Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Second Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

A Man Named Dave by Dave Pelzer Genre: Autobiographical novel

A Man Named Dave is the third and last story in Dave Pelzer’s series about his abusive mother. The first book, A Child Called It, covered his childhood and how he survived the extreme physical and mental abuse he received from his Mother. The second book, The Lost Boy, covers his teenage years and his five foster homes. This book covers his adult life. At age eighteen, Dave joined the air force. He wanted to be a pilot, but he didn’t start off that way. At first, he was a cook in the air force. Then, he went through the training and eventually achieved his dream of being a pilot. Dave was married to a woman named Patsy, but the eight year marriage ended in divorce. They divorced because she wasn’t able to understand how Dave felt about his childhood, and how his life remained haunted by the memories of his years as the bruised, cowering “It”. He still maintained a healthy relationship with their son, Steven, though. Throughout the book Dave had many confrontations with his Mother, including the one at his father’s funeral. Dave is now happily married to his second wife, Marsha. He has won awards and appeared on talk shows. He has a wonderful relationship with his son, who he promised he would never treat the way his Mother treated him. And, his Mother is now dead.

“Pelzer…inspires us all. He is a living example that all of us have the capability to better ourselves no matter what the odds.” – Jack Canfield

A Man Named Dave is a true story. It is written by the author, the actual victim of this abuse, in first person. I really enjoyed reading it because this really allowed me to get into the character’s head. People who have never experienced things like child abuse can not even begin to imagine what must be going through the victim’s head. However, by reading this book I can see that his Mother not only caused him severe physical abuse, but she also abused him emotionally. And, I was able to see that even after Dave was rescued, the memories of being abused will haunt him for the rest of his life and will follow him and affect him no matter what he does. Pelzer’s writing style used a lot of details while describing his feelings. This is similar to his previous books, A Child Called It and The Lost Boy. The only difference is that in his first two books you were able to get into his head and see how he felt while the abuse was going on, and in this book you are able to see how he feels afterward, and how he uses his childhood as a reason to accomplish more in his life and be someone, and how he promises himself that he will never treat Steven this way.

"‘You lose’, I smiled
‘What?’ Mother asked
‘All those years you tried your best to break me, and I'm still here. Father's finally free, Ron's (his brother) in the service, and soon the boys will move out on their own. I'm a good person. I try my best in everything I set out to do. I make mistakes, I screw up, but I learn. I don't blame others for my problems. I stand on my own. And one day you'll see, I'm going to make something of myself. Whether I dig ditches or flip burgers for the air force, I'll be the best, and somehow, some way, I won't waste my life away. If you taught me anything, you taught me that. Stay away from me. Everything you've done to others...I pray for you every night, I swear to God, I really do. You may have your papers, your money, whatever. You can hate everybody and everything on this planet, but YOU lose!'.”

This book is one I will never forget. Child abuse is a difficult subject to read about at times, and after reading the first book, A Child Called It, I was tempted to read this book to find out about what happened to Dave after his tragic childhood. I think his books are very inspiring, this one in particular. It shows that despite his childhood, he was able to overcome everything and still become a wonderful, successful man.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Sister's Keeper Review

In the book My Sister’s Keeper by Jodie Picoult, Brian and Sara Fitzgerald’s lives are suddenly turned upside down when their two year old daughter Kate is diagnosed with leukemia. She is in need of genetic material from a perfect match. However, Jesse, her older brother, is not a perfect match. Anna is then conceived for the sole purpose of saving her sister. By age thirteen, Anna has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so Kate can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. Anna has always been expected to donate whatever Kate needed, whether it is bone marrow, blood, or now a kidney. However, being a teenager now Anna decides that she should have a say in the painful transplants and surgeries that she has to go through on a regular basis. That is when she decides to hire a lawyer and sue her parents for the rights to her own body, even though she knows that not donating her kidney to Kate will lead to the death of her sister. So now, Brian and Sara have to deal with the lawsuit against them, their dying daughter, and their now eighteen year old son who in the meantime has been getting himself into all kinds of trouble. Taking place in Providence, Rhode Island, My Sister’s Keeper is an excellent book about the struggles in the Fitzgerald family’s lives.

“Has the emotional tenacity to fuel tears and talk.” – Daily News (New York)

All the challenges that this family has to face throughout Kate’s sickness are hard for me to relate to, because thankfully I haven’t had to go through anything like this in my life. The way Picoult writes about the character’s feelings are very realistic. She describes the sadness in their lives. When writing about Sara, Picoult shows how Sara’s character tries to put on an act and be strong in front of others, but inside she is falling apart. To me, this seems like a very real situation. Being a mother of three, I think it is plausible that Sara would be trying her hardest to stay strong and not show her real feelings. However, she is just human, and having a sixteen year old daughter who is dying must be one of the hardest things a person could go through.

Picoult takes you on a journey full of inspiration and heartbreak. Each chapter in this book is written through a different character’s perspective. This allows you to get inside all of the character’s heads, and see how each one of them develops throughout the story. Picoult grabs your attention with great descriptions about the character’s feelings that get the reader thinking. Then, she surprises the reader with a heart-wrenching, unexpected turn of events at the end. The author uses a similar writing style in other books she’s written, such as The Pact, where she also writes from all different character’s points of view.

“‘You don’t love someone because they’re perfect,’ she says. ‘You love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.’” (384)

Jodie Picoult is one of my favorite authors. The way she writes leaves you amazed. Her writing style allowed me to feel a connection to each of the characters. This is a book I will never forget, because it made me think. Picoult did a great job of telling an excellent story that will have the reader laughing, and crying. It really makes you examine your life, and for me, it made me realize how lucky I really am.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Could Be Better Than A Field Hockey Game With Your Family And Friends In Maine?

In today’s world, we are all entirely too wrapped up in our busy schedules to kick back and remember what truly matters. We focus too much on having the latest item. We want the newest ipods and cell phones, the biggest houses, and the nicest cars. We are so greatly influenced by these celebrities that everyone wants to be just like, that tell us expensive is better. It’s hard to go anywhere these days without seeing ads that tell us if we buy this product we will be better off. But, don’t you remember the trusted saying “money can’t buy happiness”? If money really can’t buy happiness, then what does make a person happy? What makes something valuable to us?

Finally, it’s Saturday. I’m at home relaxing, since this is pretty much the only chance I get. This is the one day of the week I have off from field hockey, but yet there I am, stick in hand. Even though I am just sitting on the couch watching TV, I constantly find myself picking up my stick. I feel weird not having it in my hand, because I am so accustomed to it being there.

I run my fingers down the flat side of my stick, and I can feel all the chips in the paint that have developed over time. Each and every divot in the otherwise smooth edges of my stick holds a memory. They remind me of the first goal I made with this stick. They remind me of all the free hits I’ve taken in games, both the ones that soared down the field, past the opponent’s wall, and the ones that embarrassingly didn’t make it as far as I would have hoped. Some people may argue that the nicest sticks are the perfectly smooth ones with no dents, chips, or scratches, but I disagree. I believe that the marks in mine show wisdom, in a way, and they remind me how far I have come, and how much I will continue to improve as a defender.

In my eyes, my stick is beautiful. It has a long black grip that fits my hands perfectly. It is blue, with the letters STX printed in large white letters. It has a green toe that has become slightly faded and scratched with age. And, it has a ring of white tape around the top from where the grip has begun to give out on me. It is an all-composite stick made of 100% fiberglass, which as field hockey sticks go is very nice. I bought it for about $60.00, which is moderately priced for a stick, but to me, field hockey is something I could never be asked to put a price on. There is no amount of money in the world that would make me stop playing. This year I am honored to play starting defense, and I have the perfect stick for a hard-working defender like myself.

My feet turn numb as I step into the chilling Maine water for what will most likely be the last time this year. The strong, ice cold waves crash against my body, just about knocking me over, but I continue to venture forward. I am accompanied by my cousin Shannon, and together we go out further in the Atlantic than we would ever dare to go alone. It’s starting to get dark, and to be completely honest, we don’t really have a desire to be in the water at all. But, it is our last night here in Maine, and we know if we don’t go in now we will regret it until a year from now when we get to come back.

Then we see our little cousins running down the beach, and they yell to us that it’s time to come in. Shannon and I walk up the beach, hurting our feet on the rocks scattered throughout the sand. Our teeth are chattering as we’re standing outside our beachside house drying off. Then, we go inside. The house is far too small for the thirteen people we have staying there, and I always wonder how we manage. But, while we’re there, we hardly notice how cramped it really is. Shannon and I take turns using the shower that, even if you’re first, never seems to have enough hot water. Then, we go to the closet-sized room that we share, and get ready. Everyone is wearing the nicest clothes they brought. Then, all thirteen of us load up into cars, and head off to our annual lobster dinner at Mainiax. We all order and eat our dinner over pleasant conversation, and laugh as we watch my now eleven year old cousin Alison gobble up an entire lobster of her own. We divide up the bill, and once again load up the cars.

Next comes my favorite part of the entire week. We go home and put on our warm, cozy pajamas and head outside. We stand on the edge of our property, looking out onto the ocean. We listen to the waves crash as we gather sticks, marshmallows, Hershey bars, and graham crackers. All the kids then stand around toasting marshmallows. I cover my watering eyes to shield them from the smoke, as I am trying to attempt the difficult task of getting mine perfectly golden brown. We then walk over to my aunt, who helps us make them into s’mores. We make them for ourselves first, and then start another round of toasting marshmallows for the grown-ups, since they’re too lazy to do it themselves. Once everyone is full of s’mores, we pull out the sparklers. Each kid gets their own box, and we light them and wave them around. You would think that as a soon-to-be senior, sophomore, and freshman in high school, my cousins Brittany and Shannon and I would be too old to play with sparklers. It’s a tradition in our family, though, and we never get tired of it. Behaving just like our seven and eight year old cousins, we foolishly swing our sparkler from side to side, making shapes and writing our names in the black sky. And, frankly, I am always slightly disappointed when I realize that my box of sparklers is empty. But, by this time it is late, and we all retire to our rooms to get some sleep. After all, we have a long drive the next day.

Both my field hockey stick and my last night in Maine with my family mean the world to me. Just looking at my stick brings back that feeling of adrenaline when I’m standing on the field with my stick pressed against the ground as the offender approaches me. Just looking at my stick reminds me of all the good times I’ve shared with my team mates at after school practices, games, weight training sessions, Sunday morning practices, double sessions, team dinners, and team bonding nights. It reminds me that we aren’t just a team, we are a family, and there is no greater feeling than realizing you have a whole group of people you know you can count on.

However, even though my team mates are like my second family, there is nothing that could replace my time spent with my actual family. When I am in Maine with them, curled around the fire, it is time that I will never forget. I have a feeling of security when I’m there, and a part of me never wants to leave. I am sad to say that my grandparents on my mom’s side are no longer with us, and therefore it is sometimes difficult to get that side of the family together. We all have busy schedules, and without having my grandparents’ house to go to at Christmas and Thanksgiving, it is often hard to arrange family get-togethers, especially because we are separated throughout different parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The week in Maine, though, is always a sure thing. It’s the one week I can count on where I know I get to spend time with the people I love so much, but don’t get to see as much as I’d like to.

I value both of these things pretty much equally. I couldn’t imagine my life without either one. I suppose the things that I value most are the things that allow me to spend time with the people I care about. I love playing field hockey. It is one of my favorite things to do. But, I think for me, a huge part of why I love being on the team so much is being able to hang out with my friends, while also doing something I enjoy. When the sun’s beating down, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than out on the field hockey field, hitting a ball around and mastering those defensive clears I work so hard on in practice. Other times, though, I’d give anything to be able to kick back, relax, and spend time with my family.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Visiting Shana's

Briar Rose: Becca
A Child Called It: Dave

Two weeks after Becca returned from Poland, she received a call from Shana and Sylvia. “We wanna know about Gemma too!” exclaimed Sylvia. They were both upset that Becca hadn’t tried to contact either of them since she got back. She had meant to, she really had, but being exhausted and jet-lagged, she hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

“We’re getting together at once,” Shana said as a statement, not a question. Finally, after a long time of listening to her sisters’ bickering over the phone, the three girls agreed to go to Shana’s.

Six days later, Becca was standing on Shana’s front porch. She rang the doorbell, and moments later Shana arrived at the door. She walked in to find not only Sylvia and the kids, but also another woman and who Becca assumed was her son. Shana introduced her as Tracy, her next door neighbor.

“This is my son, David,” Tracy said, gesturing towards the little boy sitting at her feet. “David, can you say hi?” There was something strange about David. He sat there, not talking, not responding to Tracy’s request. He had bruises up and down is body, and a large scar on his left arm. Shana must have realized that Becca noticed all these bruises, because she gave her a strange look like “don’t say anything.”

“So,” Sylvia began. “Let’s hear all about your trip to Poland.” Shana brought everyone out coffee and donuts, and as they ate and sipped their drinks, Becca made sure to tell them everything. She left out no details. She told them about Josef, about their grandfather, about Chelmno, Kulmhof, or whatever you want to call it. They sat there intently for a long time, listening to every word Becca had to say. Becca was shocked at how interested in her story her sisters seemed to be. They had never been supportive of her trip to Poland, and had never shown any interest in Gemma’s past at all.

When Becca was done, Tracy excused herself. “Well, this was fun, but I should be getting home now. Come on David, let’s go. It was nice to meet you, Becca.”

It took Becca just moments after they walked out the door for her to ask the question that had been on her mind all afternoon, “What happened to that boy?”

Shana and Sylvia looked at each other nervously and sighed. “Becca,” Shana began. “David is a foster child. His real mother, well, she isn’t very nice. Becca, David is one of the most severe cases of child abuse in the country.”

Becca was speechless. The next day at work, she decided to look up Dave’s case online. “Becca, is that work-related?” asked her new boyfriend and collegue, Stan as he was walking by. She told Stan all about David, and the two of them sat together reading everything they could find about the little boy. The things they read about him and his alcoholic mother had Becca in tears, wondering how anyone could treat their child like that. After that day at work, Becca never looked into his case again, but she never ever forgot David Pelzer.