Discussion

Required Reading: Books I Would Put on the Curriculum

Particularly in the last three years, following Michael Gove’s decision to axe American literature from the GCSE English reading list, I’ve paid close attention to the types of literature I’ve been exposed to in school. Here’s all the books I’ve studied from year six to year twelve:

studied

These books are great and generate a lot of discussion. This year, I’ve really enjoyed Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I don’t mean to say these texts aren’t worthy of studying – but classrooms would hugely benefit from more diverse and current books, especially from this century. This is already happening, to a certain extent – for example, with Noughts and Crosses.

I think YA is more likely to make an impact on a student’s life. The YA section in a bookstore is where you’ll find some of the most influential and life-changing reads, as well as a plethora of diverse stories. So much of what I read in these categories spark important discussions.

In my opinion, the current syllabuses fail to do so – of course, there’s discussion of race and patriarchy, but often in the context of eras gone by. As important as historical literature is, it’s also integral to make syllabuses inclusive of books that deal with issues in the current state of the world.

It’s also so vital children see themselves represented. I’m yet to find literature by authors of any Asian origin on a syllabus, and LGBT* representation is shockingly sparse. The ratio of black and female authors to white and male authors is also far from equal on reading lists.

So, what would I put on the curriculum?

A while ago, I wrote a post based on a Twitter discussion, about what books others would like to see in school. I wanted to revisit this idea, using some of my recent reads! Without further ado, here’s a shortlist of books I’d give students, if I had the power:

if you could be mine

GCSE and A Level: If You Could Be Mine is a beautifully written book about two girls in Iran, who have feelings for one another but can’t express it publicly. It would be awesome to see an Iranian author on the syllabus, and the story is an emotional one with lots of themes to be talked about in class, from sexuality and religion to society and tradition.

george

Middle Grade Reading: George would be a fantastic book to discuss with younger pupils. Not only is it a really fun, heartwarming read – it’s also the perfect way to start a discussion about gender with children and promote tolerance of trans kids. Trans children are more likely to feel alienated and be victims of bullying in school: wouldn’t it be incredible for them to see themselves in the books they read?

 

the bunker diary

A Level: The Bunker Diary is controversial, to say the least, and it’s incredibly hard hitting. That’s why I hesitated to put this on the list. But I think it would be fascinating to analyse for students who would feel comfortable talking about its themes. In particular, the narrative is a really interesting point; it’s constantly evolving and switching as the protagonist spends longer in the bunker.

the hate u give

GCSE: Especially on the GCSE curriculum, opportunity to talk about current events is very limited. Police brutality and racism in America is a really important topic to engage students in so they’re aware and informed. The Hate U Give is perfect for this. It’s also a fantastic read that’s hard to put down.

wide awake

GCSE and A Level: Wide Awake is definitely underrated and I’m always eager to recommend David Levithan! The current state of the US is pretty depressing, but this book explores the idea of a gay Jewish president being elected, and the diverse celebration surrounding his campaign. It’s brilliant! David Levithan’s writing is absolutely beautiful and it would be so wonderful for it to be reflected on in classrooms.

 

wonder

Middle Grade Reading: Wonder has to be on this list! I’m pretty sure some primary schools have already used this book as a talking point. Wonder is written from multiple perspectives and follows Auggie as he starts mainstream school with a facial deformity. This book is so heartwarming and has already inspired so many young people to promote kindness.

What books would you put on the curriculum?

 

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve seen so many articles, tweets, Tumblr posts about acts of police brutality against African Americans in the US, I’ve lost count of the amount of names I’ve seen listed. It’s upsetting. It’s horrible. It shouldn’t be happening. And it’s difficult to raise awareness about it, beyond sharing something on social media – so I really want to share this book as widely as I can.

Published 6th April 2017 by Walker Books UK. 

32613366Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.


My Review: I was so eager to read this, from the minute I learned what it was about. The Hate U Give is focused on Starr, a girl my age, who is in the car with her childhood friend when he’s killed by a police officer who had no reason at all to shoot. Grieving Starr is thrown into the most difficult situation, where she has to decide whether to stay silent or to speak out, even if it puts her life at risk.

What happens to Starr’s friend, Khalil, is frighteningly similar to so many deaths I’ve read about – and it’s frightening to think that this happens regularly. It really opened my eyes to the situation of prejudice and racism in America, as before I was aware but not aware enough, as most people sadly are.

The story is heartbreaking, and might be difficult for some to read as it touches on so many relevant themes today – but that’s why this book has to be read. It’s unflinchingly powerful and brave.

The narrative is compelling, and I grew to really love Starr throughout the novel – it’s told in her very realistic voice. She’s torn between what to do, because remaining silent about what she witnessed and raising her voice. She’s also torn between two different ‘lives’ she’s living: her hometown and the mostly-white populated private school she attends. Starr lives with so much internal conflict, and I really empathised with her because I can imagine so many people are in the same situations.

I became really attached to Starr’s family, and Thomas writes so much detail into each character that I can’t stop thinking about them. Starr’s father is one particularly well developed, unforgettable character – an ex-convict who found his way out of gang culture, determined to protect his children and also build up his life with the store he now owns. There’s something about all of the characters that’s incredibly inspiring – their stories stay with you for a long time.

The best thing about The Hate U Give is how unapologetic and real it is. I’m really excited to see how it translates into a visual story, too! The movie rights have been sold, with Amandla Stenberg to star – which is the most incredible news. I really hope this book, and a movie in the future, helps to raise awareness. Not only is this a captivating story – it’s a powerful and unforgettable message about an ongoing issue.

Overall, I obviously recommend The Hate U Give to everyone, especially if you’re not very informed on current events in America and the Black Lives Matter Movement. It’s the most memorable and moving book you’ll read this year.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Hate U Give from the publisher, via Lovereading4kids, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Discussion

On My Radar: 2017 YA Releases

Happy belated new year everyone! My first post of 2017 was a review of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, a title I’d been excited about for most of last year. I thought in this week’s post I’d highlight some more 2017 releases I’m looking forward to reading!

on-my-radar

Our Own Private Universe: I am a huge fan of Robin Talley, and can’t wait for her fourth book! Each of Talley’s books so far have been so relatable and fantastic and inclusive and I just OH MY GOODNESS PLEASE GO READ THEM ALL NOW. I think this is the US cover, but I’m really loving it. You don’t see many books like this.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera: I quite enjoyed Silvera’s debut, and this one looks great too! This is one I want to go into without any knowledge about it – I haven’t actually read any full synopses. Also, my mum has been hyped about this book for months, because she’s a fan, which is cute. So if I get a copy of this, she’ll be second to read it. (Hi mum!)

We Come Apart by Brian Conaghan and Sara Crossan: I’ve read two books by Sarah Crossan, One of which blew me away (kudos if you got that pun) and I don’t think I’ve read anything by Conoghan yet! The premise for this book sounds really interesting and I’m guessing that it’s in dual narratives. I adore dual narratives. And I can’t wait to see how this book is written, too, as Crossan writes in prose.

Margot and Me by Juno Dawson: This one is obviously on my list! I adore Juno and her books, ever since Hollow Pike – Juno’s slowly moved from writing horror to contemporary fiction and there’s not a single book I haven’t loved to pieces. I’m so excited to see what this one is like.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: I jumped at the chance to review this, and an ARC is sitting next to me as I’m writing this post – it’s one of the next books on my to-read list. This book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and from what I know of the plot, which centres around conflict and justice – it’s a book that needs to be out there. It’s so relevant to recent events and so it’s equally as exciting that the movie rights have been sold!

What is Gender? how Does it Define Us? And Other Big Questions by Juno Dawson: Another by Juno made this list! This is Dawson’s third non fiction book, and judging by the brilliance of Being a Boy and This Book is Gay – this is going to be fantastic. I really cannot wait to learn more about this and hopefully get the chance to review it. I want to branch out into reading more non-fiction this year! I also find it brilliant that this book is being targeted at ages ten and up – education about gender is really important because so many people are misinformed. I love that this book is going to be a resource for most ages.


So, there we go! Those are the six books on my radar for the beginning of 2016.

I have been to tied up with A-Level work and general life stuff that I haven’t been around so much on social media, to see what books other people are looking forward to. What books are on your radar? Is there anything else I need to be looking out for? Leave a comment!