Books Reviews Young Adult

Isle of Night by Veronica Wolff

I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Veronica Wolff this summer at BEA (Book Expo America).  Naturally when she told me she wrote a YA series I was intrigued.  Veronica Wolff is author of the Isle of Night series and Pumpkin’s new bestie!

The Isle of Night series is like any teen boarding school story.  Pretty girls, handsome guys, super hot instructors, vampires, and violence.  That’s right, The Isle of Night is no Facts of Life sitcom.  Unless of course, you’re Vampire and you enjoy watching young women beat each other to death.  In that case, you’ll be right at home.

If you’re tired of the simple minded heroine who needs a guy to rescue her cuz she can’t function in life on her own, this book isn’t for you.  If you’re a young lady with a brain, hate gym class, and feel like a misfit, then you’ll be able to relate to our heroine Annelise Drew.  What I love about our protagonist is that she’s smart.  Crazy smart in a Mensa candidate kind of way.  She’s smart and she knows it and she LIKES being smart. She doesn’t value herself based on her looks, which in her mind are nonexistent, and as a side note, hardly drive the story line.

Kudos to Wolff for giving us a character who isn’t obsessed with shopping or drinking or doing drugs.  Our heroine finds herself at a boarding school training to help vampires.  All of the students are misfits in some way and Annelise can’t figure out how to fit in.  What she does figure out is how to survive: and that’s by avoiding getting killed by her roommate and her Mean Girls minions.

How good is this book? As I was 30 pages in, Pumpkin took the book from me, finished it and devoured book 2 in one day.  When I finally got Isle of Night back, I stayed up until 1230 to finish it.  I’m dragging today, but IT. WAS.WORTH. IT.

I liked the book so much I’m making it my to avatar.  Oh and did I mention that one of the secondary characters is a cute Japanese boy? Wolff must have heard my yippees as I rejoiced in the multicultural characters!  I give Isle of Night four paws.  But be warned: it is violent and there is language.


#Hunger Games and Ethnicity (SPOILERS)

Unconventional Librarian bailey hunger gamesIf you haven’t figured out by now, An Unconventional Librarian has been all about The Hunger Games!  I love reading YA books and I especially love sharing books with my kids.  I feel it’s a gift that I hope they never get tired of sharing with me.

So you can imagine my joy when Pumpkin said to me a few weeks ago that she was interested in reading The Hunger Games.  I’d had the book on my mental TBR list and was excited to have an excuse to buy it; esp since Pumpkin is more of a girly Twilight fan.

So we bought all three books and raced to finish them before the movie opened.  I tend to get caught up in pre-movie hype and then am disappointed by the time I see the movie (which is ALWAYS opening night: aka several years ago when Twilight opened and we almost got trampled).

Anyway, I avoided the pre-movie hype except for bloggers and the newspaper’s movie review. That’s it.  Ok, well I discovered that I’m from District 5.  Power. POWER.

Here’s my badge:

Games movie hype, I made a few cards at  You can find them on my FaceBook page or on my Pinterest boards. Here’s a sample:

Unconventional Librarian Hunger GamesBut that’s it.

Now on to the bad news.  I would not be true to myself if I didn’t comment on the multicultural aspects of the movie.  In my head, books read very ethnically diverse and Peeta, was a pretty Southeast Asian (Indian) boy like from Slumdog Millionaire.  I know he’s blond in the book but whatever, that’s how I imagined him.  So I was hoping for something similar in the movie.  And if I’m remembering correctly isn’t he the little boy from Bridge to Terabithia? When did he grow up?

As the movie opened I was angry because everyone in District 12 looked white and I thought to myself “are you kidding me? this book appeals to so many and there is not ONE brown or yellow face???”

Then the kids got to the Capitol and I saw all the beautiful colors: brown, yellow, light brown, etc and I was satisfied.  Happy almost.

But then the movie continued and I became deeply disturbed.  Our sweet little Rue was Black.  Could she have been any cuter? I knew what happened to her and I was already hurting.  The other tribute from her District: Thresh? Also Black. What’s up with that?  My senses perked up and I don’t know whether intentional or not, I saw that many from Rue’s district were Black.  To be sure, there were Whites but it struck me as odd.  Rue’s District 11  is agriculture, a fancy name for farming: reminded me of plantations and slavery.   And then the riots. Oy.

As if my sensibilities are not upset enough, the violence started and it occurred to me that White children are pitted against Black children. Children killing each other.  And of course, since the main characters were White, there could not be any Black victors.

Was any of this profiling intentional on the part of the industry? I don’t know; probably not.  But does it have an impact? I’m pretty sure, yes.  The subliminal message is: White will always win, and any other racial group will not.  Take a look at horror movies and see who is usually one of the first to die: Blacks.

Let me be clear in saying that I am not downgrading the fun of the movie or the book.  As a reader, I am entitled to my own opinions and am able to enjoy the movie but hope for different outcomes:  I would love to see an African American play a lead role in something other than a superhero film. Remember, readers want to imagine a character who is like them and there are many multi-ethnic kids who are reading and going to the movies.  Can’t we give them something to relate to?

Nonetheless, I can and will see the movie again. Never mind that no one from my district (5, Power) finishes.  I can’t wait to finish book 3!

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!