Smackdown Books 2017

Arlene's smackdown17 book montage

The Memory of Things
Hour of the Bees
The Gospel Truth
Ultraman, Vol. 1
The Bunker Diary
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
The Hired Girl
An Ember in the Ashes
The Porcupine of Truth
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Goodbye Stranger
Beautiful Blue World
The Blackthorn Key
All American Boys

Monday, May 9, 2016

“Crossover” Outmaneuvers the “Jellyfish”
While “Family Romanov” Didn’t Stand a Chance’

This has been a wild ride.  For the first time in Smackdown history, I voted not once but twice for a novel written in verse?  Hell must have frozen over…  Nah, Dia and Arlene just forced me to read two incredible novels: “Crossover” and “Crazy”.  In the final moments of Smackdown, I easily give my vote to “Crossover”.  I read it over a year ago now, but I’m still using the poems from the book for my grade 8 class.  “Dribbling” and “Dear Jordan” are amazing and my students enjoyed mimicking them in their writer’s notebooks.  I thought the premise of having two tight twins being pulled apart by authentic events was original.  I believed JB and Josh’s story.  I also thought it was original that we had two professional african americans as parents instead of the stereotypical black youth in a high risk environment.  This doesn't mean the book doesn’t shy away from race issues though.  “Crossover” shows how middle class African Americans are still subjected to racial discrimination, which is shown when the boy's father was pulled over for a minor infraction or when their mother makes reference to how black men losing their tempers leads to bad things. The book is a crowd pleaser in my classroom and I can’t keep it on the shelf.  Thus, “Crossover” is my pick!

Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed “Jellyfish”, but it had a little too much jelly for me.  Maybe it’s because I just finished reading “Everything Everything”, but the whole kid against the world and wanting to fly somewhere to solve their dilemmas was too overdone for me.  What made this a difficult choice was that my heart hurt for Suzy. The words on the page exhaled pain. I couldn't imagine going through what she was going through, knowing that her last moments with her friend were so dark. The book also hurt because, I see Suzys all over school, I want them to fit in so badly, but I know that for them to fit in will require them to lost what makes them a Suzy. The most epic part of the book was when she froze her urine and let it melt in her ex-bff's locker. The teenager in my was rooting for Suzy...the teacher in me was too... It was ingenious so ingenious that I hope none of my students think to do this after reading the novel…  Finally, the idea that jellyfish are taking over the world made for some interesting dreams… In the end, it's not that "Jellyfish" wasn't worthy, it's that "Crossover" inched ahead of it. It was a tough one, but "Crossover" outmaneuvered the "Jellyfish". Did I not mention "Family Romanov"? Enough said.

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