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, December 11, 2014

Illusive vs. Port Chicago 50

Illusive by Emily-Lloyd Jones

As an avid reader of Dystopian teen fiction, I was happy to start my first Smackdown with Illusive.  The story is set in the future after a pharmaceutical company created a vaccine for an epidemic virus, but with interesting side effects; a small percentage of the population developed superhuman abilities such as mind reading, levitation, dominance, and as the main character Ciare has – the ability to blend in and manipulate her surroundings.  There were 2 choices for these affllicted, join the Feds or become a criminal. 
I did find myself getting lost in the story as it is compelling and full of action. I liked the main character and felt sense of empathy as her history comes to light.  In a few places, I did find myself being annoyed the fallout of her actions, as she continued to make poor decisions and put herself and others in danger, but then upon reflection, I realized that she is a teenage orphan and she is behaving exactly as a teenager would act, making poor decisions and trying to do everything on their own.

There is a lot of potential for the storyline to continue, but you are left with a sense of the book being finished with a satisfying ending.  I would recommend to division 3 and 4 students, as the content is exciting and edgy enough, without being sexually inappropriate.  Great discussion could be had around if you would choose to work for the government and be controlled, or be free but as the life of a criminal.  The criminal life is not glamorized, and the reader develops empathy for the characters afflicted with the side effects of the virus and creates a lot of potential for discussion about government control, good vs. evil and right vs. wrong.

Port Chicago 50 Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Port Chicago 50 is an interesting non-fiction read.  It is the true account of the segregated naval base of Port Chicago in World War II.  Black men were allowed to join the navy, but weren't allowed to be on a ship, be armed or in any combat.  Port Chicago was an explosives loading base that was one of the only places the navy would place their black naval soldiers.  The men were untrained in handling these highly explosive cargo, but were pushed to work harder and faster to keep up with quotas. After a huge explosion destroyed the docks and killed many men, over 200 refused to  go back to work until their safety concerns were addressed.  After punishment, direct orders, and threats from superior officers, many went back to work, but 50 men remained.  
Through interviews with many of the men who survived the explosion and with many of the 50 who were jailed and faced execution, prejudices are unveiled that I was unaware of, and insight into government policy and how the actions and consequences of these 50 men refusing to work changed history for black Americans.  
Although a little dry and repetitive at times, I was intrigued because it is a true story.  Whenever I read about the prejudice and discrimination black citizens faced in this century, I am always appalled, but relieved we have come so far in the last 50 years.  It is a good book, but if I look at this through the lens of a teacher and recommending books to kids, Illusive gets my vote as it would appeal to a wider audience of readers.  

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