Category Archives: Toxic parents and teachers

Books that talk about children being abused by their parents and/or teachers. Could be sexual, physical or mental abuse.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Crank (Crank, #1)

Bibliographic information: Crank. Ellen Hopkins. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004. $11.99. 537p. ISBN-13:  9780689865190.
Summary: Katrina is a normal kid who never does anything. She is practically the model child. Her parents didn’t stay together very long and she doesn’t know her father at all, other than what her mom has told her: that he is a ne’er-do-well father. Katrina is finally able to convince her mom that she is old enough to visit her father and get to know him. So during spring break she goes, and that is when she is introduced to the Monster.
Reading level and interest level: RL: grade 8 and up IL: grade 8 and up
Review: This shockingly realistic book is uniquely written in verse the entire way through. If you didn’t like poetry before reading this book, you just might be hooked on it after reading this book. Hopkins writes real-life situations and doesn’t hold back, using all the nitty-gritty details and none of the fluff. She tells it like it is. Her characters are real and easy to relate to. They speak to young readers who are struggling with the same situations. Highly recommended to all. Parents and teachers should be reading her books as well as teens.
Readers’ annotation: Her life was fine, if a bit boring, until she met the Monster. The Monster changed her life.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: The drug use and struggle that Katrina goes through will speak to teens who are going through the same situation or has a friend who is going through the same situation. This book will show these teens that they are not the only ones going through a difficult situation and there are ways to get past it and move on with life. Reading this book might encourage others to seek help with their problems.
Issues present: They book lays heavy emphasis on drug use and some people might be against the impressions this could potentially make on teens. Although, generally when a teens goes to read a book like this, they are not trying to get ideas on how to live their lives, they are trying to get idea’s on how to cope with the issues in their lives. This book could potentially save a teens life.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Katrina’s character.
P. 1 – defines the plot, simply.
Talk about drug addictions.
Genre or subject: Realistic fiction: drug addiction
Readalikes:  Other Hopkins books, Go Ask Alice, Cut, Smack
Author’s website:
Awards: Abraham Lincoln Award (2009)
Reviews: Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Reviews:
Why I chose it: I have always been a bit curious about Hopkins work and find her writing style intriguing so thought I would give it a try.


Leave a comment

Filed under Death, self-harm, Toxic parents and teachers

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)

Bibliographic information: Ship Breaker. Paolo Bacigalupi. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010. $17.99. 326p. ISBN-13:  9780316056212.
Summary: Nailer works as a scavenger for copper wiring on beached oil tankers. He spends his days climbing through poisonous dangerous crawl spaces to make a little money to survive because his violent drug addicted father is not use. One day he ends up falling into an oil well in the tanker he was stripping and gets stuck. When his work buddy finds him, she leaves him there to die in hopes that she can claim the oil for herself and get rich. Nailer apparently has a lucky side and finds a way out by breaking through the oil well door and landing in the ocean, oddly enough, in one piece. This means he doesn’t get to claim the oil, his boss does, but at least he is still alive and the work buddy who left him behind is shunned away. Not long after that there is a huge storm that lands a lot of beached ships on their shore. Nailer finds a beached clipper ship with a sole survivor, a girl about his age. Now Nailer has to decide whether he is going to kill the girl and strip the ship or save the girl and potentially gain a new life. It all depends on whether he can trust the girl or not.
Reading level and interest level: RL: grade 7 and up IL: grade 8 and up
Review: Winner of the Printz Book Award for 2011 as well as Notable Children’s Books, Best Fiction for Young Adults, and Children’s Books of the Year. This young adult dystopian novel is a little different from what you may be used to. The characters of this story are complex, but incredibly realistic and loyalty is one of their main attributes. Nailer is struggling to survive in a dystopian society based solely on harvesting goods from beached oil tankers. He puts himself at risk each day so that he can make a little money to live from. When he is faced with a difficult decision, his conscience wins out and he can only hope it was the right choice, but it does bring him on a life changing journey that will only add to his character. Morals seem to be fickle things in this story and Nailer seems to have the brunt of them. This trilling adventure will captivate the minds of teen readers and pull them into a vivid world of brutality and hardship that will keep their attention all the way through.
Readers’ annotation: After a huge storm blows through, Nailer is left with a choice of life or death. And it all hinges on a girl he found.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book shows teens that there are other young adults in the world that are struggling through life and that they are not alone in their struggles. Also, of all the characters Nailer sets some great morals for children to follow.
Issues present: This book kind of reminds me of Lord of the Flies where everybody is just brutal savages and everybody is out save themselves and nobody else. Parents and even teacher might object to the blatant violence and savagery in this book. However, the real world is brutal and savage, maybe not as much as in this book, but it will prepare kids for the real world and make them less afraid.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Nailer’s character.
If you had to choose between money or saving a girl’s life who could potentially kill you, what would you do?
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian, toxic parent
Readalikes:  Ashfall, Tankborn, Uglies, The House of the Scorpion, The Hunger Games
Author’s website:
Awards: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2010), Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book (2011), Romantic Times (RT) Reviewers’ Choice Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy Novel (2010), Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2010), Printz Award (2011) YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2011), Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of the Year for Fiction (2010), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013), Andre Norton Award Nominee for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (2010)
Reviews:  Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Review:
Why I chose it: This book was recommended to me by a friend and the concept sounded intriguing so I gave it a go.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anger/Violence, Bullying, Death, Dystopias, Toxic parents and teachers

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Bibliographic information: Divergent. Veronica Roth. Katherine Tegen Books, 2011. $17.99. 487p. ISBN-13:  9780062024022.
Summary: Beatrice lives in Chicago, but a Chicago that is divided into 5 factions. The factions were chosen because people could not agree on how to live their lives and much fighting took place, so each factions chose a certain aspect of the human personality to follow: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). She was born into the Abnegnation, however when each child reaches the age of 16 they get to choose which faction they wish to be a part of. Choosing another faction than the one you are born into means giving up everything in your current life, your family, your friends, and even your name. Beatrice is now 16 and she must choose her future.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 7 and up
Review: In a futuristic world where Chicago is split into 5 distinct factions, Beatrice is at the age where she must choose which faction to be a part of. Written in the first person viewpoint, Beatrice, finds her life filled with action, excitement and danger. Leaving her old life behind she begins her journey to find out who she really is. Roth has no regard for her characters and is ruthless enough that readers should not get attached to any one character. This dystopian novel will attract attention of The Hunger Games fans.
Readers’ annotation: She gave up her name, her family, her friends to be somebody else. Does she know who she is? Who is she really?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book can be used by teens to fight their fears. It covers several aspects that will give them perspective and understanding into their fears that are taking place in their lives. Having a character that is able to persevere even in hard times will encourage teens to continue to persevere in their lives. Also, Tris had to decide for herself what she was going to do with her life and when young adults read this book they will be able to understand that they are reaching the age where they are going to have to choose for themselves as well. Going off to college, picking a career, etc.
Issues present:There is a good amount of violence and the casual use of guns that people might object to. But people have to understand that there is violence and the casual use of guns in the real world. This book is giving them exposure so that they are not as surprised or frightened.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Beatrice’s “Tris” character.
Five factions, one choice.
Pg. 47 starting with “Marcus offers me my knife…” until the end of the page. – her choice is made.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian
Readalikes:  The Hunger Game, The Maze Runner, The Line, The Giver, Delirium, Ship Breaker, Matched, Possession, Bumped
Author’s website:
Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book of 2011 and for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2011), ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012), Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee for Teen Choice Book of the Year (2012), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), DABWAHA (Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hella Authors) for Best Young Adult Romance (2012)
Reviews: Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Reviews:
Why I chose it: Everybody told me to read this, so I did. They said that is was a great dystopian book and I am inclined to believe them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anger/Violence, Bullying, Death, Dystopias, Toxic parents and teachers

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One

Bibliographic information: The Chosen One. Carol Lynch Williams. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009. $16.95. 213p. ISBN-13:  9780312555115.
Summary: Kyra is a 13-year-old girl who lives in a polygamist community, she has three mothers, one is her biological mother and the other two are considered sister mothers, they are her father’s other wives. Among the three mothers they have produced 20 brothers and sisters for Kyra. Kyra loves her family very much, and is one of the few things holding her back from leaving. Joshua, a friend from another family, has taken an interest in Kyra, who in turn starts to like Joshua. However, the Prophet, who views himself as the son of God, has “seen” Kyra and her Uncle Hyrum getting married, and so they shall. Kyra does not wish to marry her 60-year-old uncle who already has six wives. Joshua says he will marry her instead, but he is kicked out of the community and left to fend for himself out in the desert. Kyra discovers a bookmobile, owned by Patrick, that drives by the community and has taken to reading forbidden books to help her cope and gain a little enjoyment out of life. Finally fed up with her situation Patrick attempts to help Kyra escape the community and her fate of marrying her much older uncle. There escape fails, Kyra is sent back to the community to be punished and Patrick goes missing. In the night Kyra is finally able to escape and is helped by the local authorities from the nearby town.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 7 and up
Review: Written through the first person viewpoint of Kyra, the protagonist, this book tells a story that of a little girl’s life in a polygamist community. We get to see her life in the present with occasional flashbacks into her past to help support her story and give the reader an understanding of why she feels she needs to leave the community. Williams wonderfully expresses her characters so that they feel real enough to be your friend. Unlike a lot of books on cults Williams paints a picture that portrays many aspects of the cult community, rather than stating it is bad. A lot of research went into creating this title. A great read that will leave you wanting more.
Readers’ annotation: Forced to marry her 60-year-old uncle, Kyra has decided it is time to try to escape her community. With the help of the trusty Bookmobile, will she make it?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: Williams does a great job of highlighting Kyra’s feelings and portraying her character so that you can feel what she is going through. This helps the reader to understand that they are not alone in their problems and that there are out there facing the same issues. Having somebody else tell their story will bring light and encourage others to tell their stories.  Also, teens in an analogous situation would be able to relate to Kyra’s situation and not feel so isolated. They will understand that other teens are living with the same harsh conditions and this might encourage them to speak out about their own situation and seek help.
Issues present: This title lends insight into the many aspects that can be found in polygamist communities. A lot of the time you will hear only about the bad that comes with being in such a community, but they are not always just bad. A lot of the time they have a fear of leaving, they don’t want to leave their families that they love, they feel guilt over sinning, and they have a wish to belong. We all have one or more of these feelings in any place of living. This could lead to a great discussion on tolerance and different lifestyles. This book provides  the reader background to a difference in opinion when it comes to religious views. Not everybody practices the same beliefs and it is important to understand that there are many religious views out there, even if some may be more extreme than others.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Kyra’s character.
Pg. 1 the first line. Really catches the reader’s attention.
Pg. 26 second section, the full one – describes the marriage situations.
Genre or subject: Realistic fiction: religion, polygamy, manipulation
Readalikes:  Wither, Sister Wife, Keep Sweet, The Rag and Bone Shop
Author’s website:
Awards: An ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2010), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011), TAYSHAS High School Reading List (2010), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2009), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2010) Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)
Reviews: School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Reviews:
Why I chose it: I have never read a book about polygamy before and find the topic quite interesting so I thought I would give this book a go.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anger/Violence, Bullying, Toxic parents and teachers

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List

Bibliographic information: Hate List. Jennifer Brown. Little, Brown and Co, 2009. $16.99. 408p. ISBN-13:  9780316041447.
Summary: Valerie created a Hate List. On the Hate List was the names of all the thing she disliked: people, homework projects, situations, etc. Her boyfriend, Nick decided to help with the Hate List and added the things he hated to it as well. After meeting a new friend, Nick started acting weird and decided to take action to end some of the things he hated with a gun. Valerie was just as surprised as everybody else and to stop Nick from hurting anybody else she threw herself on top of him and, consequently, was shot in the leg. He proceeded to shoot himself in the head. Now that school has started up again and Valerie must go back, she is apprehensive about the reaction she is going to get from her fellow classmates since some see her as a suspect int he shooting, some as a victim, and some as a hero.
Reading level and interest level: RL: grade 8 and up IL: age 15 and up
Review: This riveting title will hook you from page one and move you to tears. This story is heart-breakingly sad, but has just the right amount of hope thrown in to keep the reader interested. Brown has captured the tragedy of a school shooting accurately and well. Written in the first person view-point of our protagonist, Valerie, this book jumps from the present to the past and is sprinkled with article clippings to add to the real-life effect. The characters are real and young adults will be able to relate to both the characters and the situation. Highly recommended to parents, teachers, and students alike.
Readers’ annotation: The Hate List has the names of everything and everybody that Valerie hated. Her boyfriend decided to bring a gun to school to end some of those names.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book will be able to lend support for any young adult who went through a similar situation. They will know that they are not alone. Even if somebody did not directly go through the same situation, teens will be able to use this book as a tool to show them the effects of bullying and how much others are hurt by it.
Issues present: There is a school shooting that takes place in this novel and people might object to it because they do not want young adults to read this book and either be afraid that it could happen to them or be exposed to the violent nature of it and get any ideas about duplicating the situation. However, people need to realize that this is a very real situation and it will help teens better understand such issues, it will not encourage them to take such actions. The message of the book is pretty clean that shooting up a school is not the way to solve your problems.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Valerie’s character.
Pg. 97 to end of first paragraph on 98. – describes start of shooting.
Pg. 103 starting with “Oh my God, I thought…” to end of first paragraph on 104. – describes Valerie’s heroics.
Passages from pages 97-105 – describes the shooting.
Genre or subject:Realistic fiction: school shooting, death
Readalikes: Give a Boy a Gun, Endgame, Shooter, Just Another Hero
Author’s website:
Awards: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award (2010), The White Ravens (2010), Voya Perfect Ten (2009), ALA Best Books for Young Adults. for Young Adults Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), Louisiana Teen Readers Choice Award, Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award (2012)
Reviews: Booklist:; School Library Journal:; Publisher’s Weekly:; Kirkus Review:
Why I chose it: I was still in grade school when the Columbine school shooting happened and I thought it would be interesting to read about a school shooting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anger/Violence, Bullying, Death, School shootings, self-harm, Toxic parents and teachers

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles

What Happened to Cass McBride?

Bibliographic information: What Happened to Cass McBride. Gail Giles. Little, Brown and Company, 2006. $16.99. 211p. ISBN-13:  9780316166386.
Summary: Cass McBride went to bed in her pristine bedroom, but when she woke up she found herself in a small earthy box, seemingly underground. Now Cass has never been a claustrophobic person, but she is slowly discovering that being buried alive is a whole other story. Now she just has to find out why somebody would do this to her. Kyle, however, is trying to take revenge for his deceased brother by taking actions that nobody expected from him, being the popular attractive guy that he is.
Reading level and interest level: RL: Grade 9 and up IL: grade 9 and up
Review: If you’ve never felt claustrophobic then you will after reading this book. Cass McBride has been buried alive! Giles has artfully crafted a most disturbing novel that will reach the minds of its readers and make them feel what Cass is feeling. She writes with experience and it comes through in her prose. Written through the viewpoint of three separate characters: Cass, Kyle and Detective Ben, we slowly start to understand how Cass ended up buried alive. Giles characters are genuine and easy to familiarize with. This harrowing tale will wrench reader’s hearts and make them think twice about their actions. Not for the faint of heart.
Readers’ annotation: Kyle is seeking revenge for his brother and now the ever loved Cass McBride has been buried alive. Are you claustrophobic? You may be soon…
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book screams with claustrophobia, suicide, and child abuse. If any teen has to deal with these issues or similar issues in their daily lives, this book would be a great tool for them to face their problems and come to terms with the fact there they are not alone in the world and others are out experiencing the same issues.
Issues present: People may be against the suicide and the obvious discomfort of Cass being buried alive. Some may even feel strongly against the child abuse mentioned in the novel and the general violence. However, these are all issues that teens go through in their real lives and having a base tool to help them express their feelings will be helpful in getting them through their issues.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Kyle and Cass’ characters.
Use passages from pages 12-15 to describe Cass discovering being buried alive.
Genre or subject: Realistic fiction: torture, suicide, bullying
Readalikes:  Thirteen Reason Why, Shattering Glass, Wish You Were Dead
Author’s website:
Awards: South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2009)
Reviews:  Booklist:; School Library Journal: Kirkus Review:
Why I chose it: I have always been a fan of mysteries and I was curious about what it would be like to read about someone who was buried alive and lived through it. I just think that would be a horrible thing to live through.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anger/Violence, Bullying, Death, self-harm, Toxic parents and teachers

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent, #1)

Bibliographic information: I Hunt Killers. Barry Lyga. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012. $8.99. 384p. ISBN-13:  978-0316125833.
Summary: Jasper “Jazz” Dent is the son of the worlds most notorious serial killer, Billy Dent. Billy taught Jazz everything he would need to know about the serial killing business. After several decades of getting away with murder and 123/124 bodies later, Billy was finally caught when Jazz was 13 years old. Four years later and bodies are piling up again and Jazz is trying his best to find the killer and stay off the suspect list.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 15 and up IL: grade 9 and up
Review: A book about a real life monster that should not be ignored. Barry Lyga continues to astound me with his writing skills. His insight and details into his characters are incredible. After reading I Hunt Killers I was left feeling like I just got a look into the brain of a full on sociopath. The amount of research that would have to be done to carry out this book is right up there with Todd Strasser’s Give a Boy a Gun. I am simply amazed with the quality of this title and the feelings in invoked in me. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for what was going to happen next. Readers will liken to Jazz’s character and be intrigued by his thought processes. Pain, anger, disgust, and morbid curiosity are just a few of the emotion this book brought out in me. By the end of this book I was eagerly awaiting the sequel, which is soon to come. Highly recommended.
Readers’ annotation: Jazz is the son of the worlds more lethal serial killer and his dad taught him everything he needs to know to be a successful murderer.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book expresses the difficulties that come with a parent who is a bad person, has done jail time, or has possibly forced their children to take part in activities that were unwanted. Children who have been scarred by their parents actions will be able to relate to Jasper’s character and understand that there are other children out there who have suffered the same fate.
Issues present: Parents will be shocked at the gruesome details that Lyga presents in I Hunt Killers. They will not like the gory descriptions and the presence of some of the worst described serial killers around. However, serial killers are real and they are out there. Giving your children a way to learn about them that is fictional, yet highly accurate will safely teach them of the dangers and monsters that exist in our world. You cannot hide children from such dangers, though they may be rare, they are real.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Jasper’s character and his father.
Genre or subject: Serial killers, murder, investigation
Readalikes: The Christopher Killer, Counterfeit Son, Acceleration, The Monstrumologist,
Author’s website:
Awards: Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel (2012), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014)
Reviews:  Booklist:; Publisher’s Weekly:; School Library Journal:; Kirkus Reviews:
Why I chose it: I picked this book up from the “early release” book shelf last year at my library, these books are put out in the staff room to help collection development get some comments from other librarians as to what they should buy when released. I recognized the author’s name and thought the title was intriguing so I took it home. I haven’t had the chance to actually read it until now, but I sure am glad that I did.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anger/Violence, Bullying, Death, Serial Killers, Toxic parents and teachers