Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry

St. Martin’s Press, 2016.adnans-story

During his senior year in high school, Adnan Syed, an honors magnet program student and EMT with hopes to become a doctor was arrested for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Evidence was circumstantial at best and terribly thin. Nevertheless, Adnan was found guilty and sentenced to life plus thirty years. This compelling account, written by family friend Rabia Chaudry, fills in many of the gaps left by popular podcasts about the case, namely Serial and Undisclosed.

Though this book is marketed to adult audiences, I’m including it here because many students are exposed to Serial in the classroom. I imagine that, like me, many of the students who listened to Serial would crave even more details. So many of the people involved as witnesses were simply ordinary teenagers in suburban Baltimore, and events centered around typical teenage activities and the high school that Adnan and Hae attended.

I came to this book after listening to both Serial and Undisclosed, so I feel like I must qualify this review. I loved the narrative here, Chaudry’s descriptions of the Muslim community in Baltimore, her inside scoop not only on Adnan, but also his family. I did know a lot about the case before reading this, so I might have missed holes in this narrative–certainly there are far too many details to this story to include in one book.

I spent a week eagerly reading this in my spare time. It’s a compelling story, a satisfying read, and a sobering account of our justice systems and prisons. This would be a great addition to a classroom or school library for students who are captivated by the story and want to learn more. I recommend it highly.

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

beautiful-broken-girlsFarrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017

When sisters Mira and Francesca are found drowned in the bottom of the town’s old quarry, the citizens of the Boston suburb where they lived are horrified—especially since the accidental death of their cousin only a few weeks earlier. The town is reeling. The newspapers suggest a teen suicide trend. In fact Ben’s parents are watching him like hawks, afraid that somehow his one-time girlfriend’s suicide will spur Ben to take his own life. But Ben doesn’t want to die, he just wants answers: Why did Mira become so distant? What was going on in her head during the month before she took her own life? Did their father’s overprotective ways push the girls to do something drastic?

Ben’s first thought when he sees the letter in Mira’s handwriting is that she’s alive, but he knows better. Instead, before Mira died, she left Ben a series of messages hidden in the places that they touched. Each message explains a little bit more about what happened and why. But the messages are cryptic, and don’t always contain the information Ben is longing for. In order to find the answers his heart needs, Ben will have to navigate an ever more complicated labyrinth of locations past friends and adults who have their own agendas, suspicions, and fears.

Beautiful Broken Girls is a page-turner of a book and an eerie, New England tale. I zipped through it quickly, eager to discover what exactly had happened to Mira and Francesca. Ben is a sympathetic character, and I felt his frustration as he tried to piece together the clues to the mystery. Through flashbacks from Mira’s point of view, the reader also gets to know the girls in their last days.

I felt that many of the characters in this story did not have clear motivations. I would have liked to come away with a better understanding of the motivations of the adults in the story. Perhaps since the story was told entirely from the point of view of teens, this makes sense, but I would have liked a little more insight into their decisions and motivations.

A quick and engaging read, Beautiful Broken Girls comes out on February 21.

I received an advanced reader copy of Beautiful Broken Girls from Netgalley and the publisher, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

 

Flashback Friday: Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume

12519337 At my elementary school, you had to get permission from your parents to check Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret out of the library. The permission books were kept in the librarian’s back room. My parents would have been fine with signing, but the mechanics of the whole thing were kind of a big deal, so I never got it from the library. In social circles it wasn’t considered an embarrassing book to carry around, not like Forever, so I ordered it from the book order, and loved it. I passed it on to my daughter when she was the right age for it. The book introduces things like puberty, faith, and growing older in a way that allows kids to consider the ideas and information privately. It allows readers to ruminate without making themselves vulnerable to others’ opinions.