Sunday, January 6, 2013

Yay for YA: Choke, by Diana Lopez

I seem to have been on a bit of a teen problem novel kick lately.  Here's my review of a fairly new book called Choke by Diana Lopez.

Checkouts: New to the charter school library
Typical reader: Middle school and teen girls
Source: Scholastic book fair, recommended for the collection by a high school student

Synopsis: Windy is a fairly typical eighth grade girl, in the "general population" of her school hierarchy, wishing she could change her appearance, improve her grades and her status, that sort of thing.  She seems to hit a lucky break when a new girl, Nina, comes to school and befriends her.  Nina even wants to be "breath sisters," but as Windy finds out what this means, she's not so sure she wants to be a breath sister.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

Let me start by saying that while this is written below the reading level of the intended audience, I understand why.  The author is a teacher who encountered the problem dealt with in this book, and to get out the warning to everyone likely to be intrigued by "the choking game," she had to write it more simply than the grade level.  It's like how newspaper articles are written approximately to the third grade reading level, so the largest literate audience can benefit from them.  The struggling, reluctant reader can read an interesting, current novel that doesn't get too preachy, just as the top student in the class can.

So, don't expect the prose to be breathtaking.  (Sorry, the pun just slipped out.)  The plot is a bit predictable, too.  The characters and the realism hold the book together, though.  Windy is as quirky as any protagonist you'd find in a John Green novel, and is realistic and well-rounded.  She has high and low points, interests that any middle school girl would have, and problems any could encounter as well.  Middle school is a tumultuous time of establishing pecking order, and a plot of the story lines deal with that.  And what teen or almost-teen doesn't want to fit in and be attractive?  But self-image issues are not the exclusive territory of the young, and Windy's perception of herself is mirrored by her father's struggle to be less Latino to get a job as a TV weatherman.

I didn't find the book to be preachy in its message, which is an important message indeed.  Asphyxiation is not something anyone should be experimenting with.  It's hard to imagine why anyone would try it, but in middle school, there's plenty of peer pressure, and tweens and teens are risk-takers.  People can end up with brain damage from it, or even die.  Remember actor David Carradine's death a few years back?  This isn't just something youngsters try.

On a happier subject, I've passed the 100 mark with GFC (Google Friends Connect) followers this weekend!  How exciting!  I'll be celebrating later this week with a giveaway.  Stay tuned for details.

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