Tag Archives: drugs

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two FatesThe Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Other Wes Moore has a tantalizing premise: the lives of two boys with the same name and seemingly parallel backgrounds as fatherless African Americans being raised in crime-ridden inner-city Baltimore diverge dramatically in adulthood. One adult Wes is in prison for murder while the other is a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow and Wall Street Insider. How did one succeed so brilliantly while the other crashed and burned? What can we learn about Wes the author’s fate that we can apply to future Wes’s so that none of them end up in prison? Unfortunately the author doesn’t provide such a recipe, so the reader is forced to examine the facts of each life and draw his or her own conclusions. Such close examination, however, reveals that the parallels between the two Wes’s lives are superficial at best. This is not a case of, “there but for the grace of God go I,” despite what the author posits. This is an example of the powerful role that an educated, loving, mother and extended family, not to mention valuable connections, can play in ensuring that a child grows to be a responsible, respectable adult. The other Wes had none of that. Nonetheless, the book provides an important window into life in drug-infested inner-city Baltimore and how hopeless it can feel to be or to raise a child alone in this hostile environment. I admit to being a little ruffled at the author’s self-congratulatory tone, and wondered more than once whether he force-fit his alter-ego’s story into his own as a means to tell the world how successful he’s become. Read it and judge for yourself, which is precisely what Wes Moore hopes you will do. ~ Ms Dimmick

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Student Review: A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah (reviewed by Jeana K.)

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy SoldierA Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Long Way Gone is a heartbreaking story of a young boy named Ishmael Beah who is unexpectedly caught in the middle of a civil war in Sierra Leone. When he is just twelve years old, Ishmael and his older brother, Junior, leave their hometown to go to a nearby village to partake in a talent show with their friends, but little did they know that they would not be able to return. A group of rebels attack and destroy Ishmael’s hometown while he is away, and the rebels plan to ransack the village Ishmael is at too. Among confusion, violence, and fear of war, Ishmael, his brother, and his friends were forced to wander from village to village in search of food and shelter. For days the terrified children walked aimlessly, starving and desperate, and trying to make sense of what had happened and was happening. Ishmael, now separated from his brother was recruited into the army as a child soldier. He fights fiercely constantly killing people and taking drugs, until he is sent to the rehabilitation center. There he struggles to understand his past and ease off his dependence on the drugs. The captivating story of A Long Way Gone is filled with so many emotions that is conveyed so well by the sorrowful or angered tone. Through the detailed imagery, this book creates an effect where the reader truly feels and sees the loss and terror of the wars. While reading A Long Way Gone, I was full of sympathy and tears putting myself in his shoes. The beginning of the book was full of action and emotion which got my attention. Near the end, the plot was less exciting but still definitely worth reading. Beah illustrates an unbelievable amount of violence, blood, and death that he saw and felt. A Long Way Gone portrays the sufferings and hardships of the children during the civil war in Africa.
~ Student: Jeana K.

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Student Review: Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous (Reviewed by Madison T.)

Go Ask AliceGo Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently read the diary “Go Ask Alice” by an anonymous author. Not only was this diary extremely specific, and honest, it is fascinating to watch “Alice” go through an emotional roller coaster, with her entries. The diary stands as a support system for “Alice” as she leaves her family, explores new places, friends, and an unpleasant trend, drugs, which allows readers to follow her devastating journey seamlessly.

In my honest opinion, I thought this diary was amazing. Reading Alice’s entries truly put me in her shoes, and helped me understand what she was going through. Of course I’ve never hopped in a van with hippies and drove across the United States while tripping on acid, but I sure know how I’ll feel if I ever do decide to make that courageous decision. Alice expressed her feelings of helplessness and vulnerability perfectly. Through writing, Alice made her emotions mine, something I found extremely neat.

The downside to the diary is the difficulty to relate. Although as I said before, she describes every situation seamlessly, it was difficult to relate to somebody doing things such as shooting up heroin, smoking crack or having sex with random people to insure she doesn’t run out of meth. Just things the average person probably can’t relate to. I would expect Alice to say what was driving her, or why she was doing these things but because it is a personal journal, she wasn’t writing it with the impression that other people were going to be reading it, and will find things such as what was going through her head helpful to relate or understand the roots of her decisions. I didn’t find it a huge problem while reading, but it did stick out.

Overall, I found this a fascinating nonfiction journal and would highly recommend it to anybody.~Student: Madison T.

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Student Review: Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras, by Jeff Henderson (Reviewed by Tessa H.)

Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie GrasCooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras by Jeff Henderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has been my favorite book for awhile now. I have read the book about four times, to me the book is extremely inspirational. When I first received the book I wasn’t set on reading it, but when I finally picked up I learned Jeff’s story. To me it felt as if he was in the room with me telling me the story. Jeff’s life has consisted of ups and downs, at first he was just a newborn baby with no worries at all. His grandfather taught him how to steal at a very young age, he was breaking into houses at 11 and stealing bikes. Jeff was never a honor student, heck, he got kicked out of the L.A school district at age 14. He was never an angel and he knew that, but like everyone else in the world he had his reasons.

Cooked is a story that shows you how to get back up once you’ve fallen. Jeff’s whole life has consisted of him doing wrongs, yet in the end he changes for the good. At only age 16 he was arrested for the first time, for stealing a bike. In his twenties he had a pretty bad drug problem he was using, selling, and even cooking crack cocaine. When he was twenty-four he was sentenced to almost 20 years in federal prison. In the book he never left out any grudge details he always told the truth.

Henderson’s book isn’t fast-paced yet I wouldn’t say it is slow-paced. To me it was right in the middle. The book is a good pace since you never get lost of what he is talking about. Things start to turn around for him in prison, he started as a busboy in the kitchen, he eventually moved up to the head chef. Jeff was cooking meals for the whole prison, when he got out he got at a job at the Caesar hotel. He also preached to children the hardships of growing up in tougher part of town and the dangers of the streets. He would tell them about gangs and the drugs and how they can took over peoples lives.

I would highly recommend the book to anyone for a good read, the book is fairly short about 300 pages, not bad for a quick read. As the saying goes Jeff Henderson “started from the bottom, now we here.”~Student: Tessa H.

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The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I realize that I write this mediocre review at my peril. I have changed my rating from 3 to 4 to 3 stars within the past half hour. My gut says 3 stars, but my professional pride says 4. After all, how could I not fully appreciate a Pulitzer Prize winner? Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is clearly a polarizing read, and of course my fear is that those who love it are the true literary intellectuals, and those who hate it are the Bourgeoisie. At three stars I’ve planted myself firmly in the middle, which is perhaps about right. Yes, I appreciate Tartt’s descriptive genius, her knack for conveying her narrator’s state of mind by using language to alter the reader’s own consciousness, and her homage to the power of art over humanity. I was truly sucked into the novel with horror as its young teen protagonist Theo loses his mother and ultimately the promise of a normal life when the pair are victims of a terrorist bombing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Theo starts out as such a sympathetic, vulnerable character. And now for the but. You knew there was one. A big but. But why did she have to take so very long, and use so very many words and lists (endless lists) to painstakingly describe every ruinous moment from that time until the disappointing conclusion some 700+ pages later? Why didn’t she allow an editor to save her from herself? Yes, she is the master of description, but she does the book a serious disservice by laboring over every minute, distracting detail, as though she kept thinking of a better turn of phrase, each more brilliant than the previous, but also completely superfluous to the plot. The other damning element in my mind was the lack of sympathetic characters. Theo’s path, though not fully of his own making and not necessarily surprising given his traumatic childhood, is just plain depressing. Long and depressing. The story has moments of suspense and intrigue, as well as truly insightful observations about art, life and humanity, but none of this was enough enough to outweigh its pervasive dreary, sluggishness. Mostly, I found this book a slog punctuated with flashes of startlingly beautiful prose. Can you tell how conflicted I still am about this book? ~ Ms Dimmick

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Student Review: Crank, by Ellen Hopkins (reviewed by Naomi H.)

Crank (Crank, #1)Crank by Ellen Hopkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredible piece of literature, Crank by Ellen Hopkins breaks the traditional rules of a novel to create something extremely insightful that seems to have life in it. Written entirely in poetry, each chapter captures a moment or thought of the story. The book is about Kristina, the common ‘good-girl’. The one who does her work without complaint, hangs out with ‘good’ friends, never disrespects her parents, and definitely never messes with drugs. However this all changes for Kristina with a “court ordered visit” (10) to her father’s house. There Kristina begins to walk on the wild side of life, meeting boys, smoking cigarettes, and soon starting to do meth. Absorbed in this world Kristina realizes who she thinks she wants to be, and that person isn’t Kristina. Instead, she decides to become the other side of herself, a flirtatious, brave and drug loving girl who calls herself Bree. However, once the summer draws to a close Kristina must return home, but Bree follows her and so do her new habits. These characters breath life, and their thoughts and emotions really do affect the reader. Additionally, I think the use of poetry adds to the dimension of the Bree/Kristina conflict. For example, Bree’s mindset might be narrating a moment in her point of view, making the reader see Bree’s way of approaching life: wild and never satisfied. However in the style of that specific poem, every stanza the last word might be set apart. When only these set apart words are read as their own sentence, Kristina’s innocent perspective of the situation is revealed. I think this adds so much to the reality of the characters, showing how Kristina can never truly choose which side of herself she wants to be, there is always regret. It would be simple to say that the life lesson of Crank is to stay away from drugs, however I believe that there is more to it than that. Kristina refers to meth as ‘the monster’, and her dependence on it as their relationship. She uses sayings like: “soon I was making love with the monster” or “you fly until you crash two days/two nights/no sleep,/no food,/come down off the monster/you crash real hard”. This reference to meth as a live being really illustrates how out of control Kristina is. She doesn’t have the power to stop any of it because the living being of the monster takes her against her will, if not Bree’s. Based on this I think that the message of remaining in control of your own life is really one that the book conveys. Overall, Crank is a brilliant and highly addictive book that I would certainly recommend. ~ Student: Naomi H.

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Student Review: Bad Deal, by Susan J. Korman (reviewed by Noah W.)

Bad Deal (Surviving Southside)Bad Deal by Susan J. Korman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have you ever been in a situation where you risk getting in trouble? This is exactly what happens in the book Bad Deal by Susan Korman. It was a very interesting and exciting story. Coming from a lower class family without a father, Fish, as his friends call him, has ADHD and takes meds to control it. He does not enjoy taking the pill and one morning, he was in a rush a put the pill in his pocket to take later. He then offers it to a girl he likes, Ella, to help her study and remain calm for a next day exam. The word gets around and that’s how his high school career in Ritalin dealing starts. The first few chapters of the book are not easy to understand when the author describes the characters. She crams in everyone at the beginning and it is easy to get confused. That was one of the misunderstandings I had in this book. Otherwise, the plot was terrific! Fish becoming a meds dealer made the book suspenseful and brought out character unlike the start of the book. In general the plot and the whole idea of using his meds he doesn’t take and give it to be who need it; he also makes a little bit of money off it too. I would recommend this book to any gender that is interested in a suspenseful plot because the whole time you’re reading; you are hoping Fish remains out trouble. This is a very short book, so pick it up real quick if you’re in the mood for a good rebellious read. ~ Student: Noah W.

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Student Review:Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (reviewed by Khashayar D.)

Persepolis 2: The Story of a ReturnPersepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book 2 of Persepolis picks up exactly where book 1 ends. Satrapi is a teenager who goes to Vienna to continue her education away from the oppressive Islamic Regime that is ruling Iran. Book 2’s Marjane Satrapi is older and much more impulsive than the Satrapi in Book 1. I did not like this sequel to Persepolis 1 because the main character, Marjane, is much less relatable and un-engaging than the girl in Persepolis 1. As an Iranian who, like Satrapi, also left Iran at the age of fourteen, I have to say that this book is from the stand-point of a completely westernized individual. As Marjane grows up she becomes progressively stupider and more impulsive and gets herself into situations that usually take years to overcome. However Marjane, the will-guided protagonist of this graphic novel, overcomes drug abuse, depression, and a life that has been created by countless bad decisions by only a prevailing strength of will. Aside from miraculously mending her life, throughout the book, Satrapi makes decisions that make it hard for the reader to sympathize with her such as framing an innocent civilian to evade the police. Lastly I would like to point out that the “Graphic” element of this novel was completely ineffectual. Book 1 in this series succeeded because its childlike graphics and storytelling matched perfectly with this subject matter. We could imagine the child author telling her story in these terms. This sequel fails because the issues of growing up and dealing with the disillusionment of one’s own culture are much more subtle. The story and the graphics reminded me constantly of the nuances that are left out, like the issues of women’s rights and humanity that are sentimentalized and the real conflicts that this child/woman is undergoing remain untapped. I would not recommend this book to a friend.

Recommendations: Palestine by Joe Sacco, The complete Maus: A survivor’s tale by Art Spiegelman, 1984 by George Orwell, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak. ~Student: Khashayar D.

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Student Review: Section 8, by K’wan (reviewed by Samantha A.)

Section 8Section 8 by K’wan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’re from the city and have been involved with drugs, alcohol, violence, or want to know about what people’s lives are like that are involved with these things, then this book is just for you. Section 8 is filled with events that teens in high school go through involving drugs, and alcohol and learning to deal with the events and hardships that come their way. I myself have had friends go through times that put their lives at risk and had to cope with hardships like the teens in this book. That’s what made me so interested in this book. Tionna and her friends’ lives start out perfect in the beginning and as the book continues, we see them choose drugs/alcohol and go through events that aren’t the best for them. These specific events lead up to the climax of the book. So if you like to read books that make you wonder more and more as the book continues on then this book is right for you. Tionna (the main character) is involved in relationships that contemplate how she lives and result in the actions she chooses throughout the book. This book is a great read if you’re into books about the city and what happens within the city, which we don’t normally see or hear about on the outside. Lastly, I would recommend this book because of its descriptions and the events that happen in this book. It is so descriptive that you can visualize what events are going on in the book and feel as though your are actually there.–Student:  Samantha A.

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Student Review: Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous (review by Stacey C.)

Go Ask AliceGo Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever felt that even your “close” friends do you wrong? Well this a never ending cycle in the novel of Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. Getting forced to making bad choices you do not agree with, but then continue to do it because you have become addicted. Going on wild adventures, leaving your family and going to different parts of the world at the age 15, is crazy. You think people are your friends but they are the ones who keep making you go down this bad path.“Cripes! It’s started again! I met Jan downtown and she asked me to a “party” tonight. None of the kids think I’m really going to stay off.” To think your friends will support you on every good choice you make, they try to go against you and make you do what you don’t want to. On the other hand your family is trying their best to make sure you are fine and do not do any bad with your life. At times you just have to stop being friends with those who do not appreciate the fact that you want to do better with your life. The troubles that Alice goes through in her life, I think we can all learn from. This book is great and if you like reading life like stories, well then this book is for you. “Yesterday I remember thinking I was the happiest person in the whole world, in the whole galaxy, in all of God’s creation. Could that only have been yesterday or was it endless light-years ago?” Once I opened this book from this first page it just pulled me in. I really enjoyed reading this book and I hope you all will too.–Student:  Stacey C.

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