Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Uglies By Scott Westerfeld

The Uglies is a novel that takes place in a supposed utopia. Everybody looks forward to their sixteenth birthday, not because it is when they are allowed to drive, but because it means the beginning of a whole different life style. A person's sixteenth birthday in this novel, brings a life changing surgery making them a "pretty". "Pretties" lead a perfect life, never doing any work, partying all the time, and most importantly being flawlessly beautiful. Until this day however, people in this world are considered ugly and have to live apart from the pretties. Tally Youngblood is the protagonist of this novel and like any other ugly, is looking forward to this life style. It is all she has ever dreamed of until she meets a new friend named Shay. Shay has a different attitude towards this surgery and possibly a little more insight into what it does to a person. On the eve of Shay's birthday, she runs away leaving officers suspicious of Tally. Tally is not allowed to get her surgery until she finds Shay and brings her back, and leads the officials (also known as specials) to a place called the smoke full of people who ran away from the life of a pretty and instead choose to live a life of honest work in uncivilized conditions. Tally learns many things from the people she meets in the smoke such as what it means to like people for more than their appearance or even despite their appearance. She also learns things about what becoming a pretty does to your brain. People who get the surgery no longer have the freedom to think for themselves and are programed to think a certain way and never question the way in which they think. After learning this, Tally is then faced with a decision. She could 1) Betray the people of the smoke and get the operation to turn her into a pretty, or 2) Stay with the people of the smoke and never become a pretty.

1) If you were Tally which choice would you make and why?
2) Why do you think the surgeons choose to do this to a persons brain when undergoing the pretty operation?
3) Could something as superficial as everyone being pretty really bring peace to the world? Why or why not?

Blind Man's Bluff

Blind man's bluff is a true story about U.S. Navy submarines that spied on the Soviet Union during the cold war. A team of investigators got together and interviewed real people and documented their true stories. The stories were compiled into this book. Much happens throughout the book, and many of the stories are very suspenseful. One story was of a U.S. nuclear submarine that had to stay submerged for an unprecedented amount of time to avoid Soviet ships on the surface in Soviet waters. Another story told of an attempt to salvage a sunken Soviet submarine. The sinking was witnessed, or rather "seen", on a radar screen on a U.S. sub that had been tailing the Soviet submarine. The U.S. offered to help to Soviet sub, but the Soviets refused. Many of the stories told were by people who almost didn't survive their ordeals, and they recounted their terrifying experiences. A lot of the book, too, tells about life on a submarine and how it is cramped and stuffy, with little clean air to breathe.

Interesting fact: My parents were in the Navy and they knew crew members that had personally been in Soviet waters during the Cold War.

1.) How would you deal with daily life on a submarine?
2.) How would you cope with the everyday anxiety of the potential to be found by Soviets? If you were found spying, it is very likely that tension between the two nations would increase to the breaking point.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Q & A Questions

  1. Throughout the book Ram does commit crimes such as stealing and even trying to kill someone, but they are all for a good cause (for example to save someone else) or for his own suvival. Do you think that his motives justify him? Should he be punished?

  2. Some people view the book as a sort of modern fairytale, while others see it as an accurate representation of Indian street life. From what you know about the book and how Ram is treated in it, what do you think?

Q & A By: Vikas Swarup

Q & A, also published as Slumdog Millionaire, by Vikas Swarup, is a novel about the journeys of an orphan Indian street urchin named Ram Mohammad Thomas. The book begins with Ram being beaten and interrogated by the police because he won a game show. Ram answered all of the questions on the game show Who Will Win A Billion? correctly to win the billion dollars. However, people believe that he must have cheated because he is a homeless street boy who could not know the answers to all the questions. For this reason, he is arrested in the middle of the night. He is beaten by the police and questioned by them without being given food or water for days. Just as he is about to give in a young lawyer comes to his rescue. She makes the police hand him over to her to take back to her home to prepare a defense for his trial. He does not know anything about who she is and she only tells him that her name is Smita Shah and that as soon as she heard of his arrest on TV she came to help him. Smita gives him food and lets him sleep at her home, and then begins to ask him how he was able to win the game show. Swarup writes that Ram tells Smita truthfully that he did not cheat, but he got lucky- every question that was asked he knew the answer to (17). Everything that had happened to him through his life up to that point provided him with the answers to the trivia questions. He tells Smita that there was no one reason why he was able to answer all of the questions, but he knew each answer because of a specific experience that he had had. He says, “Do you notice when you breathe? No. You simply know that you are breathing. I did not go to school. I did not read books. But I tell you, I knew those answers” (18). The rest of the book is divided into twelve chapters, a chapter for each question that Ram answered. With each chapter, Ram tells about the part of his life that allowed him to know the answer to that question, from living with a Catholic priest to being a tour guide at the Taj Mahal, to rescuing a young girl being abused by her father in the slums, and living with an Indian tragedy film star in her mansion. In the process he falls in love, and the reader finds out about his intentions of going on the game show in the first place. A twist at the end connects the whole book and the reader is left with a fulfilling end to a modern Cinderella story.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, is a story about a girl named Alice and her adventure to Wonderland. Alice sits under a tree while listening to her sister read a book. Alice sees a little white rabbit in clothes talking to himself. Alice follows the rabbit and he goes in a rabbit hole. She follows the rabbit into the hole and this begins the journey to Wonderland. After falling a long time, Alice reaches a room with doors of all sizes. Alice finds a key to a very small door that goes to a garden. Alice eats a cake and drinks a potion that makes her grow and shrink to all different sizes. She cries and floods the room and floats away. She meets a Dodo and they have a Caucus race to get Alice dry. Alice doesn't like the race idea so she leaves and runs into the rabbit. He tells her to get the Duchess's gloves and fan. She goes to the house and eats a cake that makes her grow very large again. Throughout the book Alice grows and shrinks to various sizes. Alice meets many characters in Wonderland. After Alice gets out of the Duchess's house, she meets a caterpillar that helps her get back to her original height. Alice meets the Duchess, her cook, a baby that turns into a pig, and a Cheshire cat. The cat tells Alice to go to the tea party where she meets the Hatter, the March hare, and Dormouse. At the tea party, the hosts all ask Alice ridiculous riddles making her leave. As Alice is leaving she finds the garden she saw in the little door. The garden belongs to the Queen of Hearts. The Queen asks Alice to play croquet with her. They use flamingos and hedgehogs for equipment. The Queen gets mad and shouts, "Off with their heads!" many times. After the game of croquet there is a trial on who stole the Queen's tarts. The Queen believes it was the Knave of Hearts. Alice is called up as a witness. Alice grows again and the King and Queen order Alice to to leave, citing rule 42, all persons more than a mile high to leave the court. Alice doesn't leave, she calls them just a pack of cards. The Queen shouts, "Off with her head!" and the cards swarm around Alice. Alice wakes up by leaves falling on her. 1. Do you think Alice's journey to Wonderland was just a dream? 2. If it was a dream, do you think the journey was suppose to symbolize something in Alice's life?