Angry Management
Chris Crutcher
ISBN 978-0060502478
Greenwillow Books, 2009
Grade 8 and up
Realistic Fiction/Issues

There are six new volunteers for Mr. Nak’s angry management group, find out why they’re here.

Summary:

Chris Crutcher brings together six characters from previous books in these three novellas. Sarah Byrnes, Angus Bethune, Montana West, Trey Chase, Matt Miller, and Marcus James all have roles in Angry Management. Although the characters may not have known each other in previous novels they are united in this one. All six are voluntarily participating in Mr. Nak’s angry management group. Sure, they all have problems, but Mr. Nak wonders why some of them are there. Friendships and romances form; characters develop self-esteem, learn to love, and operate outside of their comfort zones.

Critique:

In typical Crutcher style, Angry Management addresses hard hitting issues. Its another classic, though I imagine it will see more popularity with those already familiar with these characters. The writing and character development are excellent; I love seeing everybody grow over the course of Angry Management. I would definitely recommend this title to Chris Crutcher lovers.

Curriculum Ties:

Use the first novella to discuss ethics in journalism.

Controversy:

Child abuse, sexuality.

Challengers should visit Crutcher’s website and see what he has to say about censorship and book banning.

Selection Rationale:

Chris Crutcher is one of my favorite authors, and I think his books will prove to be classics, so I couldn’t wait to read this new release. This will be a hit with readers familiar with Crutcher’s characters.

Booktalking:

Give a brief introduction to each character from Mr. Nak’s point of view.

About the Author:

Angry Management is Chris Crutcher’s newest title. He is has written many young adult novels that address tough issues; he is a vocal opponent of censorship and book banning.

Skim
Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, illus.
ISBN 978-0-88899-753-1
Groundwood Books, 2008
Grade 9 and up
Graphic Novel

When one student commits suicide, everyone is obsessed, and Skim just finds herself getting more and more depressed.

Summary:

Skim is goth and Wicca (kinda). She sticks out, Asian and chubby, in a sea of slim white faces. That’s why they call her ‘Skim’ — because she isn’t. Popular Katie’s popular boyfriend kills himself and the teachers and students become obsessed. Everyone is watching her, they think she might be next. When Katie falls off a roof, her friends rally around her; Skim finds herself growing farther apart from her own best friend. Skim falls in love with her teacher, Ms. Archer, goes to a Wicca/A.A. group, chain smokes, and mopes. Social groups are shifting around her, and finally she finds herself shifting along with it, finding a new friend and possible girlfriend in Katie.

Critique:

This subtle exploration delves into sexuality, depression, and relationships. The illustrations are full of mood and emotion. Skim, her teachers, and classmates are alternately serious and funny.

Curriculum Ties:

Introduce Skim when exploring alternative forms of narrative.

Controversy:

Sexuality, suicide, romantic relationships with teachers.

Ask challengers to read the entire book and refer them to the positive reviews received by Skim.

Selection Rationale:

This is a different story and it clearly illustrates the way that social groups change during turbulent adolescent times. Many girls will find themselves able to identify with the characters in Skim. The book also shows that people are not always what you perceive them to be.

“With honesty and compassion, this innovative narrative communicates a life just beginning, open and full of possibility.” – School Library Journal

ALA Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens, 2009

ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009

About the Author:

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki are cousins, this is their first project together. Independently, Mariko is an author (non-fiction, plays, etc.), queer activist and performance artist, and graduate student; Jillian went to school for graphic design, she works primarily as an editorial illustrator.

Debbie Harry Sings in French
Meagan Brothers
ISBN 0-8050-8080-5
Holt, 2008
Grades 8 to 12
Realistic Fiction/GLBTQ/Music

Johnny is a big Debbie Harry fan, she becomes a mantra for him. But what does it mean when Johnny wants to be Debbie Harry?

Summary:

Johnny’s dad dies in an accident when he’s twelve. Over the next four years Johnny numbs himself with alcohol and music. After he’s slipped Ecstasy at a Goth club, his mother send him to rehab where he is introduced to Debbie Harry’s music. Debbie Harry becomes his idol, he loves her music and her style. More and more, though, he’s finding that he wants to be like her, to have her power and her grace. When it looks like being at home isn’t going to work out, Johnny’s mom ships him off to South Carolina to live with his uncle Sam and cousin Bug. At his new school he meets beautiful Maria and is harassed for being gay. But Johnny isn’t gay, he has a crush on Maria. Johnny and Maria start dating and he tries to explain how he feels about women: he wants to have sex with women, but he also wants to harness their beauty, toughness, femininity, and gentleness for himself. Maria is surprisingly understanding and encourages Johnny to participate in a drag show as Debbie Harry, she even creates the perfect Debbie Harry dress. Johnny doesn’t win the drag show but he does achieve the feelings of beauty and power he has been reaching for.

Critique:

An excellent book, I was pleasantly surprised, and I absolutely loved the ending. I thought that Johnny’s gender identity was handled very nicely, although it came out of the blue. I love that he isn’t gay. I would recommend this as a queer story that isn’t really about being queer. The integration of the 80’s goth/industrial/punk music was awesome! I wish Johnny was my friend.

Curriculum Ties:

Can be used with other GLBTQ titles to explore identity and literature in English classes.

Controversy:

Sexuality and gender discussions.

Let challengers know how important it is for teens to see themselves reflected in books, etc. Ask challengers to read the whole book and refer them to positive reviews.

Selection Rationale:

This is a great story that takes a different look at gender and sexuality. I can’t remember the last adult book I read about transvestites, let alone a young adult book. This is an important addition to library and bookstore shelves.

“…this compelling and ultimately uplifting novel fills a niche in the growing body of GLBTQ literature for teens.” – Booklist

“This hip work by newbie author Meagan Brothers encourages readers to explore the meanings of all the shades of gray that exist between gay and straight.” – ReadingRants.com

ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009

Booktalking:

Describe Johnny’s desire to be beautiful, powerful, sexy, gentle, and tough all at the same time… just like Debbie Harry.

Author Information:

This is Meagan Brothers’ first novel.