Monday, March 17, 2014

Out with a Bang

Imagine you had a vision of an accident where people you knew were killed and in body bags. Would you stop it? What if they were strangers and you were hurt too... would you take the chance to stop it and save strangers if you could be killed in the meantime? Lisa McMann's sequel in the Visions series, Bang, makes you ask yourself that very question.

Jules saved the lives of a bunch of people, including the delicious Romeo to her Juliet, Sawyer. Their families have despised each other for a generation, but they refuse to carry on the ridiculous tradition. In saving his family's restaurant, however, she has put herself on the wrong side of her father's mental illness. Now he doesn't trust her and will do anything to keep her away from Sawyer. Luckily for Jules, her sister Rowan and her brother Trey are comrades in the war against their unpredictable father, and they help her to come and go without his knowing. All would be perfect if only Sawyer hadn't had a vision...

When he tells her he had a vision, she can't believe she somehow "infected" him with such a burden. They have no idea how he got the vision, but they all know the ramifications of what he has seen. He knows it is some kind of school because the shooting takes place in a classroom, but the vision is so difficult for him to cope with that he can't seem to get a handle on it to get any specifics. Jules knows she has to help him to work through the vision, but are they willing to risk their own lives to save the lives of a bunch of strangers? 

Whenever I first start a McMann book, I am usually turned off by the "uber-teen" language that sounds campy, hokey, and forced. I work with teens, live with teens, spend an exorbitant amount of my life with large amounts of adolescents, and I don't know any who talk like Jules and the others do in these books. It is kind of a turn off for any older readers, but I have found middle school students don't seem to mind it (maybe they think that's how high school students talk!). It is a shame that language struggle happens because as soon as I get into the book a little, I am sucked into such a good story! Sadly, that campy language detracts from the engaging, exciting story McMann wove, but at least I can ignore it once the excitement of the story takes over. 

The stories are really exciting, and McMann writes a good middle-of-the-road book where the language is very simplistic but the books are engaging enough for a mature reader (if you can get past the silly language). I use these for those 12-14 yr old students who struggle to stay with a book because their reading skills are lower than their interest. And the stories are short enough that they can get through the story with only reading 20 minutes a day or so. With larger books they tend to lose track of what is happening, but the story in McMann's series' are condensed and fast, so they can keep up. 

In addition, this story has some really deep, adult situations, like the fact that Sawyer's father and grandfather have a tendency to hit him. Or the fact that Jules' dad's mental illness made the entire family walk on eggshells. There was one scene where her mother comes into her room where Jules and her brother and sister are sitting. They expect her to be mad for setting off their father again, but instead she just tells them she is so grateful they have each other. It was such a devastating and moving scene, I couldn't get over the ridiculous campy language McMann put into Jules' mouth. Such a weird juxtaposition! But still, this is a great series and it will be great for those older struggling readers. I can only imagine where McMann is going to go with all these visions!

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