We wanted to create a way where we could read a few books, learn about many titles and have fun doing it! The tournament style reading of the Mighty Smackdown means that in the first round each participant reads two books, discusses both in a blog post, selecting one book to move on to the next round. Teachers are asked to commit to one round but most, if not all, continue on. We will read to the end when we will have only one book left standing!
Only Ever Yours vs The Truth About Alice - A Close Call!
While reading what we have to say about these two books please remember that we really did enjoying reading them both. We found they had food for thought and touched on difficult but relevant issues facing older teens today. However, given that I teach grade 7 and Holly teaches grade 6 we did not feel we would recommend either of these books to any students in our classes. As with the previous two books we read for this Smackdown edition, we don’t feel the students we teach are the intended audience.
This time we waded into a) body image/shaming b) social media (albeit futuristic but founded in today) c) eating disorders d) gender roles/equality e) ‘prescription’ drug use/abuse f) online bullying g) face to face bullying/slut shaming h) alcohol i) teenage sex j) texting and driving/drinking and driving k) abortion l) rape. Neither of these books helped me fall asleep at night!
Only Ever Yours is a futuristic novel in which women have been reduced to one of three roles; high ranked companion; concubine; chastity. Ongoing anonymous rankings based on frequent ‘selfies’ posted online, ‘who wore it better’ competitions and other humiliating comparison activities leads to a society of girls who are trapped in the reality that their appearance is all that matters and others must be ‘taken down’ in an attempt to boost your own ranking. This was a page turner and was deeply disturbing to me, especially once Holly pointed out how Instagram and the like is sometimes used by teens today. Edgy, dark, daring and scary this book rips down deep into your soul and makes you think about social media and body shaming in particular and the messages being sent to our young people today.
The Truth About Alice explores what happens when a rumor goes wild and no one does anything to stop it. Told from multiple alternating perspectives to help the reader understand what those in the town of Healy don’t, what really happened to Brandon Fitzsimmons, Alice Franklin and their peers before Brandon’s death in a car crash. I found Alice to be an engaging and at times stoic figure and also had particular sympathy for Kurt Morelli as a beautifully developed character. Holly pointed out to me her dissatisfaction in the final ‘explanation’ in this book and I have to say that I agreed.
We struggled to meet as a whole group to discuss these two books but there were many hallway discussions which were brought into this final decision which was done via email. In summary, our two colleagues at Ottewell felt that Alice should move forward while the three of us at ABM wanted to send on Only Ever Yours. As Arlene succinctly put it, although Only Ever Yours is too long, it is the one she might recommend over Alice as it reminds her of Uglies (which is currently being requested frequently in my grade 7 classes) and vaguely of The Giver.
We send on Only Ever Yours because it touches on issues we think are relevant today and warrants our attention and discussion. Written by Annabel and Holly on behalf of our group.