Book Review: Endangered

newbirdTitle: Endangered
Author: Lamar Giles
Genres:  Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 280
Publisher: Harper Teen
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: Available now

Summary: The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or . . . Dare.

But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list.

Review: I had heard only great things about Lamar Gile’s latest book so I had high expectations and they were surely met. Endangered is a fun summer read that I picked up at just the right time. The novel moved at a quick pace as Panda tried to discover who the Admirer is, while her life spins out of control due to her own actions. I am often a bit wary of mysteries because I try, like most readers, to figure out “who done it” before the main character, and with Endangered, I didn’t figure it out who the Admirer was until Panda uncovered the clues. I love mysteries such as Endangered where the reader is consistently second guessing everything and being wrong. Once the Admirer was revealed, I thought back to the little clues that Giles left and marveled how the answers were there all along, but he masterly misdirected the clues keeping Panda, and the reader, guessing.

One of the many aspects of Endangered that I loved was the YA tropes that Giles subverts throughout the story. The first is Panda’s relationship with her parents. Both of her parents are involved, to a certain extent, in her life. Like any modern teen, Panda does have her secrets but when she realizes she needs their help, she doesn’t hesitate to share her knowledge with them. She confesses her double identity and her “game” with the Admirer and how it relates to the murder to a student. This creates tension between her and her parents throughout the rest of the book, but I greatly enjoyed that the parent/child relationship was realistic and present in the novel. Another trope that was inverted was the “romance” angle, if you could even call it that. Panda’s ex-boyfriend Taylor Durham, whom she clearly hates, re-enters the picture and ends up helping her sort out the mystery. While her feelings towards him change through the story, from animosity to friendship, he clearly still has feelings for her. She does recognize her old feelings for him, but the hurt he caused her keeps her guarded around him, initially. Through the events of the story, they slowly rebuild their friendship by forgiving each other and becoming honest with each other. It’s a very mature relationship and also very realistic. I guess, based on these two aspects alone, that I loved that fact people actually communicated with each other in the novel. One of the YA tropes, or rather literary tropes, that bug me is that in order for much of a novel to make sense, people don’t communicate their knowledge with each other creating misunderstandings to drive the story forward. Giles throws that trope out the window effectively showing us that a story can be exciting and entertaining even when folks are honest and communicate.

I loved the characters, Panda, especially. She is fiercely smart girl who believes she is handing out justice, while not realizing she’s doing the very same thing she accuses the bullies of. The reader completely understands Panda’s position and emotionally connects with why Panda exposes the dirt on her classmates, as some of them are truly despicable people. When her life starts to fall apart because her identity is exposed, Panda’s heartbreak and her desire to repair the hurt of others, specifically her friends, is really what makes Panda real. This line “We’re all something we don’t know we are” is repeated throughout the novel as Panda begins to recognize who she was and comes to learn who she really is. She learns to forgive those who hurt her, hurt others, and also learns to forgive herself.

Like I’ve stated many times before, Endangered is a very realistic novel in terms of how the characters relate to each other and the relationships, along with the mystery, is what makes this story so wonderful. I was drawn to not just Panda, but Taylor, and even the Admirer. In fact, once the Admirer is revealed, I actually felt sorrow for the character (and actually that reveal is a wonderful plot twist that I absolutely loved!). Giles wrote a novel that is thrilling and exciting on the surface, but so much deeper when you get to it’s heart.

Recommendation: If you love compelling mysteries with lots of twists and turns, get this soon!

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Flashback in Color: Tears of a Tiger

Summer is officially over and all the children are back in school, learning the three R’s and reading, hopefully, diverse literature. In this “Back to School” themed post of Flashback in Color, I’d like to reminisce on the book that opened my eyes to using YA literature in the classroom, Sharon Draper’s first book in the Hazelwood High Trilogy, Tears of a Tiger.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

I was introduced to this book during my first year of teaching when I was struggling with my sophomore students. My principal at the time suggested that instead of using the literature book, which was boring to the students (and to me, I must admit), that why don’t I have them read a novel that will relate to their lives and be of interest of them. He pulled out a copy of the book, handed it to me to read over the weekend, which I actually read in about 2 hours. It was just that intense and such a good read that the minute I put it down, I was already planning how to tie the book to my curriculum. The unit ended up being a success as my boys (I was at an all boys school) connect to the book, loved it in fact, and couldn’t wait to discuss the novel in class. Many students read it all in one sitting. Teaching Tears of a Tiger opened my eyes to Young Adult literature beyond Harry Potter (all I had read at that point) and what a powerful tool YA literature can be in the classroom. Ever since then, I have incorporated YA literature in all of my units, allowing for students to connect to the stories and be able to discuss issues that are important to them. While I have not taught Tears of a Tiger in a number of years, I still recommend it to students, specifically my young men, and actually teach another one of Sharon Draper’s novels.  Her novels accurately portray the teenage voice (Ms. Draper was a teacher herself) and deals with issues that teenagers face in high school. Draper doesn’t sugarcoat the lives of her characters, often being very frank and descriptive in the violence and/or the tragedies they face.

 
Tears of a Tiger is one such book that explores the tragic consequences of drinking and driving. In the novel, Andy Jackson is a star basketball player and one night after a game, he and a few friends decide to drink and drive. They ultimately crash and his best friend Robert is burned alive when the car catches fire. The rest of the novel deals with Andy’s guilt and the effects of the crash in his relationships, school work, and overall outlook on life. Draper uses a variety of methods, from newspaper clippings to school essays, to tell Andy’s story. The novel moves at a fast pace as you read about Andy’s downward spiral into depression. Tears of a Tiger is a touching story that made my heart race at points and brought tears at others. I can tell you that middle school boys and high school sophomores highly recommend this book. Buy one for them, they will thank you for it.

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