Thursday, November 3, 2011

If A Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko Review: Kirsten's parents are barely speaking to each other, and her best friend has fallen under the spell of the school's queen bee, Brianna. It seems like only Kirsten's younger science-geek sister is on her side. 
Walker's goal is to survive at the new white private school his mom has sent him to because she thinks he's going to screw up like his cousin. But he's a good kid. So is his friend Matteo, though no one knows why he’ll do absolutely anything that hot blond Brianna asks of him.
But all of this feels almost trivial when Kirsten and Walker discover a secret that shakes them both to the core. Fast paced, marvelously funny, and brutally honest, If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period touches on universal truths about human nature.

My Review: Let me start off with some background information first.  As I mentioned before, my school book club is reading young adults books of different cultures this year. In the past, we have all read the same book, however, to twist things up a bit our school librarian, who leads the group, thought it would be interesting if we chose from a plethora of books.  It’s an interesting concept that 2 or 3 of us are reading the same book, but not the whole group.  It leaves more room for discussion of the varying cultures across genres, but also time to share opinions and find new books to read based off of someone else’s recommendations.  

For our first book, we started off with the African American culture and I chose, If A Tree Falls at Lunch Period.   The other books had very serious titles and subjects and I was not in the mood for a serious read so early in the school year.  I love the title, which caught me off guard and the cover of the book was so bright and cheerful, it was an automatic pick me up.

The characters felt like very real everyday middle schoolers to me, trying to cope and figure out how their childhood ideas match up with the new “grown-up” ideas so many kids at this age feel they need to have.   Like the character of Walk, you have kids becoming adults too fast, because of their environment and what surrounds them, or kids like Rory who are trying to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood, wanting to impress others and not be judged, or finally kids like Kirsten, who want to hold onto the way things have always been and are forced to move on.

I thought the author did a great job encompassing so many of the trials kids go through today and balanced it with a well thought out line up of characters, who represent so many cultures.  I felt all cultures were represented in this book, not just the African American culture of today.  Kirsten, was by far my favorite character in the book, probably because I had a similar experience in middle school.  Between the summers of 7th and 8th grade, one of my good friends had started hanging out with a different crowd, not anyone bad, but different.  They were very much into sports and I wasn’t.  I wasn’t accepted by them, and after awhile, I wasn’t accepted by my friend anymore either.  

Kirsten goes through this and I feel for her, because I know how hard it can be to see a friend change and know there is nothing you can do about it.  With so many other issues in her life, this is really the last thing she needs, but by going through this, she sticks to who she is and possibly discovers more about her own resiliency.  Walk certainly helps her with this, even though he doesn’t understand her at first.  I really like these two character’s dynamic relationship.  They go from bumping into each other outside of school, then to classmates, to friends, and discover an even bigger bond, that could have tore their whole worlds apart if they let it. The book doesn’t close with everything in a neat bow and I liked that, (which isn’t normal for me), but you get the sense that everything is going to be on a good path from that point on.   

Definitely a quick read with some powerful subjects, such as racism, bullying, and a coming of age, that are covered in light, sometimes humorous ways.  I would recommend it for middle school age children to read just because it covers a wide variety of things happening to them at this age.

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Up next will be Red Ridin’ in the Hood and Other Cuentas. 

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