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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Top Teen Titles #11-14

#14 Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN:  9781416912040, 335 pp.

Publisher’s Description: In America after the Second Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, a parent may choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process called “unwinding.” Unwinding ensures that the child’s life doesn’t “technically” end by transplanting all the organs in the child’s body to various recipients. Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound.

With breath-taking suspense, this book follows three teens who all become runaway Unwinds: Connor, a rebel whose parents have ordered his unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound due to cost-cutting; and Lev, his parents’ tenth child whose unwinding has been planned since birth as a religious tithing. As their paths intersect and lives hang in the balance, Shusterman examines serious moral issues in a way that will keep readers turning the pages to see if Connor, Risa, and Lev avoid meeting their untimely ends.

Quotes from Readers: The “unwinding” scene is haunting!

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, TeensReadToo, New York Times Book Review.

Awards: 2008 ALA Top Ten Picks for Reluctant Readers; 2008 ALA Best Young Adult Book list; 2010 Japanese Sakura Medal; 2008 Bank Street Best Books of the Year; Nevada Young Reader Award WINNER; 2010 Washington Evergreen YA Book award List WINNER; WINNER OF 2010 Oklahoma Intermediate Sequoyah Award List; Nominee for 2010 Oklahoma High School Sequoyah Award List; 2009/2010 Texas Lonestar Award List; 2009 Texas Tayshas Award List; 2009/2010 Virginia Readers Choice Award WINNER; 2009/2010 Indiana Rosewater High School Book Award WINNER; 2010 Utah Beehive Award Nominee; 2009/2010 Missouri Gateway Readers Award WINNER; 2010 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award List; 2009/2010 Vermont Green Mountain Book Award; 2010 Rhode Island Teen Book Award List; 2010 Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award List; 2009/2010 Georgia Peach Award List; 2009/2010 Florida Teens Read Award List; 009/2010 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award List WINNER; 2010-2011 One Book for Nebraska Teens WINNER; 2010-2011 California Young Reader Medal Nomination; The United Kingdom Coventry Inspiration “Simply the Book” Award WINNER; 2009/2010 Kentucky Bluegrass Award List; 2010 South Dakota YARP Award List; 011 Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award WINNER; 2010-2011 New Hampshire Isinglass Teen Reads Award List; NY Public Library “Books for the Teen Age”; 2010 New Jersey Garden State Children’s Book Award Nominee; 2010 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award List; 2011 Nutmeg Book Award Nominee WINNER; Vermont’s Green Mountain Book Award;

Diane’s note: Explain the premise of Unwind to a parent of teenagers and they gleefully rub their hands and laugh at the absurdness of reconsidering birth and the life of their troubled teens. Delve further into taking their teens life to a “divided state” and harvesting all their parts for organ transplants due to the child’s willfulness, inconvenience, or religious sacrifice, and these same parents become horrified at how easy it is to slip over the line with technology.

Anyone who reads the harvesting scene of this title changes. It is horrifying not due to blood and gore, but to the dispassionate scientific destruction of a teen’s life piece by piece. That scene makes this title one of the most horrific books I’ve read.

I’ve been following the Unwind Producers’ Blog as they work to develop a screenplay (written with Neal Shusterman), cast the characters, and obtain financing. Neal’s screenplay is delayed while he writes the sequel Unholy. I’m torn between wanting the general public to understand the concept of Unwinding in relationship to abortion, life, death, and “being” with my need to find a future in the sequel. Which are you most excited about?

#13 The Giver — Lois Lowry. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books, 1993. ISBN: 9780395645666  , 192 pp.

Publisher’s Description: Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.

Quotes from Readers: I thank my teacher for putting this in my hands.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads.

Awards: Newbery Medal (1994, #1); William Allen White Children’s Book Award (Kansas) (1996, #1); Regina Medal; ABC Children’s Booksellers Choices Award (1994: Young Adults, #1); Golden Duck Awards (1994: Hal Clement Award for Young Adults, #1); Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (Finalist, 1994: Children’s Literature); Arizona Young Readers’ Award (1995: Middle School/Young Adult, #1); Buckeye Children’s Book Award (Ohio) (1997: Grades 6-8, #1); Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (1997, #1); Garden State Children’s Book Award (New Jersey) (1996: Fiction (Grades 6-8), #1); Garden State Teen Book Award (New Jersey) (1996, #1); Golden Archer Award (Wisconsin) (1996: Middle/Junior High, #1); Golden Sower Award (Nebraska) (1995: Grades 6-9, #1); Great Stone Face Award (New Hampshire) (1996, #1); Land of Enchantment Book Award (New Mexico) (1997, #1); Maine Student Book Award (1995, #1); Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (Finalist, 1995, Honor Book); Nevada Young Readers’ Award (1995: Grades 9-12, #1); Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award (1995: Grades 3-6, #1); Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (Illinois) (1996, #1); Sequoyah Book Award (Oklahoma) (1996: Young Adult, #1); Soaring Eagle Book Award (Wyoming) (Finalist, 1996: Grades 7-12, 1st Runner-Up); Virginia Young Readers Program (1996: Middle School, #1); Young Readers’ Choice Award (Pacific Northwest) (1996: Grades 9-12, #1).

Diane’s note: I find it odd that Gathering Blue (a later book in the Giver series is considered an “Essential Literature title” by MNPS schools, but The Giver is not. Dystopian societies posing as utopian societies abound in young adult literature. Unwind and The Giver remain two of my favorites for individual reading. I can understand those who find this difficult to read as it is a more thoughtful reflection of the relationship between The Giver and The Receiver with elements of Soylent Green and Logan’s Run. I can understand why some parents would request their child not read this aloud in class because it does take an emotionally mature reader, but I would never ban it. I do think The Giver is one of the most important titles for teens and belongs high on this list.

#12 Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. Little Brown & Co, 2007. ISBN: 9780316160209, 629 pp.

Publisher’s Description: As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob — knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?

Quotes from Readers: Team Jacob or Team Edward, anyone? This one finally has character development.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, TeensReadToo.

Awards: Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award (2009), Teen Buckeye Book Award (2008), ALA Teens’ Top Ten (2008), The New York Times Bestseller, Teens Top Ten Winner (2008); Book Sense Book of the Year Honor Book (Children’s Literature Honor Book, 2008); Whitney Award Nominee (Romance/Women’s Fiction, 2007)

Diane’s Note: I do recommend putting The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner in your students hands to extend their interpretation of Eclipse.

#11 Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. Little Brown & Co, 2008. ISBN: 9780316067928 ,754 pp.

Publisher’s Description: Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to Jacob Black, Bella Swan has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss, and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating and unfathomable consequences.

Quotes from Readers: Save it for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, TeensReadToo.

Awards: ALA Teens’ Top Ten (2009), Children’s Choice Book Award for Teen Choice Book of the Year (2009)

Diane’s note: Ask school librarians around the country if they own Breaking Dawn and you will see a surprising trend of “protective selection.” Because Bella and Edward’s relationship is finally consummated in this title, many middle school librarians chose not to include this finale in their collections. Even Scholastic Book Fairs banned, I mean chose not to select Breaking Dawn for their lists due to concerns on age appropriateness. If you teach middle school, what did you chose? I included it for my students.