I read two wonderfully different books this week on the recommendation of a fellow teacher. Both are for the more mature young adult or young adult reader, and both are wonderful!
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstren – First paragraph:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, is a highly enjoyable book about a magic competition, taking place within the setting of a mysterious circus. Two players are pitted against one another in a competition without clear rules or even how to win. Marco has intelligence and hard work on his side, while Celia has natural talent makes better connections with people. Their feats of magic are well beyond simple illusions and tricks. When they fall in love, it could not only destroy the circus and the people within it, but each other as well.
There is little violence, almost no salty language or significant physical romance. But it is a book for a mature reader, who can follow the plots as it weaves in and out over thirty years with little regard for following chronological time. However, that is some of the magic of this book, as you are given hints of what is to come and only later come to find out why.
The characters are deep and rich and full of real life. The circus and its amazing feats draw the reader in and make the impossible suddenly seem believable. Just like a fantastic magic act, the reader knows there must be some trick, but they want to believe and thus, they do!
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, is about a senior in high school who plans to kill his former best friend and then himself by the end of the day. It is told in the raw and uncensored voice of Leonard Peacock as he goes through his school day, giving four presents to four friends before facing his ultimate “goal.” As the day progresses, the reader is given glimpses of his pain, his previous hopes, and background with each of the people who were important in his life. The reader follows Leonard deep into his depression, his uncertainty, his confusion about life and his part in it. Very mature themes are in this book including consistent curse words, abuse, neglect, sexuality confusion, and of course a student walking around school with a gun and planning on killing a fellow student and himself. But it is a book that many young adults will connect with as well, but they need to be ready to face these issues in their reading before they read this book. I highly recommend it, but teachers/parents may want to read it before handing it to a middle school student.