Ms. Bartels Recommends
Students in Lit Chat and I often end up talking about Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which is taught by several English teachers, because it is the kind of book that begs to be discussed. Exit West will hit readers that same way. There is no way to read this one without wanting to pull in everyone else you know who has read it to have a full-fledged discussion about immigration and the refugee crisis, especially given the situation in the world now. This is a great choice for book groups, or for anyone who hasn't quite been able to formalize how he or she feels about countries taking in refugees. There aren't answers here, but the questions Hamid asks the reader to ponder will resonate for a long time.
"In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet – sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors – doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Ricker Recommends
I can't believe I had never heard of the Loving case before this book came across my desk last fall as a galley. I was fascinated just reading the back cover and of course later I learned about the movie, Loving, about the same case (that we also have in the library). The Lovings’ story is told in verse and is interspersed with photos, clippings and legislation to give readers a better sense of time and place. It helps give context to where their story takes place within the larger civil rights movement. In addition, the book features sketches and drawings to help immerse readers into the Lovings’ story, but I would have preferred photographs instead. The story moves quickly and conveys a fascinating and important case in history but also portrays the Lovings as real people who faced hardships while living in exile for so many years. My only critique is that it could have gone into more detail – the story definitely left me wanting to know more about this family and I plan to watch the movie after reading this. I'd recommend this to reluctant readers who have a hard time getting into books; this one is such an immersive experience and reads very quickly that I think many students would find the story and pacing satisfying.
"In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 7+
Ms. Kazan Recommends
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
In this historical fantasy, perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Garber does a masterful job at building setting and plot. Her lush magical world is both picturesque and dangerous, and readers will turn every page in anticipation of what lurks around each corner. Despite writing that is a bit clunky and repetitive, Caraval will certainly appeal to young readers who gobbled up Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent (as evidenced by its current home on The New York Times bestseller list). And like those books, which spawned many sequels, Caraval’s cliffhanger ending suggests the story will continue.
“Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett's father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett's long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval's mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season's Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.” ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 8+