows she cannot marry him, not only is he fifty years older than she, he is also abusive and domineering to women. She refuses the marriage and puts her entire family in danger. In a community that expects cooperation without question, Kyra’s aggressiveness on this matter is unwelcome. Kyra knows she must escape; she solicits the help of the bookmobile driver who she has befriended over her weekly visits. When she reveals all to him he is eager to help. In a fast-paced chase scene, the driver speeds her away from the compound toward the city, followed by members of the Chosen. The Chosen manage to kill the bookmobile driver, but Kyra dials 911 on his cell phone. She is rescued by police and brought to a safe house for people leaving the Chosen.

Critique:

The Chosen One wasn’t quite what I anticipated, but I found it an engrossing page turner. A few elements were hard to believe: if everyone is being watched so closely, how is Kyra able to sneak around so easily? Otherwise, this is an excellent selection for a book group or even classroom selection.

Curriculum Ties:

The Chosen One could be used in classroom units on religion (including cults), including both current events and historical events.

Controversy:

Child rape, physical abuse.

Encourage challengers to read the entire book to understand the context of these elements and their importance to the story. Point out that this happens in real life and refer challengers to news stories.

Selection Rationale:

I heard about this new book on one of the YALSA listservs and thought it sounded interesting. The story brings up many issues that will make it wonderful for discussion.

“Within a fast-moving story, Williams creates sympathetic characters, and readers will hold their breath right to the end, hoping that Kyra wins her freedom.” – The Horn Book Magazine

“…Kyra’s terrible dilemma–escaping her fate means betraying her family–is heartbreakingly real, and the final scenes are riveting and suspenseful.” – Kirkus

Booktalking:

Describe life on Kyra’s compound.

About the Author:

Carol Lynch Williams, an avid reader and writer is the author of many books for children and young adults. Upcoming titles are Lost in Peace and A Glimpse is All I Can Stand.

Ride Wit’ Me
Katina King
ISBN 0-9724003-8-9
Young Diamond Books, 2006
Grade 9 and up
Urban Fiction

Mercedes’ father forbids her from seeing Dalvin. Why are the two being forced apart? What lengths will the teens go to to be together?

Summary:

In this modern day, ghetto, Romeo and Juliet, Mercedes and Dalvin find themselves in a doomed relationship. The children of two prominent Chicago crime families, their romance is forbidden by Mercedes’ father. Dalvin’s family is the enemy in his eyes. Mercedes lives a life of wealth and privilege, unaware of her father’s true profession. Mercedes’ father is a major gangster, controlling half of Chicago’s streets. Dalvin and his father control the rest. An old fued drives Mercedes’ father to forbid her relationship with Dalvin. He goes so far as too bring his crew into Dalvin’s parents’ home, threatening them with guns. The whole thing nearly ends in a shootout, luckily Mercedes gives in to her father and agrees to stop seeing Dalvin. Although she doesn’t like the decision, it is preferable to having everyone she cares about killed. Mercedes starts seeing Jacon, who her parents love. Everyone gets a lesson about judging people when Jacob attempts to rape Mercedes. Dalvin discovers the two and saves Mercedes. The tension between families is resolved when Jacob’s true nature comes to light. Dalvin and Mercedes plan to get married with their parents’ blessing.

Critique:

Although this wasn’t my favorite selection, I really enjoyed the story. This is an accessible story and there are lots of elements for teens to identify with. The writing is not perfect, Ride Wit’ Me has a number of spelling and grammatical errors. But this is an engrossing and fast read that will get teens reading and show the importance of sticking with your beliefs.

Controversy:

Language, descriptions of oral sex and intercourse, glorification of illegal activities

Ride Wit’ Me and all of its trappings are representative of the genre. Point the book’s popularity with students, encourage parents and other challenger to engage readers in discussions about the pros and cons of Mercedes and Dalvin’s lifestyle.

Curriculum Ties:

Compare and contrast with other tales of star crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliet.

Selection Rationale:

This is a book written for teens that is much more in the vein of traditional urban fiction than most of my other selections; it is sexy, gritty, explicit, glorifies wealth, and a life of crime. It is fabulous. This will book attract readers.

“Following in the footsteps of books like Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever (S & S, 1999), this title is a much lighter account of street life… A fast read, the story might appeal to fans of Deja King’s adult books, and is a good addition to libraries looking for more urban popular fiction without the raw street language that goes with so much of it.” – School Library Journal

Booktalking:

Read aloud the section on mo’ money, mo’ problems. Pages 1-2, up to “But, baby girl, you’re worth it.”

Write a monologue from the perspective of Dalvin about his life.

About the Author:

I believe Katina King is a pen name of author Joy King, co-owner of Young Diamond Books, who writes urban fiction for adults under the pen name Deja King. Young Diamond is a new publishing company specializing in street lit for young adults, Ride Wit’ Me is their first publication.

Additional Information:

Katina King intends Ride Wit’ Me to be the first book in a series.