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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I promised my group to adhere to two things in my post:
1) That I wouldn't be too mean to Lisa
2) That I would be appropriate

I seriously question what my group thinks of me when these are the ground rules for my post.  They take the fun OUT OF EVERYTHING. Humpf.

Lets get the blaming out of the way right off the top.  We had all the books to choose from and I mistakenly allowed Lisa to pick.  "I love Gary Schmidt," she said in her usual Lisa voice.  My eyes hovered over The Crossover, When I Was the Greatest, and Family Romanov.  SIGH.  Compromise. I am capable of compromise. We took Orbiting Jupiter and Pointe.  This text message conversation sums up our experience perfectly:

What the what.  Where do I even start... Our meeting on Tuesday was one of the tamest meetings in the history of ABM Smackdown meetings.  There was little yelling and no pointing of fingers.  The phrase "I don't know" was thrown around a lot.

Here's the break down of the books:

Orbiting Jupiter is a short text narrated by a young boy Jack, whose family fosters a troubled grade eight boy.  Joseph's story takes awhile to come to fruition, and you are left wondering about what terrible thing has happened to this boy that makes him act this way. The family lives on a farm and there is a lot about milking cows.  I kept waiting for the significance to play out on this, but nothing.  I was really holding out hope that the friendly old cow Rosie was going to save the day somehow, but no. There was repeated mention of the frozen river, and well...I'll just leave that part hanging in case you want to read it for yourself.

Pointe is a fascinating book because somehow between sex, drugs, and eating disorders (and you thought I was going to say rock 'n' roll!) the main character, who only practices a few times a week, is on her way to becoming a high level ballerina.  Her childhood friend who was abducted returns to town and it brings back a lot of bad memories. If you have a teenage daughter you may want to refrain from reading this book, because as Annabel stated she's about to start home schooling her kid if that's what high school is like.

Both of these books have major flaws.  Like Swiss cheese problems. Holes. Gaps.

Things that make your whole group say HOW CAN WE EVEN PUT ONE OF THESE BOOKS THROUGH?

We feel like none of our kids would read either of these books because they would struggle to make connection to the characters' experiences.  If there was some sort of super secret rule to banish both of these books we would. But there isn't.  So, we decided to put through Pointe because, if anything, it deserves to win some sort of V.C Andrews Flowers in the Attic award for screwed uppedness.  Yes, I made that up.  I also made up this new category for book awards.  I can imagine the medallion on the front of the book already.  There would be some sort of weird cobweb covered flower on it.  Pointe is more likely to cause waves or controversy, so we decided that another group should be so lucky to have to read it.

It kills me that Pointe is going through when fabulous books with crochet covered guns on the cover are being kicked out.  There is no justice in this literary world, I swear.

Wait, if there is justice, the group who kicked out When I Was the Greatest should be made to read this book.  See? Who needs to comment when you can just smack directly in your own post? (insert sneaky grin emoji here)


  1. To add to Holly's post. I do have to say that my feelings are likely based on that fact that I only teach grade 7 this year and this book is not suitable for the grade 7's I teach (granted others may teach some it is appropriate and significant for). I also don't believe that this book is aimed at my grade 7's, but my purpose in this PD is to find books I can share with my current student audience so my views are surrounded by that. However, I would like to add this for those who do think this book may be a match for their students that SPOILER ALERT this book does 'resolve' the issue of rape through the legal system and the character has full parental support throughout. The eating disorder is recognized and professional help is requested and provided. This I feel is very important when addressing such deep and emotional experiences and is a strength of the novel. The issues with casual underage alcohol and substance use are not tidied up as neatly.

  2. Well, your wish has been granted. We picked The Truth About Alice to beat When I Was the Greatest and I am now being punished by having to read Pointe. Your post is really making me look forward to the experience...