Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Year of Beasts Vs. Between Shades of Grey

This was a difficult bracket to judge because we all really enjoyed the literature; however, the more we discussed the great elements of each text, the easier it became to see that there was one obvious winner. With that we delve into the genocide of a people vs. teen angst bracket:

The Year of Beasts

The Year of Beasts is filled with wonderful imagery, descriptive language, a contemporary setting and circumstances that students could relate to. The characters were believable without being overly cliché and the technique of weaving in the graphic novel portion with the regular text was really effective and deepened the meaning and impact of the story. The graphic portion of the novel showed in an artistic way what the main character felt she was experiencing even though no one else could see it. Lastly, The Year of Beasts did a better job of tying the story back around to a complete finish, which started at the beginning. 

Between Shades of Grey

In our discussion of Between Shades of Grey we agreed that it deals with a more noble and important topic. Prior to reading the novel, our collective knowledge about the Lithuanian deportation was minimal and this may have affected our experience with the text. The characters were realistic and it was interesting to see how each of them reacted to the horrible conditions they were forced to exist in. Between Shades would be a good addition to a unit that looks at the Holocaust, where we commonly will use the Anne Frank story, as a way of comparing other similar events. Between Shades of Grey may be the better story of the two and the topic allows for more cross-curricular conversations.  One element that worked effectively for the novel was how the chapters were punctuated with poigniant, often emotion-filled, lines; For example, "It was the last time I would look into a real mirror for more than a decade." or "I looked back to the hole.  What if we were digging our own graves?”

The Big Reveal…

One realization that we came to prior to our decision is that we needed to put through the novel that is best suited for our teen audiences. We liked both novels, but felt that one was more unique, better written, had more emotional pull that would appeal to a greater range of kids. Although we LEARNED more in one, we FELT more in the other. 

This bracket appears to be the case of an interesting novel that we all thought was superior vs. an average novel that is probably supposed to win – please see Dia’s pre-round predictions. Ultimately there was a connection to the narrative in The Year of Beasts that was missing from Between Shades of Grey.

Sorry Arlene…

Unanimously, The Year of Beasts is the novel to advance to the next round!


  1. No apologies necessary. I wonder if Dia didn't drink too much reindeer juice over the holidays and is still feeling the effects because while I did enjoy Between Shades of Grey, and agree with your learn lots vs felt explanation of why it didn't more forward, it was not my book. I can't believe that Dia forgot which was my book but then again she is getting on in age.... It's okay, Dia, we understand but still love you.

  2. P.S. I look forward to reading The Year of the Beasts!

  3. There is a thin brown liquid line (oh Diet Coke how I worship you) that stands between all of you and me....that and a tiny dose of dementia. If you had seen Arlene's geek love for the novelist at out conference you could understand my error. Now where is my can of DC and my cane...I'm coming for you Arlene.

  4. Just finished The Year of the Beasts but will reserve comment until all of my peeps have read both our titles for this round!