Vigilante Poets & Dirt Bikes

Good boy books are hard to find, it seems.  Especially for those boys who don’t want to read high fantasy, or have read all the Gary Paulsen books in existence and now are ready for  something more.  Within the last few weeks I’ve read a couple of great books.  

Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer turned out to be very witty, and erudite. (Hey--I can use that word, because of Divergent! Thanks Veronica Roth.) By page 24, I had already laughed out loud three times.  I learned a couple of new grammar terms, also. Ethan references other works of fiction, and pop culture icons as he observes his surroundings and friends. His English class is studying long form poetry and that plays into the plot of the book quite cleverly.  He is a typical teenager in that he only sees the surface masks other people present, not realizing that others are just as confused as he is.  His growth as a person feels natural, as he gains and loses ground during the school year.  I gave this to a teacher friend of mine and she thought the same thing I did--it would be a great classroom novel.  

Summary from my card catalog:  
Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three best friends are students at Selwyn Arts Academy, which has been hijacked by For Art's Sake , a sleazy reality-television show. In the tradition of Ezra Pound, the foursome secretly writes and distributes a long poem to protest the show. They're thrilled to have started a budding rebellion. But the forces behind the show are craftier than they seem. The web of betrayal stretches farther than Ethan could have ever imagined, and it's up to him, his friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save Selwyn.

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and other ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft had it’s funny moments, but really struck me as more poignant.  Arlo is as observant as Ethan, but his musings are colored by the death of his mother, and his sister’s Huntington's disease. Arlo’s personal growth is tied to his risk taking behavior, something he shared with his mother, and now he uses to feel “the zone” that place where everything becomes calm and clear.  

Summary from my card catalog:
Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family. Adios, Nirvana author Conrad Wesselhoeft, takes readers from the skies over war-torn Pakistan to the dusty arroyos of New Mexico's outback in this young adult novel about daring to live in the wake of unbearable loss.
I’m walking away, but I’m also walking toward.
Few people understand this concept. They walk away from something, but they don’t walk toward something else. They don’t feel their destination. They don’t shed a world as they walk away and gain a world as they walk toward.

I do.  (page 24)

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