The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 1, 2008

Book review: Queen Anti-Prom takes charge


By Laurie Halse Anderson (for grades 9-12)

Ashley (Ash) Hannigan thinks prom is stupid. All she wants to do is avoid the school’s sadistic, detention-happy assistant principal and graduate so she and her boyfriend, TJ, can move into an apartment together. She has no intention of going to prom for any reason whatsoever, but she understands (somewhat) her friends’ obsession with it.

Prom is something that they’ve all been looking forward to forever. For some of Ash’s friends, prom is the one bright spot in their lives, so of course they’re excited to be on the prom committee planning their special event. Ash’s best friend, Nat, who is chair of the committee, is especially excited. She eats, drinks, and sleeps prom.

When the math teacher embezzles all of the prom money, prom seems to be ruined beyond all repair. The hopelessness and depression that engulfs Ash’s friends inspires Ash to do something very strange — she volunteers to help save the prom! Who knew that Queen Anti-Prom would recruit her family and neighbors into helping with something she thought was so stupid? But more importantly, will Ash be able to avoid detention and make prom a success?

‘The House of the Scorpion’

By Nancy Farmer (grades 7-12)

Matt knows he is different because he is hidden away in Celia’s house, but he doesn’t know why. Celia loves Matt as if he were her own child. She teaches him, she feeds him, and she takes care of his every need, but she insists that Matt never let anyone see him whenever she has to leave their cottage for work.

Matt loves Celia and wants to obey her, but his curiosity gets the best of him. One day, he hears children playing near Celia’s cottage and instead of hiding like he’s supposed to, he shows himself to the children and breaks into their world. There, he finds out what he is — a clone.

To the world outside Matt’s house, clones are sub-human. Most of them are made into “eejits” and can only act upon someone else’s command, but Matt is special. He is El Patron’s clone, so his childhood is one of security and happiness where he is educated and pampered like El Patron wished he had been.

Matt is living such a good life because El Patron needs Matt to be healthy and happy until the day that El Patron needs Matt. When that day comes, El Patron will kill Matt and harvest his organs so he can live for another 20 to 30 years. Even with the help of Celia and the other people who love Matt, can he ever escape the reason he was created?

‘Stuck in Neutra’

By Terry Trueman (grades 6-12)

Shawn McDaniel is a really cool 14-year-old. He’s smart, funny and has an uncanny ability to remember everything he hears — songs, conversations, bird chirps, TV commercials … everything! If you knew Shawn, you’d probably like him. He might not make it to the popular crowd in high school, but he’d at least be tolerated well by everyone at school.

But Shawn won’t ever be a “normal” kid in school. Shawn has severe cerebral palsy. When he was born, a blood vessel broke in Shawn’s brain, so now he can’t control any of his muscles. He can’t blink, swallow or even look at anything when he wants to. His body is on autopilot. This means that there’s no way for him to communicate to his family that his brain is OK and he understands everything that they say to him.

Shawn’s family loves him — especially his dad. Shawn’s dad is in agony over the idea that his son is in pain from the seizures that he has several times each day. He loves Shawn so much that he can’t bear to see him hurting. What Shawn’s dad doesn’t know is that the seizures don’t hurt him. They’re his favorite part of the day!

Shawn is desperate to find a way to communicate to his dad that he’s not suffering because he is getting the idea that his dad wants to kill him and put him out if his “misery.”

How does someone like Shawn save his own life?

Cari Boatright is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.