Category: 2014 Reads

A World Without Water–Review: Not a Drop to Drink (2013) by Mindy McGinnis

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (2013)

Suggested age range: 13 and up (Katherine Tegen Books, 320 pages)

Genre: Young Adult, Post-apocalyptic, Survival story

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Kindle

not a drop to drink

The Book: Think of a world where people kill one another for water. Something all living things need in order to survive. It’s an alarming idea, and this sets the stage for Not a Drop to Drink. A post-apocalyptic survival story, Mindy McGinnis’ novel opens with its female protagonist Lynn, who knows how to defend her home’s pond from humans and animals alike. Lynn is taught by her mother how to shoot, save up food and firewood for the winter, and be self-sufficient. She has also learned from her mother to trust no one.

When a tragic accident takes place, Lynn has to make significant decisions about trusting and believing in other people in the midst of danger. She is offered an opportunity for friendship, but will she accept it?

McGinnis’s story features action, romance, and themes that elicit reflection about maintaining hope in the midst of dark times and believing that people are capable of good.

Spirituality in Not a Drop to Drink: Spirituality as relational connectedness is certainly an aspect of the narrative to explore. I love the way Lynn’s character develops throughout the story and how she begins to open her heart to other people. At the beginning she is cautious and skeptical about others; she is quick to shoot, no questions asked. However, by the end of the story her perspective about people, survival, and sacrifice has evolved, and I was left very satisfied by her character development.

The story brings up significant questions: What do I owe my fellow human? To what extent can we trust one another in times of extreme duress and difficulty? How valuable is a human life? How valuable is an animal life?

Who Should Read This Book: Young adults who enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and survival stories and can handle some violence and disturbing situations should pick up McGinnis’s story. This book gets into the nitty gritty of survival in a world where you can’t just turn on the tap for water. There are some brutal aspects to this survival story, but certainly there would be in a world such as the one McGinnis depicts. In that way, it seems realistic. I recommended this book to my father, who is currently reading it.

The Final Word: I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to put Not a Drop to Drink down when I started it, though I was feeling thirsty as I read. I was right; I finished this book within two days. There were some aspects of the ending I was disappointed with, but this was due to what happened to certain characters I was invested in. Certainly, this was a realistic dimension to the conclusion, so I could appreciate the author’s choice. In conclusion, I strongly recommend Not a Drop to Drink!



What Katie Read

Review: The Tragedy Paper (2013) by Elizabeth Laban

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban (2013)

Suggested age range: 13 and up

(Borzoi, 312 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Realism, School Story

Source: Library


“I had no clue at that moment, of course, what I had set in motion.”

The Book: Tim Macbeth transfers to Irving High School as a seventeen year old senior, and he is different than the other students. He is an albino. Before he arrives at school, he meets Vanessa, who happens to be dating one of the most popular boys at school, Patrick. Vanessa and Tim hit it off, however, and they maintain a significant connection even in the midst of their attempting to keep their relationship hidden from general knowledge. Tim is frequently teased by Patrick, Vanessa’s chauvinistic boyfriend, who recruits Tim to help him with the senior’s “secret outing.”

The story alternates between Tim’s viewpoint and that of Duncan’s, a senior who arrives at the school the year after Tim. Duncan listens to CDs made by Tim about what happened the previous year. The reader knows Duncan was involved somehow, but we aren’t sure exactly what happened. Duncan is told by Tim at the beginning of the recording, that he is giving him the content for his senior project, his “tragedy paper.”

What is the tragedy that took place at Irving High School and what role did Tim Macbeth play in that?  As Tim’s story unfolds, readers may have a difficult time putting the book down.

Spirituality in The Tragedy Paper: Tim’s character offers a spiritual dimension to this contemporary school story. How should we treat and interact with those whom look different from us or represent a vastly different background? In other words, should we treat our brother as ourselves? Thinking about Vanessa’s issues in the book: how important is social status and how do we avoid valuing superficial appearances over valuing authentic relationships and being kind to others? There are many discussion worthy passages from the book that highlight the challenges and struggles related to relationships in high school.

Who Should Read This Book: Readers who enjoy a good school story, but want something profound and thought-provoking should pick up Laban’s novel. Tim’s character reflects many of the insecurities and concerns that adolescents may face today, and his identity as an albino adds a significant dimension to the book. Readers may walk away from this book having a little bit more understanding of what it is like to be someone who stands out to everyone else, and can’t do anything about it.

The Final Word: Giving this book my highest rating, I could not put it down and loved it. It was my second book for Bout of Books 9.0 and I raced through it. The school culture at Irving fascinated me, and the relationships between the students and the teachers/administration is another discussion-worthy aspect of the story. The design of the book is beautiful—the endpapers represent a map of the school and provide readers with something to examine. I was drawn to discover the tragedy of what happened when Tim Macbeth arrived at Irving High School. Expect to be drawn into Laban’s novel once you read the first chapter.

What Katie Read

Review: Words with Wings (2013) by Nikki Grimes

Words with Wings (2013) by Nikki Grimes

Suggested age range: 10 and up

(WordSong, 96 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Library

grimes words

“When class lets out, I hurry home, hungry for dinner and hoping to find more words with wings to dream and write about tomorrow.”

The Book: Gabby has been a daydreamer ever since she can remember. Her parents are divorcing, which means she and her mother are moving and Gabby will attend a new school. She doesn’t know anyone, and describes herself as a “Shy Girl Who Lives Inside her Head.” She misses her father, a daydreamer like Gabby. She appreciates her mother, but she often tells her to pay attention in school and stop daydreaming so much. This is a beautiful novel in verse about a young girl who sees “words with wings” and is navigating through the experience of a broken family and a new school. Grimes has created poetic verses that depict a bright and sensitive girl whose daydreams may just turn out to be more significant than she thinks.

Spirituality in Words with Wings: Difficult times can help a person to see how his/her inner spirituality is significant. Gabby’s daydreaming is definitely one aspect of her spirituality, for it fuels her wonder and awe at the world. Sometimes a moment of awe at the way the rain is falling is what nurtures our spirituality can draw us into a profound experience. Gabby has a creative mind, and she is drawn to another creative mind in her classroom—a boy who draws. Together they develop an important friendship that supports Gabby as she is adjusting to a new school. Because both Gabby and her friend are tapped into their creativity, they are able to connect meaningfully and express that creativity with one another. In other words, both feel “safe” with the other.

Exploring this Book with Readers: A slim novel, A slim novel, this would work well as a read aloud in an upper elementary or middle school classroom. At the same time, it would be perfect for individual or even pair reading. The chapters in a different font represent the daydreams that Gabby has throughout the book. Each “poem chapter” is titled and Grimes includes snapshots of Gabby’s earlier life when her parents were still together throughout the story. Young readers could relate to this book on multiple levels, including the experience of going through a divorce, moving to a new school, making friends, and most importantly, daydreaming! Many creative minds have trouble paying attention in class, and this book is lovely because it shows how a teacher reached out to Gabby, and valued her “daydreaming” gift. Grimes based the teacher in the book on one of her own teachers—I loved reading about this in the Acknowledgments section.

The Final Word: I started reading novels in verse more after I was chair of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award one month, and I am so happy I did! Novels in verse for children and young adults can be so profound, because they can tell a good story while at the same time illuminating the beauty of language and the way we can “play” with words. Words with Wings is a hopeful and heartwarming story that doesn’t sugarcoat divorce, but does illuminate how change is not always negative, and that difficult circumstances can strengthen character and reveal talents.

What Katie Read
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