Saturday, April 16, 2011

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Leaving Paradise is told from the varying points of view of the two main characters, Caleb and Maggie. Both live in a town called Paradise and both have a shared past that keeps them a part but that is also what brings them close together. Caleb is returning to Paradise from prison where he went after being charged for being behind the wheel of the car that struck Maggie and damaged both her legs. The story starts with him finding out he is to be released. The closing line is, "Tomorow I'm going home" (Elkeles 8). Maggie used to be an athlete and the top of her school. She had one secret: that she was in love with her neighbor and best friend's brother, Caleb. After the accident she became an outcast. She could no longer play tennis because she had a horrible limp. She went to physical therapy but would never be able to move as she used to. When Caleb returns, he comes back to a dysfunctional family. His mother is a drug addict, his father is in denial and his sister now dresses completely in black and tries to avoid everyone. He goes back to school and is automatically accepted back into his old group. Appearance wise, everything seemed perfect, but Caleb did not want everything to go back to normal. It takes an old neighbor who receives help from both Maggie and Caleb, an entire school who cannot see either of them as who they truly are, and a life of secrets, for Maggie to finally get what she used to want. She thought she hated Caleb, but when she realized he was the only person as damaged as her, they began to secretly see each other. In the end, both are faced with major decisions. Caleb could no longer watch his family falling apart. The truth about the accident came to life. Also, they discovered that teenage love could not in fact conquer all. In the end they had to choose between each other and their families. One of them faces the prospect of running away. 1.) If you were injured in an accident like Maggie, would you ever be able to forgive the person who took away your ability to walk normally? 2.) Caleb's life is all about appearances. If you were in his situation, would you be able to handle all the pressure, or would you be tempted to rebel as he tries to do?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tuesdays with Morrie-By: Mitch Albom

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."-Henry Adams

When Mitch Albom graduated from Brandies University, he promised his favorite professor, Morrie Schwartz, that he would keep in touch. However, as the years progressed Mitch continued developing his career as a journalist and lost touch with Morrie.

One night when Mitch is watching television he sees Morrie giving a lecture and decides to try to get in touch. When he finally reaches Morrie he discovers that he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS, and does not have too much time to live. After that Tuesday, they decide to continue visiting together every Tuesday, so that Morrie can share his life lessons. They will call their meetings their last thesis, so that Mitch can write a book sharing the lessons on the meaning of life.

Despite Morrie's condition he remains content in his situation and with his entire life. He teaches Mitch the value of loving people fully, living in the moment, and not becoming caught up in the modern world, only to forget what is important. In addition, Morrie feels that learning to accept death, the inevitable, only helps to teach one how to live. He believes in creating this legacy not only to help Mitch, but also to help others learn to live with his philosophy of life.


1. If you knew that you only had a short time to live, would you live any differently, or regret anything that you have done?

2. What do you think are life's most important lessons?

3. Morrie believes in loving people wholeheartedly. Do you think it is wise to love so many people, or would that set you up for heartbreak?

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

The novel My Sister's Keeper consists of flashbacks told in the point of view from several different characters depending on the chapter. The protagonist, Anna, is not the sick child of the family but because she has been hospitalized so many times herself she could be. From the minute Anna was born, she has undergone surgeries for her sister Kate who has Leukemia. Kate called herself a "designer baby" because she was specifically created to be a match for her sister.
She has not challenged her role in the family to help Kate until now. The novel begins with Anna gathering her money to go see a lawyer, Campbell Alexander. One of the top in the country. She wants to sue her parents for the rights to her own body. Her mother, Sara, used to be a lawyer before Kate got sick and was totally taken by surprise. She would do anything to keep Kate alive. The lawsuit created a wedge and tension between the family. It was enough that Anna went to stay with her father at the fire station for a time. In the novel, some different effects of Kate being sick are shown through their brother Jesse. He sometimes feels forgotten about and has turned to other means to release his emotions.
As the book progresses, the characters begin to develop and the reader sees their true selves through the struggle to maintain peace in the household. Kate becomes even more sick because her kidneys are failing. If she is to survive she will need a kidney transplant. Anna refuses to give hers up. She wants to be able to live her own life and play sports like hockey. She doesn't want to worry about being healthy for surgeries. As the lawsuit approaches the tension continues to climb. Until the true story is revealed there. I can not tell you anything more, so I do not ruin the ending for you.

1. If you were in Anna's position how would you feel?

2. At what point for you does everything just become too much for you to handle that you take drastic measures just like Anna did?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Book Of Dreams by O.R. Melling

The Book Of Dreams is mainly the story of Dana. She is part faerie and has recently moved to a new town from Ireland. She is depressed about the lack of magic there and whenever she can she goes to visits her mother in the Faerie lands that she can access through her mind.

She eventually meets Jean and the two become fast friends. She slowly starts to find out that there is some terrible force after her. It has severed the gateways to the Faerie World successfully blocking Dana out from her only refuge from earth.

She travels to her grandmothers house for a bit of a vacation. However she is kidnapped by the evil Crowley. He is trying to destroy the world. "While Dana's dream held her spellbound in Crowley's car, her real self was sleep walking through her grandmother's house." (Melling 79)Jean rescues her though and you learn that he can turn into a wolf at night.

The two go on a adventure through the book and they meet many of the creatures and people of Irish legend. Toward the end of the book Jean is cursed to stay a wolf forever after saving Dana. Dana blames herself for this and eventually joins him as a wolf later in the story. Before that however she confronts the deformed Crowley and all the bad entities that have joined him. During the battle she is almost over come by Crowley. "Weighed down by hopelessness, Dana searched in her heart for something bright to offset the dark." (Melling 637)However eventually she turns the tides and restores the portals between the Faeries and Earth.

1)Why do people often try to escape reality and go to ideal or fantasy world? Are they afraid to try new things? Or is it because they don't know anything other then their habits and ideals and have no wish to change?