Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nerds Heart YA Decision

I mentioned Nerds Hear YA before and yesterday I had to submit my decision for which book should go forward to the next round. The two books I had to read were Bamboo People and Abe in Arms. Both books tackled really difficult subject matters and it was a really hard decision for me make. (Of course I'd get the two books that deal with such political issues.)

1. Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
hiko isn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-smart Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. When Chiko is forced into the army by trickery, he must find the courage to survive the mental and physical punishment meted out by the training facility’s menacing captain.

Tu Reh can’t forget the image of the Burmese soldiers burning his home and the bamboo fields of his oppressed Karenni people, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma. Now living in a Karenni refugee camp on the Thai border, Tu Reh is consumed by anger and the need for revenge. He can’t wait to join his father and the Karenni resistance in the effort to protect their people.

Chiko and Tu Reh’s stories come to a violent intersection as each boy is sent on his first mission into the jungle. Extreme circumstances and unlikely friendships force each boy to confront what it means to be a man of his people.

Set against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma, Bamboo People explores the power of courage and compassion to overcome violence and prejudice.
As the summary explains, this is a book about some of the political struggles in Burma. The book follows two boys on opposite sides of the struggle, Chiko and Tu Reh and their ultimate coming together. While I learned a lot about the situation in Burma, I think the transition from Chicko to Tu Reh made me lose a lot of the emotional connection I had in the story. My favorite character was actually a secondary character named Tai and I loved the information Perkin included at the end.

2. Abe in Arms by Pegi Deitz Shea
Portraying the pressures of teens to live a normal life while facing mental illness, this suspenseful young adult novel follows the journey of success-bound Abe, who struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A senior in high school, with a loving and wealthy adoptive family, Abe is on track for a big scholarship and an open future. Suddenly, horrific flashbacks rip him back to war-torn Africa, where five years previously he lost his mother, sister, friends, and almost his own life to torturous violence. During therapy, he uncovers even darker moments from his past that make him question how he survived. This action-filled thriller will open the eyes and hearts of teenagers to the lives of young people who have been exposed to profound violence around the world.
After being forced to work as a child soldier in war-torn Liberia, Abe is struggling to come to grips with his violent history in what should be a perfect new life. Starting as flashback and slowly becoming something much worse, this story is about Abe coming to grips with what he did and what was done to him. At only 172 pages this story was a quick read and a good way to introduce readers to child soldiers. Parts of Abe's story were extremely difficult for me to read. I also thought Shea did a good job of fleshing out all of the characters around Abe.

Even though both books tackled difficult subjects in really great ways, I ended up choosing Abe in Arms to continue in the tournament. It's completely personal, but I had an emotional connection with Abe that I didn't have with Chiko. At the end of the day that's what I used to make my choice since both books were good. I have no idea how a book like Abe in Arms can be measured against a book like Bleeding Violet (it's next competitor), but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

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